Publisher's/Author's Marketing Responsibilities

What is some of the advice you give new authors as far as how to market their book and what they can do to get it out there. Also, what are the responsibilities of the publisher in marketing an author's book? What should I be expecting them to do?

This really varies between publishers; and also between books with the same publisher. When a book comes out, it’s ranked as frontlist (books expected to sell well), mid-list (moderate sellers) or backlist (lower sellers or older books). The amount of marketing done for your book depends upon which list it’s on, which is based on pre-sells, with frontlist getting the lion’s share of the publicity.

There’s usually an initial marketing budget. Minimum that you should expect is to be listed in all catalogs, put on their website, and some sort of introductory announcement to bookstores—a brochure, postcard or e-mail blast. A business card or bookmark for you to hand out at signings and other appearances (although you might be asked to chip in on these). Review copies and press releases sent to Utah newspapers (because that’s where the majority of the LDS buying public lives), to your local newspapers, and other reviewers. Presentation at LDSBA the first year it’s out. If they offer a discount on your book, that can come out of the marketing budget too. That’s bare minimum and it might be all you get if the pre-sells aren’t good.

From there it can go to posters, racks, ads in catalogs and newspapers, book signings (you may have to pay travel expenses), radio ads and/or interviews, billboards, and any other neat thing they can think of.

After the initial marketing budget, most publishers plan to spend a set percentage of profits on marketing. The more books sold, the more money in your marketing budget.

What you’re expected to do is be a willing and enthusiastic participant in any marketing ideas the publisher has. If you can come up with some suggestions, that’s great too. Some authors hire PR people and pay for marketing out of their own pocket. Talk to other authors, see what they’re doing and adapt the ideas to your book. Get a copy of Jump Start Your Books Sales by Tom and Marilyn Ross. It has lots of great ideas. Another one is Guerilla Marketing for Writers.

Get your own website (I’ve talked about this before). You can either sell your book from your site or link to your publisher’s site. Or you can link to Deseret Book through their affiliate program.

If your publisher doesn’t give you business cards, then invest in these yourself. Make them full color with your book cover, ISBN number and Publisher's logo or name on one side. ISBN & publisher helps bookstores find it. Put your contact info on the back: name, website address, e-mail address. Mailing address & phone number is optional. Many authors choose to be contacted through their publisher.

These need to look really nice, so hire a graphic designer who knows what they're doing. VistaPrint.com is a good place to have them printed. They’re fairly inexpensive, they do a good job, and once you’ve purchased from them they send you regular promotions with great discounts. Then don’t be stingy with those cards. Give them to everyone.

Convention Countdown—Day 16

Over the weekend, we moved a bunch of stuff around in the warehouse to make room for new products. We got three shipments last week and expect two more this week and next. That was very hot, grueling work because when it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s about twice that in the warehouse!

I almost forgot to send in the list of name badges for the convention. Got those in at the last minute.

There was a problem with one of our new products. They all have to be unwrapped, an insert placed inside the box, and then re-shrink wrapped. Have to print the insert in time to have them ready for the convention. Printer won’t get back to me with a bid on a rush job.

Another book that was supposed to be done for the convention probably won’t be. It’s stalled out in typesetting. Someone didn’t know what they were doing and messed stuff up. Don’t know if I can fix it in time—and the author is flying in from out of state to do a signing.

Somehow I have to find the words to tell an author that I’m bumping his release date for another book. There is just no easy way to do that. But based on interest level of buyers, between now and the end of this year, I realistically could expect to sell 500 to 1,000 copies of his book; and about 6,000 copies of the other one. I only have time to get one of them ready in time for the convention. He is not going to be a happy camper. The fact that I can release his book by October 1 isn’t much consolation because he was all excited to have it at the convention. I just hope he doesn’t send someone to break my kneecaps.


Convention Etiquette

If you are one of the lucky few who get a namebadge, plan to get there a little early or stay after your signing and stroll around and look at all the stuff. It's really an amazing thing.

Here are some general etiquette rules for the convention:

1. Don't go from booth to booth asking for free samples or catalogs. Those are to impress and entice the buyers. And they are expensive. Some vendors can't afford to give freebies to everyone, but they're too nice to say no. Other vendors believe that if they give everyone a freebie, it's all good marketing because you'll read the book and tell people about it. So if a vendor offers you a freebie, say, "I'm not a buyer; I'm an author." If they still insist, then go ahead and take it if you want it. And if you do accept a freebie, express your thanks appropriately, by READING IT! Loaning it out. Giving it a good review on every blog and forum you have access to.

2. If you're looking for a new publisher or distributor, this is probably not the best time to approach them. The focus is to sell product to the bookstores and that is the vendor's priority. Please respect that.

3. If the vendor you really want to talk to happens to be sitting in their booth, staring into space because there's been a lull in traffic, then you may gently and politely approach them and introduce yourself. But if they aren't energetically and enthusiastically engaging you in conversation, take a hint. And the minute another person enters the booth, excuse yourself and leave. You won't make a good impression if you cause the vendor to lose a sale.

4. If you have a previously established relationship with a vendor, by all means stop by their booth to say hi. I mean, we're people too and we like to see old friends and make new ones. But again, respect their time and space. If the booth is crowded, come back later. Oh, and when you do get a chance to visit with them (briefly), make the appropriate ooohing and aaahing noises that indicate their new stuff is wonderful.

Love Me, Love Me Not...

When I first started publishing, it was the norm for the publishers to bring authors to LDSBA to sign books for the vendors. Now I'm noticing that authors aren't being invited as much. Is this just the case with my publisher (don't they love me anymore?) or are all publishers being more selective about who they bring to LDSBA?

Thanks for the question, Anonymous. It is so much easier for me to respond to questions than to make something up out of the blue.

This is how it works--You can't get into the convention without a name badge. Each 10x10 booth gets 15 free name badges. So if you have a double booth, you get 30 name badges; if you have an octobooth (that's the professional term for a ginormous 8 space booth), you get...well, 15 X 8 name badges. (It's late and I just ended a 14 hour workday, so you do the math.)

First priority name badges go to the employees who will work in the booth. Remember, the purpose of this convention is to sell books. Second priority are the authors/artists for book/CD/print signings.

We don't have enough name badges for all of our authors to come, so we limit it to those authors who have new product being introduced at the convention and/or to those authors who are "hot" names and will draw a crowd of people who want to simply touch their hem and breathe the same air so they can go back home and brag to all their neighbors that they are now good friends with whats-his/her-name.

And there are a limited number of hours to actually have book signings, so that is a factor too.

One of the biggest limiting factors is simply space in the booth. Deseret Book always has several big names signing at their booth. Covenant, Granite and Cedar Fort do too. They all have big booths with plenty of room and special little nooks and tables where their authors can sit and do a signing without interfering with the business end of the booth.

Smaller publishers with only a 10x10 have to cram everything into that space. If you get really busy with buyers, the signing authors sometimes are a hindrance. Not because of their personality or anything--just spatial logistics. Some smaller publishers have decided it's just too hard to do it. Even though I don't have an octobooth, I think it's worthwhile to have the authors there because their excitement about their book is a great selling tool. Usually.

So my guess is--it has nothing to do with how much they like you.


Count Down to LDSBA

We have just under three weeks until the LDS Bookseller's Convention, which will be held at the South Towne Convention Center in Sandy, UT, August 16 - 18. I thought it might be fun to give you a little peek into that crazy world.

