Deseret Book Acquires Seagull & Covenant

Just in case you haven't heard yet, Deseret Book acquired Seagull (discount retailer) and Covenant (publisher). They made the announcement this morning.

This was a surprise. I knew they were still "talking," but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would go this way. Well, maybe in my very wildest dreams, but Mr. Kofford has not made it a secret that he enjoys being a competitive pain in DBs side--and so I repeat, this was a surprise.

So now what?

First, I want to say that this is NOT a case of big, bad Deseret Book picking on poor, sweet little Covenant/Seagull. Lew Kofford has enough business savvy that no one is going to walk all over him. This is a wise business move on the part of DB and Kofford seems happy with it. The good news is that DB intends to keep the companies separate and to continue to have Covenant and Seagull function as they have been. That is a better situation than gobbling them up and merging.

But that's the end of the good news. This is a blow to smaller publishers and independent bookstores who are already struggling to compete in a market dominated by a few giants. I wish I could cry "No fair" and accuse them of doing something bad and wrong, but I can't. This is the way business works these days. Wal-Mart does it. Colgate does it. The big NY based publishing conglomerates do it. They purchase smaller houses but let them continue to run themselves.

The fact is, in business, you swim with the big guys or you sink and get eaten. Sometimes the big guy will let you ride on his back rather than eat you up. From a small publisher's point of view, both getting eaten (fast death) or forced to ride the big guy's back are both better options than getting kicked out of the pond and flopping on the banks for awhile, gasping for air, then dying a long, slow torturous death.

And I can't say that if DB approached me tomorrow and made me an offer that I wouldn't sell out. I'd have to think a good long time, but I really don't know what I'd do.

I know many of you want to know how this will effect you--your chances of getting published. For now, it will remain status quo. There will still be two houses/imprints (more actually, because DB has several imprints). They will each specialize in what they are currently specializing in. You will continue to submit to both houses, as you always have and for the same reasons as before. And then we just wait and see.


Time to Vote

It's time to vote on the five Christmas stories submitted to the contest. To see all five stories, click on the label "December 2006 Contest" link at the bottom of this post. Read the stories and vote for your favorites. You can vote for as many stories as you like, but you can only vote for a story once. (Ex: You could vote for #1, #2 and #5, but you can't cast two votes for #3).

For your vote to count, you must post the phrase "I vote for this one" (or something very much like that) so that it's clear you're voting and not just commenting.

I will tally the votes and post the winners after Jan. 1.

Good luck to everyone.


Christmas Story #5

Christmas Lights

Many people had reported seeing a pattern of lights in the sky, with an unusually bright red light on one end. Naturally, most of the adults dismissed this as passing aircraft, although a few were suggesting UFO's. Anyone under ten was convinced it was Santa making test runs. Nine-year-old Amelia had her doubts, but wanted to believe.

The previous night, she had been in her backyard hoping to see the mysterious lights when she heard a sound. She cupped her ears, trying to find the source. It sounded like a faint tinkle of metal. Could it be sleigh bells, ringing from the sky? She heard no more that night but did see the mystical lights for herself.

The next day, Amelia discovered her older brother laughing with a bunch of his friends. When she asked what was so funny, they all tried to look serious.

"It's Guy Stuff; you wouldn't understand," Charlie responded in a lofty tone.

The next evening, she went outside to find Santa. She sat and wrapped herself in a blanket and watched the night sky. She felt a little like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. She giggled at the thought of Snoopy joining her. She shivered and searched the stars.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a red flash. She turned to look and saw not just one red light, but several! Then some green and blue lights joined them, and there was one red light brighter than the rest.

"Rudolph?," she mouthed almost silently.

She rose walked in the direction of what simply must be Santa's sleigh, until she heard the jingle off to her right. She looked right and then back again at the lights, confused as to how she might hear the sleigh bells over here and see the lights over there.

She cautiously followed the tinkling, still taking nervous glances back at the lights and then heard some different sounds. She approached the tool shed and timidly looked around the corner.

There she saw a mama cat with a belled collar who was giving birth behind the shed. She tried to get a closer look, but the cat hissed. Then, Amelia saw all of the birthing fluid and blood. She shrieked and backed away. As she tried to make sense of what she saw, she noticed that the colored lights seemed to scatter, then wink out.

She silently prayed that her parents would come help, but suddenly her brother Charlie came out of the darkness with his friends. They were all putting something in their pockets, but she didn't have time to wonder what. Charlie asked why she screamed and she pointed at the litter of kittens.

Later, she retold the story to her parents as they all sat around the living room admiring the mama cat and her kittens.

"I went out looking for Santa and I found these wonderful presents instead!"

LDSP Comments: The connection between what the boys are doing and the lights is not clear enough. Were they fireworks? I liked the ending. I think with some work, this might be publishable too.

Christmas Story #4

I Believe in Santa Claus--A True Story

By W. L. Elliott

“I have enough scraps to make dollies for the girls,” I told my husband, after the children had gone to sleep Christmas Eve. “But the boys will just have to understand. They’re old enough.”

“The boys need Christmas, too,” he said quietly. Ten minutes later he came in with scraps of lumber and his knife. While I sewed he started to whittle.

I thought about my children as we sat there in silence. The three boys were quickly becoming young men. Their father, my first husband, died shortly after the youngest boy was born. I’d remarried, learning I was pregnant the day they took my new husband to prison for something he’d done before we met. That made no difference to Bill. As far as he was concerned, the first four were his as much as the two little girls that came after we wed.

I worried how we would feed six children after tomorrow. The Great Depression had left Bill unemployed. He’d desperately looked for work, but everywhere he went there were a hundred others just like him. The only thing left in the pantry were a few cans of beans. When they were gone, I didn’t know what we would do.

At midnight, a loud knock startled us both. Setting my sewing aside, I followed Bill to the door.

“Merry Christmas!” Outside stood a group, led by a man with a white beard, dressed in red.

“I think you have the wrong house,” Bill said.

“Now, Bill,” Santa said with a grin, “We’re right where we’re supposed to be.” They came through the door, each carrying a big box. “Good evening, Luella,” Santa said, “We’ve brought your Christmas feast!”

The boxes were filled to overflowing with groceries, much more than one Christmas dinner. My cupboards were full for the first time in months. Coming out of the kitchen, I found our little tree surrounded with packages, each addressed to one of us.

“Where are the children?” Santa asked.

“They’re asleep,” I answered.

“Well, wake them up!” How could I refuse?

St. Nick shook hands with the boys, calling each by name. Then he turned to the little girls. Shy Charlene clung to my dress and the baby would have nothing to do with him. But five year old Wilma, ever the sensible one, climbed up on his lap.

“Are you really Santa?” she asked.

“Of course, I am!” he answered. “Don’t you believe me? Pull my beard and see for yourself!” She gave it a yank and her dark eyes widened; my little skeptic was convinced.

I noticed a ring on Santa’s finger, intricately carved silver tarnished with age. I studied it, determined that if I ever met this man on the street, I would recognize those who had been so generous.

Sixty years I watched for that ring. I never saw it again, or man that wore it. But the beautiful memory of that fairy tale Christmas never dimmed.

I believe in Santa Claus.

I’ve met him.
LDSP Comments: Good solid story. I would suggest fleshing it out just a bit more, but then I think it would be publishable. I could see something like this in Readers Digest.


Can You Make a Living Writing LDS Fiction?

Hi there again LdSP!

You follow the blogs so I’m sure you’ve already seen
this one. I thought it was an excellent rundown of the different kinds of published authors out there in the big wide world.

So let’s take this info and relate it to the infinitesimal world of LDS publishing.

The way I see it, you have the Jennie Hansens, the Michelle Bells, the Chris Heimerdingers, people like that whom I would assume would be in the # 2 tier. Not criticizing their writing; it’s just that I can’t say (and I’m sure we all know) there aren’t any Pulitzer-Prize winning LDS-themed books out there.

Then you have the little people in the #3 tier like me who are scraping the bottom of the mid-list barrel hoping to find the widow’s mite.

As for #4, I don’t know what to say about the one-hit wonders other than I am working very hard and hoping I won’t be one of them.

I’d love to hear your two cents clinking as they hit the bottom of the think tank!

Merry Christmas!

I wish you a Merry Christmas too--although my comments are going to sound very Scroogey.

Take the income levels hinted at in that post and reduce them down to 1/10th and that's about what you can expect LDS authors in those various tiers to be earning.

Can an LDS fiction author live comfortably off their royalties? Depends on how you define comfortably. There are a few who have enough titles in print selling well that they are making $40,000 plus a year on royalties. But it's a very small group. [And just between the two of us, sometimes I am very surprised to learn who they are because they're not always the best writers.]

It is almost impossible to support yourself (with or without a family) when writing exclusively for any small niche market (including ours)--unless you are able to position yourself as one of the top 10 highly recognizable names in the industry. It's easier for non-fiction writers, but not much.

So, if you want to write LDS fiction AND make a living at writing, you have to branch out and be willing to write in other areas. Write LDS and national. Ghost write or co-author. Write for magazines. Write ad copy or business writing. Do technical manuals or text books. The more you limit your focus, the more you limit your income potential.

Christmas Story #3


I put my gift on the table, smiled hello at the people I recognized and scanned the room. I didn’t see him anywhere.

“Have you see him?” I asked Sharon.

“No,” she said with a shake of her head. “But did you have some of the cake? It’s delicious.”

They had cake already? Did they sing and I missed it? It was his party—every year it was his party. So where was he?

