My Dad keeps saying I should write books specifically for church members, because he sees them as something of a captive audience. And as far as it goes, I do see his point that the mass market doesn't seem to be exactly overflowing with books that present positive messages and role models. I am a bit skeptical, and would prefer to write for a wide audience, just keeping the positive role models and messages.
As a publisher, does my Dad's approach make sense? Is there a huge demand in the LDS culture for fiction written specifically to and for them?
Does your dad make sense? Ummm, yes. I've made my living for many years on the demand for books written specifically for the LDS culture. If you go into Deseret Book or Seagull, you'll see shelves and shelves of LDS fiction. If there were no demand, there would be no one out there making the product.
Also, my blogs are pretty much geared solely toward the LDS fiction writing and reading audience and I average about 2,000 unique visitors a month. I stay plenty busy keeping up with the new releases.
So, yes, there is a demand for LDS fiction. As to that "captive audience" part, yes, there is a group that will read LDS fiction simply because it's LDS fiction, regardless of the writing quality. There is also a demand from more discriminating readers who want more high-quality LDS fiction.
However, compared to a national market, the LDS market is small. If you want to write for a wider audience, go for it. LDS fiction readers also read national, non-LDS specific fiction. They'd appreciate more good clean books out there.