Friday, September 14, 2007

Zarahemla Books: Edgy, but not Apostate, Part II

By Darvell Hunt

Part II: Why a new LDS publisher?

As you may remember from my last blog entry, I posted a brief interview with Chris Bigelow of Zarahemla Books. See here.

Now that you’ve heard from Chris, I want to tell you what I think, specifically concentrating one of the questions that I asked Chris, which was: “Why do we need another LDS publisher?”

Now, before I continue, keep in mind that these are my own observations, and what I’m saying may or may not be representative of what the guys at Zarahemla Books believe. It seems to me, though, that there are more LDS readers who read mainstream fiction than LDS readers who read LDS-specific fiction, or novels published by LDS publishers.

Why is that, do you think? Why don’t LDS readers read LDS books? I believe there are two reasons for this. First, there are more mainstream books available than LDS books, and secondly, that many LDS readers believe that books published by LDS publishers are shallow, sappy, or just too much like attending sacrament meeting.

That’s not to say that material that could be read from the pulpit in sacrament meeting is not good material. The “big LDS publishers” are, in fact, producing some very good books nowadays. The quality of LDS books, particularly fiction, has been increasing over the past few years, and I think that’s great.

Even so, there are some books that the common LDS publishers will not publish—books that I think should be published. If more LDS readers are reading mainstream fiction than LDS fiction, there must be room for LDS material that is not currently being published. Books that fit into that category, I believe, are what Zarahemla Books wants to publish.

To be fair, I should also ask: “Why are people reading LDS fiction?” Again, I think there are two main reasons. First, LDS readers want to read “safe fiction.” Take, for example, my wife, who likes to read quality mainstream romance. Some of the stuff she reads from the mainstream market offends her, so it’s natural for her to look to the LDS market for books that she considers “safe.” Secondly, LDS people like to read about LDS people and their experiences. LDS fiction seems “closer to home” than mainstream fiction.

The problem is, as I see it, that there is plenty of material that LDS readers want to read, that is not necessarily appropriate to be read from the pulpit, but yet deals with issues many LDS people see every day, or at least issues they want to read about. Nobody has been publishing these types of stories.

Think about some of your favorite mainstream fiction books. Could Deseret Book publish them? Why or not why? If Deseret Book could not publish them, does that mean that you shouldn’t be reading them? In some cases, yes, perhaps, but certainly not in all cases.

If there is demand for something that is not currently available, a window of opportunity is created. Zarahemla Books has seen that opportunity and is trying to fill that void with good quality books that LDS people want to read. And, in my opinion, they are doing an excellent job doing just that.

See part III of this discussion next week for why I think LDS authors should write material to submit to Zarahemla Books.

See here for Part I. See here for Part III.)

1 comment:

C. L. Beck said...

Good thoughts and well put, Darvell!