Sharon hailed someone from across the room and I moved toward Ren. “Where is he?” I asked, still peering around bodies, hoping to catch sight of him.

Ren shrugged, “I don’t know,” he said with the same lack of concern Sharon had showed.

“You haven’t seen him?”

“Nope,” he said with a shake of his head. “Did you get me anything?”

“You?” I repeated. Why would I bring a present for Ren?

His shoulders slumped and he walked off muttering. I watched him go, perplexed, then looked around the room again. Maybe I wasn’t at the right place.

Everyone was eating, laughing, talking, enjoying themselves. Was I the only one that noticed his absence?

I saw Cloe on the other side of the room and hurried toward her. Maybe she would know. When she turned to me, I didn’t waste any time.

“Where is he?” I asked. “No one’s seen him.”

“Oh, he’s not here,” she said evenly, stabbing her final bite of cake with her Santa-handled fork.

“But it’s his party,” I said as she put the cake in her mouth. “Why isn’t he here?”

“Well,” she said once she swallowed, blinking her big blue eyes and looking thoughtful. “I don’t think he was invited.”

It was my turn to blink. “Not invited?” I echoed. “Why not?

Cloe shrugged. “Don’t get all bent out of shape. The point it we get to celebrate. In fact, we combined it with Ren’s welcome home party and Lisa’s baby shower. Isn’t that great?”

“Why would you do that?”

“Well, it didn’t seem fair to do all this just for him, yah know—I mean what makes him so special? We wanted everyone to feel included.”

That was the strangest thing I’d ever heard of. “But without him? He’s the one that started all this. What about the gift I brought?”

“Just give it to someone else—Lisa maybe.”

“Lisa?” I said, my frustration showing in my voice. “But He’s the reason I’m here at all.”

“Yeah,” she said with a nod. “I get it. It’s his birthday—and Ren’s welcome home and Lisa’s baby shower.” She put a hand on my arm and leaned in, her tone hinting that I should know all this already. “It’s not about him anymore,” she whispered. “So just have a good time, okay, that’s what this is about—oh and the food and the presents.” She laughed. “But don’t make a big deal about it, okay, we don’t want anyone to get upset. It would totally ruin the party.”

LDSP Comments: Another variation on a theme. I've heard similar stories. I like this one better than #2 because it does have more originality to it. Also, it made me stop, think and re-evaluate my Christmas behavior. That's always a good thing. Still, not original enough for publication.


Complimentary Rejections

[This letter was edited slightly to keep the friend anonymous.]


I'm hoping you can answer a question for me. I have a friend who has written several booklets that are nonfiction on [various] topics. She says she has queried every agent in Writers Market and approached every publisher who does what she writes, and has received nothing but rejections. She's also contacted every LDS publisher there is [...]. She's wondering what to do next. She says the rejections have all been complimentary, so I have to think that her writing must be at least a little bit good, but I'm wondering if maybe her content is just not selling well or what have you. The only thing I can think of would be to have her break her books up into articles and sell them to magazines, which actually might make her better money than royalties. If you say, $300 an article and you'd have to sell 300 books to get that, or more, articles might be the way to go.

At any rate, I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Beulah. :)

Hi Beulah. Good to hear from you again. If your friend has that many rejections on the same project, then something is wrong with either her approach or her concept or possibly the quality of her writing.

I went through my company's logs to see if I could figure out who your friend was, if we had been queried, and why her query/manuscript was rejected. I'm not absolutely certain, but if it's the one I think it is, her query letter was not very compelling. Part of the notes said, "Not sure what exactly this is..."

If the query I'm thinking of is not your friend's, this is still a good time to reinforce what a query letter should do. It needs to clearly indicate what the project is. It needs to clearly summarize or include a short synopsis of the plot. And, very important here, it needs to provide a marketing hook. When I finish reading a good query, I can immediately pigeon-hole it into a marketing slot--I know who would buy it, who would read it, how to classify it, how to differentiate it, and how to sell it. If I have questions in these areas, I'll probably pass. So if you think it might be the query, have your friend submit it to a critique group or to several published authors to get help polishing it up.

The other problem might be the concept. "Booklet" can mean anything from a long greeting card to a small book. Depending on where it falls in that continuum, it might not be something that is selling right now. Booklets go in and out of fashion (kind of like skirt lengths for women). I can't speak for other companies, but right now we're just not in the market for anything less than 150 pages.

I think your magazine article idea is a good one, especially if she can sell it as a serialization or present herself as a regular columnist. I'm not aware of any good paying LDS magazines that are looking for that, but there are a lot of Christian magazines out there. She might also try local magazines or even newspapers. Papers don't pay much, but if she's never published before, that would give her credentials.

Christmas Story #2

A woman walked into the convenience store, obviously from out of town by her clothing and mannerisms. When she put her purchases on the counter, I asked her where she was from.

“Is it so obvious I’m not from here?” she asked.

I just smiled. “What do you think of our city?”

She hesitated for a moment and then shook her head. “No offense, sir, but it’s horrible. I saw people lined up for the soup kitchen across the street, what looked like gang members lounging outside an old church and with the graffiti and obvious poverty . . . ” She shook her head again. “I came to visit my son for the holidays but it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. I’d rather be anywhere but here”

Several minutes later another woman walked into the convenience store, obviously from out of town by her clothing and mannerisms. When she put her purchases on the counter, I asked her where she was from.

“Is it so obvious I’m not from here?” she asked.

I just smiled. “What do you think of our city?”

She hesitated for a moment and then shook her head. “It’s amazing. I saw people lined up for the soup kitchen across the street, with dozens of volunteers inside to serve them. I saw some teenage boys hanging out in front of a church, holding the door open as people came for holiday services. I saw tinsel and Christmas decorations amid the graffiti . . ." She shook her head again. “I came to visit my son for the holidays and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Christmas so starkly before. So many people with so little, and yet the Christmas spirit is so strong. I can’t think of a better place to be for Christmas.”

Several minutes later another woman walked into the convenience store, obviously from out of town by her clothing and mannerisms. When she put her purchases on the counter, I asked her where she was from.

“Is it so obvious I’m not from here?” she asked.

I just smiled. “What do you think of our city?”

She regarded me for a moment. “What do you think of your city?” she asked me in return. “I came to visit my son for the holidays and I just don’t know what to make of this place. What will I find here this Christmas season?”

“Well, ma’am, it depends on what you look for.”

LDSP Comments: This is a variation on a theme. I've heard similar stories before. Even with the Christmas twist, it's not original enough to be published.

Christmas Story #1

By Melanie Goldmund

"My cloak is malfunctioning," Rebekah said, jiggling the controls on her belt. If her personal cloaking device wasn't working, she'd have to break off the patrol and go back to the ship for a new one. Thankfully, her long iridescent robe disappeared. "No, it's good now."

"Keep it that way," Adam ordered.

They approached the huge domes, the only sign of life on this arid planet, and began to stroll around the perimeter. They'd had to make an emergency landing, desperately searching for a source of talipe to repair their ship, and had found the only deposit uncomfortably close to this alien outpost. Now, everybody who wasn't involved with the repairs had been assigned to covertly observe the human-like beings while they waited for instructions from Fleet Headquarters on whether they should approach.

"It's quiet," Rebekah said. "Maybe they're observing the Sabbath Day, too."

"Oh, right, aliens do everything just like we do?" Adam scoffed.

"Look." Rebekah diverted his attention. A window ahead was hung with small lights of all different colours.

"A decoration?" Adam mused. "No, a child's toy."

Feeling bold, Rebekah stopped to stare. On the other side of the window, a child was playing with something on the sill, turning it around to face the outside, and picking up any fallen pieces. It was a kind of three-sided dwelling with a roof suggesting organic grasses, and a star arcing over it. Gently, the child slid animals back into place, and also humans in different kinds of clothing, arranging them around what appeared to be a baby bedded down in a small feeding trough. Rebekah felt a thrill run down her spine.

"Adam," she said slowly. "Adam, a depiction of the birth of the Saviour!"

"Do you have to bring religion into everything?" Adam peered closer. "Looks like some kind of Family Farm playset to me."

"The scriptures say the Saviour was born in a stable, and that looks like a stable," Rebekah countered. "Those four-legged things are definitely animals, and these men with them could be shepherds. And look at these figures on the right. There's something in their hands, and their costumes look much more opulent than what the others are wearing. Wise men from afar, bearing gifts! There's even a star on the roof!"

"Rebekah, these are aliens!" Adam protested. "They don't know anything about your precious Saviour!"

"The Saviour has created worlds without number," Rebekah countered. "Why wouldn't their inhabitants know about Him, if He created them, too?"

"Of all the people on board the ship, I get stuck with a Believer!" Adam growled. "Come on!"

There was a buzzing sound from Rebekah's belt, and her robe flashed into visibility. The child glanced up, and Rebekah caught a glimpse of wide open eyes and mouth. Instinctively, Rebekah jumped away, jabbing at the controls until her cloak faded again.


Inside the dome, the child ran into the next room. "Mom, mom, I saw an angel, looking at our Nativity set, right here on Mars!"

LDSP Comments: I liked this one. I liked the idea of Christmas being celebrated on other planets. Some of the dialog was a little flat (predictable). It needs to be a developed--but I only gave you a few words so it's a pretty good start. Publishable? With a little work.


You're Kidding Me, Right?

Actual conversation after query and partial had been submitted and a full requested.

Author: So you're saying you want to see the entire manuscript with the idea of publishing it in the spring?

Publisher: Yes. I think it would be great to release it in early March so it will be available for conference sales.

