The LDS Best Seller List

The national market has the NYT Best Seller list to acknowledge fiction titles that are selling like hotcakes. The LDS market has no equivalent. (The LDSBA used to do a Top Ten list, but they don't anymore.)

While I can't really reproduce an NYT type best selling list [because 1) publishers aren't going to easily divulge that info to me, and 2) I don't have time to collect it], with your help we can create a cumulative best-seller list.

Although copies sold is more often an indicator of marketing than quality, if a book sells over 10,000 copies, that's saying something. While good books may be overlooked because they weren't promoted effectively, a bad book can only get so far on hype.

With that in mind, we'd like to acknowledge top selling LDS fiction over on the LDS Fiction blog. For these purposes, LDS fiction is defined as books published for the LDS market by LDS publishers.

We have four categories we'd like to recognize:

Bronze—sold 10,000 copies* or more.

Silver—sold 25,000 copies* or more.

Gold—sold 50,000 copies* or more.

Platinum—sold 100,000 copies* or more.

If you are the publisher or the author of an LDS fiction title that has hit any of these sales levels and is still in print, please e-mail the following info: Title, Author, Publisher, Release Date.

*All combined printings and formats for the title, books and CD sales.

Electronic Submissions

I notice that more and more publishers are starting to accept electronic submissions from new authors. Do you think the days of paper and postage will soon be a thing of the past?
Maybe. I personally think all queries should be done electronically. Saves time, money and desk space. Full manuscripts are a different story. They are hard to read on a computer screen, causes headache and eyestrain. There's also the issue of computer viruses. It seems that no matter how good my virus protector is, I still get those nasty things—and sometimes I get them from author submissions. For those reasons, I think some publishers will continue to ask for paper submissions.

I haven't tried it, but I've heard that the Kindle is easy on the eyes and that you can easily convert documents to read on that. That could be a solution for the eyestrain. Anyone tried it?


Basic Submission Package

If the guidelines don't specify what's expected in a submission package, what is the norm?
This is what I like to see and it would probably satisfy most publishers who don't specify what they want.
  • Query letter—1 page

  • Outline/synopsis—a chapter by chapter breakdown of the basic plot line; 2 to 3 sentences per chapter. And yes, I want the ending.

  • First three chapters

  • SASE (I actually prefer to reply by e-mail but some publishers prefer the letter)
You can read more details here.


LDS Advances

How common are advances in the LDS publishing world? And how is an advance calculated?

LDS advances are less common than in the national market. Some publishers never give them, others give them according to their own set of criteria. Some only give advances after the first book. I can't give you exact numbers. We usually offer an advance in the three digits. Sneer away, but it's all we can realistically offer.

Some publishers have a standard advance they offer based on the type of book—fiction might get $X while non-fiction gets $Y. Others offer an advance based on the number of books they expect to sell in the first few months. This is all guess-work on the part of the publisher because the advance goes into the contract before they get pre-orders and reviews back.


The Quality of LDS Fiction by Jeff Savage (Guest Blog)

Comments on a recent post complained about the quality of mainstream LDS novels. While one author in particular was mentioned, I would tend to believe that in general the feeling of the commenter was that the quality of novels by most mainstream Mormon authors was substandard, and not worthy of his/her book club. First of all, let me say that this is in no way a new or isolated sentiment. I just came back from a writers conference where another author said in all sincerity, “But Covenant authors aren’t very good are they?” My answer was pretty straightforward. “Some are. Some aren’t.”

In order for this discussion to have any validity, we must first differentiate between two very disparate measuring sticks. You and I may read the same book and while you may love it, I may despise it, or visa versa. Many readers think Levi Paterson is the greatest thing since ziplock bags. Yet Scott Card, speaking at the LTUE conference last weekend, specifically pointed out Patterson as a writer he had very little respect for. There is nothing wrong with this at all. But what we are discussing is “taste,” not good or bad writing.

The phrase, “There is no accounting for tastes” hits the nail on the head. We can measure sales numbers. We can measure awards. We can even measure satisfaction of readers through book ratings. But what we can’t measure is whose tastes are better. Is the taste of the woman who adores sushi better than the guy who buys a Big Mac on his way home from work? Well, in this case, yes it is. I just can’t prove it.

