Judging LDS Authors by LDS Standards

Do you judge LDS authors by LDS standards even when they are writing for the national market?

I’m LDS. That is part of what defines me as an individual. As such, I judge everything by LDS standards. There are certain standards I expect in the books that I read, as well as in books that I publish. Those standards are strongly influenced by my religious beliefs. There are lines that I cannot cross. Regardless of the author’s religious beliefs, or lack of them, I have serious issues with pornography, graphic violence, and situations where behaviors condemned by my religion are promoted and upheld as the ideal. My line in the sand is drawn in the same spot for all authors, regardless of the market for which they are writing.

That said, the intended readership influences what is acceptable in an LDS book versus what is acceptable in the national market. For example, in my opinion, frequent and vile profanity is inappropriate regardless of the market. However, in the national market, an occasional h** and d** is tolerable for me, as well as for most readers in that market, including readers who also happen to be LDS. I would not have a problem if an LDS author included some light swearing in their national books, although, personally, I don’t think it’s necessary. In the LDS market, any amount of swearing can be a problem because it will offend the majority of the intended readership.

[Now, if you’re asking if I think Stephenie Meyer should have kept the boyfriend (vampire or otherwise) out of her main character’s bedroom at night or if I think the fact that the girl is silly, immature, manipulative and lies to her father shows a disloyalty to Meyer’s LDS values, my answer is, give it a rest! I am so tired of hearing about this. First, spend your energy talking to your children about what types of behaviors are and are not appropriate, and worry about keeping the boyfriends out of your own daughter’s bedroom rather than worrying about whether or not Meyer is a good enough Mormon. And second, if your daughter is reading Twilight (which is incredibly tame by national standards and not too far off base for LDS standards—aside from the whole vampires don’t exist thing), be grateful she’s not reading others in the same genre (such as Sunshine by Robin McKinley.)]

Would you publish an LDS author in the LDS market after that author had written national books that didn’t support LDS standards?

It depends on how offensive I found their national books. (Read here.)

"Published" Defined by Context

Question: how do you define “published”? If something has been published but it’s not fiction, and therefore not in the genre we’re testing waters in now, does that count as being published?

For the purposes of the Christmas contest (details to be announced soon), published means:

  • fiction only
  • book, newspaper, magazine, or paid online publication
  • traditional publisher or self-published

For the purposes of submission, it usually means anything that someone besides your mother has paid you real money for the rights print. Self-publishing doesn’t count unless you’ve sold several thousand.

Sordid Pasts

This is a little embarrassing. Thank you for letting us be anonymous. I have previously published some stories where the main characters’ behaviors are–uh–not quite up to LDS standards. It was a long time ago and I sort of regret it now, but what’s done is done. I haven’t written anything in several years, but I now have an LDS story that I’d like to submit to an LDS publisher. Will my sordid past come back to haunt me?

Hmmm. That’s a question I can’t answer without more details, so all I can give you is a “Maybe; maybe not. “

It depends on several factors:

  • How sordid was your past? Or rather, your stories?
  • How widely read were your stories?
  • Did you publish under a pen name?
  • How likely are LDS readers to recognize you?
  • What is your current story? Is it squeaky clean or edgy?

There are some publishers who most likely would not have a big problem with that. There are others who would not even look at your new manuscript if your previous ones were in the realm of erotica or graphic violence. For most, however, I think it would largely depend on the quality and content of your new manuscript.

At some point in the submission process, BEFORE YOU SIGN A CONTRACT, you’re going to have to let your potential publisher know about previous publications. If your books were truly sordid, your publisher is going to need to have a plan in place to counter any possible repercussions–this could be anything from using a pen name to referencing a conversion in your bio.

I recommend dealing with it right up front in your initial query by listing your previously published titles. Then make sure that query and/or synopsis shines so brightly that they’ll have to read your manuscript.

Legitimate Contests

Do you think we can use [winning the question contest] on our cover letters?

No. Very few of my colleagues even know this blog exists, so they would have no idea what you were talking about. Besides, this is not a legit writing contest.

I know you were joking, but here’s what you can use–legitimate contests that offer real prizes of cash or publication, like Writer’s Digest contests. Being published in an anthology does not count.

How to tell if the contest is legit? Check Preditors and Editors.

High Risk Manuscripts

Hi LDS Publisher,

How much impact does a first-time author’s sales from their first novel have on your decision to accept another manuscript from them? If a book sells only about 600 copies in the first year, would you be hesitant to accept their next manuscript, if that manuscript was good?


Unless I am personally committed to your cause or career, or I’m trying to impress you for some reason, sales of a previous book has a HUGE impact in whether I accept your next manuscript, because in that scenario I will have lost a ton of money.

Exceptions to this would be:

  • I made some type of marketing mistake and it’s my fault they didn’t sell (highly unlikely, and I’d never admit to it publicly, but it could be possible).
  • Your next manuscript was much better or would appeal to a different market.
  • You were published by another publisher and I thought perhaps I could do a better job at promotion and marketing than they did.
  • I can lock in 1,000 pre-sales before I go to press (and you would need to be the one creating the buzz for those pre-sales, because I will be thinking it won’t happen).
  • You’re willing to share the expense of publishing–but I would only consider this option if the manuscript was significantly better.

Contest Creds

Dear LDSpublisher,

I’ve been thinking about entering some writing contests. I fully understand that these contests, in order to protect their rights to the first-place pieces, often request you withdraw your piece from submission circulation until their winners are announced. For some competitions, that can mean a wait of 6, 7, or 8 months from the time you submit until the announcement date.

While I believe my work is good enough to be entered and noticed, I honestly don’t believe I will be the ONE first-place winner in a national contest with hundreds, maybe thousands of entrants. I’d more likely find a living dinosaur grazing peacefully in my backyard! What I’m hoping to do with my entries is garner at least some type of recognition: an encouraging response, a contact with a possible publisher/editor, or maybe an honorable mention or two. Those things look good on cover letters. [They look good to you and to your friends and family, and maybe on a job resume at a PR firm, but agents and publishers mostly ignore this.]

If I do enter these contests, should I continue to submit my pieces through the standard, often slow editorial process during the competition’s ‘waiting’ period? And if that is okay, should I mention to the other publishers that this piece is currently an entrant in The XYZ Writing Competition to be decided on such-and-such a date? What do you recommend?

The first thing you need to do is determine why you want to enter the contest. If it’s not to win, why bother? There are faster and easier ways to get encouraging responses and attention, like a writers critique group. There are writer associations that hold annual conferences that often feature critique as part of their event. (Ex: LDS Storymakers)

I, personally, would not remove a piece from submission to enter it into a contest. If it’s good enough to garner contest attention, then it will also catch the attention of the publisher–and that’s your end goal, right? Why back away from it?

If you have a piece that you’re not currently submitting and you want to put it in a contest, that’s fine. Make sure the contest is legit–there are judges with credentials (a variety of professional editors, writers, etc.), prizes that are meaningful (cash, publication, etc.) and the entry fee is reasonable (under $100). You can find out about scam contests at Preditors & Editors.

I don’t care what contest you’re entered in. I don’t usually care if you’ve won. Don’t mention that you’ve entered a contest in your query unless it will affect the agent’s/editor’s ability to acquire it. And if it will, then don’t submit it. If you happen to win a legit contest, you may put that at the end of your query if you feel you must, but quite honestly, the quality of your writing is what is going to sell your piece, not any contest you may have won.