Author: Oh, well, I'm not sure I can have it ready by then. I've only written the first three chapters and I just have an outline of the rest of the story. In fact, I'm rethinking the ending so it might take me a while to finish it. I'm really busy right now. Maybe I can have it to you by fall...oh, wait, I'm going to Europe this next summer so fall won't work for me...

Publisher: Never mind. I'm not really interested, after all.


[P.S. This type of post is just one of the reasons why I am anonymous. If you knew I was Edith Editor at XYZ Publishing, I would never be able to tell you about these types of events. But because I'm anonymous, the Author stays anonymous too and can therefore be an example to everyone of what not to do. And to further the anonymity of the Author, this conversation did not happen this week or even this month. I've been saving it so that no one would be able to figure out who the poor clueless author is.]


Submitting During the Holidays

Is December a bad time to submit manuscripts? Or are editors too busy with end of the year stuff? Would they be more or less likely to give a manuscript their full attention during the holidays?

The number one secret to know about editors and publishers is we are people too. We have parties and gift giving and other merry-making to do, just like everyone else. So yes, we say go ahead and submit in December, but chances are it's going to take a little longer for us to get around to reading it. And one good thing about LDS publishers, we're rarely working with an after-office-party hangover. So submit whenever you want with full confidence that when we do (finally) get to your manuscript, it will get our full attention--just as it would during the rest of the year.

[P.S. You've just stumbled upon the REAL reason I'm running a contest in December. I'm hoping your stories will disguise the fact that I'm too busy ho-ho-ho-ing to write serious posts. And speaking of your stories, where are they??]


Starting a Writers Group

You keep suggesting that we should be part of a writers critique group. I found one, but they are 60 miles away. Just how do I go about finding another one that is closer to me? Do you have some guidelines on what makes a good group and how groups should work?

If you can't find a group that fits your needs, consider starting one. You can post info at your local library or on a forum board asking for interested parties in your area. But the BEST way to create a group is to go to a writers conference for your area and mingle. Find other authors who you like, who seem like they would be fun to work with, who have some skill in writing (you can usually find out their skill level by attending the critique workshop offered by the conference, or by the types of questions they ask other people). Then ask if they'd be interested in forming a writers critique group.

As for guidelines, yes, I've got some good ones somewhere at home but I am in the middle of moving and they're probably already packed up. (Yes, I know...moving in December, what was I thinking?!!?) I'll try to remember to find them and post them here after I move, but if you don't see a post by February, someone e-mail and remind me that I promised to do that.

[That hollow thudding sound you're hearing right now is my head, banging against the empty U-Haul...]


Christmas Contest

The holidays are coming up and let's do another contest. I wasn't going to do one until January, but what can I say? If I don't have WAY too much to do, then I feel like I'm not doing anything at all.

Theme: Unpublished HOLIDAY SHORT STORY, 250 to 500 words. (It doesn't have to be new writing. You can send something you wrote years ago, but no previously published stories.)

You can submit as many stories as you like, but send only one story per e-mail. (So if you have four stories, send me four different e-mails.)

Paste entire story into an e-mail and send to me.

SUBMIT it any time between now and December 25th.

I will post all submissions.

VOTE between December 26th and December 31st.

Winner will be announced after New Year's.

Prizes: Reader's Choice and Publisher's Choice, both get their choice of any LDS paperback fiction book in print.

Spread the word!


Contest Creds

Dear LDSpublisher,

I've been thinking about entering some writing contests. I fully understand that these contests, in order to protect their rights to the first-place pieces, often request you withdraw your piece from submission circulation until their winners are announced. For some competitions, that can mean a wait of 6, 7, or 8 months from the time you submit until the announcement date.

While I believe my work is good enough to be entered and noticed, I honestly don't believe I will be the ONE first-place winner in a national contest with hundreds, maybe thousands of entrants. I'd more likely find a living dinosaur grazing peacefully in my backyard! What I'm hoping to do with my entries is garner at least some type of recognition: an encouraging response, a contact with a possible publisher/editor, or maybe an honorable mention or two. Those things look good on cover letters. [They look good to you and to your friends and family, and maybe on a job resume at a PR firm, but agents and publishers mostly ignore this.]

If I do enter these contests, should I continue to submit my pieces through the standard, often slow editorial process during the competition's 'waiting' period? And if that is okay, should I mention to the other publishers that this piece is currently an entrant in The XYZ Writing Competition to be decided on such-and-such a date? What do you recommend?

The first thing you need to do is determine why you want to enter the contest. If it's not to win, why bother? There are faster and easier ways to get encouraging responses and attention, like a writers critique group. There are writer associations that hold annual conferences that often feature critique as part of their event. (Ex: LDS Storymakers)

I, personally, would not remove a piece from submission to enter it into a contest. If it's good enough to garner contest attention, then it will also catch the attention of the publisher--and that's your end goal, right? Why back away from it?

If you have a piece that you're not currently submitting and you want to put it in a contest, that's fine. Make sure the contest is legit--there are judges with credentials (a variety of professional editors, writers, etc.), prizes that are meaningful (cash, publication, etc.) and the entry fee is reasonable (under $100). You can find out about scam contests at Preditors & Editors.

I don't care what contest you're entered in. I don't usually care if you've won. Don't mention that you've entered a contest in your query unless it will affect the agent's/editor's ability to acquire it. And if it will, then don't submit it. If you happen to win a legit contest, you may put that at the end of your query if you feel you must, but quite honestly, the quality of your writing is what is going to sell your piece, not any contest you may have won.


Self-Publishing: Black Mark or Gold Star?

Hello, LDSPublisher!

Hope your holiday was great! [It was, thank you.] I have another question for you.

I've heard conflicting opinions of self-publishing. When I first began seriously considering publishing a novel, I was advised that self publishing was tatamount to professional suicide. And yet, I've also heard of several authors who have made a real go of the do-it-yourself route.

What do you think? As a publisher, is a self-published work on a resume a black mark? Or a gold star? Or something in between? Would you be more apt to publish someone who had a self published book, supposing it sold moderately well, or would you be more inclined to avoid them? What about publishers outside the LDS market - is there a difference of opinion there?

I guess the real gist of the question is: Is this a road that I might look into, or would I be better off staying on the main publishing highway, so to speak?


Here's the thing with self-publishing. If you know what you're doing, or you have good advisors, you can be successful at it. If not, it can be a financial disaster. The majority of self-publishers fall into the disaster category. That is why self-publishing has such a bad reputation.

There is also the bias that if it was any good, a "real" publisher would have picked it up. That's not necessarily the case, but people still believe it.

Self-publishing does not have to be professional suicide or a black mark on your career, but it's not an automatic gold star either. It depends on the quality of the finished product, how many and how fast you sold them, and the method you used to sell them (ex: bookstores, personal appearances, online marketing, etc.).

For self-publishing to count with me, it would need to be professionally created so that I could not tell by looking that it was s.p. -- and I am picky. I'd expect to be able to find something about the book by googling the title. I would need verified sales of over 2,000 in the first year. Outside the LDS market, sales would need to be higher.

This is definitely a road you might want to look into, but you need to be very, very careful. The first step is to find a distributor. Do this before you print anything. If they like your manuscript/idea, they should be willing to help you find professional editors, typesetters, printers, etc. Not all distributors will help you like this, but many of the smaller ones will.

I also recommend a couple of books by Tom and Marilyn Ross, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and Jump Start Your Book Sales. Those two are my favorites. Dan Poynter also has some books on self-publishing, but he's sometimes a little unrealistic about how easy it is to do it yourself and how much money you can make from it.

If you're writing for the masses, avoid POD because that usually prices you out of the market. If you have highly specialized info, you can sometimes get away with the PODs. Also, be prepared to do a LOT of marketing. Another book I like is Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Levinson, Larsen and Frishman. They have some good ideas and they try to keep it within a budget.

I know that these are superficial answers. This is a huge subject that can be debated from lots of different angles. There are pros and cons to both traditional and self-publishing. It all depends on what you goals are and the size of financial risk you're able to take. If you have more specific questions, I'm happy to answer them.


We Can't Hold a Gun to Their Heads

I have a question. How much can publishers do to get a book into DB and Seagull? I know they're picky about what books they will accept. At a minimum, what should I expect my publisher to do? What can I do to make sure it gets in those stores? My publisher is well-known. It's not like they're obscure or minute. Why aren't they doing more to get my book into the stores? It is my first novel, so I'm sure that has something to do with it, but don't they have a responsibility to try harder? Thanks

It is the publisher's responsibility to make every reasonable effort to sell your book. They’ve invested thousands of dollars into producing your book, they are going to do everything they can to get it into as many stores as possible—especially Deseret Book and Seagull. It would be stupid for them not to do so.

Here’s what a publisher can do:
We can send a free sample of the book and promotional materials to the buyer. We cannot force them to open the package or read the book.

We can go to trade shows and put on a dog and pony show advertising your book. We cannot accost them in the aisles, drag them into our booth, and make them listen to our spiel.

We can call them on the phone and talk to them or leave voice mail. We cannot make them talk to us. We cannot make force them to return our calls.

We can try to get a face-to-face appointment to talk to them. We cannot go camp out at their office and hold a hunger strike until they meet with us.

We can send letters, faxes and e-mails. We cannot prevent them from throwing those messages in the trash.

We can offer deeper discounts, special packages or better terms. We cannot use physical force, blackmail them or bribe them into placing an order.

We can run ads targeted to the reader to try to get them into the stores, but those ads are not always effective. (I just spent $250 on an ad that reached a six-figure customer count and it sold 5 books.) We cannot always get your book into Deseret Book or Covenant’s catalogs because those are often “by invitation only.” They are also extravagantly expensive and in my experience, not always successful. (The last DB ad I ran cost $900 and orders did not increase.)