But that’s the thing with tastes. Mainstream Mormon novels typically can sell 5-10 thousand copies or more. People who hate these novels would say the people who buy these books have no or poor taste in books. But I suspect that if you had those same readers who are complaining offer the books they like to the 5-10 thousand people who buy LDS novels, they wouldn’t like them any better. That being the case, we must come to the conclusion that taste is so personal, it really has no place in the discussion, other than to agree that everyone likes what they like.

Quality of work, however, is another matter entirely. Here we can be a little more objective. I recently read a self-published book that was quite highly acclaimed. I liked the story, but I constantly found myself pulled out by typos, grammatical error, abrupt POV changes, and other issues that most authors, and many readers, would consider bad writing. While the author might say I was being nitpicky, I consider technical mistakes to be bad writing. Multiple POVs is a question of taste right up to the point where the reader has to backtrack to figure who is talking. Then it becomes bad writing. Clearly this book was not as well edited as it should have been.

So who is to blame for bad editing? The easy answer is the publisher. But here again, we have to take a look at the resources available to the author and or editor. Let’s say you attended the Sundance film festival. There you viewed a number of independent films. Would you complain that the films produced on a budget of often less than ten thousand dollars should have the same quality of music, sound editing, camera work, and special effects as the blockbusters? Or would you look for the quality of the script and recognize the story despite the somewhat cheaper quality of the sound?

For the most part, LDS publishers operate under the same constraints as any small regional publisher. They have a limited cover budget, limited editing staff (and time), and limited money to pay their authors. You can no more compare their work to the latest James Patterson novel than you could compare $50 million special effects to the guy creating an explosion on his home computer. That does not by any stretch of the imagination make the stories any less quality though. If that were the case, Sundance would not exist.

You could rightfully assume that the publishers who have the biggest budgets would have a bigger pool of authors to choose from. That should mean that the bigger the publisher, the better the quality of writing, correct? I mean, after all, Grisham isn’t going to suddenly move to a publisher who can only afford to pay him a $500 advance. But even that logic has flaws.

By this reasoning, JK Rowling should stink. Her first print run was 500 copies. This logic would say that Richard Dutcher is a much worse director than the guy whoever directed Blades of Glory. What we find is that there are many reasons why a good author may publish with a small press.

Another issue often brought up is the topics of mainstream LDS books. I hear comments like, “I’m sorry. I just can’t stomach another book where a perfect Molly Mormon girl converts a supposed bad boy, whose worst sin is that he sleeps in late. I want books with issues.” Let me just say for the record that people who make these kinds of comments have not browsed the fiction section of an LDS bookstore in the last ten or more years. I say that with 100% confidence, because LDS fiction deals with virtually any topic you can imagine.

Lastly, let’s look at the author and book that was specifically mentioned. Betsy Brannon Green writes cozies. She’s published tons of them, and in my opinion she does them very well. People solve mysteries in a small town. People have faith promoting experiences. Yes, people check to see if the other person is wearing garments. That’s what her books are. And the truth of the matter is that they are very typical of the small town Mormons she is portraying. They are what her readers expect and want when they buy her books. If you didn’t want this type of story, why in the world did you buy the book? Haven’t you ever heard of checking the synopsis?

It’s like a bunch of Stephen King fans (of which I am one) ripping an Agatha Christie novel because there aren’t enough walking dead. A cozy mystery is like putting together a puzzle. It is safe, fun, and a little challenging. It is not meant to be literary. Scott Card hit the nail on the head when he said that genre fiction features the story as the hero and literary fiction features the author as the hero. If Betsy Brannon Greene wrote like Alice Sebold, it would ruin her stories, not enhance them. Because now the reader would be concentrating on the words, not the story.

LDS fiction is what it is. Are there authors that have not mastered their craft? That use too many clich├ęs, infodump, include too much back story, and all the other things that pull readers out of the book? Of course there are. Just like there are with every other publisher in the world. Including the big boys. But to say that LDS fiction is inferior to what you read is ignorant, short sighted, and clearly shows that you have not read enough of the works out there to make an informed decision.

