Second Time Charm?

When you receive a manuscript from an author you've already published, does that manuscript go through the same process as unsolicited manuscripts? Do you give it special attention?
Basically the process is the same but it's faster. I know it's coming so when the book arrives, it goes to the top of my reading list. It doesn't have to wait its turn in the slush pile. The manuscript still has to be read by me, by our readers, and make its way through committee and that takes a certain amount of time, but hopefully, the author has learned from early experiences with us and knows the types of things we're going to have them change or fix. Theoretically, the editing, rewriting and committee process goes faster too. If the book is good and we accept it, we get it on the publishing schedule as soon as possible to take advantage of the previous book's momentum.

Is it harder or easier for a writer to have a second manuscript accepted?
It really depends on how well the first book sold. If the book sold as expected, it's easier because we know you and you're a hot commodity. If your first book didn't sell so well, there is a hesitancy to invest in something else by the same author unless it's significantly better or different.


Newly Posted LDS Fiction

This week's new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

The Celestial City by Chad Daybell

Time and Eternity by E.M. Tippets

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest.


Rejection at Committee

When a book makes it all the way to committee, and then is rejected, what are some of the factors that play into that rejection? (You may have already talked about this)

I have sort of talked about it here—see last paragraph.

Most often, it's a marketing issue—we don't think we can sell enough copies, for whatever reason, to meet our needed profitibility levels.


Most Annoying Author Activities

What are the most annoying things a writer does that get on the publisher's nerves?
THE #1 most annoying thing an author can do (both before and after they're accepted) is to disrespect my time. Examples (and yes, these have all happened multiple times with multiple people):
  • Insists on hand-delivering their unsolicited manuscript in a face-to-face visit with me in my office. (This doesn't get them out of the slushpile. It makes me think they're very needy and will require lots of hand-holding.)

  • Calls me weekly to ask about manuscript/book sale status. Won't leave message with receptionist. Calls multiple times in the day until they actually speak to me in person. Then next week, it starts all over again.

  • Refuses to use e-mail because it's inconvenient, doesn't know how, doesn't have Internet at home.

  • Doesn't read my e-mails, company info letters, etc. then calls to ask me the questions I just answered.

  • Doesn't respond to time sensitive messages.

  • Doesn't cash royalty checks in a timely manner—or loses checks and needs new ones. (I really don't get this one at all but it happens frequently with some authors.)

  • Moves, changes phone numbers or e-mail addresses without telling me so I can't contact them.

  • Sends me things that my website CLEARLY states we don't/won't publish.

The second big thing that annoys me is when their actions (or lack thereof) make it more difficult to sell their books:
  • Misses deadlines.

  • Refuses to participate in even the most basic of marketing and promotional events.

  • Goes on vacation without telling me so I have no chance to set up a book signing.

  • Does speaking engagements, firesides, teaches workshops, etc. without telling me (so I can provide books to sell) and doesn't take business cards, flyers, or even mention their book.

  • Creates really ugly/unprofessional promotional materials with our contact info and distributes them without permission/approval.

  • Contacts booksellers directly and acts in unprofessional manner.


What's Age Got to Do With It?

How old do you have to be to submit a book to a publisher?
Old enough to write a good book.

When evaluating your manuscript, we don't care how old you are as long as both the story and the writing are good. However, once the manuscript is accepted, if your age is outside the norm (under 20 or over 80), we'll certainly use that as a promotional factor.

Here are just a few titles written by teenagers that you might recognize:
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, age 19

  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton, age 16

  • Eragon, Christopher Paolini, started writing at age 15, published at 19

  • Seventeenth Summer, Maureen Daly, age 17

  • Black Stallion, Walter Farley, age 15

More titles here.


Advantages of an LDS Publisher

What are the advantages of going with an LDS publisher vs. a national publisher?

First, if your book has LDS references in it, an LDS publisher is going to be more open to that than your average national publisher, so your chance of getting it accepted increases.

