Ghost Writer Wanted

Where do you go if you have a project and you need someone to "write for you"! I have looked everywhere and I can not find anywhere to find a good LDS author to help me out. any suggestions?

The technical term for what you're asking for is ghost writer. Good ghost writers are hard to find because good writers are usually busy writing their own stories. You're also looking at a substantial investment. Most ghost writers charge by the page. Experienced ghost writers charge between $50 to $100 per page, or more. Some ghost writers are willing to work for the lion's share of the advance and/or royalty. It really is not feasible to hire a ghost writer unless you're a celebrity or politician, someone who's guaranteed book sales because of their personality.

Generally, when a ghost writer is required, it's the publisher who sets up the relationship. They find a writer they know and trust and have them work with the "author". In the LDS market, the only time I know of this being done is when General Authorities need help with a book.

Now, if you're talking about writing your memoirs or family history and need someone to help with that, consider finding a college student with reasonably good skills who might be willing to work for a lot less.

Anyone else have an idea on this?


Querying a Series

When it comes to the first book of a series, how much of the query should dwell on the overall Main plot-line of the series (that's only beginning in the first book) verses the specific ending-plot of book 1 alone? (being that it has both). This is a Fantasy series (could also be YA) with a set number of books that completes the main story. Course, from a newbie, is something like this a plus or minus when you receive it?
In your query, address book one. At the end of your letter, state that you intend this book as the first in a series of x number of books, following the story of A as he/she does whatever. Don't go into much more detail than this. The publisher will ask about it if they're interested.

Now, if it's an epic adventure that really cannot be done in one book, you could add a second page to the query that gives a two to three sentence breakdown of each of the additional books.

In general, for a first time author, book one of the series should be written as a stand-alone novel. You can leave small clues in the book that can be pursued later and you can create an ending that allows for a sequel but you need to have the story complete in itself in case the publisher decides not to publish the rest of your series. Nothing is more disappointing to a reader then a book with a cliff hanger that never gets resolved.

Whether it's a plus or a minus depends on how well written the book is. If it's great, I'm going to be excited that there are more on the way. If it turns out the book sells well, then I'm going to want a new one each year until the series is done. If the book stinks, then it really doesn't matter.


LDS Book Pricing

Why are most books in the LDS market larger and more expensive than mass market paperbacks? Why are fiction titles by certain well-known authors published in hardback and sold for $25, while other authors' works are published in paperback and sold for $15 or less? Why should I spend $25 for a book that I will read once, when I can buy something for much less that I will enjoy just as much? If LDS publishers sold mass-market size paperbacks at a lower price, I would be more inclined to buy them instead of borrowing them from the library or my sister-in-law, finding a used copy, or waiting until the overpriced hardback copy hits the bargain shelf and I can buy it for $4.99 or less.

"Mass-market" is the key to this question. Mass-market paperbacks are printed in massive quantities on a web press and on newsprint paper. The LDS market isn't massive. Most LDS fiction books start with a printing of around 2,000. At those quantities, it costs us the same amount to print a typical mass market size book as it does to print the larger trade paperback book (6x9; better paper). Since we have to charge the higher price for the books anyway, we might as well give our customers a little better quality so they don't feel so bad shelling out the extra money.

The decision to print the book in hardback or paperback is based on how many copies the publisher thinks they will be able to sell and if they think readers will want to keep it and re-read it. Historical LDS series fiction is more likely to go hardback. Romances, mysteries, YA and children's books are more likely to be in paperback.

Actually, LDS pricing on trade paperbacks and hardbacks are pretty competitive with national releases. National trade paperbacks range from $9 to $14, and national hardbacks from $19-$25 or more.

I'm not one to say you should buy an LDS book just to "support the industry." Yes, I'd love people to buy our books but only if those books have value to the reader. You, as the reader, have to decide if a particular book is worth the price the publisher/bookstore is asking. If it is, buy it. If it isn't, borrow it.


My Website Name Is Taken

I'm looking ahead to the day that I will have a published novel. I know that you recommend having a website. My name as I plan on using when I publish is already taken as a website. I've thought of using my middle name, something that doesn't have my name in it, etc. What is your thought on what is best for naming a website? I would think using your name would be the best, but if it's not available, what are some other ideas to think of?
Wait until your book has been accepted and then talk to your agent/publisher about it. That may sound like a lame answer, but really, it's the best one. When you're ready to publish, your publisher and/or agent will do some checking on your name. If it's the same as someone else who writes in your genre, they will suggest other options—using a middle name, maiden name, initials, pen name. If you do need to use a pen name, they can help you choose one that will give you some marketability or exposure.

