Post image for A New Renaissance in Literature by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

One of the hallmarks of the Renaissance of the 15th century was that new voices were heard in the areas of art, literature, religion and basically all aspects of cultural life, touching and influencing thought from the highest levels of power down to the lowest, allowing the common man to finally realize his potential.  William Tyndale, who translated the Bible to English, was key in this transformation. He captures its essence in these few powerful words to a noted clergyman:  “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

For the past five decades, the publishing industry, represented by what is commonly known as “the Big Six,” have been the ones controlling what books were available in bookstores and libraries. When the offerings were the best literary voices of our time, nobody complained; but when it veered to commercial garbage that sold in huge numbers (think Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann and their copycats), then people wondered where all the good books had gone.

Small niche publishers emerged to offer books not available through the large publishers. The self-publishing movement is often seen as a backlash, not only to the power held for so long by the big publishers, but also to these small independents  with their choosy submission guidelines. By self-publishing, you can write what you want, how you want, publish it immediately, and avoid the gatekeepers altogether. This movement is quite accurately referred to as the “self-publishing revolution” because its proponents are revolting against all the old rules of publishing.

Although William Tyndale revolted against the rules of the Pope in his day, and subsequently gave his life for his principles, I believe his role was more Renaissance than Revolution. The word renaissance means “rebirth,” the word revolution according to Wikipedia is “from the Latin revolutio, a ‘turn around’, a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.” The Renaissance took centuries, a revolution happens quickly.

There’s no doubt that a publishing revolution has occurred, and it has been a very exciting time indeed.  However, I believe it is time for writers and publishers to use these opportunities to create a literary renaissance, not just a publishing revolution. How to do that?

Think of men like Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo Buonarroti. Were they simply revolting against the status quo, or were they contributing knowledge and truth through the medium of their art? Scientists like Copernicus and Galileo Galilei were first and foremost seekers of truth in scientific knowledge and methods.  Religious leaders such as Tyndale, along with Thomas More, Martin Luther, and John Calvin fit into the same category—not simply part of a revolution but because of their devotion to truth and the good of mankind, were part of something much more than a tirade against the Pope or the Church of England.

Millions of books are now available that could never have made it through the gatekeepers of old. To name just a few types: poorly written, barely edited “novels” written fast and published even faster;  10 or 20 page ebook summaries using widely searched keywords, like how to simplify one’s life or write a Kindle bestseller; erotica, basically pornography masquerading as romance for women.

In other words, if you can write it you can publish it; whether it’s any good or contributes to the literary culture is beside the point. The focus is on the selling rather than on the writing. Really, how is this any different than the era of The Valley of the Dolls? The publishers may have changed names from the Big 6 to one million ebook writers, but if the focus remains on churning out stuff for the mass market, where is the revolution? It’s just a whole lot of people now trying to get in on the action.  What the self-publishing revolution has done for writers is what the state lotteries have done for gambling. Remember when people had to go to Vegas to gamble? Talk about the old days! Now you can go to your corner convenience store, buy a lotto ticket and hope to win big.

As writers, why not turn this revolution into a renaissance? Let’s contribute to the literary culture, not just churn out stuff as quick as we can. Let’s write stories that are true, with characters who are “real,” using language that transcends common everyday speech. Let’s write books that, using the very best of our skills, polished and practiced, will carry our readers to a greater plane of understanding as we enlighten and entertain.

It’s time for writers who care about books to contribute to a re-birth of literary excellence. Opportunities abound. Let us take advantage of the many ways to make our voices heard as we do our best work, write meaningfully and well, and become part of a new renaissance in literature.


About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction. Karen’s website: WiDo Publishing website:

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I’ve been asked frequently how a writer goes about getting their print books into a library system. If a writer approaches the library, they’re often turned down. Donated books frequently go straight into the library’s bookstore. What’s an author to do?

If you’re published by a large national publisher, they should take care of this for you. If you’re with a smaller, regional publisher, they may or may not have the pull to get your books in. If you’re self-published, it’s nearly impossible.

The best way is to have card-carrying library patrons request the book. If a library gets enough requests, they’ll actively seek out the book.

But what about e-books?