If your book is specifically targeted to an LDS audience, an LDS publisher is going to hit that target market on the head. They advertise straight to that market so every dollar spent is hitting your intended reader. A good portion of a national publisher's marketing dollar (assuming they pick up your manuscript in the first place) would be "wasted" on uninterested readers.

There's the reader trust factor. Readers who specifically want books with LDS content are going to look first for books published by an LDS publisher. They trust those publishers to provide content they are comfortable with, whereas a national publisher might slip in language or scenes that make them uncomfortable.

A sense of LDS community and loyalty is also a big deal. Some LDS readers will read/purchase books by LDS authors/publishers simply because they want to encourage LDS authors. I have to admit that I read Shannon Hale for the first time solely based on the fact that someone told me she was LDS.


Newly Posted LDS Fiction

This week's new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

The Prairie Prince by Marcia Lynn McClure

Upon Eagle's Light by Clover Autrey

Last Wish: Passage of Promise by Tom Roulstone

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest.


Top Three Genres

I have a question that might be interesting and useful to answer. Recently Candace Salima hosted a survey on her blog about what types of LDS fiction readers like most. She said that Historical Fiction came in as #1. Is there anyway to find out what are the top three best-selling genres in LDS fiction? If there is, why do you personally think the are ranked that way?

Love the blog!
Thank you.

Unfortunately, there's no industry aggregate that collects and publishes those numbers for us. Each publishing company is going to have a slightly different take, depending on the quality of their genre, authors, marketing, promotions, etc. If we could get DB retail sales numbers, that would give us the best overall idea but they're not giving those numbers to me. (If anyone from DB wants to jump in here and answer this question for me, go right ahead.)

Here goes my best guess.

If we're looking at LDS publishing companies selling to an LDS market (leave Shadow Mountain out of the equation for now), the top three genres are historicals, romance, and suspense. I'd put historicals in first place because that's where we're seeing the blockbuster series titles: Work and the Glory, Children of Promise, Out of Jerusalem, Faith of Our Fathers, etc. My guess is romance is second because you have highly recognizable names like Anita Stansfield and Rachel Nunes. Suspense comes in third simply because there is less of it.

If you add in Shadow Mountain (DBs national imprint), Middle Grade/YA fantasy is going to knock suspense out of the top three, but I'm not sure where fantasy would rank when compared with historical and romance. They might be selling enough that it would take first place. Anyone know for sure?


Sponsoring the Blogs—A Comparison

I've had a few authors ask me recently what the difference is between being a sponsor here on the LDS Publisher blog vs sponsoring on the LDS Fiction blog. Some wonder if they aren't hitting the same audience and wouldn't it be more advantageous to sponsor on one blog vs the other.

Here is a summary of both blogs, what they're for, and the exposure you can expect if you sponsor on one or the other, or both.

Focus/Purpose of Blogs:
The LDS Publisher blog (this one you're reading right now) helps authors in their journey toward publication. Writers ask questions and I answer them. Blog readers post comments about the questions and my answers, share experiences, offer advice, and sometimes argue with me in a polite and respectful way.

The LDS Fiction blog (click this link to see) promotes published LDS fiction. It helps readers of LDS fiction find new titles and hopefully, gives them an idea of what's good and what's not before they plunk down their money. We (there are two of us that work on the fiction blog) search the web and other resources to find newly released fiction written by LDS authors and create a post for each title. When time permits, we create posts for older LDS fiction titles—particularly if they are part of a series that has a new release or if they sponsor the blog.

Books that can Sponsor:
For both the LDS Publisher blog and the LDS Fiction blog, books must be written by LDS authors. Titles can be published by LDS publishers, national publishers, or self-published, but they need to be actual paper books, not e-books. Books must also be in print and available for purchase somewhere online (a bookstore or through your personal website or blog).

A particular title, one book, is featured as sponsor of the blogs, not an author's group of works.

The LDS Fiction blog only accepts fiction books for sponsorship. They can be new releases or older.

The LDS Publisher blog also accepts non-fiction books for sponsorship and prefers newer releases as a way to help the authors promote their new books.