Also, website ownerships come and go all the time. Even if it's taken now, it may be available in a year or two. In the meantime, I suggest doing something free, simple and professional, like a blog. If you don't want to post to a blog, you can adapt that format to make a more "static" site that you don't have to post to. You can also join a free social networking site and create a profile that looks very nice. There are lots of options out there other than a traditional website.


Happy Thanksgiving.

See you on Monday.



I understand the basics of royalties. But is it typical for a new author to get a royalty? How much do they usually get? What happens if they don't sell many books? I guess you have to pay the company back if you didn't make enough to cover royalty? Thanks for any information.

Yes, all authors should get a royalty. How much they get depends on the contract they sign. Each publisher is a little different but a typical royalty expectation is between 6 and 10% of either the wholesale or the retail price (again, depending on what you negotiate with your publisher).

Some authors may also receive an advance, although there are many LDS publishers who do not pay advances under any circumstances. An advance is a pre-payment of royalties based upon a publisher's expectation of sales. IF you get an advance, you will usually get a portion of it upon acceptance of your completed manuscript and the rest when the book goes to press. IF you get an advance, you will not earn additional royalties until you have sold enough books to have earned that amount in royalties.

For example, let's say your royalty is $1 per book. (That's not likely for a first author in the LDS market, but it's easier to do the math this way.) Then let's say you got a $500 advance. (Again, not likely in this market but let's pretend you're a good negotiator.) You would not earn any more royalties until you'd sold 500 copies of your book. At that point, your royalties will kick in again and you'll earn them at the rate of $1 per book sold.

NO. You never have to pay back an advance unless you default on the contract. That only happens if you receive an advance before you submit your finished manuscript--and no publisher in this market will agree to that. Or if your actions make it impossible for the publisher to sell your book.

And NO. You should never have to pay back a royalty because you don't get paid until the publisher actually sells the book. Some publishers may have a clause in their contract that says if your books are returned unsold from the bookstore, then those books will be credited against your future royalties but you should never have to return a royalty once the check has been sent to you. If this isn't addressed in your contract, ask for it to be clarified.


2007 Christmas Story Contest Sponsors

A huge thank you to the following authors whose books are sponsoring the 2007 Christmas Story Contest.

Publisher's Choice, Published Author Category Prize: Sorry, the Stork Takes No Returns by Claire Bowen

Welcome to the slightly off–kilter world of Claire Bowen and family. A world someone once called “gently insane.” Or perhaps he said the Bowen world was ordinary and the people were insane. In any case, he’s no longer invited to dinner. But draw your own conclusions. From adventures with Scouting and Girls Camp, to self–service tooth fairies, to reflections on becoming a grandmother, Claire’s unique sense of humor will leave you laughing. And whatever else this book does, it makes you feel better about raising your own kids. It’s humor with a literary sense and humor with common sense. It’s humor with teenagers! What more could you ask? You’re likely to recognize your own family, because you know they’re nuts, too; and you’re sure to be comforted, because they’re not as nutty as some we could name. You’ll come away feeling you’ve made new, albeit somewhat unstable, friends.

Claire Bowen is a freelance writer in North Georgia and a mother of five. Her work has appeared in national publications, and her award-winning newspaper columns inspired this first in a series of "Family-Challenged" books.

Here’s what readers say of Claire Bowen’s work:

“…writing that falls somewhere between Erma Bombeck and Bailey White. It’s what we’d all be doing if we were still a nation of storytellers.”

…she has mastered the art of making writing come to life…as if she just stopped by for a moment in her busy day to chat.”

Reader's Choice, Published Author Category: The Man from Shenandoah by Marsha Ward

Carl Owen returns from the Civil War to find the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father determined to leave the Shenandoah Valley to build a cattle empire in Colorado Territory. Crossing the continent, Carl falls in love with his brother's fiancé while set to wed another girl. But he might lose everything if the murderous outlaw, Berto Acosta, has his way.