The LDS Booksellers Association is an organization comprised of LDS vendors, resellers and others engaged in the distribution and sale of LDS products. It is guided by a board of directors from a variety of companies across the U.S. and Canada. Each year, the association sponsors classes and seminars for both Wholesalers and Retailers; provides a network of resources making it easier for resellers to find and order product; and (drum roll, please) hosts a huge convention for members only.

This convention is the one time all year that vendors and resellers get to mix and mingle, talk shop, and get to know each other better. It's also the time when vendors present their new products, get feedback about what the "market" wants and needs, and hopefully, the time when resellers place huge orders in preparation for Christmas sales.

Impressions made at this convention, both by company representatives and product line, can be long lasting and effect sales for months to come. We like to imagine that we will handle the weeks leading up to the convention with an elegance and grace that informs the well-prepared. Instead, it's a madhouse--a flurry of frantic activity trying to get everything ready for the show.

For example, I am still--three weeks before the show--signing new product to distribute. Because I'm still negotiating on a book that I think will sell well in this market, I've postponed printing my catalog. That means I missed the deadline for a pre-convention mailing. (Drat!)

I also have titles arriving almost daily from various printers--batches coming from the east coast, the mid-west and even China. I have to spot check all this new product to make sure it was done right (no upside-down pages, no streaks across the covers, etc.). Then I have to inventory it and get it into the computer system. And somehow I have to find a place to put it so that no one will trip over it and sue me.

I also have to come up with a booth layout and decor that will be attractive, inviting and appropriately feng shui-ed. I have no clue how I'm going to do that.

Anyway, I've exhausted myself just thinking about this, so I'm stopping now. But I'll comment more about it and describe some of the preparations in more detail later.

(If this is a totally boring topic for you, then please e-mail questions or queries and I'll respond to them instead.)


Critique This! #5

Dear LDS Editor, [I am LDS Publisher, not Editor. For this blog, I really don’t care if you get my name right or not—unless you’re telling someone about me and then I’d hope you’d get it right so they could find me. But for a query letter, make sure it’s correct. Not calling you to task, just bringing it to your attention.]

Several weeks ago you asked me to resubmit my query for further scrutiny. I tried to send this about 3 weeks ago, but it evidently became lost in cyberspace, so I'm trying again. [If I don't respond, always, ALWAYS, assume it fell into a black hole in cyberspace.]

Any comments about my query would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Agent/Editor, [reminder to use real name of agent or editor you are querying]

I am seeking representation for my 68,500 word young adult novel, "The Bridge Beckons." [Use italics for your title, not quotations. I realize this may have been a limitation of your e-mail software, but thought I'd mention it anyway.]

Seventeen year old Mark Wilkerson screwed up. He knows it. His dad is disappointed in him; his whole family knows he blew his solo [on what?] in their Christmas musical at the retirement home. So later, when another car clips the family car [another car/family car: too many cars; change one] in the dense fog on the Carquinez Bridge, Mark knows if his dad hadn’t been so upset with him [his dad is that ticked about a messed up solo at a retirement home???] he might have been ableto avoid the tangle with a gasoline truck in the next lane. Mark and his kid sister [does she have a name] are the only survivors of the fiery crash and Mark’s guilt is tearing him apart, and The Bridge Beckons. [too cheesy]

Mark and his sister move in with their grandmother in the town where the Carquinez Bridge dominates the skyline and constantly reminds him of his tragedy. He suffers from nightmares, paralyzing memories and fear resulting from the accident. A girl he meets, Genie Lombardi, [she needs a more significant introduction; something descriptive] promises to help him [do what?] , but her ex-boyfriend, Jeff Marino, wants her back and will do anything to get her, including killing Mark - or even Genie, if he must. Knowing of Mark’s phobia [what phobia? you need to describe it earlier] , Jeff kidnaps Genie to get to Mark, and Mark must overcome his fear of the bridge to rescue the girl he loves. But at the last moment everything goes wrong, and now Mark has two tragedies on the bridge to cope with. [to generic—need a little more idea of what the two tragedies are.] Ultimately, it's thesecond tragedy that forces him to face his fear of the bridge that beckons.

The Bridge Beckons is a romantic/suspense novel where high schoolfriends and enemies clash in a 1960s tale of teenage deceit andintrigue, some of whom will survive and some will not. Set in the smallNorthern California town where I grew up, the Carquinez bridge, isknown for dense fog, multi-car pile-ups, and even suicides [need punctuation here] all of which inspired many of the elements of this story. I would be happy to send you a synopsis [include it with the query], sample chapters [send chapter 1 with the query], or the completed manuscript of The Bridge Beckons at your request. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.

This query is very much improved over the first one. Great work! There's not a lot to change in the rewrite. I've made up stuff where I think more detail is needed.

Paragraph four is very good, although I’m not sure a 1960s novel is going to sell well. You might consider updating it to today.

Also, I can pretty much guarantee that the title won’t fly. Your target audience is 14 to 15 year old boys and girls. The girls might buy it, but the boys won’t. At this point, it's not a big deal. Publishers change titles all the time. Just giving you a heads-up.


Dear Ms. LDS Publisher,

I am seeking representation for my 68,500 word young adult novel, The Bridge Beckons.

Seventeen year old Mark Wilkerson screwed up. He knows it. His dad is disappointed in him; his whole family knows he blew his piano solo in their Christmas musical at the retirement home. Normally, that would not be a big deal, but his dad's boss was in the audience and used the botched solo as an excuse to humiliate Mark's entire family in public.

So later, when a drunk driver clips the family car in the dense fog on the Carquinez Bridge, Mark knows that if his dad hadn’t been so upset with him, he might have been able to avoid the tangle with a gasoline truck in the next lane. Mark and his kid sister, Trixie, are the only survivors of the fiery crash and Mark’s guilt is tearing him apart.

Mark and Trixie move in with their grandmother in Silver City, where the Carquinez Bridge dominates the skyline and constantly reminds Mark of his tragedy. Nightmares and paralyzing memories of the accident turn Mark's fear into a full-blown phobia, making it impossible for him to cross the bridge.

Mark resigns himself to misery thinking he will never be normal again, until he meets kind and gentle Genie Lombardi, who promises to help him overcome his phobia. However, Genie's ex-boyfriend, Jeff Marino, has other plans. He wants her back and will do anything to get her, including killing Mark - or even Genie, if he must.

Aware of Mark’s phobia, Jeff kidnaps Genie and Mark must overcome his fear of the bridge to rescue the girl he loves. But at the last moment everything goes wrong, and now Mark has two tragedies on the bridge to cope with. Ultimately, it's the second tragedy that forces him to face his fear of the bridge that beckons.

The Bridge Beckons is a romantic/suspense novel where high school friends and enemies clash in a modern tale of teenage deceit and intrigue, some of whom will survive and some will not. Set in the small Northern California town where I grew up, the Carquinez bridge is known for dense fog, multi-car pile-ups, and suicides--all of which inspired many of the elements of this story.

I have included a synopsis and chapter 1. I would be happy to send you the completed manuscript of The Bridge Beckons at your request. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.


