3/12/08

Is LDS Fiction a Genre?

Dear LDS Publisher,

I recently put a question on my blog about the LDS market. It has been in my mind for some time, and I am really trying to find the answer. I had a few readers and authors give me their opinion, but I'd really like yours, too, if you don't mind.

My question: What kind (in general) of books are the average LDS fiction readers and/or fiction publishers looking for?

My answer: In the past, I've turned to the LDS market because there is sleaze and untruth in my preferred genres, and I want books that fit my general interest but are "clean." So, to me, I consider the competition for LDS books to be the National Market, not necessarily other LDS writers.

But lately, I've begun to wonder if this simplified understanding is incorrect. Do readers, and especially publishers, see LDS books as their own genre with specific rules and formats?

What you think?

You're going to get opposing opinions on this question, but this is mine:

I do not see LDS fiction as its own genre. What sets it apart from clean national fiction is the setting—most LDS fiction is set within an LDS community and/or has LDS characters. LDS romance novels follow basic romance genre traditions and rules; LDS suspense uses general suspense techniques; LDS fantasy follows fantasy formats. Yes, LDS fiction is cleaner than most national fiction and often involves LDS characters and settings but to me, that is not enough of a difference to make it its own genre.

Therefore, when I read LDS fiction, I judge it against the same criteria and conventions that I judge national titles in the same genres. However, my expectation is that LDS novels will be cleaner, with less "on screen" violence and gore.

5 comments:

Stephanie Black said...

I would love to see LDS bookstores organize their fiction in genre categories--historicals, romance, mystery/suspense, etc. I think that would help bookstore shoppers see that this is not one genre, but rather several different genres and that just because they don't like the LDS romance novels (or mystery novels, or whatever)that their neighbor reads doesn't mean they don't like LDS fiction. LDS fiction contains a wide variety of books for a wide variety of tastes.

Jennie Hansen said...

I agree that LDS fiction should be judged by the same criteria and conventions as national titles with the expectation that it be cleaner and less "in your face" graphic, however I don't see it happening yet. So far publishers, authors, and bookstores don't seem to even agree on whether a novel is adult or YA. The market is still small enough that there is a reluctance to label books as belonging in a specific genre or age category because it might limit sales and because many LDS novels straddle the genre line. I like Stephanie's idea of bookstores shelving books according to genre, but I'm a little nervous about who decides which genre a book falls into. On Deseret Book's web site one of my Westerns (they're a set) is in the Romance section and the other in General Fiction.

Christine Thackeray said...

To me the LDS market is too small to divide it into anything other than adult fiction and YA fiction.

But I do think it IS almost a different genre in that to make LDS fiction really work, it has to use the culture of the church as an intergral part of the plot. In this way it is its own genre the same way Foreign Films are given their own section at the video store, because they reflect a unique culture.

Traci Hunter Abramson said...

With the quality of LDS fiction improving so much over the past few years, I really think that the challenge is for us to get more of our novels into the mainstream markets and broaden our readership.

LDS fiction does cover a number of genres (even though I tend to straddle the genre lines as Jennie mentioned), but we need the quality of our fiction to be good enough that people, both LDS and non-lDS, want to read it. After all, if a lot of people who are members of the church avoid "LDS fiction" our market isn't going to grow.

Jeff Savage said...

Christine,

I'm not sure I agree. If you go into a typical Seagull, there are dozens of romances, thriller/mysteries, historical, etc. Then again maybe I just want the Mormon horror section all to myself.

Also, my Shandra Covington series is just a clean mystery series. It does take place in Salt Lake and it does have LDS characters, but there is no mention of going to church, prayer, faith promoting experiences, conversion, baptism. In short, the culture of the church is not integral to the plot in anyway.

So it can be done.