That’s why the Whiney Awards were instituted. So people could choose the genre they like and read what LDS readers, publisher, and booksellers, have deemed the best of the best. Nationally published books are nominated, books by big LDS publishers are nominated, and books by smaller and newer LDS publishers are included. And in this case, brand new LDS authors like Michele Holmes are competing head to head with megasellers like Stephenie Meyer. May the best book win.

Jeffrey S Savage is the author of four LDS novels including Cutting Edge, Into the Fire, and the Shandra Covington mysteries. He also has a national YA fantasy series coming out this year called Farworld, under the pen name of J Scott Savage. He blogs at sixldswriters.blogspot.com and jscottsavage.blogspot.com


LDS Agents

Say there was someone silly enough to work for chicken feed, and they decided to become an agent for LDS authors in the LDS market. What are the odds that the publishers would work with them?

Standard agenting fees are 15% of royalties (paid by the author), so unless you were really, really good at picking winners, it really would be chicken feed.

Would the publishers work with you? I don't know. It depends on whether they see you as an unpaid asset that will help them find the better manuscripts, or as a pain in the side who is going to insist on contract changes they don't want to allow.

I would be open to agents. I know some other smaller publishers who would. But I've also heard through industry gossip (so who knows if it's true or not) that some publishers flat out refuse to work with anyone who uses an agent, unless they're an author already established in the national market.

But assuming publishers are open to working with agents, there are two key stumbling blocks you have to overcome:

1. Convincing the publisher that your submissions are better than what's coming in the slush and that working with you is easier than working directly with the author.

2. Convincing the author that you have a better chance at getting them accepted than they have on their own, and that you can get them a better deal than they can get on their own.

Good luck.


Tips from Kristen Nelson

I get the newsletter from the Nelson Literary Agency and frequently read her blog. It's always got good info and I recommend it to all writers who intend to publish someday.

Her February newsletter there was an article from her assistant, Sara, that talked about issues surrounding e-mailing queries. (Scroll down to the cream part.) I thought it was very good and I've had the same issues.

Other recent posts on Kristen's blog that I think you should check out:

New Rules for Promotion (about websites) which links to this post, also about websites

YA Top 25 (things they see too often in YA submissions)

Daily Digest Reading
(a list of recommended reading for those who are serious about publishing in a national market)


How I'm Getting Filthy Rich Off Gullible Authors

What is the average printing cost of a copy of a typical $15.95 LDS fiction book?
I always hesitate to answer questions like this because:
  1. I'm not privy to the numbers for any publishing company other than the one I work for,

  2. Some of my colleagues are gonna' be ticked that I'm giving out this info; and

  3. I imagine this question is being asked by an author who thinks they're getting ripped off based on the measly royalty they're getting and the limited marketing/promotional budget their book has been given. And that many of my readers feel/think just like him/her and are going to yell at me in the comments section and via e-mail and threaten to smack me in the face because I've reduced their heart and soul to "product" status.
But I personally believe that there is some merit in full disclosure, so I'm going to reveal all the dirty secrets of the LDS publishing industry and once and for all admit that we're getting filthy rich off the backs of you poor, gullible and naive authors. (I hope everyone caught the thick sarcasm there.)

So the answer is:

It depends on the number of books you print at a time, the number of pages in the book, the type of cover (matte, glossy, embossed, etc.), whether you print here in the U.S. or overseas, the relationship you have with your printer (for example, if you'll be printing 10+ titles with them in one year vs printing 1 title with them), whether you use a standard press or a print on demand, shipping costs, etc.

Here's a scenario with a title from our company. For us, this is fairly typical of a new author's first fiction book.

Price: $13.95; 2500 copies, 6x9 trade paperback, 224 pages, 4-color flat gloss cover, printed within 100 miles of the warehouse, on a standard press = $1.40 per book.

Now BEFORE YOU GO ALL CRAZY because you just did the math and it's completely unfair that the author is only getting $1.12 per book (8% royalty) while we're raking in a big fat $11.43 per book in profit, you have to figure in a few more things. The true cost of the book is not just the printing, you know.