National Sales Numbers

Here's something scary:

I want to point out a couple of paragraphs from the PW article (and you can read the entire article online): Anderson writes, “Here's the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2
million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. Those blockbusters are a minute anomaly: only 10 books sold more than a million copies last year, and fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000.” (taken from
The Writing Life)

I had to call up a couple of my authors to let them know what a good job I was doing for them. :)

UPDATE--In response to a comment about whether this is referring to books published by reputable publishing houses:
Nielsen Bookscan tracks point of sale purchases made at the larger retailers--most of whom do not carry POD or vanity press books.

You're right about how difficult it is to stay in business with this level of failure, but you're wrong in your implication that reputable companies don't have this problem. Editors and publishers do their best to pick books they think will sell well, but sometimes we guess wrong. Too many wrong guesses and we're in big trouble. That is why a lot of small, but very reputable houses, have been swallowed up by a few power-house publishers. The good news is, one Harry Potter or Da Vinci Code can cover several years of failures.


Wait and See? Not Me

I know there has been a temporary stay of execution in the Deseret Book/Seagull rift but do you have any idea of what this will actually do to manuscript purchases? Will Covenant and smaller LDS publishing houses reduce the amount of manuscripts they purchase for the next little while, adopting a wait-and-see attitude? Would an unpublished authors find it better to adopt that same attitude and hold off submitting until the financial concerns of all these smaller publishers have calmed? I would hate to submit and have it rejected because the timing was wrong and the companies weren't buying.

Thanks for all your help. I hit your site frequently and find so much useful information! [Thank you.]

I don't know what Covenant plans to do. I've heard that they've said the estimates putting DB products at 40-50% of their sales are incorrect--that they are not that high. And Covenant has been pretty aggressive in the past, so maybe they'll be fine.

As to smaller companies, I can't speak for other publishing houses, but I can tell you that this has not affected our publishing schedule. We haven't postponed releases or rejected anything because of this.

Publishing is a high risk business and people with very conservative, fearful, "wait and see" attitudes usually do something else for a living--like accounting or massage therapy or greeting at Wal-Mart. If a publishing company plans to stay in business, they have to publish. No new titles = no sales.

I would guess that if a company received a submission they really liked, but they were in the "wait it out" mindset, they'd still accept it, but give it a later release date.

If your book is ready, send it out.

Give the Publisher One MS at a Time

I have a completed manuscript under consideration at the third place I've sent it. Since I have been shopping the ms around, I have completed another one. My question is; what is the proper way to begin sending out the second manuscript? Do I send it to the publisher that has my first? Do I begin again at the beginning of my list of LDS publishers? Thanks for your help.

Do not send a second manuscript to a publisher who is still considering your first.

Everyone else is fair game. You may send it to anyone who has seen and rejected the first one, or to anyone else on your list—the order is up to you.


Playing with the Big Dogs

What I want to know is when the LDS publishers are going to start aggresively marketing toward national stores like Barnes and Noble, Borders, and the like.

Well, some of them do. I have a couple of titles in a few of the local big box stores. But I don't aggressively market to them because, quite honestly, I can't keep up. It's too expensive.

Setting aside the fact that if they order a bunch of product and then decide not to pay their bill—or pay really late, I have little recourse and will probably go out of business [it has happened to others]…

Scenario: An LDS suspense novel has a limited audience. If I'm lucky, I might sell 10,000 copies. But since I may not be lucky, I only print 2,000 in trade paperback. My cost per book is $1.50-$2.00 per book. LDS bookstores take a 40% discount. To break even after expenses, I have to sell it for $14.95. Fortunately, it sits on the LDS bookstore shelf next to other LDS products similarly priced.

The bigger national stores and distributors want 55-60% discounts. I just can't afford it. Books for a national market can risk a bigger print run and get their cost per book down to 40-50 cents. They can afford to offer the bigger discounts. And they can sell it for $9.99 and still break even. Assuming I could get the nationals to take a smaller discount, my book is still going to sit on their shelves next to a lower priced book. All things being equal, which book are you going to buy?

When you have a niche audience, you have to sell through a niche store where your customer is willing (however reluctantly) to pay niche prices.

My solution: Everyone go out right now and convert your neighbors so that LDS novels are no longer a niche, but mainstream. Then I’ll be able to afford to aggressively market to the national stores.

Question/Query Response Time

Questions and requests to critique query letters get first priority here on this blog. So if I'm blabbing on about other stuff (ie: there's no italicized question with answer), it means there's no question or query in my que.

I generally post a response to all e-mailed questions/queries within a couple of days. So, if you've sent something and a week has passed and I have not posted a response, assume I didn't get it and resend.

If at some point I become totally inundated with questions and queries, and it's taking me longer than a week to get to them, I will come up with some type of system to let you know your question/query was recieved and when you can expect a posted response.


Pray for Peace

Local readers will know this already, but for those in other states and countries, here is a positive update on the Deseret Book/Seagull situation.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:
Seagull gets a reprieve from Deseret Book

The LDS Church's Deseret Book chain announced Wednesday that it will allow Seagull Book and Tape to continue purchasing its line of works through August while the companies work to bridge their differences.

The announcement was issued in a joint news release that stated "no additional details about the relationship between Deseret Book and Seagull Book will be forthcoming at this time."

Earlier in July, Deseret Book said it would stop selling its popular line of works, written by nearly 140 influential LDS authors, in Seagull stores because of a difference of opinion in marketing, merchandising and promotional techniques.

The stoppage was expected to go into effect at the end of this month.

The 30-day extension postpones a decision by Deseret Book that could cripple the smaller, privately held competitor. Deseret Book is wholly owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Seagull Book spokesman David Politis declined to comment on the specifics of the talks while negotiations are still ongoing.

Deseret Book and Seagull Book each operate a chain of LDS-oriented bookstores, in addition to publishing their own titles by Mormon authors. Even though they compete in publishing and retailing, the two companies have carried each other's line of books for years.

Deseret Book is expected to continue stocking books published by Seagull through its Covenant business unit.

-- Jason Bergreen

And from The Provo Daily Herald

GRACE LEONG - Daily Herald

A temporary cease-fire has been declared between LDS Church-owned publisher and retailer Deseret Book and privately-owned Seagull Book & Tape.

Seagull Book, which last week was warned it could lose its nearly 20-year professional relationship with Deseret Book by the end of the month, said Wednesday it is given an extension to buy Deseret Book products through Aug. 31.

The reason: Both companies have begun discussions "to explore options for addressing long-standing differences" over how the Deseret Book brand and products are marketed, placed and promoted at Seagull's 26 stores nationwide, said Jon Kofford, Seagull's executive vice president, in a statement Wednesday. Seagull has 21 stores in Utah including seven in Utah County. Five others are in Mesa, Ariz.; Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif.; Boise and Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Seagull, which has between 200 and 300 employees companywide, declined to comment if any layoffs are planned.

Representatives of both companies declined to comment on details of the talks or the buyout speculation.

Seagull spokesman David Politis disputed earlier reports of the number of Deseret Book titles and audio products currently carried by Seagull but declined to provide estimates. He said Deseret Book isn't the only source of LDS product for the company.

Seagull, which is owned by the Kofford family, has been marketing Deseret Book products since its inception in American Fork in 1987, while Deseret Book has been carrying books published by Seagull's unit, Covenant Communications Inc. Founded in 1958, Covenant is owned by V. Lewis Kofford, who is also Seagull's president and CEO and majority owner.