I would guess that your publisher has already done/is doing most of these things. Now it’s just a matter of continuing to do them and hoping for the best. You can only contact a buyer so often before they become annoyed and start avoiding you.

There is very little you can do to get your books into these two stores. Contacting them yourself will work against you. Going into their stores and giving a free copy to the bookstore manager might help, if you’re professional and respect their time. (This means five minutes TOPS!) But it also may not help at all. I have a friend who is a DB manager who loves one of my new books, but DB corporate still hasn’t placed an order.

The best thing you can do to help is to create customer demand for your book. Get a website, blog, develop an e-mail list, advertise your book to the end customer as “available in most LDS bookstores.” If people are interested, they will start going into their local LDS bookstores and asking for the book. (How many friends and relatives do you have that would go into the store and special order a copy?) If enough stores are getting requests for a book, and forwarding those requests to corporate, DB and Seagull will move a little faster to order it.


Small Press Treated Like Ugly Step-Sister

I consider myself a small press, even though most of the books I publish are my own. Several of my titles sell well; in fact, one of them sells really well. My books have been in Deseret Book and Seagull stores, as well as in a lot of independents. I've had an LDS distributor for years, but I recently decided to self-distribute. Now Deseret Book won't even talk to me. They tell me I'm not big enough for them to bother with--even though they were ordering almost weekly from my distributor. I don't understand that. I'm starting to feel like the ugly step-sister.

This happens to a lot of smaller presses and self-publishers. As with so many other issues, a lot of it boils down to economics and the "economy of scale." There are certain overhead costs that are the same regardless of how many books are ordered--for example, the man-hours it takes to fax an order. Let's say you're ordering 100 titles. If a bookstore had to order all 100 titles straight from the author or publisher, that means 100 purchase orders, 100 faxes, 100 incoming invoices, 100 checks, etc. If they can order all 100 titles from the same distributor, that means 1 purchase order, 1 fax, 1 bill, 1 check.

Shipping costs are another example. The more you ship at one time, the less you pay per pound. So if a small bookstore orders 2 books from you, the cost to ship is about $1.25 per book. If they throw those 2 books on an order of 100 books, the cost per book to ship can be as low as 10-20¢ per book. Big difference in profit margin.

Many bookstores have a set of conditions that an author/publisher/distributor must meet, otherwise no matter how good the book might be, it isn't cost effective to deal directly with them. These conditions vary between stores, but a MINIMUM is usually 5-8 titles that "sell well." What "selling well" means varies from store to store too. Some bookstores will work with smaller companies, but will ask for special terms, such as a 50% discount or free shipping or both.

It's an uphill climb for the small publisher. I wish I had some better news or suggestions for you, but I don't. You could try expanding your product line, but that's going to increase the time you need to spend in your business which will take you away from future writing projects. And even if you have 40-50 books, you'll still have bookstores calling and asking "Why don't you go with a real distributor?"

Or you could do some concentrated marketing to boost the sales levels of your current books. If the public is going into the bookstores demanding the product, then the bookstores are usually going to work with you on some level. But advertising can be expensive and the most widespread is through the DB catalog (catch-22). Books 'n Things covers advertising through the independent stores. (I don't have contact info handy for them. Go into your local LDS independent bookstore and see if they have a Books 'n Things catalog you can look at.)

Last option, reconsider your decision to self-distribute.


Please Use Headers!

I would think this is common sense and it’s in almost every submission how-to guide I’ve ever read, but so many people don’t do this that I want to stress it here.

1. Put your name and abbreviated title in the header line of each and every page of your manuscript. For example, if your name is Jane Smith and your book is How LDSP Got Both Rich & Famous by Blogging, put Smith, J./LDSP Rich & Famous in the top left header of each page (unless your publisher requests you put it somewhere else).

2. USE automatic page numbering. Put them in the top right header of each and every page of your manuscript (unless your publisher requests otherwise). Start numbering consecutively from page one to page end-of-manuscript. Do NOT restart at page one at the beginning of each chapter.

This is why. Manuscripts stay in their boxes/envelopes at my office. I will often take a handful of pages (usually 1st three chapters) from several manuscripts home with me to read at night or over the weekend. This allows me to do a quick read and weed out the ones that aren’t what I’m looking for.

Although I am incredibly organized and coordinated, I have on occasion dropped these pages. Or they’ve spilled out of my briefcase. Or gremlins have come in the night and separated all the pages, scattering them amid my neat stacks of bills and grocery lists. Sometimes, I’ll pass these first three chapters around to various readers, who may or may not be as coordinated and organized as I am. It doesn’t happen very often, but when your pages get separated from each other or out of order, putting them back together is a potential nightmare.

It is extremely easy for you to include this header info on every page. Most software programs can do it automatically. Please file this post under "Publishers are human too" and go check right now to make sure all your manuscripts in progress have this header set up.



Was enjoying a leisurely catch-up on blog reading and came across this post. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, read this and this.

I have tried off and on all day to get these links to work and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. The first one is to www.accrispin.blogspot.com. Scroll down to her post on NaNoWriMo, dated 11/16.

The second is a comment posted by the NaNoWriMo people at www.misssnark.com
Scroll waaaay down to find it, titled Hey NaNoWRIMo--You're Doing the Right Thing!!!, dated 11/18.

Thanksgiving Wishes

Today is my last work day this week. I'm taking an extra personal day to spend time with family, so I won't be posting again until Monday. I thought I'd support the season by listing a few things I'm thankful for, in connection to the LDS publishing industry.

Despite its weaknesses and shortcoming and politics, I am thankful to work in an industry which at its core is dedicated to building the kingdom of God. Not many people can say that. And although few of us will ever get rich by creating and selling LDS books and products, I am grateful that I can feed my family by helping others. I would shrivel up and die if I had to spend my days making widgets.

I am so thankful that I'm in an industry where I can call my competition my friends. Most of us are not cut-throat, back-stabbing, get-ahead-at-others'-expense types of people. We genuinely care about others and are happy to help each other succeed. A lot of us believe that there is room for each of us in this industry. That we don't have to be better than everyone to succeed. We just need to produce good products that we believe in and bring them to the table. I've passed good manuscripts to other publishers and they've passed them to me. We look out for each other and help each other, for the most part.

I am thankful to be surrounded by good people who are striving to create solid books that will help, entertain and uplift others. It's sad when I have to reject a manuscript because I can see how earnest and sincere the author is. And I'm glad for that sadness because it reminds me how many good people there are in this world.

I am thankful to be in an industry where we pray over what we do. Authors pray over their words. Publishers pray over their products. Booksellers pray over their stores. That much prayer has to be doing good things.

Yes, I know that we are not the "Industry of Enoch" yet. There is strife and contention and backbiting and gossiping and cut-throat business dealings happening in the LDS publishing industry all the time. There are those who will take advantage of the weaknesses and ignorance of others. Unfortunately, I suppose there will always be that element--even in a gospel-centered industry. But compared to the other non-LDS publishing industries I've worked in, this one is like a little bit of heaven on earth.

And I am thankful to be part of it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Sounding the Death Knell of the Yearly Sales Bell Curve

Things are slowing down at the office, which reminded me about the yearly sales cycles. And since I don't have any questions in the queue (SEND QUESTIONS!) I thought you might like to hear about this. I'll be speaking in generalities; there are always situations which don't follow this pattern, but over all, it's accurate industry wide.

The last quarter of the year is the largest for sales. Of course, it is. It's Christmas. But the big sales push of the last quarter ends about now--at Thanksgiving. Bookstores have spent their sales budget already and stocked up for the holiday rush. The only bookstore orders we will get between now and the end of the year is for restocking hot moving products. If your publisher/distributor has a retail site, they'll continue to do sales through the end of the year. If they don't, you're book sales are close to done for the year.

Even with the slow down after Thanksgiving, we do double the sales (or more) than we do any other quarter of the year. Which is a good thing because the first quarter of the year is DEAD, comparatively speaking. I try to plan all my voluntary time off between January and March. That's also when I'm most active at choosing submissions and getting new releases edited and typeset for the press.

Sales start to pick back up again in March, then build steadily until about the end of June. Then they drop off a bit because some bookstores will hold orders until the LDS Booksellers convention in August so they can take advantage of the deeper discounts and/or free shipping offered by most of the vendors. August sales are always good and then build again until Thanksgiving.

So what does this mean to you? Well, that's open to interpretation. Depending on your publisher/distributors marketing plan and push, this info can be used differently.

In my company, we never release a new book after mid-October because that won't give us time to get the word out well enough to get the Christmas sales. It's just the opposite for some of the bigger companies because they have the machinery in place to get the word out, do pre-sells, and have the general public salivating for the arrival of their new product. If I were DB or Covenant/Seagull, it would make sense to do releases in early December because that would get customers back into their stores for repeat trips during the Christmas buying season. And be honest, when you go into a bookstore, do you ever only leave with what you went in to get?

Smaller publishers without immediate access to a large retailer and public advertising have to figure in a longer press-to-shelf time. But the clock starts ticking* the moment the book is released. We've found it's better to schedule ahead of Christmas sales. For these same reasons, we also don't release any new books until March, to give the retail customer time to recover from the holiday-induced financial crisis.

This last quarter is the best time to schedule book signings (if you can get agreement from all parties involved) because it includes both October General Conference and Christmas.