Carl battles a band of outlaws, a prairie fire, blizzards, a trackless waterless desert, and his own brother—all for the hand of feisty Ellen Bates. Carl Owen doesn't intend to lose anything: not his land, not his cattle, and certainly not his girl ever again!

Marsha Ward was born in the sleepy little town of Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up with chickens, citrus trees, and lots of room to roam. An avowed "tomboy," Marsha began telling stories at a very early age, regaling her neighborhood chums with her tales over homemade sugar cookies. Visits to her cousins on their ranch and listening to her father's stories of homesteading in Old Mexico and in the Tucson area reinforced Marsha's love of 19th Century Western history.

After fifty+ years in the city, Marsha now makes her home in a tiny hamlet under Central Arizona's magnificent Mogollon Rim. When she is not writing, she loves to spoil her grandchildren, travel, give talks, meet readers, and sign books. You can find Marsha at http://marshaward.blogspot.com.

Publisher's Choice, Unpublished Author Category: Kindred Spirits by Christopher Kimball Bigelow

Born and bred deep in Mormon Utah, thirty-something Eliza Spainhower has carved out an independent life for herself in Boston. While still believing in the faith of her childhood, she has recently been disfellowshipped from the LDS Church. Trying to repent, she connects with local native Eric Abercrombie on the subway, and soon she's prodding him in a race against hormones as the couple navigates Mormon baptism-and-wedding hurdles.

Further complicating matters are Eric's adopted daughter Manda, his bossy ex-wife Helen, and Manda's Wiccan birth mother Kindra, all three of whom live together. As Eliza tries to establish her place in Eric's improbable clan, she's forced to reckon with her Mormon identity in unsettling new ways. Her journey of spiritual and physical passion is fraught with Mormon-style guilt, otherworldly visions, ministrations of evil spirits, and culture clashes between Mormonism and Wiccanism, all shot through with simmering intimations of polygamy that eventually reach a crisis point.

Christopher Kimball Bigelow
is the great-great-great-grandson of a Mormon apostle who had more than 40 wives. He served an LDS mission in Melbourne, Australia, and worked as an editor at the LDS Church's official Ensign magazine. A graduate of Emerson College and Brigham Young University, Bigelow cofounded and edited the Mormon literary magazine Irreantum and the satirical Mormon newspaper The Sugar Beet, and he's working on a memoir and a novel. A Hodgkin's disease survivor and the oldest of ten siblings, he lives with his wife and four children in Provo, Utah. You can reach him at chrisbigelow@gmail.com.

Reader's Choice, Unpublished Author Category: Grasshopper Pie by Rebecca Talley

Have you wondered what happens when imaginative siblings start cooking imaginary food? Watch and see as the mother-daughter team of Rebecca and Angela Talley tell the adventures of Logan and Madolyn — two enterprising young children who whip up gastronomical delights for their mother, and then top them off with their pièce de rèsistance: Grasshopper Pie!

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, California and now lives on a ranch in Colorado with her amazing husband, 8 of her 10 creative children, horses, goats, and a llama named Tina. She is the author of a children's picture book, Grasshopper Pie. Her stories have been published in Story Friends, Our Little Friend, The Friend, and Stories for Children. Cedar Fort will release her YA novel, Heaven Scent, in spring 2008.

Besides writing, Rebecca enjoys eating chocolate by the pound, dancing to disco music while she cleans all the messes that seem to multiply and replenish her house, and contemplating all the craft projects that still need to be completed. You can find Rebecca at www.rebeccatalley.com.

2007 Christmas Story Contest

Submission to contest is now closed.

Get ready for the holidays by entering the Christmas Story Contest

Submission Rules:
Write a Christmas story in any genre.

Maximum word count: 1500

Stories published anywhere other than your personal website or blog are ineligible. (That includes books, magazines, e-zines or other contests.)

Stories submitted for last year's contest are also ineligible.

Paste entire story into an e-mail. NO ATTACHMENTS, please.

In your e-mail, indicate whether or not you are a published author. "Published" is defined as someone paid you money (or comp copies in the case of magazines) for your story or book. (So either a publisher paid you, or you self-published and people bought your book.)

You may submit more than one story. Send each submission in a separate e-mail.

SUBMIT your story any time between now and Saturday, December 15th.

I will post the stories starting December 1st, in the order that they arrive.