Yes, some libraries have an e-book catalog that allows their patrons to check out e-books. Here’s what Natalie Glauque from the Salt Lake County Library has to say:

Interested in getting your LDS e-books into the Salt Lake County Library System’s E-book OverDrive Catalog? If you are a self-published author and have the rights to your books and would like us to purchase your books, please read the following:

Self-published LDS Authors: OverDrive works with Author Solutions and Smashwords for self-published titles. If authors make their titles available through these platforms, they can be expected to be available via OverDrive.

There is no action needed for Smashwords and Author Solutions. The authors just need to ensure that their distribution partner includes OverDrive as a distribution channel.


Have any of you tried this? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

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When the Publisher Says No by Kristen Nelson

August 7, 2012
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[I know of several LDS authors who’ve been dropped—sometimes mid-series—not because their new manuscripts weren’t well-written, but because their books just weren’t selling quite enough for the publisher. What do you do? Digital publishing gives you options. Here’s what a national agency did for one of their authors.] Maybe a metaphoric “thumbing one’s nose” at […]

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Jessica Park’s Take on Traditional vs Self-Publishing

July 11, 2012

I just read Jessica Park’s recent blog post featured on’s front page on June 19th. Among other things, it lists her reasons why she would choose self-publishing over any traditional publishing deal nowadays. She also talks about publishing houses being out of date with the changing market. In your estimation, is the publishing world […]

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Traditional vs. Self-publishing is a False Dichotomy by Nathan Bransford

June 7, 2012
Thumbnail image for Traditional vs. Self-publishing is a False Dichotomy by Nathan Bransford

I really like Nathan’s take on this. Go read it! Us vs. them is fun. It gets people’s blood boiling. It instills fear. It’s thrilling to be on a team, especially when you feel like your team is winning. These days it seems like traditional and self-publishing are increasingly pitted against each other on blogs […]

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Musty Writing by Michaelbrent Collings

February 29, 2012

When considering self-publishing on Kindle, there are four things you must do (“Must”y writing – get it?  Ha!).  They are like the mustard on my hot dog: a non-negotiable element.  Without it, you may as well not even try.  ‘Cause I won’t bite. Now, before I dive into what those elements are, I should probably […]

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Is Your Book Really Ready for the Public Eye? (or Your Turn to Tell Me I’m Up in the Night)

October 6, 2011

I read a lot of books. And by “a lot,” I mean I easily read 100-150 complete books a year (first page to last), and probably twice that in sample chapters, which I then do not finish because I can tell in the first few pages that the book is not my thing. I have […]

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Where Can I Self Publish?

November 17, 2010

I am trying to find a good company to self-publish my book. I have used in the past but am not happy that their finished products are not professional looking. They used to be, but have changed. It is also hard to get them to respond to errors as they are getting so many […]

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The Self-Publishing Bias

November 16, 2010

Is it factual that book reviewers will not review a self published book? Or that some bookstores won’t carry them at all? It depends. Once upon a time, there was a huge prejudice against self-published books. The idea was that if they were good enough, a publisher would pick them up. If no publisher wanted […]

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A Case Where POD is a Good Option

April 21, 2010

Dear LDSPublisher, I’ve been following your blog for several months now and have found your posts to be knowledgeable and very helpful. I am hoping to get your insight on an idea for distributing a young adult novel. The novel is my way of sharing the basic beliefs of the LDS church in a story […]

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Blogs Into Books

February 4, 2010

I am a senior in college who is working on her capstone project. For this project I want to take some of my writing (blog entries) and make a book. I don’t know what is involved in the process of getting a manuscript ready to print, so I was wondering if you could tell me […]

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Very, Very Basic Self-Publishing Tips

May 21, 2009

I want to talk a little bit about self-publishing. This is becoming more of an option with publishers accepting fewer titles. First, before jumping into it, get yourself an education. Read up. I recommend The Complete Guide to Self Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross. It’s complete, it’s thorough, and it’s balanced. There are also […]

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Dumped at the Prom

March 27, 2009

Does everyone feel weird writing to a pseudonym? Hahaha. [You’d be surprised at how many advice columns are written under pseudonyms.] I have a difficult situation and a colleague at LDStorymakers suggested I contact you. I’m writing a historical fiction series. Books one and two are out but [my publisher] pulled the plug on the […]

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Rebel Without a Cause

March 15, 2007

Why are there so many rules for submitting and publishing a book? It seems I can’t even keep track of all of them. So I’ve decided to rebel. I’m going to write the best book I can and submit it however I want. What do you think about that?? If your book is really, really, […]

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