*Typical productive life span of a book is 2 years, with the majority of sales happening in the first 6 months of release--this is especially true of fiction.


Are You Trying to Get Me Dooced?

An anonymous commenter believes they have discovered my secret identity. They left a few clues in their comment that certainly pointed to a particular company--and for that reason, I deleted the comment. I am not going to confirm or deny whether their suppostion is correct. That's all part of the fun of being anonymous. But I will say this--

"Ha-ha, smarty pants. You aren't half so clever as you believe yourself to be."

Just a few reminders to those who think de-cloaking me is a good thing:

1. I am anonymous to protect the integrity of the company I work for and the people I work with.

2. I often use real-life examples of issues and mistakes in this blog. I do it so NONE OF YOU WILL MAKE THOSE SAME MISTAKES! Were I and my company to be identified, I would not be able to do that.

3. Being anonymous allows me to speak a little more frankly about some of the bigger issues, like contracts.

4. If this blog ever interferes with my ability to function at work, or with a wrongly identified colleague's ability to do business, then I'll shut it down.

My goal with this blog is to be helpful, informative and fun. The minute it stops being those things, I'm out of here.

(Dooced--definition #1.)


Book Signings a la Mode

No, I don't mean serve ice cream at your book signing. I mean, if you're going to do a book signing, make it feel like ice cream.

About the comment that publishers don't want to make the effort to set up signings...uhm, yes and no. Here's the deal. Let's say we have 100 authors who all want to do a book signing tour (as in, half a dozen signings each) and they're scattered all over the U.S. If every bookstore we call says yes, that's 600 phone calls we have to make, at about 15-30 minutes each, so we're looking at 150 to 300 hours JUST TALKING TO THE BOOKSTORES!

But of course, they won't all say yes, so we have to call more stores. And then we have to call the author and make sure the dates we sign them up for are still good. And then we have to work out the details to get extra books ordered, offer a generous return policy, send out posters, flyers, reminder calls.

And if averages hold true, we're going to only sell a handful of books at each one.

So that's why publishers aren't super-hyped about setting up book signing tours and why, if you want one, you're going to have to do a lot of work yourself.

The exception to this is if the publisher can showcase a group of authors at the same signing--for example, getting a bookstore to do a book signing day where we have maybe a dozen or more authors show up throughout the day to do the signings. Then it becomes a party--ergo, the a la mode reference.

a la mode


The Truth About Amazon.com

What do you think about getting LDS books on amazon.com? Is this a good thing? Wouldn't it lead to a lot more sales?

A lot of people think that simply being on amazon.com gives them a better chance at selling their books. Other than the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you say, "Oh yes, you can get my book on amazon.com..." having your book on Amazon is really not going to be worth the trouble to the average LDS author/publisher. Here's why.

Amazon is not a bookstore. Having your book on the shelf at a store can lead to impulse sales because people browse at a store. They select a topic area, start at one end of an aisle, and drift down to the other end. If your book is on the shelf, it might get noticed. Someone might pick it up, flip through it, and decide to take it home with them.

People don't generally go to Amazon to browse. It's too big. They go looking for a specific title. While there, they might browse the first few pages of a topic area, but unless they are specifically looking for your book, they're not going to find it. Amazon ranks books by sales and being #76, 823 out of 77,851 in a topic area doesn't mean much. It doesn't get you face time with the consumer. If you're not in the top 100, they're not going to find you by browsing.

People who are looking for LDS books don't generally go to Amazon. They go to Deseretbook.com. It's smaller. You can browse there. If your book is 340 out of 750 in your topic area, your chances of getting noticed are a whole lot better.

The only time when getting on Amazon is helpful is if you can drive traffic to the site. If you have a cross-over title that's not specifically LDS (even if published by an LDS publisher) then Amazon makes sense because non-LDS readers may feel more comfortable going to a non-LDS site to get your book. You want to give them that option.

Now let's talk finances. I don't want to be a one-note Nora, but we've discussed print runs, cost per book, and profit margins before. In the LDS book world, standard wholesale discount is 40%. Amazon wants a yearly fee, plus 55% for their Advantage program. That's too much if your print run is under 10,000.

And just to give you an idea of exactly how well a title does when listed on Amazon, we listed Title A on Amazon because we were curious to see if this would be a good avenue for sales. After more than 5 years, we have sold exactly 1 copy. Per book income after Amazon's discounts: $6.73.

As opposed to over 120, 000 copies sold using other avenues (bookstores, conventions, retail sales, etc.). Average per book income after discounts: $9.46.

I think everyone can do the math on this one.

More on Book Signings

Here's an article on book signings. If you're going to do them, these are pretty good ideas.


Holiday Book Signings

My newest book was just released and I want to do a book signing tour to encourage shoppers to buy my book as Christmas gifts. I keep telling my publisher that I want to do this, and they keep saying it's a good idea, but so far, no signing dates. Why do you think my publisher is refusing to set up book signings for me?

[Deep breath] Having recently had this conversation with several of my authors, let me say first that publishers do not have the final say in scheduling book signings--unless your publisher is Deseret Book or Covenant, who have their own retail outlets and host signings for their own authors.

As a publisher, even if I thought a book signing tour was the very best way to boost holiday book sales (which I don't, but let's pretend I do), my opinion and enthusiasm won't do us a bit of good unless the book store owner/manager thinks so too. And most of them don't, because the simple fact is that the majority of LDS author book signings are lucky if they generate the sale of a dozen books. Most common scenario for a single author book signing is 2 to 3 hours of the author sitting behind a table trying not to look desperate while the bookstore customers avoid them like the plague.

Whether or not your publisher can convince a bookstore to host your signing depends on several things: how big the publisher is and what their reputation is; how big a discount your publisher can give the bookstore; how well your book is selling in the store; how well known you are/how many customers you can draw; how many other titles you have to your name; how much it is going to cost the publisher to get you there (are you expecting the publisher to pay travel expenses and per diem or are you footing the bill), etc., etc.

Also, book signings are not a bundle of joy for the bookstores. They have to create a space for you to sign, reroute floor traffic, stock extra books, return those they can't sell. A lot of bookstores just flat out don't want to be bothered.

Here are a few other scenario/issues:
1. The Utah/Idaho corridor is where the majority of LDS book sales occur. Most of the bookstores here are DB and Seagull stores who are promoting their own authors with holiday book signings. Yes, they will sometimes let other publishers bring authors to the party, but only if the book is a strong seller and/or they can't fill the slots with their own people. You get a better shot with some of the independent stores in this area, but not all of them will work with you if you're a small publisher, or if you're a lesser known author.

2. Bookstores outside UT/ID are generally smaller stores near a temple. Their bookstore traffic is based on temple traffic, meaning people come to the temple and then drop by the bookstore on their way home. Many of them get very little traffic during the week and are overcrowded on Saturdays. They don't want you getting in their way on Saturday and they don't think you can pull enough customers to make it worth their trouble on a weeknight.

3. Local to you, non-LDS bookstores or variety stores might be willing to host your book signing if you're very local or related to the manager, but they often want deeper discounts than your publisher can afford.

So to overcome that, you or your publisher have to be willing to create an offer they can't refuse. You have to fit in to their schedule. You have to be sure you can pull in customers. You have to be willing to do all the work yourself. Sometimes you have a better chance if you can get a group of authors to do a signing at the same place & time. But even if you and your publisher are willing to totally foot the expense of a launch party complete with advertising and door prizes, some bookstores will still turn you down.

My guess is your publisher is doing their best and just can't get the bookstores to agree. We can't really force them. If you are dead set on doing a signing tour, see if your publisher will consign you some books and try to set something up in your hometown, maybe at the local library or schools or service clubs. Do an event with 4 or 5 other local authors and talk about literacy, or writing, or something that has a literary appeal, then sell your books afterward. Most libraries and some schools will let you do that as a public service, especially if you donate a portion of your proceeds.


Why It Takes So Long to Get a Response to Your Query/Submission

This is so dead-on MY LIFE that instead of writing a post today, I'm linking to this one.

Go read it please.


Middle Readers & YA

Your post about LDS picture books was quite enlightening [thank you] (especially about the cost to the publisher). I have LDS picture books I purchased from years ago and the spines are barely cracked--the stories were a huge disappointment. (The only one I ever bought that was well-written was MY TURN ON EARTH.)

But there's more to children's lit than picture books. What about the market for middle grade and YA fiction? What's your perspective on
that? Do you see improvement? What's needed to make it better?

There are LDS romance/suspense authors whose books have sold in six-figure amounts. Still, it seems like the only successful books are the ones like the Foo series, which is not really LDS fiction and is published by an imprint of Deseret. Since it's not seen as LDS-themed, it seems to be doing well in the national market (Simon and
Schuster bought the paperback rights not long ago).

Good, good thread. I'm learning a lot!

This blog has taken me over an hour to write because you’ve unwittingly hit upon one of my soapboxes. I’ve deleted 4 pages of rant and here’s what you get:

My perspective on the LDS market for middle grade and YA fiction is that it stinks right now. While there is a huge need and demand for books at those age levels, there are not enough high quality submissions coming in to meet that demand.

Because it is more difficult to sell to this age group, snooty publishers, like myself, are refusing to accept submissions that don’t meet our high and lofty standards. Other publishers are taking mediocre manuscripts and hyping them up, which leaves many readers disappointed and less likely to buy again.

Yes, there are some shining examples out there now (Wiles, Dashner, Blair, to name a few), and yes, we are seeing a gradual improvement. But it’s not happening fast enough to suit me. I want more, MORE, MORE!! Quit reading this blog and go write some, now!