Print run: $3500
Editing: $500
Typesetting: $900
Cover Design: $500
Pre-release promo: $650
Initial Marketing/Promo: $2000
Total $8050
Per book cost: $3.22

Now, here's how you use those numbers:
$13.95 (Retail) — $3.22 (initial cost) — $5.86 (avg 42% Wholesale Price) — $1.12 (Royalty) = $3.75 gross profit per book.

Out of that $3.75 per book, we still have to cover all our internal expenses and overhead such as rent, phones, staff, etc., etc. This particular book did not sell through its initial printing so we lost money. (We generally do not make money unless we go into a second printing within the first year of release.)

Now, these numbers are going to vary between publishers. The big two (which are now one) have the benefit of company name recognition (both with bookstores and individual readers) AND guaranteed access to the LDS market through their websites and shelf space in their retail stores. They also have the benefit of what we call "economy of scale" which is the more you do, the cheaper you can do it.

Smaller publishers have a much harder time just getting their product to market. They have to take the financial risk with no guarantee that they'll be able to get their books on the DB/Seagull shelves or even on the DB website. And let's face it, if your book is not there, 90+% of the LDS buying public will not even know that it exists.

The costs to the really small publisher is even higher. There are a few that I know of that use a print on demand service and their printing costs could be as high as $6.00 per title—which means if they do any marketing at all they're going in the hole.

You may be thinking now, how do any of the smaller publishers stay in business? The answer is, a lot of them don't. That's why you see a lot of come and go LDS publishers. The ones that do stick around are ones who are able to get their books on the DB/Seagull shelves and who have titles that sell upwards of 6000 copies in the first year—or their fiction is a labor of love subsidized by their non-fiction titles.


Query vs Cover Letter

What's the difference between a query and a cover letter?
For most practical purposes, they're the same but with a little twist.

In a query, you're asking if you may submit your manuscript. The query letter includes info about your book: genre, word count, a brief description of the plot and the request to submit the manuscript. Depending on the publisher's submission guidelines, the query letter may be accompanied by an outline/synopsis and the first few pages/chapters—or it may be a stand-alone submitted all by its lonesome self. (More posts about querying.)

You use a cover letter after the publisher/agent has agreed to read your manuscript. It goes on top of the hard copy manuscript when you mail it or in the body of the e-mail to which your manuscript is attached. The cover letter includes info about your book: genre, word count, a brief description of the plot and a thank you for reading the manuscript.


Rejection Ratio

What's the percentage of rejections to acceptances at your company each month or year?
We accept less than 10% of submissions. That rate has been fairly constant.

Most of our rejections are due to the quality of writing or inappropriate subject matter for our company.

If there are other publishers reading this and would like to chime in with their rejection rates, please do. You can be anonymous, if you like.


What's Lacking in the LDS Market

What kind of a book would you like to see someone write? What's lacking in the LDS market?
What I'd like to see and what will sell well are sometimes two different things.

Personally, I'd like to see more realistic YA that deals with some of the tough things in life from an LDS perspective, offering the youth positive models for dealing with challenges. NOT the pat-Primary answers for things, but reality.

I'd like to see the same thing in adult fiction, like what Josi Kilpack did in Sheep's_Clothing. Tough topic, handled well.

Overall, I'd like to see more of everything—fiction for children, teens, adults, in every genre, but well written and high quality.


Blogger Award

Tristi gave me the Make My Day award.

Thank you.

Now I'm supposed to give this award to ten people. This is hard because in my guise as LDS Publisher, I confess, I do not visit anyone's blog on a daily basis, or on any regular basis. (Personally, I visit a lot of you who have commented here. But that's not relevant to this post.)

I've decided to give this award to the 10 bloggers who have commented here the most*—because your comments make my day, and they are also helpful to other readers.

Rebecca Talley

Tristi Pinkston (yes, I know she just gave it to me. Sue me.)


Melanie Goldmund



Marsha Ward

Paul West

Janet Jensen


Andi Sherwood

*Some people have commented more than the people on this list, but they don't have a blog. Others with blogs haven't commented as often.

Now, don't you wish you 1) had a blog? and 2) commented more often?

(I expect to see a HUGE jump in comments this next week...)