Voting Rules:

VOTE between December 16th and December 19th.

There will be four winners: Readers Choice (Published authors), Readers Choice (Unpublished authors), Publisher's Choice (Published authors), and Publisher's Choice (Unpublished authors).

Publisher's Choice winners will be chosen based on quality of writing and uniqueness of story. You can vote by whatever criteria you want, just don't make it a popularity contest.

You MAY vote for yourself.

You may vote twice in each category: Published and Unpublished. You may only vote once per story. We're on the honor system here.

You may make all the comments you like, but VOTING COMMENTS must clearly indicate that it is a vote. (Ex: I'm voting for this one...)

I will post comments on stories and announce the winners on Friday, December 21st.

This contest is sponsored by and prizes provided by:
  • Publisher's Choice, Published Author: Sorry, the Stork Takes No Returns by Claire Bowen

  • Reader's Choice, Published Author: The Man from Shenandoah by Marsha Ward

  • Publisher's Choice, Unpublished Author: Kindred Spirits by Christopher Bigelow

  • Reader's Choice, Unpublished Author: Grasshopper Pie by Rebecca Talley

Please visit our sponsor bio page to learn more about the sponsoring books and authors.


Local vs Online Critique Groups

My MS is gradually approaching the point where I would like to share it with a critique group. However, my home is a thousand miles away from the epicenter of LDS publishing.

My question is this: Would I be better off meeting with a local critique group who may not be familiar with the church and the LDS market, or should I try and find an online group of other LDS writers to work with?

A local critique group will give you real-time feedback. You can ask questions and get answers immediately. You can hear the intonation they use when they make comments, see their facial expressions, hear them snicker in appropriate places (or not). That type of feedback is very valuable. While online groups can give you good feedback, you don't get to see or hear that immediate emotional reaction to your writing.

If you can find a local group without religious bias that is willing to work with you, that is your best bet. The fact that they may not be familiar with LDS culture is not necessarily a negative thing. If your writing is clear enough that non-LDS readers can understand the LDS concepts without feeling preached to, and they can relate to the universal human emotions and experiences that are also part of your story, then you've done some good work.

If, however, you can't find a group that is open to religious writing in general, and/or LDS writing in specific, then your only option is online. Which is not to say that online critique groups don't also provide a valuable service to the writer. They do. So don't feel bad if you can't find a local group.


E-books for Christmas

I'm writing a Christmas story, that I am going to give out to friends for Christmas gifts. I am not a published author yet. I've thought about possibly putting it as an online e-book, but don't know if it costs money to do. That way, if they enjoyed it, they could show it to other friends and family. I guess my question is what is your opinion of e-books? I plan on going the regular route of publishing companies when I finish my novel. But for short stories to share with others, what would be the best way to share - besides giving them a file or printout of the story?
I wouldn't make an e-book out of something you planned to publish in the future without the permission, guidance, help of your publisher/agent. But an e-book is a great way to distribute a story you'd like to share with family and friends.

You need to create the file—which is often a pdf file (my preference because you can make it look pretty) or some type of generic text file (easier for you; but ugly). You also need a delivery method—which could be as simple as sending it through e-mail.

If you want a fancy delivery service where you can post the file and let people come download it at their convenience, you'll need some type of website and server capabilities to do that. You could create a Yahoo group and post it in the Files section. That is free.

Or if you want something more complex, you'll need to get that info from somewhere else. I'm not involved in that part of our company. (We do very few e-books.) For a really spectacular example of doing this, see what Marnie Pehrson has done. I have no idea how she did it so I can't really help you with the specifics.

Anyone with experience on this want to chime in?

Thanks for the Response

Just wanted to say thank you to all who have already responded to my request for sponsors. I'll be putting a calendar together soon and getting that out to all of you.

I still have plenty of room for more sponsors, so if you haven't responded yet but you want to, go right ahead and do it!


Sponsor LDSP

I've been doing this blog since April 2006. I've done 483 posts. In celebration of that fact, I'm going to list 483 things about me. (Laughs maniacally.)

Just kidding. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Seriously, during that year and a half, I've held several contests, the prizes of which have been funded by me. But since I am cheap ...uhm... tired of funding this all by myself ...uhm... need to use that money for chocolate we've been talking about promotion, I thought it would be a good idea to let you do a little self-promotion via sponsorship of this blog.