Your book can sponsor both blogs, but the same book cannot be on both blogs at the same time.

Sponsor Promo:
Sponsors on the LDS Publisher blog get a shared bio page that features them as a writer, as well as the sponsoring book. They also get their book cover in the sidebar for the full month. Both bio page and sidebar images link to online stores where blog readers can purchase the book. They also have a link to the author's website or personal blog. The message to the reader is: I'm a writer, here I am, and this is one of my books, go buy it.

Sponsors on the LDS Fiction blog get a Prize Time post that features their book. They also get their book cover in the sidebar for the week. We will be changing the format of the Prize Time post starting next week to include a teaser about the book and a link to a full post on the blog. Both Prize Time post and sidebar images link to online stores where blog readers can purchase the book. They also have a link to the author's website or personal blog. The message to the reader is: This is a really cool book, go buy it.

Both blogs have openings for sponsors now.

Sponsor Duties:
For both blogs, the sponsor sends an e-mail stating interest in sponsoring, including the title of the book they want to feature, link to their website or blog, link to where the book can be purchased online, link or attached book cover image (300 px). For LDS Publisher blog sponsorship, I also need a link or attached author photo (300 px) and author bio.

When the contest is over, the author ships a copy of the book to the winner (US and Canada only).

Prize Eligibilty:
On the LDS Publisher blog, commenters are entered in a random drawing at the end of the month.

On the LDS Fiction blog, blog readers must comment on the Prize Time post. Currently commenters must be participants in the Summer Book Trek. After the Trek is over, any blog reader will be eligible for the prize.

Winners must have a ship-to address in the US or Canada, or be willing to pay shipping costs.

The LDS Publisher blog is targeted to writers. The readership here is interested mostly in writing and publishing, although they also read books and support their fellow writers by purchasing books.

The LDS Fiction blog is targeted to readers. Blog readers are interested in finding new LDS titles that they can read and/or purchase. They rate the books and leave comments about books they've read.

There is some cross-over in blog readership, but it's not 100%. While many of the LDS Publisher blog readers are also interested in the LDS Fiction blog, as a way to stay current with who is publishing what, many of the LDS Fiction readers have no interest whatsoever in writing or publishing.

LDS Publisher blog Average Daily Unique Visitor: 70
LDS Publisher blog Average Daily Page Load: 103
LDS Publisher blog Recent Daily High for Unique Visitors: 104
LDS Publisher blog Recent Daily High Page Load: 156

LDS Fiction blog Average Daily Unique Visitor: 56
LDS Fiction blog Average Daily Page Load: 109
LDS Fiction blog Recent Daily High for Unique Visitors: 79
LDS Fiction blog Recent Daily High Page Load: 168

As you can see by the averages, the LDS Fiction blog visitor spends more time looking around.

While it took LDS Publisher quite some time to build up to these levels, the LDS Fiction blog zoomed up to these rates (and is climbing daily), thanks to the Summer Book Trek (which if you're not signed up to do, please go check it out. It really is easy and you can win a book).

In my opinion, although sponsors get a full month on LDS Publisher vs a week on LDS Fiction, exposure levels to people who go out and actually buy the books is close to the same for both sites. It might actually be a little higher on the LDS Fiction site because you're also getting list and review links from Summer Book Trek participant blogs.


Self-Editing Errors

What are some of the most common mistakes authors make when they edit themselves? What should we be watching for as we read through our work?

All authors have their own pet words and phrases that they use much to often. They are so familiar to you that you can't see them when you read your own work. Keep a list of those words and do a find/change or find/delete before you submit.

Same with –ly words. I'm not one of those who think they should never be used but most of the time you can reword it more strongly. (ha)

As a writer, you're describing what you see and hear in your head. You already know what is going to happen and how. As a reader, they will be taking their cues from your words. They won't know the scene until you paint it for them. You know your character and story so well that you miss the gaps. So will people who know you, like family and close friends. This is why you need other people to read your manuscript.