Pitching a Non-Fiction Series

I am doing a pitch at the Storymakers conference for a non-fiction teaching series I am working on. Currently, it's mapped out to be a four book series. Do I tell the publisher this upfront or pitch the first book, then tell them it's part of a series?

Pitching non-fiction is a little different than pitching fiction. In this case, yes, tell the publisher that you would like to do a series but be brief in the details on the other three books unless they ask for more. (Brief = "I see this as a four book series, book one covers ABC, book two covers DEF, ... Here is my proposal for book one ...")

Concentrate on book one because if you don't sell that one, the rest of the series is moot.


Blog Book Tours

Do you think a blog book tour is a good idea?

On a virtual/blog book tour, an author "visits" a different blog/website each day for several weeks. It's best to have it coincide with the release of your book, but any time in the first three months would be okay. Here's how you do it:
  • Tell your publisher that you want to do this. They may have some good ideas or be willing to provide comp copies of the book or offer prizes for contests.

  • Research various blogs that you feel would be a good match for your book. Look for blogs that talk about books in your genre and that get a fair amount of traffic. Determining traffic is sometimes difficult but a good indication of a blog's popularity is the number of comments on their posts. The more comments, the more traffic. (But take a peek at the comments to make sure they're made by individuals, and not a conversation between the blogger and one reader.)

  • Contact the bloggers 6 weeks ahead of the tour to see if they're willing to participate. Get a tentative commitment from them but give them an out if they don't like your book.

  • Send the bloggers a copy of your book. (You publisher may or may not be willing to supply the books. If they won't, then you must. It's hard to do a good virtual visit if the blogger hasn't read your book.)

  • Contact the bloggers two to three weeks later to see how they liked your book and to set a date for visiting their blog. Make it clear that this is a serious promotional tour and you will be doing cross-promotion on your blog, so they will need to commit to posting your visit on their assigned date. (If they didn't like your book, this would be the time to exclude them from your tour.)

  • Discuss possibilities with the blogger and decide what you will "do" during your visit to their site. Ideas: book review by blogger, blogger interviews you or one of your characters, you write a guest post for their blog, contests with prizes (your book) for their readers, online chat or live web-conferencing, real-time discussion board, recorded telephone or video interview, or anything else you and the blogger can come up with that will provide interesting content for them and positive exposure for you. (Some of these can/must be done ahead of time. Schedule them with enough lead time that they will be finished and ready by post date.)

  • Schedule the dates of the different events to provide a variety of activities for groupies readers who follow you from site to site. For example, if three bloggers want to do interviews, spread them several days apart. Also, try to arrange for some variety in the questions they ask you.

  • List the dates and places of your visits with links on your blog and/or website (example here). If a blog, put them in the sidebar, in a static post at the top of your posts, or on a tab or link where it's easy to find and won't get lost among all your other posts. Start announcing your tour dates and stops 2 to 4 weeks ahead of the tour.

  • Encourage the blogger to advertise your visit (with links to your blog/website) in their sidebar two weeks ahead time.

  • Post on your blog about each visit the day before you go, talk positively about the blogger you'll be visiting, and describe what you'll be doing with excitement and energy. Provide links to the blog.

  • The day of the visit, go to the blog and provide the interaction you have agreed upon with the blogger. Put your best self forward—be positive, friendly, supportive, kind, and all that other stuff. If it's not a real-time activity, leave a comment on the post thanking the blogger.

  • Post positively about the visit the day after. (Even if it was a horrible experience, put a positive spin on it.) Thank the blogger in your post and provide another link to them.

  • Send a personal thank you to each blogger after you visit them.

  • When the tour is over, assess the results. You may not immediately see a jump in book sales, but you should see an increase in your blog/website hits. Make a note of the bloggers who were the easiest to work with and who provided the most hits back to your blog. You'll want to work with them again in the future.

Readers—If you've done a virtual book tour, let us know how it went. What did you do that worked really well? What didn't work so well? What would you do differently? Feel free to post links in your comments.

P.S. While I was googling "virtual book tours", I found the Book Tour site. If you're doing a real-life tour, you can list your events here. When someone visits the site, it lists the events in their area. Cool.


Nice to Meet You. I Hated Your Book.