To be a sponsor, you need to be willing and able to provide a prize during the term of your sponsorship in the form of a copy of YOUR book, plus the cost of shipping it to the prize winner.

There are two forms of sponsorship—sponsoring a contest or sponsoring the blog for a month.

1. Contest sponsorship. Writing contests have two prizes so each contest will have two sponsors. The sponsors of the contest will get a brief bio on the contest introduction page AND the cover of their book with link to website or blog on the sidebar. At the end of the contest, I will announce the winners. Winners will send me their mailing address which I will forward to the sponsor of their prize. Sponsor needs to ship the prize within a week of receiving the winner's address.

2. Blog sponsorship. At the beginning of each month, I will select a new sponsor(s). Sponsor will get a brief bio on the post for the first business day of the month AND the cover of their book with link to website or blog on the sidebar. At the end of the month, I will put the names of everyone who has commented on the blog that month into a hat and draw out a winner. As with the contest sponsorship, I announce the winners and the sponsor ships the prizes. Depending on the level of response, there may be up to three blog sponsors each month.

Why you want to be a sponsor: This gets your book cover and link to your website or blog in front of a targeted audience. (Writers are generally avid readers and BUY books.) My average unique visitor count per day is around 70; some days it goes over 100.

More stupid requirements details for being a sponsor:
  • Since the prize is your book, you must have a published book (traditional or self-published; no e-books).

  • Book must currently be in print and available for purchase via the Internet.

  • If you have published multiple books, you may choose the title you want to offer as the prize.

  • Authors may only sponsor one prize per month and cannot sponsor both a contest and a month at the same time.

  • If you have multiple books and want to give them each a turn at sponsoring a contest or month, sponsorship will be alloted in a way that's fair to others who want to sponsor. (Example: Depending on the response, your first book may sponsor in January; second book may not have a turn until April.)

  • You may choose one link for you book. It can be your personal website or blog, or your publisher's website, or any other website where your book may be purchased.

  • Publishers may sponsor a contest or month, but they must do so in their author's name.

  • Publishers may submit multiple authors/books. Each author will be considered as a separate submission.

  • I will calendar sponsors in the order that I receive the e-mailed request.

  • In your e-mail to request a turn at sponsoring, tell me whether you want to sponsor a contest or a month, the title of your book, the website or blog you want it to link to, a short bio and a photo of yourself (photo optional). E-mail me now.
To win a Contest Prize: Participate in a contest, follow the rules, and win.

To win a Monthly Prize: Leave thoughtful comments. Comments like "That's cool" or "Way to go" do not count. You need to show by the content of you comment that you have read the post and given the topic at least 3.5 seconds of sincere thought.

If you guys like this idea and volunteer to be sponsors, we'll start the Monthly Sponsors in December and the Contest Sponsors with the upcoming Christmas Story Contest. (Look for details on Monday.) If no one volunteers, then we won't.


Audio Books

What are the criteria publishers use in determining which books will be recorded as audiobooks? Who chooses the voice talent, and is there any chance of a first timer having their audiobook "read by the author?" Thanks for your helpful blog.

You're welcome.

It varies depending on the publisher. Covenant records a lot of their books on audio. Other publishers, not as much. A lot of the time it's based on sales. If a book sells really, really, really well, most publishers will consider an audio version.

The publisher chooses the voice talent. If you have done voice recordings before, there's a possibility they will let you do your own but it's unlikely.


My Lack of Spirituality is Showing

Kristen Nelson, over on Pub Rants (bookmark that blog if you haven't already), talked about a query she got last month that stated if she didn't get the writer a book deal, it would be her fault if the writer died. I really wanted to laugh but I can relate too closely to that situation. Only I get threatened with eternal damnation. (Not kidding.)

I think the one that takes the cake for me is where the writer submitted a book and it was really, really horrendous. There were no less than 40 errors (mostly spelling and grammar, some misuse of words) in the first page. In his/her query, the writer stated that they had prayed about this book, that God had told them to write it, and that my company was the publisher God wanted to publish it.

I was very nice when I rejected it. Even included a personal note. She was devastated. I got a scathing reply which included insinuations about my level of spirituality and my commitment to the gospel. The writer warned me that if I didn't repent and live righteously enough that the Spirit could speak to me that I would suffer the punishment of e.d.

