Yesterday I received an email from my publishers attaching the cover of my forthcoming book. I'm quite delighted with it, and excited to see and hold the final product. It's my fourth LDS book, in that the main characters in it are LDS and it's being published by an LDS publisher primarily for the LDS market.
Recently I was asked why I write for the Mormon market rather than writing books which might appeal to a wider national - and international - readership. If I'm honest, the reason I initially started writing for the LDS market was because I was hoping to get a foot-in-the-door with "real" publishers and that national market.
My problem was this: If you write a novel and send it to a publisher, or an agent, the chances are they won't even read it. Almost certainly they will simply reply with a standard rejection letter. Various journalists have tested this theory by sending in the text of Booker Prize winning novels or literary classics, only to have them rejected by the oblivious acqusitions editor.
For a new writer, it's extremely difficult to get published because you don't get taken seriously. You're a new commodity, an unknown, and even as the market was in 1998 (when I started writing seriously), publishers are very wary of investing in unknowns.
My theory was that if I could get a book or two published in the fairly small, niche and friendly LDS market then I could send my Magnum Opus to a "real" publisher or agent with a covering letter explaining how both my previous books had been bestsellers in their genre (I would probably fail to mention that that genre was religious fiction) and I had received armfuls of accolades and floods of fan mail. Maybe then they'd take me seriously enough to actually read my manuscript.
In 2002 the time was right. Both my books had made the Deseret Book top ten, and I had received accolades and fanmail. It was the ideal time for me to make my assault on the "real" publishers.
And yet I then wrote four more manuscripts for the LDS market, Easterfield (published 2008), Honeymoon Heist (due February 2011) Christmas at Haven, and Landscape in Oils (under consideration). Why? Had I had a crisis of confidence? Abandoned my ambition?
It wasn't even a conscious decision, I think. Looking back, I suspect I just found I liked the LDS market and felt comfortable writing the sort of thing my established fans wanted to read. Maybe I recognised that whatever talent I had was God-given and I owed Him a little more back before I exploited it for personal glory.
Perhaps too, I realised that I couldn't write certain explicit scenes which are expected in the national market. I take the view that intimate behaviour should always remain private between the (married) couple concerned, even when that couple is fictional, and I refuse to write anything I wouldn't want my children, or my parents, to read. Most mainstream books (at least in the genre of women's fiction) are expected to be peppered with the type of scenes I would class as literary pornography.
I also believe that LDS literature is as good as anything in the national market. In Stephanie Black, Kerry Blair, Robison Wells, Chris Heimerdinger and many others (such as the ladies who share this blog), the LDS market can hold its head high and I am proud to be associated with it and share shelf space with such talent. Stephenie Meyer, the most successful author since JK Rowling, is LDS.
LDS publishers are also as good as - even better than - the bigger publishing houses which market to the public at large. All my previous books have been beautifully produced and professionally distributed, and the editors have been approachable and pleasant to work with.
The LDS fiction market is an exciting place to be right now. Jennie Hansen wrote an excellent article on how it has changed in recent years (http://www.meridianmagazine.com/article/6230?ac=1) and it continues to develop with LDS publishers now looking to break into the general market with clean, quality literature which is moral but not religious. I want to be part of that.
I haven't forgotten my ambition. I am currently writing a fantasy novel which I will market to UK agents in due course. But I love the LDS market and an happy and proud to be part of it.