Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Zarahemla Books: Edgy, but not Apostate, Part I

By Darvell Hunt

Part I: Who is Zarahemla Books?

I wanted to find out more about Zarahemla Books, so I purchased their entire catalog of available books. That maybe seem like an expensive endeavor, but it cost me less than $75 to do (see http://www.zarahemlabooks.com/). I’m looking forward to reading all six of them.

What is Zarahemla Books? Well, if you look at a list of LDS publishers, it’s probably going to be the last one on the list—and that’s not just because it starts with a Z.

Zarahemla Books is one of the most recent additions to the LDS publishing world. This week’s blog is part one of my coverage of this new LDS publishing company, in my quest to find out more about who they are and what they plan to do.

I recently conducted a short interview with Chris Bigelow, the founder of Zarahemla Books, and here's what he had to say:

Q: Why did you start Zarahemla Books?

Chris: Several reasons. One, I sensed that there's room for other Mormon publishing approaches between the extremes of Deseret and Signature. Two, the new technologies of digital printing and distribution make it doable on a smaller scale, in terms of money and effort required. Three, I was aware of several good manuscripts floating around that I wanted to publish. Four, I'm in a career midlife crisis and have been looking for more interesting, meaningful things to do.

Zarahemla Books focuses on edgy-but-not-apostate Mormon novels and memoirs for adult readers; we don't do historical, doctrinal, or children's books. We started about a year ago, and we've published six books so far; you can learn about them at
www.zarahemlabooks.com/main.sc.

Authors are welcome to query us at editor@zarahemlabooks.com. We respond fast on queries, and if we're interested we'll request that you e-mail part or all of the manuscript; we accept no submissions of any kind on paper. It will be a few months before we decide what to publish next year.

Q: Why do we need another LDS publisher?

Chris: Deseret and its clones don't take enough risks—if anything, they have gotten more conservative and limited in the past several years, as far as what stories they're willing to publish. On the other hand, Signature publishes some good stories, but they do only one or two novels a year, and they're known mostly as a skeptical academic press that focuses on history and doctrine, not as a source of faith-compatible entertainment.

I believe there's a middle ground of more adventurous, open-minded Mormon readers who might be willing to read franker, riskier, earthier stories that still leave room for faith. It would be healthy for our culture if publishers and bookstores started serving these readers more and helping this alternative market to grow, because a sizable minority of Mormons don't relate with the Deseret outlook on entertainment. I think we could do well with some well-written adult Mormon mysteries, science fiction, and horror, stuff that's fun to read and not so squeaky-clean and unrealistic.

Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals for Zarahemla Books?

Chris: Short term, I'm trying to sell enough books to replenish the checking account enough to keep publishing more books. I just came out with my three new books for 2007, and so far it looks like commercial prospects are better for this crop than for last year's crop, so that's encouraging.

I would like to continue doing at least three books a year, as long as my resources of time and money allow. I'd like to recoup my start-up investment and maybe even begin earning a little, which would help justify spending so much time and energy on it. Another goal is to sell over 1,000 copies of a single title—that would be a real accomplishment, in my book.

Look for next week's continuation of my exploration of Zarahemla Books, which is a commentary on why I think Zarahemla Books is a good idea.

(See here for Part II. See here for Part III.)

2 comments:

C. L. Beck said...

Good interview, Darvell. Thanks for posting it.

Lora said...

Thanks, Darvell. Zarahemla has gotten on my radar and I know other writers who are considering it. I think there's a place for it. I've read one of the books in their catalog and it was excellent.