About two years later, the writer resubmitted. The errors were down to about 25 on the first page. I rejected again. She cursed me again.

Just recently I heard from the writer. They wanted to inform me that another publisher had snapped up their book and very much appreciated its spiritual quality and said publisher was non-LDS so what was my problem?

If any of you feel the same way about your books, you could try this writer's publisher.

P.S. I'm all out of questions. Please send more.


Self-Promotion: Easier Said...

It has come to my attention that we need another discussion on self-promotion because some of you (and YOU know who you are) are not very good at it.

I understand that it is hard to go around tooting your own horn. You don't want to be so over the top that your friends and family run screaming each time they see you coming. But there are some simple and very easy ways to self-promote that are very rarely offensive. Here are a few (in no particular order).

  1. Donate copies of your book to your local libraries. If you write for children or teens, donate copies to the local schools. If you're up to it, offer to do a book reading or a class on becoming an author, etc.

  2. Offer your books as prizes in community events, blog contests, etc.

  3. Join some of the online social networking groups and/or blog rolls; submit posts and/or articles to online communities. There are a gob: MySpace, Facebook, Cre8buzz, Digg, Sk-rt, Helium, BlogHer, Digg, BlogCatalog, Stumble, Squidoo, etc. The purpose of this is to get people to come to you blog or website where they will see a tastefully posted image and description of your book on the sidebar/webpage.

  4. Join writing and book review forums and comment on a regular (weekly) basis. Don't spread yourself too thin. Select the ones where you feel you fit in. Use a signature in these forums that links to info on your book(s).

  5. Join local networking groups, like Chamber of Commerce, service clubs, book clubs, writers groups, etc. Select ones that give you the opportunity to spotlight yourself and your books, or that provide networking social events.

  6. Offer to donate reading copies of your book(s) to book clubs.

  7. Create a simple e-mail signature with a link to info about your book(s). You don't want this to be 10 lines long, two or three at the most.

These take minimal effort to set up and maintain yet they put and keep your name and your book in the public eye.

Do you have a simple, effective promotional idea? Please share in the comments section.

For some other good ideas on promotion, read here and here and 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.


How to Read the Rankings

Hi. Thanks for all your work on your blog. I love it. My question is how much validity do we give rankings on Amazon and the Deseret Book list? My book only sold one copy last month and yet it's still riding on the DB list, albeit very low on the list. It doesn't make sense. Do you know how those work?

The rankings on both these two lists are valid and give you an idea of how your book sales compare to other books in the same genre or category.

Rankings are based on sales volume as compared to the other titles on the list. I'm not sure how frequently the ratings are updated, if it's automatic as items are ordered, or if it's done at the end of the day but I think the rankings are updated daily. Either way, if your book is listed on the website, it's going to show up somewhere in the rankings.

In your example, your book would be listed in the rankings above the books that sold zero copies that month, but below those that sold two copies that month.

I'm not sure how the rankings handle books that sell at the same rate. For example, if there are four books that sold one copy that month, they may be sorted alphabetically (which would not be very helpful) or by the most recent order placed (which is only marginally more helpful).


LDS Authors in the National Market by Tristi Pinkston

[Thanks again to all who have sent guest blogs. I will eventually post all of them. Please feel free to send a guest blog at any time.]

As an LDS author, I've been very intrigued by the rise of national, although LDS, authors such as Stephenie Meyer and Shannon Hale. At [a recent] literacy fireside, my fellow authors and I answered a question that dealt with our take on the Meyer books. I find it very interesting that the books came up -- no other book series was specifically questioned. Why is that? Because they were written by a Mormon. That's what puts them on the radar.

Stephenie Meyer has done something phenomenal. She went out there, got her agent, got her publisher, is selling books like crazy, and is being talked about left and right. From a business standpoint, she has done everything right. There are few people in this country who don't know who she is. She also just happens to be a graduate of BYU.

When you look at her books and compare them to the national standard, they are very clean. The things being published for our consumption today run the gammut from slightly questionable to downright raunchy to outright erotica. Meyer's books would land on the innocent side of the equation.

When you look at her books from an LDS perspective, they are steamy. We would never allow our daughters to snuggle up in bed with their boyfriends. We certainly would never allow them to cavort with werewolves.