And for now, both companies are continuing to carry each others' titles. For Jeffrey Lant, a BYU student who has been in Provo for four years, that's a good thing.

Lant, who was shopping at Seagull's store in Provo on Wednesday afternoon, said he would visit both Deseret Book and Seagull for different promotions and selections.

"We're at Seagull today because they have a promotion on children's books. They're going for between $1 and $3. But we go to Deseret Book more often because their product selection is bigger. Ultimately, it's nicer to have two options because different stores have different promotions," Lant said.

Founded in 1866, Deseret Book operates 43 stores nationwide including 20 in Utah. Five of the Utah stores are in Utah County. Deseret Book's line includes books by leaders of the LDS Church including church President Gordon B. Hinckley, and its products are available at Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam's Club, Smith's Food and Drug, Walgreens, Barnes and Noble, Borders, FYE Stores, Amazon.com, and hundreds of other retailers.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page B6.

There is a lot of power in prayer. Pray for peace and resolution between these two entities. And while you're at it, pray for peace in Israel and Iraq; peace in our communities; peace in our home and in our hearts.


Do We Understand Public Domain?

A non-fiction manuscript was submitted to me fully formatted with fancy fonts and several hundred images. Do NOT do this. It really is a waste of your time because:

1. I don’t need you to help me visualize your MS as a “real” book. I can do that on my own. It’s part of my job. Also, I’m used to visualizing from standard MS formatting. If you get too fancy, it throws off my calculations.

2. Chances are we won't use those images you’ve spent hours searching for and placing into your document due to copyright and other restrictions.

3. Unless you’re a graphic designer, you have probably not chosen the best fonts for your book, nor correctly used white space. There is a science and a psychology to this.

4. On the rare chance that we do use those same fonts and/or images, you've probably used Word or WordPerfect to format your document. We don’t. All that stuff has to be redone in typesetting.

5. There are several more reasons, but I’ve gotten sidetracked. This post is about public domain.

So, back to this submission. I liked the premise of the book, and decided to overlook the fact that most of the author’s images were not print quality and would never work in a published book. A few of the images were okay, so I asked the author if he'd gotten all the necessary permissions to use the artwork in his book. He assured me they were all in public domain.

I did a quick flip through and found images by several popular, currently alive and recently published artists whose copyrights are fully active and enforce. Seems the author thought that if he found the images posted somewhere on the Internet, that meant they were public domain and could be used any way he wished.


Public domain does not mean it’s been posted in a public forum and therefore can be used indiscriminately by the public. Public domain means the copyright on a piece of work has expired. There are specific criteria to determine if a copyright has expired or not. It is the author’s job to find out what that criteria is, and to determine if it applies to the quotations and/or artwork they want to use. (Or if I'm picking the artwork, it's my job to figure it out.)

If you are going to use quotes and artwork originally created by someone other than yourself, you MUST do the research to determine if the copyright is still valid. And if it is, you MUST get permission from the copyright holder to use those quotes and artwork. Failure to do so is against the law and will get all of us in big trouble.

I’m not certain if the copyrights for artwork are exactly the same as copyrights on written work, because I’ve never used old artwork in my projects. However, I would imagine they’re going to be similar. Here is a quick chart to help you determine if a published written work is in public domain or not.

For more details, I recommend The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers by Lloyd J. Jassin and Steven C. Schechter

For complete information (assuming you speak governmentese), you can go straight to the source: the US Copyright Office


How Important Is Fact Checking?

I got a submission not too long ago--a non-fiction manuscript. In the list of Suggested Readings at the end of the MS was a title I published--with the author's name wrong. (I didn't publish it with the name wrong; the name was wrong in the list.)

This was a pink flag--not fully red--because the title had originally been published under one name, but then the author married and all subsequent printings carried her new married name. So I could almost overlook that, even though the new name has been on the book for 10 years or so, and you'd think that in checking to make sure the list of Suggested Readings were still in print and available to the reader, the author of this MS would have stumbled upon this fact and updated it. But okay, whatever.

Upon a second look, however, I realize that the author's last name is also misspelled. Hmmmm...so I start looking more closely. I find several other similar mistakes.

How much confidence do you think I have that all the other books and authors in this list are correct? And what about other facts and figures listed in the book? Now that this new author's fact checking and proofreading skills are suspect, I cannot even think about publishing the book without double checking everything. And I can't assign the author to do his/her own fact checking because obviously they either don't care or they do not have the skill to do it. Either way, the cost of publishing this book just went up because I have to hire an independent fact checker to check every single thing in the book.

Uh-uh. I just sent the form rejection letter.

As a publisher, I will not check every single fact and name spelling in your book. That is YOUR job. I will do a spot check and assume the rest of your book is as carefully (or carelessly) researched and written as my random sampling. One mistake like this might not rule you out (or maybe it will, depending on how big it is), but two or three and your MS is toast! Not only will I reject this one, but I will also most likely reject anything else you send me in the future.


What Did They Do to My Manuscript???

My editor was really good about going over content changes with me, so I was very surprised when I got the finished copy of my book and noticed some changes we hadn't discussed. It looks like they've just pulled words and sentences out at random. In one place a whole paragraph got cut to one sentence and put with the paragraph before it. Some words were changed to synonyms that aren't any better than the words I had chosen. Why did they do that? (Talk about things that don't make any sense.)

Did you discuss changes before or after your book went to typesetting? If it was before, then those changes were probably made during typesetting to get it to fit the page better.

Books are printed in signatures--a very large piece of paper with 32 printed pages that when folded create a section of your book. The goal of the typesetter is to make your book fit into multiples of 32 pages. To do this, sometimes they have to cut a word or two out of a paragraph to save a line; or cut a full paragraph to save a page. A really good typesetter also has good editing skills so they can do this without disrupting the flow of your story or changing the intent of your words.

There are also things called widows and orphans. A widow is the last line of a paragraph that is all by itself at the top of a page. An orphan is the first line of a paragraph that is all by itself at the bottom of a page. These aren't good. I also don't like the aesthetics of having just one word as the last line of a paragraph. Sometimes typesetting can control that by smooshing the space between the words and/or the letters a little bit (called kerning and tracking), but if that doesn't work, they have to pull out a word or a sentence to make it fit.

So look at the places where the changes were made. Is the last line of the paragraph nearly the full length of the page? Does the chapter end at the bottom of a page--or very close to it? If so, I'm betting that's the reason.


Changing the World, One Reader at a Time

I have always believed in the power of words to change people's lives. I used to do a YM/YW presentation on the influence of the media, and one of my main points was how literature gives us more choices in our own lives. If we're stuck in a situation and we don't know what to do, we're limited to the choices we can create from our own imagination and experience. But if we're well read, chances are we've read many, many responses to a situation similar to the one we're facing. We can add all those experiences we’ve read about to our store of knowledge to help us determine our own choices and pathways. Good literature changes the world, one reader at a time.

I feel very strongly about the potential influence of well-written LDS novels—particularly upon the youth in our culture. Take for example, peer pressure. There are many ways that peer pressure can be applied to our youth. For each of these, there are a variety of ways for our teenagers to respond to that pressure. For each response, there are several possibilities of outcomes and results. If you look at all these combinations, the number of books that could be written simply dealing with peer pressure is phenomenal. Add in other difficulties and choices our kids are facing, and the plot and story possibilities could keep all our current LDS authors writing for a lifetime. Add in clean fiction just for fun, children’s fiction, adult fiction and the possibilities become innumerable.