Spelling and grammar. If you consistently misspell a word, or make a particular grammar error, you may not realize it's wrong. Use your spell checker and grammar checker, if your software has one. (They may not always be correct, but chances are they'll be right more often than wrong.)


Define Speculative Fiction

What exactly do you mean when you say "speculative fiction"? Are science fiction and fantasy both covered under that umbrella?
Yes. Anything that is not realistic, as in, it couldn't happen in this world. It includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic, supernatural, super heroes, alternate histories, etc.

Also, if someone wrote an adult speculative fiction book for the general market, would an LDS publisher even consider publishing it? (I'm thinking kind of along the lines of Fablehaven and Leven Thumps, where the books were published by an LDS publisher, but are still known nationally.)
Yes. At least, I'd hope they would.


Cover Design: Finding the Appeal

With so many people in the world having different tastes, how do cover designers arrive at covers that they feel will appeal to the most people?

Art and design, like genre trends, go in and out of fashion. A good designer keeps current on what is hot and what is not, and hopefully creates a cover that is on the leading edge of coolness. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.

A publishing house will generally have a designer do several mock-ups in varying styles, then run those mock-ups by a group of employees—the idea being that the cover with the most appeal to the staff will also have the most appeal to the general public. Again, sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.


Where Do I Find an LDS Editor?

I have recently completed my first fiction novel. I have looked at the entries in your blog under editing, and the second posting talks about the how and why of editing, but not the where. Would you mind sending me a link or two of where I might find a good (free or paid) LDS editor? I would like to get the manuscript in a nice, clean state before submitting it to LDS publishers. I had thought of just finding an editor of any kind, but I would prefer somebody who understands LDS doctrine pretty well because of the content of the book.
I am really happy to see that you recognize the need for an editor. All authors should have their mss edited by someone with experience before they submit.

Free editing can often be found through writers groups. Sometimes you can trade editing with another member of the group who has some professional experience.

While I know of several excellent LDS editors who do freelance work, I do not feel comfortable recommending any in this type of forum. However, I'm happy to let them recommend themselves. If any readers offer freelance editing services, please post contact information or links to your blogs or websites in the comments section.


Appropriate Use of Writer's Conferences

I've read your previous posts about writer's conferences and I wonder if you would be willing to go into more detail about how to use attendance at conferences wisely. I will be attending the 6-7-8 Conference this weekend and have time scheduled with their manuscript acquisitions editor but now I'm panicked about how to use it. The conference info doesn't state specifically what an author should bring or how to use that time. All I have is half of a growing manuscript so it doesn't seem appropriate to bring a query letter and first chapter. I had planned to use that time to find out about this company's interest in my genre, i.e. what they're looking for and what trends they see in the LDS market for it. Is this an appropriate and professional use of this time?

The reason an editor attends a conference is to look for books they'd like to publish, not to be interviewed by authors. While you may use some of this time to talk about trends in the market and more specifically what they're looking for, you should already know through your own research if they publish in your genre.

White the editor would be hoping for polished and finished manuscripts, it's okay that yours is not finished. Go ahead and use this time to pitch your idea to the editor. If he/she is interested, that would certainly be inspiration to you to finish your book. If they're not interested, due to subject matter or genre, then you could ask what specifically they are looking for.


Is There a Whitney Bump Yet?

I like the idea of recognizing and rewarding excellence in LDS fiction with the Whitney awards. It's been just over two months since the first awards were given, and I was wondering if you had heard, either through anecdotes or statistics, if the nominees and winners have seen an increase in interest and sales. Just curious.

I hadn't heard, so I contacted Chris Bigelow at Zarahemla Books and asked him your question. Here is his reply.

While Zarahemla Books published the first-ever Whitney Novel of the Year winner, Coke Newell's autobiographical memoir ON THE ROAD TO HEAVEN, you probably shouldn't judge the Whitneys based on our results. As a new, small publisher trying to carve out a more risky
market niche, we don't have much bookstore distribution yet, and many Mormon readers seem to be hesitant about buying books published by an edgy upstart. So far, our total sales on Newell's book are in the mid-hundreds and the measurable Whitney impact has been in the dozens. Even in the bookstore at the Whitney gala dinner, only five out of ten copies of Coke's book sold.