There are, however, a few points I would like to make.

The first is that while Meyer is Mormon, she didn't write these books specifically for the Mormon audience. She targeted the national market. She gave the national market something relatively clean to read. In addition, she's not writing about Mormon characters. A Mormon character will, of course, have stricter values. A non-Mormon character might not have been taught the same values. Perhaps they've been taught to wait until they're in love, rather than waiting until they're married. We can't judge a non-Mormon character by the same yardstick we would a Mormon character, any more than we would expect a non-Catholic to behave like a Catholic or a non-Protestant to behave like a Protestant.

Secondly, this is a fantasy. Be honest, now -- how many of us have daughters who are dating vampires? We can't say, "Well, my daughter would never be allowed to act like Bella," because no one can. Her situation is entirely made up and I find it a little bit funny that people keep saying, "If my daughter ..." Believe me, if my daughter was dating a vampire, a lot of things would be different. But this is fiction of the most imaginative kind. Trust me -- it's all pretend. You'll never have to face this in your own life.

Now, we do know that Mormons are reading these books like crazy. I'm going to give you my absolute honest opinion here -- and you all know that I don't prevaricate. Are these books too steamy?

I actually found Bella's advances toward Edward to be a little immature and embarrasing. He tells her no over and over again, and when she keeps pushing the issue, it becomes almost annoying. I didn't find those scenes to be particularly "steamy," I found them to be pushy.

Would I want my eleven-year-old daughter reading them? No. While they've been labeled as young adult, I would say these are books for an adult population. Just because the main character is a teen does not mean that the book is good for all teens. Take, for example, "To Kill a Mockingbird." The main character is a six-year-old girl, and yet I would never have a six-year-old read it. The age of the character does not always equate the age of the reader.

I've heard many parents say, and I completely agree, that the Meyer books present the perfect discussion platform for parents and their teen readers. You can talk to your daughters about why Bella's behavior is not appropriate and the consequences of her actions. You can discuss with them why they should be careful to avoid too much physical contact. Point of fact -- there are a great many bad young adult books out there, books that encourage mast*rbation, or*l s*x, abortion, and on and on. Our teenagers are picking up these books in their school libraries. They are reading them on their own time, and we don't know what is being introduced to their brains. We need open platforms to discuss what they are reading so we can help them make wise decisions.

This may sound like I'm 100% advocating these books for everyone. This brings me to the next point of discussion.

Every person has their own setpoint when it comes to reading. There are certain things that will offend me and won't offend you, and vice versa. I have seen LDS bloggers recommend books that I've picked up only to be shocked. You need to decide for yourself whether these books are appropriate for you. Again, I submit that they are cleaner than most everything else you'll find on the national market. I also remind you that they aren't written about LDS characters, and that has to be taken into consideration whenever you're reading a book by an LDS author.

I do know whereof I speak. In my first novel, my main character fathers a child out of wedlock. He was not LDS at the time and he was acting according to his teaching, which was that he should wait until he fell in love before he became intimate, and he did. Because of the limited light he had been given, he believed that he had behaved in a moral fashion. When he did join the church later in the book and came to understand the gravity of his sin, he went through a full repentance process and was baptized and then endowed. You cannot hold a person accountable for committing a sin they don't know they are committing.

I'd like to move this discussion on to "Austenland," by Shannon Hale. This book had a few steamy moments in it as well. For me, they were a little steamier even than the Meyer books. However, many of the same principles apply -- it was written for the national market, and Hale gave the national market something cleaner than it's used to seeing. The characters were not LDS and were not raised with LDS standards, and so we can't expect them to behave in an LDS fashion.

Many have argued that these authors have betrayed their beliefs by writing these books. I'd like to ask, how can we judge what these authors believe? We know that they are LDS, and so we know what the tenants of their religion are. But how can we say that they aren't living up to their beliefs when we can't ascertain their own unique way of looking at their religion? Each of us has our own special way of relating to God and of looking at the gospel. I can't say whether or not you're living up to your beliefs any more than you can say I'm not living up to mine. I can't judge your relationship with God and I wouldn't care to. I'm certainly not going to try to determine whether or not these ladies are still "good enough" to be Mormons. That's completely wrong and it's not my job. I would sure hate for someone to follow me around for the day and then proclaim my level of spirituality based on how I spread my peanut butter when they can't see what's going on inside me. That's invasive, insensitive, and holier-than-thou.