There is plenty to write about—and the good it can do to influence lives is staggering. Shining examples of good solid fiction that supports LDS values and beliefs is so needed in a world where fiction doesn’t sell unless there’s a racy scene or two; where the top selling novels targeted at teens promote and encourage pre-marital intimacy, rebelliousness against parents; alienation from family; and a rejection of traditional Christian beliefs and values. Even children’s books are sending the message that the evils of this world are simply alternate lifestyle choices.

LDS writers have a calling and a duty to let their voice be heard, to write books which entertain and captivate, but also support the values we believe in. We don’t need to beat our readers over the head with religiosity, but simply have our characters face difficult choices and either choose what is right despite the consequences, or face the consequences of their wrong choices. We need protagonists who act with courage and integrity despite the personal cost.

Can you see the potential we have for changing the world? I can. I believe God can. And unfortunately, I think the adversary can see it too.

Look at what is happening in the LDS publishing/book selling industry right now. We have a potential war developing between the two top publishers/resellers in our industry and everyone is lining up in camps, supporting one side or another. (Including me.) You have trusted book sellers being arrested for horrible things. You have independent LDS bookstores dropping like flies and small publishing houses closing their doors. Authors are facing personal challenges that are preventing them from writing the novels the Lord has placed in their hearts and imaginations.

I was talking to a colleague and friend the other day and she said, “I believe we are under attack.” I think she’s right. The adversary is working overtime to make sure we do not reach our potential. And I guess the question is, are we going to let him win? Are we going to be so distracted by what is going on around us that we allow our writing time to be eaten up by our fascination or our fear? Are we going to become so discouraged by rejections that we stop writing altogether? Or are we going to recognize our potential for good, recognize the attack upon us, and redouble our efforts to make a difference in the world?

I believe in the potential of LDS literature. I believe it is my life’s work to create, to write, to publish, to assist in publishing, to do whatever I can to put the stories that live in the hearts of inspired LDS writers into the hearts and minds of LDS readers. If the entire LDS publishing industry comes crashing down around me, I don’t care. If the company I work for goes bankrupt tomorrow, I don’t care. Somehow I’ll find a way to continue in my life’s mission. Even if all I can do is write about it in this blog, publish my own stories on my website, or tell them aloud in Primary class or around the campfire at Girls Camp, I can still change the world—one reader at a time.


Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

If you are looking for the post that used to be here, I deleted it.

Since I first posted, I have received some other information in the ongoing Deseret Book/Seagull debacle. This information reminded me of something I thought I had already learned: Keep your mouth shut when you don't have all the information.

Apparently, I needed a refresher course.

Bottom line: I still don't have all the information on this. I don't have enough to advise you on what to think or how to act. Originally it seemed pretty clear who the "bad guy" was, but now I'm not so sure.

So what I am going to do is to shop where it's convenient, to purchase what I want where I feel like purchasing it at the time, and I'm going to let them settle their sandbox war without any comments from my personal peanut gallery.


It Is Official

The Salt Lake Tribune had a really short article on the Deseret Book/Seagull situation on their website today.

There is also a reply e-mail from Deseret Book posted on Six LDS Writers and a Frog.

Several other blogs and forums are buzzing about it too--mostly about what this will mean to Deseret Book and Seagull. Will this decrease DB's sales? Will they pinch Seagull out of the market? Will Seagull pull their books from DB? Will it be a fight to the death or will DB reconsider at some future time?

I say, Who cares? Let's get to the really important question: How will this effect me--uh, I mean, YOU?

Since Deseret Book will still sell Covenant titles, I would expect Covenant authors to continue to sell as you have been.

Deseret Book authors will experience a drop in sales, at least until the consumer realizes that they have to shop at DB to get your books. If you're an author with high consumer loyalty, it shouldn't take long for your sales to come back up. You will, however, lose the impulse sales from Seagull customers.

If you're a DB author without name recognition, it will take longer for your sales to rebound because loyal Seagull customers will not know to come looking for you.

If at some point DB decides to stop selling Covenant books, or if Seagull decides to pull their books, then Covenant authors will experience the same drop in sales as DB authors. However, it might take longer for them to recover simply because of the Deseret Book name recognition which pulls in more customers and therefore more impulse buys.

How much this effects you will depend somewhat on public outcry. If the public gets ticked off, they may temporarily stop shopping at either DB or S, or both. That won't last long, but both companies might temporarily lower their acceptance rate or postpone release dates, just until they can see which way the wind is blowing. Or not. Maybe they'll up their publication quota and hit the market even harder with stellar books that people will happily go out of their way to purchase. (That is what I would do.)

But you know, Deseret Book and Covenant aren't the only two publishers in the industry. I'm secretly hoping many of you will be so put off by this that you'll decide you don't want to go with either company and you'll give ME a shot.

But no matter who you submit to, when something rocks the boat even a little bit, it becomes even more important to submit your very best work. So quit reading all these blogs. Pull out your manuscript and get cracking!


Do You Have Questions or Can We Move On?

Disclaimer #1: I have yet to see confirmation by the parties involved of the various rumors flying around concerning Deseret Book and Seagull. And until I do, I’m leaving open the possibility that this furor is exactly that—rumor. But I am also not so ignorant as to stick my head in the sand and pretend I didn't hear it. I’ve spent some time thinking about this, and how it might impact my company and my decisions.

Disclaimer #2: I am not a business analyst so I may not have thought of every possibility or eventuality. Also anything I post here is just conjecture based upon my own personal brand of common sense. (Which has been called into question, but nevertheless, I blog bravely on through the muck and the mire of irrationality.)

Assuming that at some point, Deseret Book were to stop selling product through Seagull (and/or vice versa), of course it will impact the industry. These are the two biggest power-houses out there. There will be a reaction. Some people will respond with anger and fear. Others will roll their eyes and ridicule. Still others will feel nervous and insecure about how this will impact their future.

I'm not going to blog my whole point of view on all this, because 1) I don’t have that much free time; and 2) You don’t have that much free time.

So if you’re interested, ask me questions, either in the comments trail or send them to my e-mail address. I'll do my best to answer them. If I don’t get any specific questions, I’m going to move on to other topics.


Things that make no sense

I refuse to eat the “toe” of the hot dog (that is that last little end bite). My husband tells me it’s no different than the “head” of the hot dog (the first bite at the beginning). But I know better. I do not eat toes.

I know a woman who will not put her underwear in the same hamper with the rest of her dirty clothes. She says the underwear contaminates the other clothes. On wash day, she washes the underwear and clothing all together in the same wash load, dries them all together in the same dryer, folds them and puts them all together in the same drawer. This, apparently, does not contaminate the clothing. It makes no sense to me, but it makes perfect sense to her.

I know another woman who won’t buy a book if it smells funny. She goes to the bookstore and sniffs the copies of the book she wants to buy until she finds one that smells right.

I know a man who comes unglued when lights are left burning in an empty room because it’s a waste of money and energy. This same man will open the fridge door, take out the orange juice, walk over to the sink, pour a glass, drink it, rinse the glass, then walk back to the fridge, put the juice carton back in and THEN he’ll shut the fridge door.

