9/29/08

LDS or National Market?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More difficult, but not impossible.

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

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

11 comments:

Rebecca Talley said...

I'd like to know how this person built up such a readership for his/her blog.

Annette Lyon said...

Part of this question assumes that money is the only thing that matters.

My books specifically would be of little interest to people who aren't LDS. It's not always that I intended to write for this market, but LDS-themes and storylines are often where my heart is drawn. Where else would I shop a novel centering around the construction of the Logan temple and LDS doctrines if not in this market?

There's also the fact that while it's certainly not easy to get published in this market (and it gets harder every year as the quality of submissions goes up), the odds are more in your favor here--you're competing against thousands of other submissions instead of hundreds of thousands nationally.

I'm sure the question wasn't meant this way, but wondering why anyone would publish in this market is a bit insulting to those of us who have made a conscious choice to do just that. There are rewards that go beyond royalty checks.

Janet Burningham said...

Ditto to both Rebecca and Annette. There are more reasons to write than for the money, and from what I've seen, those who write for the love of writing usually become more successful than those who write for fame or fortune.

David G. Woolley said...

Whoa there. No reason to be upset with the "why would anyone want to publish in this market" question.

It isn't that the author who asked the question is a value-less, fortune-grubbing, soul-less story merchant. Doesn't everyone wonder where they should submit their first work? And didn't the author in question frame the inquiry in terms of business accumen? Its a fair question, isn't it? One that deserves a fair answer. LDSP did just that. No reason to resent the honest question. I've certainly bemoaned the fact that their aren't 500 million members of the church which would increase the LDS audience a little. No?

It isn't until you've published in the LDS market, wrapped your brain around LDS themes, devleved into doctrinally driven plot lines and associated with the friendly mormon publishers and their staff that you feel okay about giving up the promise of a little more income (or possibly less income if your work tanks) that you understand the trade off.

In my case, I get to earn the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Book of Mormon. That's worth a lifetime of paychecks. My other job put food on the table and pays the rent.

Thanks for the question mystery author. And thanks for the answer LDSP. And thanks for the comments, too. A little bit of testiness gets the writer's blood flowing, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

David, thanks for the defense ;>

LDSP, thanks very much for the response - it was very helpful.

I didn't mean to offend anyone. I'm not insulting the LDS market - I'm trying to understand the financial side of the LDS market. I wasn't sure if there were other factors that I wasn't aware of.

I'm the primary breadwinner for my family, so I really do have to consider things like how much money my book will eventually make, especially after I've spent so much time and work building up my blogging readership.

I did write my book because I love to write. I also blog because I love to write. But now that I'm getting ready to SELL the book, I need to think about the smartest way to go about it. Hope that makes sense. I truly didn't mean to offend.

~ Mystery Author

Annette Lyon said...

If money is a serious consideration (if you'd like to be a full-time writer and quit your day job, for example), then there's two sides to the issue.

First, as you're probably aware, you're very unlikely to do that in the LDS market. Yes, there are a handful of people who make a living in this market, but they're few and far between. I don't see a new person joining those ranks anytime soon.

Second, your chances of writing full-time nationally are also pretty darn slim. From a pure numbers perspective, you'll probably sell more copies of a novel book with DB or Covenant than you would with a national publisher. The vast majority of national novels sell maybe 2-3,000 copies and don't even earn out their advances.

But yes, nationally at least you have the theoretical potential to sell more and make more. Just know going in that it's rare to make a living at it nationally as well.

(For the record, I wasn't nearly as bent out of shape as Woolley's comment seemed to imply.)

David G. Woolley said...

Bent out of shape? Are you kdding Annette Lyon. I follow your writings with interest. I know when you're metaphorically bent out of shape. Definitely not today.

I recently did a down-sizing of all the blogs in my favorites. I know. That's old school and I should use the cool new blogger features with BLOGS I FOLLOW links. I don't. But I did keep four or five of the blogs that I do follow in my favorties. One of which just happens to be Annette Lyon. She is insightful, to the point, full of great information and also a true care-taker of the LDS writer and our LDS writing world. Well done Annette.

And mystery author. If you're interested in increasing your 100,000 hits per month to 100,001, any chance you'd share the address? I thought not. Okay, so if you want to remain anonymous, which does have its advantages, just ask LDSP, email me at my private address and tell me where I can go to read this illustrious blog.

My email address is: davidgrantwoolley at yahoo dot com.

Thanks all.

David G. Woolley

Annette Lyon said...

Glad to hear it--thanks David! :)

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Hey, totally not fair, all this privacy stuff. I want to see this blog too! :-)

Oh, and Annette, you are very wise. I need to look up a website I had in my favorites ages ago- it's a romance author and she had a link to an article she'd done on the income of a midlist author. It's really a good one. Her name is Sabrina Jeffries, if anybody's interested, and you might have to look around to see if she still has a link to the article. I think I'll go check it out again, myself.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Here, all, I saved you the trouble. This is the link. Bear in mind, she's a national romance author and you might see titles on her website like, Pirate Lord, or Passion on the High Seas. No offensive pics on this link, though. I checked it for you. ;-)

Publisher, I hope it's ok that I post this link? If I'm committing a faux pas, I'm so sorry!

http://www.sabrinajeffries.com/big-misunderstanding-about-money.php

Kent Larsen said...

I think this conversation has missed some important aspects of the issue of choosing between the LDS and the national market(s).

First, I think that any author trying to make this decision needs to take a very careful look at themselves and their own writing. You need to know if you can write the kind of materials that are acceptable in the LDS market (not everything is, even if it follows LDS standards), if your writing is good enough to meet the standards either place, and whether your writing is likely to find an audience in either market.

Because of issues like this, many authors really don't have a choice between one or the other. In fact, I would say that the ability to choose between the two is probably unusual.

Some authors write works that can be sold in the LDS and won't work elsewhere, and others write works that won't sell in the LDS market, but may sell elsewhere. [And of course, there are those that write works, even good works, that won't sell anywhere.]

Personally, I wish the LDS market was more welcoming of unusual works. IMO, its the publishers who are behind this -- they shy away from presenting the market with anything that is unusual.

I also want to comment a little about some of the assumptions in the post.

You wrote that those in the LDS market can avoid: "a publisher pressuring you to add in language or behavior that is not in line with LDS standards." Whether this happens or not very much depends on the type of book you write, who the publisher is and what market it is aimed at. Of course if the publisher is a romance publisher that isn't providing "clean" fiction, then you'll get pressure. But many other genres and publishers won't make this kind of demand, as long as the work's subject and tone don't make it expected. Unfortunately, many LDS authors don't realize when what they write leads to expectations for material that doesn't fit LDS standards.

You also wrote: "there's also something to be said for creating good, clean fiction that portrays members of the LDS church in a positive manner within the national market." Actually I think that the national publishers interested in this kind of fiction aren't looking for "clean" fiction necessarily, nor are they looking for fiction that "portrays members of the LDS church in a positive manner." They also don't have any objection to that material. What they want, more than anything else, is fiction that comes across as honest and true to life. Material that is unnaturally clean or that portrays members of the LDS Church in an unfailingly positive manner is going to be rejected because it isn't believable.

If your focus is "portrays members of the LDS church in a positive manner within the national market," not only are you probably dishonest, no publisher (and for that matter, few in a national audience) is likely to believe your work, and purchase it.

Its honesty about LDS life and experience that will sell books in the national market, not a portrayal in a "positive manner."