Another question to be posed. Let's say you've decided you'd like to go on a mission to the jungles of Africa. Can you do an effective job from your living room, or would it be best for you to go out into the jungles and find the people you're trying to reach? I'd like to plant the thought that perhaps Hale and Myers, by writing for the national market, are doing some missionary work in that market to introduce people to cleaner fiction. They couldn't do that sitting on their couches -- they had to go out there and find the people who needed reaching. That meant making a foray into the national market, playing with the big boys and showing them a whole new game.

If these books had been written by any other author, we'd be judging them based on the books themselves. If someone named, say, Jenny Smith, had written Twilight, Jenny Smith from Oshkosh who was perhaps Episcopalian or Baptist, we wouldn't even be sitting here having this discussion. But because Meyer is Mormon, suddenly she's under all this scrutiny. People are questioning her morals. They're wondering if she's a good Mormon or a bad Mormon. They're saying that she's trying to teach our youth questionable behavior. Isn't it just possible that she wanted to tell a story? Isn't it possible that all this hoo-hah has been created by us rather than by her?

Tristi Pinkston
LDS Historical Fiction Author
Media Reviewer


Scare-Your-Pants-Off Contest Results

Before I announce the results, I want to thank all of you very, very much for participating in this contest. While I run these contests mainly for fun, they also serve a couple of legitimate writing purposes: to give you feedback from readers (your target audience), feedback from a publisher's perspective, and to practice getting your work in front of others. Submitting is a nerve-wracking experience for most writers and you get over the fear by doing it.

Every single entry in this contest had things in it that I really liked. I tried to mention the strongest points in my comments on each post. I also listed things you should watch out for, things that might keep me from reading more were they a "real" submission.

I recognize that I seriously crippled your writing by giving you only two paragraphs to set up your story and provide enough of a hook to entice your audience to keep reading. This is really tough to do. In many cases, I'm sure you would have taken more time, given us more depth and developed the scene more completely had you been submitting the first chapter. Therefore, if I suggested that you do that, please do not see that as a criticism of your entry, but rather an indication that I felt there was undeveloped potential there.

If you want to take credit for your work, please identify yourself in the comments section of your post.

Now for the awards.

Reader's Choice

First Place with 7 votes: Entry #22 submitted by Patricia Wiles

Honorable mentions, a four way tie with 4 votes each (in chronological order):

Entry #6 submitted by Karlene Browning

Entry #8 submitted by Jeff Savage

Entry #9 submitted by Michael Keyton

Entry #21 submitted by Melanie Goldmund

Publisher's Choice
(Ones I'd be most likely to ask for more...)

First Place: Entry #21 submitted by Melanie Goldmund
This one went immediately to creepy, had wonderful descriptive imagery, and could be developed into a great story/novel. Even though the paragraphs were long and it would read better if separated into more than two, this entry embodied the spirit of horror in a classic style. It gave us a great beginning and I see lots of potential.

Honorable mentions:
Entry #13 submitted by David Woolley
This is a great start to a tween horror novel. With all the inappropriate teen horror out there right now, I'd love to see something like this developed into a scary novel that I wouldn't be embarrassed to give to my children, nieces and nephews. (If you finish it, let me know.)

Entry #8 submitted by Jeff Savage
This has wonderful descriptive language and a very strong beginning. It would make a great prologue for something really cool. I'd love to read more. (And I don't care if you call it a prologue or chapter one, it's still a set up to a story, not the beginning of the story itself.)

First Place Winners: Please send me your mailing address and the title of the book you'd like for your prize—a classic horror book of your choice (must be available in paperback and easy to find). If your entry is the beginning of a full story you may send the entire story to me and I will post it here and also include a link back to your blog or website. (Include the link in your e-mail.)

If you are not one of the first place winners, but you have the rest of your story posted on your blog or website, feel free to post the link in the comments section of your entry.

Advance notice of upcoming Christmas Story Contest:
I'm going to run a Christmas story contest, beginning December 1st. I will post the full stories. Word count limit is 1500 words (although you can do less). I will be dividing the entries into two categories: published authors and unpublished authors, with Readers Choice and Publishers Choice prizes in both categories. Start writing now. I'll publish more details in a few weeks.