The Point: We all make choices and decisions based upon our world view and past experiences. We all make choices based upon what we think is best. Because we all see the world just a little bit differently, and because “best” is a subjective determination, what makes sense to one person or group of people may not make sense to others.

So, in response to several e-mails I’ve gotten over the weekend, no, I’m not taking sides and I’m not commenting one way or another. We’ve got more important stuff to focus on here, such as writing a good query, pitching a novel and understanding contracts.

Besides, I’m too busy picking the toes off my hot dogs.


How to Tell When You're Being Too Subtle in Your Plot Hints

I have a book where the hero's eye color subtly changes three times but not until much later in the story does the reader understand it is not a mistake but a surprising part of the plot.

Should I inform the publisher that the eye color is NOT a mistake before they start to read it? I had one editor claim to have carefully read my manuscript then proceed to made a harsh/nasty comment about my unprofessionalism with the eye color. I didn't respond and explain myself because I thought if they had carefully read it, like they claimed, they would have realized it was part of the plot.

And if your manuscript is rejected with a personal letter from the editor, CAN you contact them and explain yourself? What do editors think about calls like that?

If the editor noticed the eye color change at all in the first read, then they were reading carefully. I can pretty much guarantee that if everything else in your manuscript was spot on, you would not have been rejected for unexplained changing eye color, even if it was unintentional. The editor would have simply instructed you to go back and fix it.

However, if there were multiple places where your writing was vague or sloppy or not working for some other reason, they may have assumed this was just one more piece of evidence that the MS needed more work and stopped reading before the explanation of the eye color change was given.

No, I would not suggest that you contact the editor to explain yourself. If the eye color change was too subtle for your editor, it will be too subtle for most of your readers too--and you wouldn't be able to call each of them and explain yourself. And if your MS requires an advance explanation that this is not a mistake, then your published book would require the same advance explanation.

So, use this as a learning moment. Go back and do some foreshadowing so that when the reader hits the first eye change, they have a clue that something unusual is going on. You don't have to give them the whole explanation for the change, but they need to have enough information that they know it is not a mistake. If you pop something entirely out of the blue at the end, the reader feels cheated or taken advantage of. But if it's well prepared through subtle, but recognizable hints, then when you unveil the surprise at the end, it resonates and they are more likely to accept it as plausible and think that you are a really cool writer.

Publishers Choice Award Winner

First Place: Marcia Mickelson
with Pitch #6

She got all 7 points for including the info I asked for in 90 words. It’s romance, which sells well and should continue to do so. And I thought it had some extra meat to the storyline, given the subplot of the controlling father, the political conflict and backdrop, and the issue of a mixed race romance.

(Marcia, you didn't tell me which LDS paperback novel you wanted. Please e-mail the title and author's name to me.)

Runners Up:
Melanie Goldmund with Pitch #5.
(Melanie and Marcia actually tied on points from me, but since Melanie has won the Readers Choice award, Marcia won the tie with me.)

Anonymous with Pitch #3
(A shy one, like me. But anonymous, you really have to get over this if you’re going to publish. You need to develop a very thick skin—or perhaps use a pen name.)

Readers Choice Award Winner

First Place: Melanie Goldmund
with a total of 6 votes for Pitch #5

Runners Up:
Scott Blair
with a total of 4 votes for Pitch #7

A 2-way tie, with a total of 3 votes each:

Marcia Mickelson with Pitch #6

Anonymous with Pitch #3

Way to go!

(Melanie, I’ll get the book off to you first thing next week.)

Publishers Choice Point Breakdown

You guys are great! I appreciate your participation in this contest and hope that you will return often and participate in future contests. I am very open to suggestions for future contests—let me know what you think will be fun and helpful, as well as the frequency you’d like to see a contest done.

I hope that if you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have that you will continue to come back to this site regularly and comment on the posts, send me questions to answer and queries to critique, and that you will spread the word about this site. (I recently changed the settings to allow you to easily e-mail posts to your friends. Just click on the envelope at the bottom of the post.)

Now, on to how I chose my winner.

The purpose of this contest (other than just to have some fun) was to practice getting the most important info into the smallest amount of wordage, ergo, the three sentence limit and the 90 word bonus. You got one point for each of these conditions.

The absolutely most critical info I need to gain from a pitch is a feeling of whether or not I can sell it, ergo, the specific details I asked for in the contest.

Genre: Is it in a genre that is selling well now and that I expect to sell well a year from now when the book is released? (1 pt)

LDS: Would LDS readers enjoy this? Would they go into their LDS bookstore looking for something like this? (1 pt)

Name and Age of Protaganist: This indicates the gender (usually) that it will appeal to, and the age range of the target reader. (1 pt each)

Plot: A short description of what I can expect to happen in the novel (1 pt)

Most of you got all of these points.

Subjective: Then there were another 6 points awarded for things like if I’d ask for a partial based on the pitch, if it was unique—something I hadn’t seen/heard before or a new twist on the usual (this was the hardest one to do, given that you only had 3 sentences), if I personally would want to read it, and other totally subjective factors like did I smile when I read it, did I laugh out loud (in a good way), did I go “awwww…” etc.

Later today, I will post a summary in the comments trail of each pitch stating my opinion on what you did best, where you lost points, what would strengthen the pitch and whether or not I would ask for a partial/full.

P.S. Winners are free to use their bragging rights in any way they choose. However, it might not impress a publisher/editor if you include it as part of your query.

P.P.S. Those of you who did not win are free to post your identity in the comments trail of your pitch if you want. I will not be doing so. You may also politely explain how I so clearly missed the point of your pitch, if you want.



I want to know if the time has come to seriously consider publishing LDS speculative fiction, specifically, science fiction with an LDS backdrop. So please answer these questions in the comments trail.

1. Would you, as an LDS reader, purchase and read a science fiction novel with an LDS backdrop, published by an LDS publisher?

2. If no, why not?

3. Would you specifically be interested in the following plot line: Religious people exercising their faith and being blessed for it (miraculous healings, inspired to build a space ship, etc.)-- on another planet?

4. Why or why not?

More on Speculative Fiction

What does your publisher's gut instinct say about miracles happening against a technological backdrop? I'm talking the occasional big miracle here, like instant healing, someone being raised from the dead, or having the technical plans of an advanced spaceship being revealed one piece at a time to an entire team of people, while other people have been called to assemble the
spaceship? No magic, no occult, no vampires, just religious people exercising their faith and being blessed for it -- on another planet.


Oh, I can give you a real clear answer on that one--I don't know!

Seriously though, let's look at in two segments: national and LDS.

National: Does "Left Behind" ring any bells for you? This is a clear indication that there is a market for speculative fiction with a Christian backdrop and a strong message of faith. Also, Orson Scott Card's Homecoming series, especially the first two, have spiritually based characters, if not straightforwardly Christian. I don't think they sold as well as his Ender series, but they made it to the Sci-Fi book club. I've read lots of other sci-fi books that were faith based, but not necessarily Christian faith based. So in this context, does your basic plot fit in with what is being published nationally--maybe.

LDS: The fact that Pitch #5 in my contest is currently in first place tells you something. (Unless the writer bribed all their family & friends to go vote for it.)
Also, look at the view count on your bio. It has had 1,854 views. I don't know how many of those have come since you started talking about sci-fi but I would guess a significant portion of them have. So in this context, would your plot intrigue an LDS publisher--maybe.