Seriously, I really would like to encourage any writers who are so inclined to write for this market. Books can make such an impression on young minds. We need a host of titles to compete with what’s out there nationally. When you look at what our kids are being exposed to, it just breaks my heart. They are reading books that are really funny, entertaining, thought provoking and well-written, but then they sneak immorality in through the back door. We so need to balance that with really funny, entertaining, thought provoking and well-written books that are CLEAN and that support our values.

If I were independently wealthy or had some serious investors, I’d leave the company I’m with in a heartbeat and launch an all-out search for quality LDS children’s/YA lit to publish. [deep sigh] If you happen to have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around and would like to contribute to this cause, contact me via e-mail and we’ll talk.

P.S. Since you mentioned Foo [Leven Thumps & the Gateway to Foo], yes, I was excited to see it come out. I thought it was a definite step in the right direction. But book 1 had its problems. My fingers just itched to lay my red pencil to it. Foo was good, but it could have been great. I don’t think it would be selling as well as it is if it weren’t for Harry Potter readers wanting something to fill in the wait between books in that series. I bought book 2, but it didn’t grab me right away. I put it down before I finished chapter 1 and I haven’t gotten back to it.


More Q's on Kid Lit

Two more questions about LDS children's lit:
As a writer who has ALSO sold artwork to magazines and private collectors, I want to thank you for your post. I've never submitted illustrations for a potential book and have just recently thought about combining my two talents. I found your information intriguing. [thank you] Do LDS publishers offer artist guidelines with such information as size, gutters, etc.? Is the demand for book art great enough in the LDS publishing world to have such guidelines?

I have not seen illustrator guidelines on any of the LDS publisher websites, but then, I've never really gone looking for them. I would expect you could find some general guidelines in the Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market or through an association like SCBWI . General guidelines will get you 95% of the way, and most of the time that's close enough.

As for LDS illustrator guidelines, as long as people were dressed modestly and behaving appropriately, I don't see that they'd differ much from anywhere else.

Hi there LDS Publisher!

Since you posted a question about children’s publishing, here’s another one for your comment:

What’s your take on the market for LDS-themed children’s books? Do you think there’s potential there that’s not being met (as in there could be more and/or better offerings)? Or, considering that the biggest share of the LDS market is focused on romance/suspense, do you think most writers prefer to write where the money is since authors can make more money writing for the majority of buyers (which are women)?

Thanks a bunch—and I enjoy reading your blog! [thank you]

First, I must qualify my answer to these questions:

1. My professional specialty is not picture books, so I'm not on top of that market.

2. I have a huge collection of picture books, very few are LDS. I bought most of them when my children were younger and there just weren't that many good LDS picture books out there then. I've bought some in the past few years and the quality of the story and the artwork are getting better, but I just haven't seen any that I absolutely go bananas over. (Admittedly, I have not looked at a lot of what's out there now, so I may have missed a trend.)

I would like to see more LDS themed picture books that are well-written and well-illustrated. In the history of my motherhood, I have rarely purchased LDS picture books because either the story is too heavy handed (think "morality tales") or too sappy, or the illustrations were just not appealing to my eye. There are very few LDS picture books out there that are "equally yoked" in story line and illustration. Rachel Nunes' two picture books come close, but I thought the illustrations were stronger than the story.

Given that, yes, I think there is a huge potential there that is not currently being met. I wanted LDS picture books when my kids were young, and I couldn't find them. I have family and friends with young children now who have complained to me that they can't find enough LDS picture books that they like. So, I think the market is there. The question is, is the market big enough?

Children's picture books in a small niche market (like LDS) are high risk for a publisher. Because they're full-color throughout and hardback, they are very expensive. Some companies just don't want to take the risk. But if the right combination of story and illustrations were to show up in my slush pile, I'd think about it long and hard.

And yes, the majority of LDS book buyers are women and yes, they want romance. But most of these women also have children in their lives (their own, grandchildren, nieces, nephews...), so I think if some high quality LDS picture books showed up on bookstore shelves, these women would buy them.


Illustrating Picture Books

[If your calendar says it's still Monday, then don't read this! It's Tuesday's post. I will be in meetings and away from my computer all day tomorrow. I'm putting you on the honor system to come back tomorrow and read this one! :) ]

Hello, LDS Publisher!
I have a question for you, since you're running a little low.

I have a friend who has written a childrens story in poetry form, and it is awesome. I have a fabulous idea for illustrating it - and I think (hope desperately) that she would let me submit it as a complete work.

I hear, though, that authors and illustrators don't get to choose each other. If this book was submitted as text and illustration together, what are the chances it would stay that way?

Thanks, by the way, for answering questions like these! (You're very welcome.)

For a picture book, the illustrations are just as important (honestly, more so) than the story line. I've seen great stories with illustrations that killed the book. No one would even pick them up to read them because the illustrations were really bad or simply boring. On the flip side, there are picture books with mediocre stories that sell well because the illustrations are so delightful.

Because illustrations are so crucial to the book's sales, publishers choose them. Just as an author has little to no control over the title, layout or cover design of their book, they rarely have control over the illustrator. They may have input, but that's generally the best they can hope for--unless they are illustrators themselves and do the work for their own book. But even then, that's a risk. I've had submissions where the author insisted that they illustrate their own work and I've rejected them because although the story was good, the illustrations were really bad.

Of course, there are exceptions to the "publisher chooses the illustrator" rule. You have Don and Audrey Wood who write and illustrate together. Sonja (mother) and Paul (son) Linsley are an LDS picture book team that work well together (but I believe the Linsley's are self-publishers, so that puts them in a different category).

Although the chances are not good that a publisher would keep your illustrations with your friend's story, you can try and see what happens.

Here are a few suggestions for increasing your chances:

1. If you are a professional illustrator and have past experience illustrating picture books, or creating art work for book covers, have your friend briefly mention this in her query and include a website where the publisher can see samples.

2. I don't know anyone who has rejected a picture book because someone included illustrations. I do know plenty who have accepted the book and rejected the illustrations. But since there might be someone who would fly into an irrational rage if illustrations were included, read submission guidelines on the publisher's website. If they say absolutely, positively do not submit illustrations, then don't do it. However, if they don't say anything about it, take a chance and send the first two illustrations--1 color, 1 black & white. (Send copies, not the originals.)

3. Do not submit any more than the first two illustrations without an offer from the publisher. It would be a waste of time and effort and might lead the publisher to think it was an all or nothing submission.

4. Have your friend make it clear in her query that she is submitting the story and that your enclosed illustrations are simply samples of what she could get if the publisher would like her to find an illustrator.

5. There is always the slim possibility that the publisher will like your illustrations and hire you to do something else, even if they don't want to use your work for your friend's book. I've done that before.

Bottom line: If your friend is agreeable, take a chance and see what happens, but don't get your hopes up.

Where to Spend Your $20

I have a writer friend who says he plans to start hiding $20 bills in his manuscripts as a test to see if the editor is really reading it. He's going to note exactly what page he tucked that bill into and if it hasn't moved when the manuscript returns, he will know it wasn't even read. What do you think about that?

He may call it a test, I call it a bribe--and it is a silly idea on so many levels.

1. Ethical editors will not accept money like this. So if he gets his manuscript back with the money removed, all he's done is found someone he shouldn't do business with. If I were to get a submission with a $20 tucked between the pages, it would stay right there exactly as I found it. I'd also stop reading when I found it and reject the manuscript. I refuse to work with someone who a) doesn't trust me; and b) thinks this is appropriate and professional behavior.

2. Most rejected manuscripts DON"T get read all the way through. Many, many times I can tell within the first couple of pages that it's not what I'm looking for. Why would I bother to read any more? I am looking for manuscripts to publish. I am not a free reading service.

3. Assuming I do read all or even most of the manuscript, does your friend think it stays all nice and neat in the box or envelope as I read it? No. I grab a chunk of papers and take it with me--to the doctor, parent-teacher conferences, running errands, etc. A $20 bill could easily fall out without my even noticing it.

4. He better make sure he includes a SASE for the return manuscript. If he doesn't, and I don't read far enough to find the money, the manuscript goes into the trash bin--$20 and all.

5. Has he never heard of things getting lost in the mail? Packages getting damaged and opened?

Tell your friend that his $20 would be far better spent on a subscription to Writers Digest magazine.


Running Hot and Cold

About a year ago I submitted a manuscript to a publisher who seemed very excited about it. They assigned me some rewrites and we agreed I'd work on them for the next 6 months or so and then resubmit the changes this fall. But when I contacted them about resubmitting, suddenly they're not so excited anymore. If fact, I think I was just politely told, "Thanks, but no thanks."

I don't understand what happened? If it was timing, why didn't they tell me they wanted it sooner? Now what do I do with this manuscript?

So many things can happen in six months. Maybe the market changed and sales for books that are similar to yours dropped. Maybe their competition published something that was just too similar to it. Maybe the person who was really behind your book left the company and the person replacing them is just lukewarm. Maybe there's someone new in the budgeting department and they've decided the numbers aren't right.

All of these things are out of your control--and you will probably never know which of these reasons apply to your situation. But one thing you do know: at some point, an editor or publisher really liked your work. That's the silver lining. So take a deep breath. Do your best imitation of Doris Day singing, "Que sera, sera." Then move on.

What do you do with your manuscript? Send it to another publisher.


Halloween Story Contest Winners

Comments only counted as a vote if they specifically stated a variation of "I vote for this one." Nice chatty comments without a clear vote indication did not count.

We have a two-way tie between
Entry #1 submitted by Ghost Writer
Entry #3 submitted by FHL.

