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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

To Market To Market

I have a question about the LDS market, or actually, I would like it to be an educational discussion, so please add your opinion as a comment.

My question: What kind (in general) of books are the average LDS fiction readers and/or fiction publishers looking for?

My answer: In the past, I've turned to the LDS market because there is sleaze and untruth in my preferred genres, and I want books that fit my general interest but are "clean." You know, kind of like the "Candace Salima, Mormon Nora Roberts" idea. So, to me, I consider the competition for LDS books to be the National Market, not necessarily other LDS writers.

But lately, I've begun to wonder if this simplified understanding is incorrect. Do readers, and especially publishers, see LDS books as their own genre with specific rules and formats?

What do you think?


C. L. Beck said...

You've asked an excellent question. I don't have an answer, only opinions formed by getting rejections and looking at what does get published.

It seems to me the LDS market has very specific, unwritten rules. To be acceptable a book has to be not only sleaze-free, but also strongly LDS in tone. Gospel principles are not just adhered to, but mentioned through out the book. And certain societal issues--abortion, abuse, etc., have to be handled carefully.

The only aspects of the national market that I see as direct competition for the LDS market is the Christian market, and possibly the children's/YA market.

Dem's my thoughts, anyway. :)

Danyelle F. said...

As a reader, I turned to the LDS market for two reasons - 1. I LOVE romance novels. Can't get enough of them. But there are very few in the national market that I don't have to flip several pages during certain scenes. 2. Even in the Christian national market, I was turned off of certain authors' books. They were too preachy about a certain religion or too generic. Or I felt like their characters were "too perfect" or even bland.

Now, I've found many of the same faults from #2 in the LDS market. But not as often now as I did, say about five years ago. Publishers seem to be pulling away from the "perfect mormon girl" to more real life women in real life situations. Which is what I want to read and also see as a trend in the market.

My one complaint is that I wish there was a bit more zing in the kissy scenes. It seems like the LDS publishers want those scenes to be down played. But in reality, when you're in love and the boy kisses you - man, you're feeling all tingly and giddy. Any girl who isn't needs to reconsider who she's dating or marrying! :)

I would love to see Heather Justesen get published. I love her kissy scenes. They're clean, but very zingy.

I also adore books filled with humor. Life is stressful enough. When I read, even about tough life circumstances, I want to be able to laugh occasionally as well. Life is much more bearable when laughter is involved - so I want to see that in the books I read, too.

Rachelle said...

Hmmm, great discussion. I love to read. I think that for me, LDS books, are actually in another genre. I don't really put them on the same level as other national books that I read, not only because of quality but mainly because of what they are about. There are plenty of great LDS books that I've read but that just have a whole different tone to them compared to other books in their same genre in the national market. If I'm in the mood for a great mystery, I love an Agatha Christie novel. A great LDS author with good mystery books is Clair Poulsen. His books are well-written, but are in the LDS genre which means the plot doesn't usually have as many twists and turns as others I've read.
I agree with Danyelle that there has been much improvement over the last few years and I feel that as that trend continues, more LDS books will stand up in comparison to national books. I love to read books for entertainment, but I also love the ones that keep me thinking about them for days after I've finished reading them. Books like, "The Secret Life of Bees" or "Poisonwood Bible" in the National Market have affected me that way. I think Josi Kilpack is one of the few authors I've read in the LDS market who really knows how to cover some tough emotional issues and I've thought a lot about "Sheep's clothing" and "Unsung Lullaby" written by her. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I still think most people consider LDS books in their own section within a section of the bookstore. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Very interesting topic for discussion. It does make me a little sad that LDS fiction seems to have its own subgenre. I sometimes get the message that people don't expect as much out of our market because it's LDS. I don't see a reason in the world why we shouldn't push ourselves harder and be as good as Barbara Kingsolver and Sue Monk Kidd (only hopefully we're not chopping up our fingers and sleeping with monks to accomplish it) What troubles me is that whenever an LDS author really tries to excel along those lines, their books don't sell in this market. The buyers want genre fiction, not literary fiction. But then other readers get mad when everything seems to be written according to a formula. Well, if you want to sell in this market, you have to write what's selling. Simple as that.

Okay, I'm rambling. Let me try to encapsulate my points. Writing for the LDS market doesn't mean you should ever stop learning and growing as an author. We shouldn't accept mediocrity from ourselves just because we're a small market. And readers should allow themselves to experience more and explore more. They might like what they find.

F. Mathew VonStieff said...

I think that there should be a clarification on what is LDS market. ALthough LDS are Christians, maybe if a story is LDS standards, these are Christian standards. So if a book has Christian standards, one should call this maybe family friendly or christian standards. When I hear LDS I am thinking I am going to be reading a story that is going to talk about missions or priesthood, relief society, etc. Or maybe something like what Tristie writes about. I think that there should be some kind of clarification here. Is there?

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

The only clarification I can give is that LDS market books tend to be about LDS people dealing with life and all the problems that go with it, within the framework of the publisher's accepted topics, but they are not about the Church's organization. In my opinion, you're right about it being more Christian/family friendly, but they do not seem to fit the "Christian" market.

Josi said...

Interesting discussion, Ronda. I think that LDS books are mostly seen as their own genre, we have yet to 'impress' anyone that would categorize us on equal playing field with national books but it's hard to figure out if that's due to prejudice from non-LDS people or if we LDS writers are to blame for not matching the standards of writing in the national market. I find personally that many LDS books don't match the writing style I prefer, and so I read more national than I did a few years ago. I'm impressed with the direction LDS fiction is going and I hope that one day it will be on the same plain (plane?) as national books but I think we have a ways to go--both as readers, writers and publishers. The very sad fact to me is that most people published outside of the LDS market see those of us published here as not as talented and capable as they are. I'm not sure how to change that other than putting really really great books out there and proving that we can do just what you say here--write great books, but with a cleaner storyline.

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