Let's see if we can get a better idea of the interest level. See "Poll" in my next post. Also, I am going to contact a collegue of mine and see if she will set up a poll at the latterdayauthors site for me, because I am genuinely interested in the answer to your question.

P.S. The poll is now up over at latterdayauthorsDOTcom. It's in the Writing Fiction section under the thread "Has Sci-fi's Time Arrived?"

(Let me just say that some people are big whiny babies and I didn't pinch her that hard!)

(Also, I have perfectly legitimate reasons for not revealing my identity and none of them have anything to do with being a "chicken-liver," as she so eloquently put it. BTW, if that's the best she can do...)


Clarification on Sci-Fi

This was posted over on latterdayauthors.com. Yes, I frequently lurk there, among several other places. But I can't post there because you have to register first and I'm shy and want to stay in the shadows. :) So someone who reads this, go over there to Melanie Goldman's topic under Member Bios, and tell her I'm talking about her comments over here. Please.

According to the wise woman behind LDS Publisher, [Melanie is so intelligent and perceptive. She's my new best friend!] "mixing speculative fiction with LDS culture ... is highly offensive to many readers ... [and she doesn't know of a] single publisher who would touch it with a ten-foot pole."

Since I was planning to write a variation of the "Zoram" story from the Book of Mormon on a different world and including a huge spaceship, in the way that Orson Scott Card wrote a variation of the "Nephi" story in his Homecoming series on a different world and including a huge spaceship, I think it's pretty safe to say that I don't stand a chance.

Stephanie Black also asked her editor at Covenant, and got a very discouraging answer.

Actually, the more I read that blog, the more I'm tempted to take up her idea of baptizing a vampire family. Could be funny, seeing them doing the refreshments at a church activity, or how nobody wants to visit teach them, because they're afraid that they might be asked to provide a little red snack. But no ... better not. I don't want people coming after me with pitchforks and torches.

Let me clarify a few things. First, let's not mix apples and oranges. There are several distinct areas that are all getting lumped together under the category of LDS Speculative Fiction:

1. There is fiction written by LDS authors but have nothing else to do with the LDS culture (Orson Scott Card, Anne Perry, Shannon Hale, etc.)

2. There is national fiction that mirrors LDS teachings but non-LDS readers would not recognize it as such (Card's Homecoming & Alvin Maker series).

3. There is national fiction published by LDS authors in which LDS culture is referenced, but not a main focus (Card's Lost Boys--I think the family is LDS, but it's been awhile since I've read it)

4. There is fiction published by LDS publishers and sold mainly to LDS audiences but that does not include direct references to LDS lifestyle, membership or theology (Leven Thumps).

5. There is fiction where LDS culture and theology is a major focus (The Believer; also Card's Folk of the Fringe collection of short stories, several of which I found very fascinating).

6. Then there is fiction where LDS culture and theology is mixed together with fantasy devices and sci-fi events that are in direct contrast with LDS core principles and teaching.

All of these are lumped into one big category: LDS speculative fiction. What I say about one of these areas does not always apply to the others.

For example, Stephanie Black's The Believer is wonderful. I really enjoyed it. It wasn't hard core sci-fi, but it was futuristic and speculative. If Covenant dropped her, I'd snap her up in a heartbeat--assuming of course, that I don't already work for Covenant, in which case I'd throw an absolute fit if they dropped that series.

I also personally enjoyed Scott Card's Homecoming series (although I felt the quality of the writing and the storyline lacked somewhat once they left their planet and headed back to "home." Also, I think the little creatures fighting each other was done to death in his Ender series and I'm tired of it already.) And I really liked his Alvin Maker series. He wasn't rewriting the Book of Mormon and he wasn't doing a biography of Joseph Smith. He started with some basics and let his imagination take it from there to spin an entirely different story. I know some LDS readers who were offended by this, but I wasn't. (The sex and violence bothered me, but the fact that he started with "Joseph Smith" did not. If Card offered me that series, I'd have to turn it down unless he toned it down.)

I think there is a market for good, solid speculative novels written in a way that supports LDS values and beliefs, but that do not neccessarily contain direct references to LDS culture and theology. I, as an LDS pubisher, WOULD be very interested in seeing some of those. But the story has to be compelling and very well written.

A story loosely based on Zoram's experience, but set on a different planet, in a different universe would be fine. But a story about Zoram (his literal self) going to a different planet, or Zoram (his literal self) being told by little green aliens that one night soon he would meet a man who would offer to take him from Jerusalem and that Zoram should follow him, and then voila, 48 hours later Zoram (his literal self) meets up with Nephi (his literal self)--no. No! NO!!

But then there are some gray areas--like Pitch #5 posted as part of my contest. I haven't decided how I feel about that yet. The sci-fi fan in me would like to take a look at it. The publisher who needs to run a profitable company is highly skeptical. In this gray area would also fall stories about missionaries sent to other planets, or a "Left Behind" type of story using LDS theology, or a variety of other speculative themes and plots. A lot would depend on how it was handled. I would take a look at it, but it would have to have a killer plot and substantive writing for me to take the risk of publishing it.

What I absolutely am NOT interested in are stories where the power of the gospel and other sacred things are minimized by fantastical devices or science. For example, time travel where modern day kids make sure the gospel stays on track. To me, that says God isn't powerful enough to run His on business. I also will not entertain a bishop or RS president who uses magic, or anyone who dabbles in anything bordering on the occult as a way of living the gospel. I also will not look at Primary children who make all their problems go away by ...whatever. Can't think of an example right now, but you get the idea.

Now, would I be interested in a newly baptised vampire family, written entirely tongue in cheek and purely for entertainment? Personally, uhm, I probably would. Professionally, I just don't know. I guess I'd have to make that decision when and if it ever shows up in my slush pile.

Anyway, the point of this whole thing is to say that I agree with Karlene and Stephanie (other posters in that topic string). I think there is a market out there and I'd like to support it because I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan and the number of authors I can trust to write a compelling, yet clean, story line is rapidly diminishing. It's only a matter of time before LDS readers start demanding this genre of the LDS publishers, the same way that they've demanded clean LDS romance novels.

So, if you write LDS speculative fiction--if that's where your heart is, WRITE IT. The readers will come...

Contest Closed

Submissions to contest now closed. Please vote for your favorite(s) between now and midnight, Friday, July 7th, 2006. Check back on Saturday, July 8th for announcement of winners.


Pitch # 9

With the nation frightened by the deadly effects of a new hemorrhaging ulcer, Jaysen Dupray, a 34-year-old tribal lawyer, tries to forget the hemorrhaging death of his own wife until he makes a shocking discovery–the American government has been poisoning the people. Now with people dying, government records being altered and someone sending brutal e-mails, Jaysen sees the horrifying truth: latter-day prophecy is being fulfilled and he’s at the epicenter. Understanding now that his life and the lives of the American people depend on the safety of the buffalo, Jaysen battles to find a way out of the fatal maze even as someone in the government wants him dead. (110 words)

Pitch # 8

At age 28, Confederate Sergeant Eli Slater is in charge of a group of Rebels trained to assassinate President Lincoln and his top advisors in one devastating blow; but their plans are jeopardized when he captures the daughter of a general they are assigned to kill. When she discovers their plans and learns of Slater’s involvement in an assassination plot on Brigham Young, everything is threatened. Now with spies on both sides of the line, the sergeant makes a bold move and takes her North–into the camp of her father. (90 words)


Contest Extension

Someone just asked for an extension due to weather related power outtages and the inability to get to the internet to post. Since power was out here too, I am agreeable. You may continue to submit until midnight (MST) on July 5th.