If Ghost Writer and FHL want to identify themselves, feel free to do so--either in the comments trail, or let me know via e-mail the name you want posted and I'll update the posts.


Writing Prompt Calendar

After reading a comment from FHL, I've googled everything I can think of to find a page-a-day writing prompt calendar. I've come up empty handed. Hmmm...maybe I should publish one.

Let me know if anyone finds one. E-mail the URL address to me and I'll post it for everyone.

I was talking to a colleague about this. We both think it's an incredibly good idea. So FHL, and others, if someone were to create a writing prompt calendar with a prompt a day, which format would you prefer:

1. Traditional hang on the wall, month at a glance calendar, with a new prompt in each square. (There would be no room for writing appointments.)

2. A table top one day at a time calendar, like the vocabulary building ones (click on the "click for other item views" link under the image; then click on "Back Cover Image")

3. A day planner type bound calendar, with a writing prompt at the top instead of a quote.


How much are novel submissions censored to fit LDS "standards"? Do most publishers censor similar to Church magazines or are they more open to situations outside traditional LDS values?

Depends on the publishing company. Some are very circumspect in the topics and treatments that they will consider for publication. Others, though few in number, are willing to take on non-traditional treatments. You can easily tell which is which by a quick browse of their website or reading a few of the books they've previously published.

Also, for most LDS publishers, it's not so much a case of censoring what doesn't fit LDS standards, as promoting and selecting items which do fit those standards. I know that's a small distinction to those attempting to sell manuscripts which explore things outside the LDS box, but it's a distinction that is important to me.


Sending Multiple Submissions to a Publisher

Hi LDSPublisher,

A non-LDS publisher only accepts submissions during one month of the year. Is it acceptable to send them more than one manuscript? You've stated before that we should only submit one manuscript at a time to a specific publisher, but since this publisher only accepts during one month would it be acceptable to submit 2 different types of manuscripts?

Prolific Writer

The trouble with sending more than one submission to a company at the same time is that even if they like all of them, they are only going to publish one. They will pick one they like best, publish it, see how it sells--then want to see something new from you. If they've already seen the something new, it's going to feel old because it's been bouncing around in their subconcious for a year or more.

I strongly suggest you send only one manuscript, and send your best. If they like your writing, but the content doesn't hit the mark for them, they will ask if you have something else and give you some guidelines for what they're looking for. Then you can send something more tailored to what they're looking for.

Question for you: Which company only accepts manuscripts one month out of the year? It seems I've heard something about that before, but I just can't bring it to mind.

Halloween Contest

I only received 4 submissions and they are all posted. Since there are so few, only vote once.

To vote, type "I vote for this one" in the comments trail. You can elaborate on why you liked it if you want.

Halloween Contest #4

Q: Where does Jack Sparrow go for Halloween?

A: To the Scaribbean!

Wow, that was easy to keep under 500 words! =)

Halloween Contest #3

What am I doing here, alone in a corn maze?

I came with a couple of old friends who are trying to cheer me up. I've been in a dark mood for the past couple of weeks, since my girlfriend was killed. I thought that coming out here might lift my spirits.

It isn't working. Personally, I blame Devin, the new friend Chris and Sean had started hanging out with recently. I couldn't say exactly why, but there was something about him that made me uneasy. They brought him along on this trip and, instead of walking with me, the three of them are out lurking in the shadows trying to scare other corn walkers. Alone, I start thinking about the past.

Katie and her roommate were on their way home from the grocery store. No one knows why they pulled off the road on that stretch of deserted highway. Their bodies were found a short ways into the neighboring woods. Identification would have been difficult, if not for the car. The few details from Katie's family suggested the girls had been ravaged by bears, but they sounded skeptical. The Sheriff's Office continued to investigate, but hadn't come to any solid conclusions.

Looking around the cornfield, I wonder how far I could go without running into anyone else. And really, what would stop me from just picking a direction and going between the corn stalks until I emerge? I stare at the dark sky and wonder again why I'm here.

A short while later, Chris and Sean catch up to me and ask if I have seen Devin. Apparently, he had gone to retrieve something from the car and hadn't returned. Getting no response from me, they race back into the corn forest.

After a bit, I think I hear a low growl in the darkness. I know my mind must be playing tricks. I strain to hear more. I hear crashing stalks from behind me and another, louder growl. I can feel my heartbeat thudding in my neck as it races in fear. For just a moment, I wonder if my friends are playing a cruel prank on me, but then I see a pair of glowing eyes, much too close.

My first thought is to run, but I can't seem to break the connection with those menacing eyes. My mouth opens, but no sound comes out as if my breath decided to run when I didn't. I close my eyes and will this apparition, caused by my dark thoughts and lost sleep, to vanish. After a moment, I squint at the ground in front of me and see a pair of shaggy feet and … blue jeans above them? I look up and see Devin, wearing contact lenses and holding a baseball bat. I angrily get up and lunge at him when he swings the bat at me! My last thought before blacking out is that there's a realistic looking bear claw on the end of the bat…

Halloween Contest #2

The Ruthless Grave
by Melanie Goldmund

It was Halloween, and Jeannie was trying to get out of a grave. Not hers – she hoped it wouldn’t come to that – but the open grave she’d fallen into when she’d tried to take a shortcut across the old cemetary. She’d already tried to climb up, but it hadn’t worked, and she’d fallen back in. Now she spread her arms and legs to shimmy up the sides of the grave like she’d done with doorways when she was a kid. The grave, however, seemed wider than those doorways, and Jeannie could tell that middle-age and motherhood had taken its toll on her body. She put all her strength into one last effort, but finally had to drop back to the bottom.

“Blast it all,” she snarled, angry at her son, Kyle, who was responsible for Jeannie’s predicament. Just as dusk had fallen and the trick-or-treaters had started to come out, Jeannie had discovered that her stash of Halloween candy had been reduced to three empty bags.

“Oh, was that for Halloween?” Kyle had asked in mock innocence. “Ooops.”

To make things worse, Kyle had had to leave just then, and Jeannie hadn’t even had the chance to demand that he go to the store and replace what he’d eaten. Instead, with the rest of her family out at various places, she’d been forced to go herself.

At the store, the cashier had given her glow-in-the-dark mummy costume a double take, then grinned. “Thought you were my mother-in-law, come back to haunt me. She always insisted that I call her Mummy Dearest.”

Jeannie had still been in a good mood then, so she’d laughed at the pun. Now she wished she’d dressed up as Teddy from Arsenic and Old Lace, complete with shovel, so that she could dig her way to freedom. Resigned to using her fingers, she began to scratch out hand- and footholds.

She was still clawing at the first hole when there was a screech and a whump from behind her. Somebody else had fallen in! Straightening up, she turned around, but before she could speak, she heard a whisper of horror.


“Help me,” Jeannie started to say, but the person let out a scream that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up straight. The heavy breathing turned into panicked gasps, and there were scrabbling sounds as he literally went up the wall.

“Come back!” Jeannie shouted. “Don’t leave me here alone!”

But whoever it was had gone, and Jeannie was left to continue digging by herself.

The next evening, Jeannie read a story in the evening paper about a man who’d turned himself in to the police, asking for protection from his wife, whom he’d killed ten years before. He claimed that her ghost had lured him into an open grave and tried to drag him down to the underworld with her. Jeannie sat back with a shiver.

The man’s wife had been named Ruth.

Halloween Contest #1

Guilt. It consumed him.

He knew now he shouldn’t have done it but, at the time he wasn’t thinking.

Oh, some people would excuse his actions as a fit of passion but the fact was, he wanted to. He’d heard about people who’d done similar things. They showed it in movies and talked about it on the pages of books.He always wondered what it would be like. What it would feel like.

Now he knew exactly what it felt like.

It felt awful.

Worse, he knew his actions were even affecting his appearance. Some choices you just couldn’t hide, but he needed to try.

Carefully he washed his hands, then scoured the sink. That finished he moved through the rest of the house, cleaning up the evidence of his ‘fit’ before his wife and children returned home from trick-or-treating. He didn’t want them to find out. They’d be shocked, hurt, angered.

He could just imagine the looks on their faces.

How could he have done such a thing?

With his stomach in knots he gathered up the last of the proof and took it outside to the trash. Carefully he buried it beneath the dinner refuse.

Walking in the back door, he heard the front door open. Excited shouts filled the air. They were home early. Maybe, if he didn’t act different...

Forcing himself to face his family, he moved down the hall and past the bathroom. He turned to look at his disheveled reflection in the mirror and grant himself a moment of self-loathing. Then he saw, with horror, a hideous stain still on his face. Evidence! Frantic he darted to the sink, turned on the water and scrubbed at the tell-tale sign.

His wife appeared in the doorway. “Why did you turn off all the lights, dear? Trick-or-treaters won’t come if the house is dark.”

A princess bounded into the room, toting her crown and a bag of goodies. “We got so much candy, Daddy!” she exclaimed, and dumped it on the bathroom rug.

A vampire squeezed in next. “Yeah, it was great, Dad! We got JoJo Balls and Chocolate Bursts.” Dracula looked into his bag, taking inventory. “I even got six packages of Fruit Chews, some cinnamon gum and licorice sticks, only nobody had any Peanut Crunches.” His fangs and bloody makeup frowned, but only momentarily. With delight, he looked up at his father. “Where are our Peanut Crunches, Dad?”

The princess jumped up from her treasures. “Yeah! We bought three bags.”

Three bags? The number horrified him.

Had he really eaten all three bags?