I had another post scheduled for today, but this question came in this morning and I had to bump it to the front of the line. (The line of questions, btw, which is getting shorter and needs to be pumped up by you dear readers...)

I have recently begun reading more LDS fiction, and I have found some works that I really enjoyed. I look forward to meeting the authors and sharing my appreciation in person.

However, I have also started several books that have been thrown across the room in frustration and then abandoned. I wonder just what I should do when given the chance to meet one of these authors. Do I avoid them? Pretend I've never read their book? Lie about my opinion? Or just present them with the brutal truth?

You must certainly find yourself in similar situations on occasion. How do YOU handle them?
You have no idea how often I find myself in these situations because I socialize with many authors and publishers, and I am really, really picky with fiction. Plus, being an editor by trade, my eye picks out all the mistakes. I can't stop myself. Even in mostly perfect books, I find things I would do differently (ergo, "better"). So I try to avoid that conversation entirely and when a friend asks, I say, "Well, you know me. I don't like anything..."

This is really tough. Especially if they are one of the better selling LDS authors who churn out title after title and actually make money for their publisher. Apparently someone (many someones) is reading and enjoying their work so they're not going to listen to anything I say.

However, over the years I've found many diplomatic ways to say positive things without lying about my true opinions. Things like, "I'm so glad for you, that your books are selling well..." or "You've got a great cover on that book..." or "What an interesting concept. Books that address that topic are really needed in the market..." 99% of the time, that suffices. And it's also true.

If pushed for an opinion, which I rarely am, I tell them that I can't really offer an opinion on books published by my competition, as that is a conflict of interest. You may not have that as a out but there are any number of ways you can answer that question diplomatically. Simply smiling and nodding works well in a group situation. I never, ever, ever would give anything but superficial comments to an author in a public situation.

On the rare occasion, if an author approaches me privately and assures me they want my honest opinion, I will give it to them. I start small, with typos and things like that. If they respond maturely, then I move on to plot holes. If that goes well, then I give them the dirt, no holds barred—but I also point out the things they did well.

On the other hand, if I'm doing a book review, then I feel an obligation to the reader, the person who will be spending their cash on a book. Then I tell the honest truth, pulling no punches. But that, too, can be done in a kind and respectful way.


Plot or Character?

Which kinds of books do you prefer: character-driven or plot-driven?

Depends on the type of book you're writing. You can find examples of both in every genre; every book needs both solid characters and an interesting plot. If I had to choose, I go for the character because I need to care what happens to them.


"24 Hours to Win Unclaimed Prizes" Winners

The winners of the 24 Hours to Win Unclaimed Prizes!! contest are:

Revenge of the Cheerleaders by Janette Rallison — Stephanie Black

Dead on Arrival by Jeff Savage — Marcia Mickleson

To claim your prize, you must e-mail your mailing address to me by Friday, February 8, 2008.


February 2008 Sponsors

Please take a moment to learn more about our wonderfully generous sponsors.

Ghost of a Chance by Kerri Blair

True love is like a ghost. Many people believe in both, but few find either.

Samantha Shade has been hired to find out if there is something more than rats and feral cats haunting the crumbling San Rafael Mission, home of Father Rodriguez's impoverished flock. But soon, the donut-addicted rookie private investigator is sidetracked by a series of murders occurring within the parish — and by the bookish, yet attractive, police detective leading the investigation.

Several young men are found executed in the same gruesome manner — and each is discovered with a marigold between his lips. The clues all seem to lead to someone at the San Rafael Mission. Who could be responsible? Soon Samantha comes all too close to the answer as she is led through the crypts below San Rafael's cemetery on a journey that could only end on the Day of the Dead.

Kerry Blair wrote her first novel when she was eight years old and promised herself that she would do it again when she "grew up." She makes her home in West Jordan, Utah, with her husband, Gary, and four children.

Kerry says, "I’d always said I wanted to be an author when I grew up—and forty is pretty darn grown up by anybody’s standards. The Heart Has Its Reasons was released in 1999 and I’ve since published seven-and-a-half more books (one was a collaboration) and been included in a compilation of inspirational essays for mothers. I’ve edged from LDS romance into romantic mystery into murder-mystery-with-romantic-overtones into romantic comedy into the new Nightshade series – books one reviewer said is what you’d expect 'if you watched Buffy join CSI on the Romance Channel.'"

