Where Do I Submit a Story with a Taboo Topic?

I have just finished writing a book about the true story of placing my baby for adoption. I wrote it hoping to go through an LDS publisher, and it's completely clean and has many spiritual aspects. I still wonder if LDS publishers would find the topic of teen pregnancy too taboo, even though it sends a great, positive message. What do you think?

Another reader asked:

I am currently preparing a proposal for a Book I am writing about conversations with Heavenly Mother. It is the first of it's kind that I know of. Any suggestions?

Both of these topics deal with what might be called "taboo topics."

What do I think? I whole-heartedly agree with Brigham Young who said:

Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed and how to shun it. (I don't have the exact reference for this. If you do, please leave it in the comments.)

I think this also applies to literature. Personally, I don't think any subject should be taboo—in and of itself. If it's happening out in the world, there will be members of our Church dealing with it on some level, great or small. If members of the Church are thinking about it or dealing with it, then they would probably appreciate a book on the topic.

How it's handled, however, is where I draw lines.

If a story is well-written, avoids use of things that would be offensive to most LDS readers (like gratuitous violence and language or detailed intimacy), and the main message supports the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then I'm good with it.

Unfortunately, not all LDS publishers are open to "difficult" or "unusual" topics. While individuals within the company may fully support books that deal with these tougher themes, the powers-that-be may feel the company reputation would be damaged by delving too deeply into the ways of the world or topics that aren't quite middle-of-the-road-Mormonism.

If the big three (Deseret Book, Covenant, Cedar Fort) reject you, you'll need to search a little harder to find a publisher who is willing to push the line a bit. They do exist.

I'm giving you the same advice that I gave on Monday. Make a list of LDS publishers. (I have a partial list here but no info or links yet, sorry.) Go to their websites and look at the books they publish. Have any of those books addressed themes similar to yours? Do they say in their submission guidelines that they're willing to consider and/or actively seek books that address your topic or theme? These would definitely be publishers who would consider your book.


Jennie said...

Actually all three of the big LDS publishers have dealt with unplanned pregnany from both the birth mother and the adopted parents' points of view. The rejection may have been for reasons other than taboo topic, but could be the story is less well told than what they've already done, duplicates, or is too soon to reuse the topic. As for the Mother in Heaven, that might be straying a little too far into suposition instead of documented facts. All we really know is that we do have a mother in heaven; anything more is guesswork and since all three of the big publishers strive for doctrinal accuracy they may feel this book's premise and theories goes too far--or maybe they just didn't like it and it has nothing to do with any taboo. I've found all three and a couple of the smaller presses are quite open minded about most subjects as long as the material is handled well.

Katie Parker said...

I totally agree with Jennie. I don't think teen pregnancy is in and of itself a taboo topic with LDS publishers. However, it does need to be handled carefully; there is a fine line between a portrayal of the effects of serious sin and the beautiful cleansing power of repentance, versus a portrayal of the sin as something that isn't all that bad because repentance will fix it. So I'd suggest that authors considering this topic pay close attention to the hidden messages they are sending, as this can make or break a publication deal.

As for the other book--it's good to come up with original topics, but anything too far from the norm likely won't go over very well. As the Church discourages prayer to Heavenly Mother, I suspect it will be hard to find a mainstream LDS publisher willing to take this one on. They generally stick pretty closely to Church guidelines. But is it something you could repackage? Maybe change it to letters written to a mother or grandmother who has died? Just a thought.

Beth Bentley said...

I'd be very interested in seeing an adoption story. Eight of my eighteen grandchildren are adopted--three from LDS Family Services.

How do I get Parables on the list of publishers? We put out four titles this year--three novels and a volume of poetry.

Beth Bentley