Voting however will end as previously scheduled.

I just realized that when I copied and pasted from the e-mails to the blog, some of them came through without spaces between some of the words. I have corrected it and will watch for it in the future. If any of you withheld votes for a particular pitch, thinking the author was careless (and therefore undeserving of your vote), please note this was a software transfer glitch and consider voting again.

Pitch # 7

The nation of Israel stands though perhaps not for long after her second king, David, is chased from the throne and almost killed by his son Absalom. As years pass Israel's enemies take advantage of the wicked Absalom's reign to weaken the borders and take Israel's cities from her. Despite having lost his chance at exaltation because of the murder of Uriah, David attempts to reconcile himself with his traitorous son, regain his throne to restore peace, and endure living the commandments of God to the end of his life. (90)


Pitch #6

When 23-year-old Sarah finishes her mission in Guatemala, she returns to Utah to help her Democratic brother, Robert, in his congressional campaign, much to the disdain of their Senator father whose conservative viewpoint endorses Robert’s opponent and opposes Sarah’s friendship with a Black campaign manager. As her father attempts to mold Sarah into the woman he thinks she should be, she fights for independence to create her own pathway to happiness. Can she survive her father’s machinations and their opponent’s deceptive methods and in turn find the love she seeks? (90)


Pitch #5

Having lost her voice and no longer able to sing praises in the temple, 32-year-old Ruhama feels that she’s been rejected by the Lord and her life is over. But when a member of a strange cult which claims to have the fullness of the gospel comes to re-possess a precious artefact from the temple, Ruhama is caught up in the forced exodus of these Apostates. Travelling to another planet on a huge spaceship, Ruhama grows to realize that what she perceived as rejection was really a blessing in disguise. (90 words)

Slightly revised at request of author. Since this is just for fun, I'm agreeing to post the revision. However, keep in mind that were this a real pitch, there would be no second chances. :)

Pitch #4

At 21, Jennifer Smart’s heart is broken by a Dear Jane from high school sweetheart, Travis Kellerman. Leaving heartache behind, she transfers to BYU and meets dashing Donovan Montgomery. The day after Donovan proposes, Travis shows up wanting her back and pulling her heart apart. (45 words)

Pitch #3

At the Scout overnighter, 11 year old twins Matthew and Marc stumble upon a secret meeting in the woods where four men are plotting murder. Known for their tall tales, when they get back to camp, they find no one will believe them, not even the bishop (who is also their dad). Can they foil the murderous plot without becoming one of the dearly departed themselves? (66 words)

Pitch #2

Suzie Johnson, a thirty-something divorced mother of four, finds herself feeling alienated from the Church because she no longer fits the “forever family” mold, and with no desire to ever date or marry again, until the bishop gives her a blessing promising that she will marry in this life and that her new husband will “treat you like a queen, in the way Heavenly Father intends all his daughters to be treated.” Only weeks later, she finds herself trying to choose between two suitors—Alexander, a handsome, rich and also divorced Elders Quorum president in her new ward, and James, also handsome but not so rich, never married, and a non-member. How does her heart decide? (116 words)

Pitch #1

Sixteen year old Kiley Robinson thinks the Church's stand on body piercing is old-fashioned and out of step, until her belly-button ring is exactly what attracts the attention of a crazed religious zealot looking to add to his harem of new young wives. Kidnapped and locked in solitary confinement, Kiley has plenty of time to reflect on her life choices. Prayer, repentance and a strength gained from knowing God loves you no matter what happens in your life, give Kiley the courage and ability to endure and finally to escape. (90 words)


I've already got some pitches. That was fast!

Bonus Word Update: Also, please note the updated Bonus word count. The bonus is now set at 90 words, not 45.

If any of you have already submitted a pitch that is 45 words (there's one so far) or less and you'd like to resubmit with 90 words, go ahead. I'll post both and see what gets the most votes.

Voting Clarification: Also, YES, you can vote for yourself, but only once per pitch. And just so we don't end up with every pitch having 1 vote, vote for a couple of others too.

Word Count Addition: Also, please put your word count at the end of your pitch. It will save me time. Word count does not count as part of your word count. :)

Contest with a REAL PRIZE!

This contest has ended.
Winners are posted here and here.

Another contest will be announced soon.

Let's try another contest. It's a long holiday weekend, so you have time to write something just for fun, right? Since we've done a few queries this month, here's a prompt that will help hone your skills at summing up your novel.

Write a three-sentence pitch for an LDS novel. Somewhere in that pitch there needs to be: 1) a clear hint to the genre; 2) a clear hint that it's LDS; 3) your main character's name and age; 4) the general plot line. Bonus points if you're able to do this in 90* words or less. (Hyphenated words count as individual words. Numbers count as words.) Please put your word count at the end of your pitch. (This does not count as part of your total words.)

There will be two winners: Publisher's Choice (chosen by me) and Readers Choice (chosen by you). Each first-place winner will receive a paperback copy of the LDS novel of their choice.

All pitches have their own post, titled "Pitch #1," "Pitch #2," etc.

To vote, click on the "comments" link at the bottom of the pitch you like. Cast your vote by leaving a comment.

Stupid Little Details That You Must Follow in Order to Win:
1. Send your pitch to my e-mail address. Include your mailing address and your choice of LDS novel in your e-mail so I can mail your prize as soon as the contest ends.

2. I will post all pitches to this blog in the order they are received. I will NOT post the author's name or any identifying information until the contest is over.

3. Enter as many times as you want, but send a separate e-mail for each entry. Each entry will be judged on its own merits. (That means, if one is really good and one is really bad, the bad one won't color judgment of the good one.)

4. The contest STARTS NOW and and STOPS Tuesday, July 4, 2006 at midnight (MST).

5. All pitches will be posted by Wednesday, July 5, 2006.

6. Voting STARTS NOW and STOPS on Friday, July 7th. Vote by posting in the comments trail of the pitch you like.

7. You may vote for as many pitches as you want, but you can only vote for a particular pitch once. You are on the Honor Code not to post multiple anonymous votes for your favorite pitch.

8. You may vote for yourself, but only once per pitch. And just so we don't end up with every pitch having 1 vote, vote for a couple of others too.

9. Winners posted on Saturday, July 8, 2006. I will post the first-place winners and two runners-up in each category. Unless you specifically request not to be indentified, the names of the winners will be posted.

10. In the case of a tie for the Readers Choice, I will put the names in a hat and draw the winner.

11. The same pitch cannot win in both categories. I will select my winner before tallying the Readers Choice votes. If my winner is also the winner of the Readers Choice, the Readers Choice prize will go to the second place pitch.

P.S. To send this contest info to all your writer friends (that's a subliminal command for you to do so), go to the "Previous Posts" listed on the right of this blog. Click on the title of this post. It will display in its own webpage. Copy the URL (web address) line and paste it into your e-mail. Then send that link to every writer you know. (Do it! Do it! You know you want to...)

P.P.S. If you're concerned about nepotism, don't be. I've rejected plenty of my good friends in the past, which is why I no longer have any.

*Updated bonus word count. See comments on this post.