Hunting Gideon by Jessica Draper

Tracking hackers and crackers for the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center looks like a vivid video game to an outsider, but the outcome of the play is deadly serious. Through her online feline avatar, Sekhmet, Sue Anne Jones stalks the V-Net, the ultimate virtual-reality interface, in pursuit of evil in all its online forms. Her partner, ex-cracker Loren Hunter, provides cynical commentary along with his expertise in the V-Net's shadier alleys.

Their days of busting routine identity thieves and insidious corporate spies end when they get a new assignment: Hunt down a cyber-terrorist calling himself Gideon, who has infiltrated the financial system, rerouted supply lines, and murdered the supervisor of an automated factory. Now Gideon is sending taunting messages, quoting scripture, and warning Sue that she must join his crusade or suffer—along with the rest of the virtual world—when he takes total control of the V-Net.

Jessica Draper is the author of the Last Days adventure trilogy: Seventh Seal, Rising Storm, and Final Hour. A bibliophile and wannabe librarian, she landed unexpectedly in the wired world. After several years of writing software documentation—which sometimes qualifies as speculative fiction—she left the tech industry to become an instructional designer creating multimedia courseware. Her latest novel Hunting Gideon and its upcoming prequel, Dancing with Eddie D'Eath, represent additional forays into a not-so-distant future, simultaneously fantastic and believable.

Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood by Douglas Thayer

In the days before sunscreen, soccer practice, MTV, and Amber Alerts, boys roamed freely in the American West—fishing, hunting, hiking, pausing to skinny-dip in river or pond. Douglas Thayer was such a boy, and in this poignant, often humorous memoir, he depicts his Utah Valley boyhood during the Great Depression and World War II.

Known in some circles as a Mormon Hemingway, Thayer has created a richly detailed work that shares cultural DNA with Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and William Golding's Lord of the Flies. His narrative at once prosaic and poetic, Thayer captures nostalgia for a simpler time, along with boyhood's universal yearnings, pleasures, and mysteries.

Douglas Thayer teaches English at Brigham Young University, where he has served as director of composition, chair of creative writing, associate department chair, and associate dean. He has received various awards for his fiction, including the Karl G. Maeser Creative Arts Award. He is the author of the novels Summer Fire and The Conversion of Jeff Williams and two collections of short stories, Mr. Wahlquist in Yellowstone and Under the Cottonwoods and Other Mormon Stories, and he has been published in Colorado Quarterly, Dialogue, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.

January 2008 Comment Contest Winners

Here are the winners of the January Comment Contest, randomly selected from the comments made during the month of January.

Thanks again to our sponsors. Please take a moment to read their bio info here.

Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers

by C.S. Bezas

Winner: Rebecca Talley

Commenting on January 2008 Sponsors

Reasonable Doubt

by Marcia Mickelson

Winner: Marsha Ward

Commenting on Author Branding and Platforms

Staying in Tune

by Carmen Rasmusen

Winner: Don

Commenting on Straight or Not

To claim your prize, you must e-mail your mailing address to me by Friday, February 8, 2008.

(This is a change in the rules for the comment contests. Unclaimed prizes will be up for grabs on Monday, February 11th.)

Click here to learn how you can win a copy of one of our sponsoring books.

24 Hours to Win Unclaimed Prizes!!

Two of the winners from the December Comments Contest failed to claim their prizes. So they're now up for grabs.

We have Revenge of the Cheerleaders by Janette Rallison and Dead on Arrival by Jeff Savage.

To win one of these books:
  1. You must live in the US or Canada.

  2. Leave a comment on this post within the next 24 hours (before Feb. 2, 11:45 a.m. by the time stamp on the comment).

  3. I will post the winner on Monday.

  4. Send me your mailing address by Friday, Feb 8th

  5. If I don't get your mailing address by Friday, I will award the books to my friends, family, neighbors, or whoever I do have an address for.

  6. Comments on this post are not eligible for the February Comment Contest.