Looking for an LDS Publisher with National Marketing

Hi, I’m a fiction writer. I want to query one or more of the LDS publishers, but I don’t know which ones are the largest and with which one I would have the best chance of getting into the national market. I have already been rejected by Shadow Mountain. I’m thinking Covenant or Cedar Fort. Am I right? If so, which? (My book is absolutely clean, no profanity etc., but contains no references to LDS history, doctrine, or anything else LDS.) Is there anywhere to be found, a list of rankings of LDS publishers in terms of size, books published per year etc.?

In terms of size and name recognition, it goes

  1. Deseret Book (with its Shadow Mountain imprint)
  2. Covenant (also owned by Deseret Book; does not have a national market)
  3. Cedar Fort (has both LDS and national imprints)

In terms of the number of fiction titles released each year, flip that list upside down and you’ve got it.

There is also WiDo Publishing, a smaller new publishing company which markets nationally.

But I guess my question is, if you really want to hit the national market, why are you looking at LDS publishers? Look for a national publisher instead.


Let Me Tell You About My Publisher…

Not too long ago, I was at a writers conference. During the lunch break, the people sitting at my table were talking about their publishing credentials and the state of the publishing industry in general. One person was obnoxiously bragging about her national publisher and how wonderful they are—specifically, how quick they were to recognize the quality of her work and to accept her, when all of the LDS publishers had turned her down (one of which had the audacity to tell her that her writing was not up to par).

I could tell that some of the others at the table were very impressed with her, particularly one struggling unpublished author. When the bragging published author offered to connect the newbie with her publisher, I spoke up and asked who her publisher was.

Author House.

I could see most of the other people at the table mentally realigning their assessment of her and her talent.

But the newbie didn’t know what Author House was, so she wrote down the URL the author gave her, excitedly promising to look them up as soon as she got home.

I didn’t say anything at the table. In my experience, it doesn’t do any good to tell an author like that the “truth” about her experience, but I did take the newbie aside before the conference was over. Not sure I convinced her not to try it but at least I did my civic duty, right?

So one more time for the record (and I realize I’m probably preaching to the choir here), Author House is not a real publisher. It is a vanity/subsidy press. So is Publish America. And iUniverse, and Vantage Press, and Xlibris, and. . . there’s no way I can put a complete list here.

But I’ve talked about vanity presses before here and here.

And you can find more info on them here

Is there a time when a vanity press is a good choice? Yes. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

LDS or National Market?

I love reading your LDS Publisher blog, and have a question I hope you’ll consider for the blog.

I’m LDS, and I’ve written a fluffy romantic comedy. My book has characters who are LDS, who behave in ways that are consistent with LDS values, but the book itself isn’t an LDS book. It doesn’t use language or terminology that would be confusing for non-LDS readers. I wanted it to appeal to both LDS and non-LDS markets.

My personal blog gets over 100,000 visitors per month, and I also run/own the [another blog] site, which currently gets about 30,000 visitors per month. In other words, I think I’ve got a good start on creating a platform. I’m getting ready to begin querying agents and publishers and I’m trying to decide whether or not to pursue LDS publishers.

What I want to know is – what do YOU think are the advantages to querying LDS publishers? From what I’ve read so far, it seems like the market is incredibly small, the royalties are pretty slim, and most LDS authors really struggle financially. Looking at it from a strictly financial perspective, I’m having a hard time figuring out why anyone would write for a strictly LDS market. Can you educate me on the benefits?

Thanks very much for your time, and for all of the insights you provide on the blog.

Oooh, I love questions like this—she butters me up both at the beginning and at the end of her question. I feel so important. 🙂

Now for the question itself. You’ve pretty much summed up the downside of the LDS publishing market. The benefits are that you’re reaching an audience that “gets” and appreciates the little idiosyncracies of the LDS lifestyle. Also, you won’t have a publisher pressuring you to add in language or behavior that is not in line with LDS standards. And some LDS authors just like publishing for the LDS market. They like being a big fish in a small pond. They feel they are contributing to the cause of building up a collection of good works that we, as Latter-day Saints, can be proud of. Those are reasons why you’d want to choose the LDS market.

However, there’s also something to be said for creating good, clean fiction that portrays members of the LDS church in a positive manner within the national market. There is a market for that, albeit small. One roadblock you’ll hit is that in the minds of many non-LDS readers, Latter-day Saints are still viewed as a cult or non-Christian sect—at their worst, people to fear, at best, a bunch of kooks. Therefore, it’s more difficult to sell LDS characters to a national publisher.

More difficult, but not impossible.

If I were you, since your novel does not use LDS terminology or try to convert anyone, I’d submit to the national market first. See what the response is. If you don’t get any bites, then start querying the LDS market.

Oh, and way to go, building a following that huge. You know at least some of them will buy you book, no matter where it’s published.

LDS Content, National Market

Suppose an author has a finely written, solid manuscript that that deals with universal issues (family, friends, self-worth, love, etc) and is set in an LDS community and has mainly LDS characters. Assume you believe the story would sell well in the LDS niche, but would also have some appeal to the mainstream market.

In your opinion, would it be better to focus on the LDS market, where the book would be seen as a great success, or try for the mainstream press, where even double the sales volume might be seen as a lackluster performance? Is there a point where you would recommend one path over the other?

Most of the time when authors tell me they have a cross-over novel, they really don’t. Either they have an LDS book or a national book, and it seems clear to me which it is. But assuming it really is a story that could sell in either market…

This is one of those questions that you’ll have to answer for yourself. It really depends on what your goals are, the type of story it is, and which audience (LDS or national) you feel an allegiance to. There are valid reasons for choosing either approach.

If it were me and this was my first novel and the setting and characters were LDS, I would go with an LDS publisher simply because it would be easier to make the sell. After I had 4 to 6 LDS best sellers under my belt, I would strategically plan the best way to create a cross-over novel—whether to have the LDS publisher take it national or to use my LDS market best-seller status as a springboard to getting a national agent/publisher. (If this was my long-term plan, I’d make sure there was nothing in any of my contracts that would prevent this.)

Having a novel with an LDS setting and characters published nationally can be done; it has been done. Two that immediately come to mind are Saints by Orson Scott Card and Charlotte’s Rose by A.E. Cannon. However, both these authors took the opposite route—they were successful as national, non-LDS content authors first, then wrote an LDS content novel.

I know there are some readers of this blog who are making that cross-over to national publishing right now. What I don’t know is if those national novels will have LDS characters or settings. I’d love to hear some of your opinions on this.