Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wow

This was posted today on KSL.com. I wish I had some interesting insight, but I just found out.


(KSL News) Deseret Book has bought Seagull Book and Tape and Covenant Communications. The merger became final just before 5 o'clock.

A news release states that Lew Kofford, founder of both Seagull and Covenant initiated the deal and will no longer be part of the management team.

Deseret Book has no plans to close any Seagull Book stores and says all existing relationships with authors of both companies will remain.

CEO Sheri Dew says Seagull Book will remain an LDS discount book retailer and Covenant will continue as one of the largest publishers of Latter Day Saint nonfiction, fiction, games, and gifts.


37 Comments:

At 12/28/2006 10:50 PM, Blogger Michael A. Cleverly said...

I think it would be more accurate to say that Deseret Book initiated things by unilaterally cutting off Seagull's access to Deseret Book products at wholesale.

 
At 12/29/2006 1:35 AM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

I suspected something like this when DB gave Segull an extension until August. Then I compared the catalogs before and the the ones printed after the first announcement. there has been less fiction in the DB catalogs. I have been waiting for something like this but I am saddened that there won't be any room for Independents. Will this hurt the small publishers?

 
At 12/29/2006 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yipee! Don't know if it will be better or worse for consumers, but for LDS authors a new day is dawning without publishing agreements written in the dark ages! Yipeee!

 
At 12/29/2006 2:54 AM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

My favorite line is where they say that DB and Seagull will continue to work independently of each other. How do you work independently of your boss? If somebody owns you, don't you kind of depend on them, just a little?

And since they are 'independent', does that mean I can still no longer submit manuscripts to DB? Or now that they are owned by one and the same, does that mean I can only submit to DB and Seagull?

I thought about calling my editor at 6:00 tonight, after I heard the news. But then I realized it would be more dramatic to call her at 2:00 AM and have a break down. Maybe some tears, a little whimpering...

 
At 12/29/2006 8:49 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

The Salt Lake Tribune has a more detailed story.

 
At 12/29/2006 9:43 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I feel like I don't know enough about the LDS industry to know what this means, so can't really comment. Like everyone else, I'll be interested in seeing how this all plays out.

 
At 12/29/2006 10:49 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I just talked to Melissa at Covenant. She said they're putting together a list of questions for a Q&A letter to the authors. If any of you have questions, send them to me and I'll pass them on.

Email me.

 
At 12/29/2006 10:50 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

So, that email link didn't work. My address is: robisonwells at msn.com.

 
At 12/29/2006 12:04 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

There's a lengthy article in the Deseret News this morning too. I think all of us who write for Covenant will be holding our breaths to see what happens. I can see both good (broader support and sales in DB stores) and bad (I'd hate to go back to a beginners' one-size-fits-all contract)coming out of this. There could be funny moments too . . . what if former Covenant authors who made life miserable for all of us have to go back to Covenant? Bookcraft was supposed to be DB's fiction line--never really happened. What if DB tries that concept again with Covenant. It could also mean that doctrinal Covenant writers may finally get the respect they deserve. Good or bad, the next year is certainly looking to be interesting. Covenant writers could certainly benefit from DB's superior online sales program.

 
At 12/29/2006 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But what would this mean for aspiring authors? Will there be much of a difference for those still trying to get their work published?

 
At 12/29/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Anonymous, I think I can conclusively say: no one knows yet. They haven't even announced the structure of the companies yet.

My guess? Things will get tighter. Yeah, they got tighter last year too, but I think the market is still a little oversaturated, and it'll take a while to correct.

 
At 12/29/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Based on private conversations I and others have had with DB and Covenant, I think this will be a very positive thing for readders and authors.

Obviously things will need to shake out, but heres the word from the top:

DB will not make Covenant an imprint. Covenant will continues to be run as a separate publisher with its own unique strengths.

Seagull stores will remain open as a unique sales channel.

Shelf space should improve for both authors in both stores and marketing should also improve.

DB is very happy with how things have been run at Covenant and do not intend to shake things up.

Don't know about any contract changes.

This should be good news for existing authors and newbies alike.

 
At 12/29/2006 3:56 PM, Blogger FHL said...

So, um, what sort of impact can we expect for freelance editors? =)

 
At 12/29/2006 4:04 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

FHL, the latest I've heard is that Covenant has no plans to cut staff. It's business-as-usual, at least for now.

 
At 12/29/2006 8:27 PM, Anonymous John Dehlin said...

I'm interested in doing a podcast on this topic--preferably w/ LDS writers. I'd like to strike while the iron is hot.

If anyone is interested, please email me ASAP. mormonstories@gmail.com

Thanks.