However, Newell and Zarahemla did get some good attention and recognition due to the award, more from bloggers than from the mainstream media. I think giving Newell this award was a good start for the Whitneys to demonstrate that all LDS fiction titles have an equal chance to win. I'm sure the Whitneys will continue to grow in stature and influence, but I don't know if either Zarahemla or the Whitneys did enough post-award promotion, including to the LDS
bookstores. I would love to hear what other Whitney-winning publishers and authors have experienced and how they have followed up on winning the award.

Chris Bigelow
Publisher, Zarahemla Books

I'd also love to hear if other publishers/authors who won a Whitney noticed an increase in sales or recognition after the award. Please post your experiences in the comments section.


Newly Released LDS Fiction

This week's new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

A Merger...or Marriage?
by RaeAnne Thayne

Trust Me by Brenda Novak

Mended Hearts by Connie Angeline

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest.


What would I like to see more of?

What would you like to see more of in the LDS book market? Less of?
I think the market is heavy on romance. It's not that I'd like to see less of it, but I'd like to see more of other genres to help balance it out.

We also have an upsurge of speculative fiction for youth. IMHO, you can't have too much of that, but I'd like to see more for adults—something other than last days stories.

I'd also like to see more in YA and realistic fiction. (See this post. And sorry, Josi, I typo-ed your name in that post but I fixed it.)


Formatting Options

Hard back, trade paper, and audio book seem to be the options for a new title (I'm assuming ebooks are straightforward to produce once the text is ready for publication). While there may be historic (or policy) reasons for favoring one format over the others, in an ideal world without up-front production costs you would presumably make a new title available in all three formats to give more readers what they want. Since the world isn't ideal, I'm interested in the trade-offs between formats and how you weigh them for a new title. I can understand if you're reluctant to discuss concrete numbers, but perhaps you could compare and contrast formats in relative terms.
Well, yes. If there were no up-front production costs, we'd offer every title in hardback, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and large print. But no one has invented a replicator yet, so that's not feasible.

Forget the mass market format (4x6), unless it's a children's book. We don't print enough copies at a time to justify this size for most books. Generally, we go with trade paper (6x9) if we expect fewer to average sales, hard cover if we expect better than average sales. The bigger companies offer audio formats right off; smaller companies only do audio for really good sellers.

You can read about these trade-offs in more depth here.


LDSPs Summer Book Trek

I read a lot of books for my work. I don't suppose I could just put Manuscript #1, Manuscript #2, etc. on my list, could I? No. I suppose not.

Since I'm involved in several projects right now that are leaving me little time for reading for fun, I'm only going to list 3 titles. If I can get to more, I will. They are:

1. Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson (because someone just gave me this book as a gift)

2. Traitor by Sandra Grey (because it has the most comments over on the LDS Fiction blog)

3. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (because everyone else will be reading it and I want to be in the loop)


Summer Book Trek 2008

My associate, who gets overly excited about lots of things, decided to host a summer reading challenge over on the LDS Fiction blog.

I hope ALL of you will go over there and join in on the fun. I plan to participate, but I'm going to have to take a day or two to select my reading list.

For details, start here.

Don't have a blog? Not a problem. She's made arrangements for you to use hers.

May 2008 Comment Contest Winners

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

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

Fool Me Twice

by Stephanie Black

Winner: Melanie Goldmund

Commenting on Summer Story: Lock, Stock and Arrow

The Moms' Club Diaries

by Allyson Condie

Winner: TC

Commenting on Summer Story: Bus Tickets and Blood Tests

The Topaz

by Jennie Hansen

Winner: Betsy

Commenting on Judging LDS Authors by LDS Standards

To claim your prize, you must e-mail your mailing address to me by Friday, June 6, 2008.

(Unclaimed prizes will be up for grabs on Monday, June 9th.)

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