Deep in his stomach, he felt the answer rumbling. He’d turned off the porch light, taken the entire bowl of Peanut Crunches to the living room, turned on a Halloween show and stayed there eating one after another until the bowl was filled with empty wrappers and chocolate and peanut crisps littered the couch and covered his fingers.

Candy. He’d consumed it all.


Halloween Contest Update

Time is running out to send something for the Halloween contest. I said I'd post the top 10, but I haven't received 10 yet. So pretty much, if you send it, it gets posted.

This does not have to be a major composition. And the 500 word count is the MAX. Minimum word count: 2.

We're not going for polish in this one. We're having fun. So send me a joke, a story, an essay. Everything goes.

Please Post Comments Here

I get some pretty good comments about this blog--but I don't always get them here. I get them in my e-mail. And it's really too bad because sometimes other readers could benefit (and my ego certainly would also) from seeing the comment. Case in point, the comment left on yesterday's blog by Rob Wells. Great link, great info.

When I get a comment in my e-mail, I will ask the sender if I can post them to the comments trail here. Frequently, I get no reply to that request.

I know it says in my blog info that I will repost e-mailed comments here anonymously, but I just don't have time. So please, if you want to make a comment about the blog, please, please, please do it in the comments trail.

(P.S. I read every single comment posted here.)


The Next Generation

I'm in high school. If I wanted to write a book someday, where would I start now?

1. Write something creative every day. This can be a journal, a blog, letters, stories, poems--anything, as long as you do it regularly and use your imagination.

2. Take any creative writing classes that your school or community offers. You may or may not learn how to write well there, but you will be "forced" to write creatively on a schedule. Also pay attention in your grammar and spelling lessons.

3. Read LOTS. While you read, pay attention to what works for you and what doesn't work. Does the dialog sound corny? Why? How would you write it differently? Does a character really intrigue you? What about the way the character was described really captivated you? Take notes. Then practice those techniques.

4. Write, write, write--wherever you can. Join the newspaper staff or set small writing goals for yourself. At Writers Digest, they have a daily writing prompt. Do those. Practice writing in different styles and genres.

5. Build a support group. Don't let anyone talk you out of writing. If your friends and family aren't supportive, then stop sharing your writing with them. Find a network of other writers who will support you and cheer you on. I like latterday authors and I think there are a couple of teenagers who post on that.

6. At some point, look at getting published. Local papers will sometimes publish columns from a teen perspective. Submit to magazines for teens. Read blogs and forums and books that talk about how to publish.

Most importantly, if you love to write, WRITE! Don't give up on your dream. And good luck.

Halloween Joke

This was sent for the contest, but I couldn't wait to post it.

Okay, here's a quick joke then:
Q: Where does Jack Sparrow go for Halloween?
A: To the Scaribbean!

Wow, that was easy to keep under 500 words! =)


Dead Publisher

I'm trying to decide what to be for Halloween. I was thinking Dead Publisher might be fun. White face, teased out hair with rotting leaves in it, broken horn-rimmed glasses, red pen behind the ear, elbow patched and moth-eaten sweater, a huge armful of papers and manuscripts...

No, too much like real life.


Today in My Life...

Some of you have asked for a description of my typical work day. I haven’t written about it because there isn’t one. Maybe that’s because I’m not a very well-organized person. Even though I’m highly attracted to the allure of structure and regimen, I rarely am able to live by it more than a few minutes.

But since I can’t think of anything to write about—and I currently have a dearth of questions from you guys—here goes.

Depending on what I’m doing, sometimes I go in to the office to work; sometimes I telecommute and work from home. Today is a work from home day, partly because I want to catch up on some query and manuscript reading. That’s easier to do at home, where I have easy access to hot chocolate and candy. Plus I can scrunch up on my couch and hang my head backward over the edge of the seat. This position sends plenty of blood to my brain, facilitating good solid literary analysis and encouraging hair growth.

7:00 a.m.—Start my work day. Check my e-mail to see if any of my authors have like, gone crazy or something over the weekend. No. Good. But I have 6 spam messages, a potential author checking on my progress in reading their manuscript, and a tirade from my daughter arguing about who was right: dooce or Kensington. Just as I’m about to hit send on my reply to both author and daughter, my internet goes down. Unplug and replug everything and messages go out. Then I take a kid to school.

8:00 a.m.—Go to open submissions file (Excel) where I track who sent what and when and all that, and I hit the Word icon instead. That’s okay, because I wrote some rejection letters over the weekend and I need to print them out and mail them anyway. However, instead of bringing up an empty document file, it brings up a file I backed up last time I used it. That’s weird. I click on the Open New icon and it brings up another copy of that same file. Again. And again. Uh-oh. Do I have a virus? Run my virus software while filing some contracts and organizing my desk. Nothing shows up. Can’t deal with this, so I’ll just ignore it.

9:00 a.m.—These aren’t the rejection letters I wrote last weekend. I think I mailed these already. Not sure. Now here’s a dilemma. Do I print and send and hope I didn’t do that already? (Note: If everyone sent a SASE, it would be easy to match them up and figure this out. Look at log. Neither of these authors sent a SASE.)

9:05 a.m.—Phone rings. Confirming an appointment later this week.

9:10 a.m.—Phone rings. An author who has been working on a new book for the past 6 years tells me they’ve decided they don’t want to finish it. They have lots of really good reasons. And lots of ideas of what they want to write instead. Whatever. Send me an e-mail.

9:30 a.m.—Leave for doctor’s appointment. The other reason I am working from home today. :(

11:30 a.m.—Back home. Okay, which item in this vast pile of slush do I need to look at next? Do a fast sort into “Rejections” and “Maybes”. Okay, ready to start…

11:45 a.m.—Phone rings. Another author: Where is my royalty check? Shouldn’t it have arrived by now? I really, really needed it by this weekend or… (Like I can just wave my magic wand and get it to them.) Okay, I’ll see what I can do. (Wish my mother had not ingrained courtesy and politeness so deeply into my psyche.)

Check in at the office. Checks are going out tomorrow. Get involved in some other conversations with office staff. Get sidetracked by a printing project that was supposed to be finished today and is not. Have no idea when they will be done.

That reminds me of another project I need to finish. Darn! Completely forgot about that one. Well, they aren’t on the phone yelling at me yet, so maybe I have some time.

1:45 p.m.—Author calls again: Have I found out about the royalty checks yet? Listen to financial woes. Wish I could tell them my own financial woes. Could match her toe to toe, and then some—I’ve got teenagers and kids in college and my husband is home from his job today because his car won’t start…

2:00 p.m.—Where is that reading pile? Now, where was I? Should I read first, or write more rejections? Drop my pen and bang my head on the desk picking it up. Throw pen across the room. Throw a couple of other things too, just for fun. What is wrong with me? Oh yeah, it’s way past lunch time. I tend to get cranky when my blood sugar is low.

2:45 p.m.—During my lunch break, my daughter called from the dentist’s office. She had to have a root canal this morning because she fell at work a few weeks ago and banged her mouth on the trash can. Turns out, the tooth died and is turning dark. That stress just sucked up all the sugar I had from lunch! And I’m out of candy.

3:00 p.m.—Phone rings. Another author: Do you have my press kit ready yet? And have you talked to XYZ Bookstore? Are they going to let me do a signing? And what about this conference on Saturday? (This is the first time she’s mentioned it to me) Are you going to be there? Are you going to have a booth and FEATURE ME? I try to explain that it will cost me $200 between booth rental and man hours to be at that conference and the chances of me selling more than two of her books is worse than the proverbial snowball’s. She’s mad.

3:41 p.m.—Teen-age daughter is home from school. Wants to borrow my copy of The Scarlet Letter because the school’s copy is falling apart. I have to check five bookcases before I find it.

3:45 p.m.—Pick up the packet that is on top of my stack of unread submissions, start reading.

3:47 p.m.—Phone rings. It’s the printer about that job that’s not done. What kind of paper did I want for the cover? (The same kind we’ve used the last four times we’ve had you print it!!!)

4:05 p.m.—Where was I. Oh yes, page 1, second paragraph.

4:11 p.m.—Phone rings. Another author. Proposing another book idea. Okay, let’s see…we’ve published one book by you. It’s doing okay. But I’d really like to see the other three proposals you’ve already run past me before you hit me with this fourth one. Yes, I know you’re creative. Yes, I know you have so many ideas you can’t sit still and work on any one of them. Fine. Whatever. Send me that proposal too—if you ever get it done.

4:25 p.m.—Page two, first paragraph. Good thing I read really fast. Too bad this one isn’t going to make it.

5:00 p.m.—Daughter drops by the house to show me her newly root-canalled tooth. She can see a difference between the lovely shade of off white of her still good front tooth and the lovely shade of off white of her now dead front tooth right next to it. I can’t. She turns on a light. Then another one. I still can’t see a difference. Daughter leaves to go back to college. I won’t see her again until December.

5:20 p.m.—Phone rings. Another author. Geez, I give up. Move the slush piles from my desk back to the cabinet while she’s talking. Finish filing the rest of the paperwork from earlier while she’s talking. Look at my calendar and update my To Do list while she’s talking. (If you’re wondering why I don’t just hang up, it’s because she’s my current best-seller and I’m listening to her worries about the book she’s working on now. Whatever it takes to get that next book.)

6:00 p.m.—Start writing this blog.

6:15 p.m.—Teen-age daughter walks into my office and with a dramatic sigh falls down in the doorway. She hasn't moved in the past 15 minutes. I think she’s trying to tell me that she needs some attention. Or that she likes The Scarlet Letter almost as much as I do.