 
At 12/29/2006 10:41 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

Ok I'm confused. Here is the question that is on my mind, It seems to me that it will be more difficult for those who publish with smaller publishers. Robinson, you mentioned a market saturation, are you implying there should be less authors therefore less submittals?

 
At 12/29/2006 11:31 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

The oversaturation came in the last couple of years, when LDS fiction really took off. In Andrew Hall's year in review of LDS Fiction (posted on the AML list in Feb 2006), he cited these number for total LDS fiction titles released:

2000: 50
2001: 52
2002: 66
2003: 82
2004: 118
2005: 104

As you can see, the market increased by more than 100% in less than five years, peaking in 2004. It was at that point that publishers realized that the growth might have been too fast, and that it wasn't good for the market.

In 2005 several publishers, mine included, reevaluated their fiction strategies. One of the problems they found was that there were simply too many new authors for anyone to have much name recognition. There were suddenly dozens of authors who had one or two published novels, and there was no way for them to garner much of a devoted fan base; it left new authors--often from the same publisher--fighting each other for readers. It wasn't helping the authors or the publishers financially.

So, long answer to a short question. Yes, the market was definitely oversaturated, and both Covenant and Deseret Book seriously reined back on number of manuscripts they'd accept, even going so far as to reject previously published authors. There was even a rumor (I don't know if it's true, but I heard it from several sources) that there was a several-month period around summer 2005 when DB stopped accepting any fiction manuscripts at all.

 
At 12/30/2006 10:16 AM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

I tried to post an eloquent comment and it ended up in cyberspace. I doubt I will be able to recapture what I said but,

Now I know what happened to the manuscript I sent at that time.

Thanks for showing me the numbers. the numbers strengthen my belief in a devinely directed media blitz with new writers emerging everyday to spread the gospel.

I understand your point but that is discouraging for unpublished writers. the writing on the wall indicates that if you are already published and if you publish with DB or Covenant then you will be OK. but if you are not published or if your publisher is not DB or Covenant then sorry.

Of course that would be consistant with DB's practice of eliminating the competition.

Of course time will tell. I want to be on the DB band wagon. who do I talk to about being included in the club?

Well I tried to capture what I said before and as expected, It didn't come out right. In other words status quo for me.

 
At 12/30/2006 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every publisher is looking for a masterpiece. And if not a masterpiece a work that is new, fresh, interesting, inspiring, and breaks out out of the box and into the realm of new. When you're talking market saturation you're talking too many romances, too many mysteries, too many historical fiction series, too many westerns, too many Emma and Joseph novels, too many revolutionary war novels, too many picture books, too many Book of Mormon fiction books. But you can never saturate the market with a masterpiece. You can never have too many fresh, interesting, break-the-mold, gosh darn captivating stories, told well and written with a professional touch. Something that is not a copy cat borrowed from the inventiveness of another already published author, something that is not ANOTHER fictionalzed church history or ANOTHER fictionalized revolutionary war, or ANOTHER LDS Romance, or ANOTHER fictionalized Book of Mormon saga---something new, something fresh, or something that inspires from a new perspective will get you a membership in the DB club faster than you can say bestseller. Something that provokes readers to think in a different way, that makes them say WOW. Something that makes them want to tell their friends about this really cool book. Submit a manuscript like that and all the perceived barriers you once thought were keeping you out, will disappear. Your manuscript will become a published book and you will be on the "inside". Find your inventiveness. Find your creative muse. Improve your professionalism. Master dialogue and exposition and narration. Do that and Deseret Book will be knocking on your door.

 
At 12/30/2006 12:46 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

Find your creative muse. Improve your professionalism. Master dialogue and exposition and narration. Do that and Deseret Book will be knocking on your door.
thanks for the pep talk but you left out something . . . find a way to get it off the slush pile.

 
At 12/30/2006 1:20 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Keith,

A word of advice. 90% or more of all submissions to publishers are crap. So if 1,000 submissions get sent in to the slush pile, you are only competing with 100 or less. And when the editor actually gets to something good, it's such a relief they give it a more than fair chance.

As far as being unique and standing out, Anon, it's not the genre that needs to be different, it's the voice and quality.

There is always room for a great new mystery/romance/thriller/Church History. After all, those are exactly what sell in the LDS market. If you write a SciFi where The Holy Ghost is actually a computer, it will definitely stand out, but it probably won't get picked up, cause SciFi doesn’t sell well in the LDS market. (So go after the national market with it.)

To key to success is two words. Great writing. If you can't write great, either write for self satisfaction or learn to write great or find what else you are great at.

If you can write great, come up with an engaging storyline in the genres that sell well in your market, and you will make it out of the slush pile.

 
At 12/30/2006 3:30 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I don't know, Jeff. I think maybe there's a little pixie dust -- or something -- involved in getting published. I don't write great (as anonymous up there will tell you; too many adjectives for one thing :-) but Covenant took my 1st book and hasn't given up on me yet.

W. Somerset Maugham said that there are three keys to writing a great book. Then he added, "Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are." I suspect that is true of publishing books as well.

The one thing I DO know from lots and lots of painful experience is that discouragement will get you absolutely nowhere. Keep writing. Keep submitting -- even if it seems hopeless -- and someone, somehow, somewhere, someday will come along with that pixie dust.

I really believe that.

 
At 12/30/2006 3:56 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

You know Kerry, if you keep lying like this your nose is going to knock your review mirror right off the windshield of your car one of these days.

You are an excellent writer. You paint beautiful verbal images without taking yourself too seriously.

I do agree there is pixie dust. Luck is a big part of getting published. So does marketing savvy. But nothing beats great writing.

The thing is, you don't know that you can write until you actually work at it. There's no writing SAT. And the only way to get better is by working at it. Every published writer you've ever read started out with the same doubts we all have.

 
At 12/30/2006 6:45 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I definitely agree that the more one writes, the better one gets. I'd throw reading into that formula, too. Reading great writing is both inspiring and instructive.

In college I heard Ray Bradbury speak on how to achieve goals and make dreams come true. In his opinion there is only one formula:
WORK + PERSEVERANCE = SUCCESS. This incredibly talented, prolific author then claimed to have written ten or more "unpublishable" stories for every one that made it into print. Wow.

And I'll have you know, Jeff, that my rearview mirror is perfectly safe. My nose is just as pug as it ever was. (But you do get brownie points for being a gentleman.)

 
At 12/30/2006 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great writing stands at the crossroads of professionalism and inventiveness. Part of the LDS market saturation problem may well be that there are too many novels that offer nothing novel. It isn't so much a matter of too many novels in the same genre, but rather too many genre-novels with the same plots. Imitation may well be the highest form of flattery, but in the writing business it is also the greatest source of boredom. The author may be skilled at hiding the similarities in plot behind myriad writing techniques, but if the hero gets his heroine after circumventing (or hurdling or running right through)the brick walls of adversity made of the same clay we end up with market saturation. Professionalism (voice, pros, dialouge, narration, exposition, forshadowing, time lines, plot resolution, repeition of character, repeition of description, repetition of techniques, interior dialogue et. al. writing techniqes) are the foundation to writing a masterpiece or at least a work every publisher would be crazy not to consider. But remove inventiveness from the mix and you have another well-written novel which looks and feels suspiciously like ten others on the bookstore shelf and we are left asking if a publisher really wants to risk another look-a-like despite its writing quality. Add inventiveness--the genius behind new, fresh, exciting, unexpected, thrilling, captivating, emotional, impacting, exilierating, touching, inspiring---to professionalism and you have a well-written novel that will not be turned away.

 
At 1/01/2007 4:01 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

If anybody's still reading this thread, I just came across a quote from Dean Koontz about what it takes to become a best selling author:

"The only things that are essential are talent, a willingness to work hard, an ability to criticize your own prose but not with such intensity that you develop writer's block, and a sapphire eye stolen from a stone-temple god."

At least now I know what I lack. Anybody want to bid on my barely-used sapphire eye? :-)

 
At 1/01/2007 8:33 PM, Anonymous Jim Hansen said...

I was researching today about this new "merger" or whatever it is and stumbled upon this site. Everything makes sense except Jennie Hansen's comment about former Covenant authors possibly having to return to Covenant. First of all, it's no longer the same old company. Covenant is now owned by Deseret Book and nothing that went before really matters. Ms. Hansen's comment seems out of line and self-centered. Does she think that former Covenant authors had the responsibility to smooth her path at the publisher? Would she have people stop trying to fight against organizations they feel are taking advantage of them just to make her comfortable? Having researched for months as to which company I want to submit my work to, I found too many bodies littered in Covenant's wake to ignore. In fact, only a very few authors who've been there more than five plus years had much good to say about them. But I guess surrounded by a happy bubble of current Covenant authors, Ms. Hansen is unaware of just how many authors, former employees, other publishers, and retail book store owners there actually are who have been negatively affected by their interactions with the old Covenant, some quite seriously. In fact, as far as I can tell, only authors who towed the company line remained in good standing. (Not promising from my point-of-view as an aspiring author.) I guess I just want to say to BE FAIR. The comment was uncalled for and does not do Ms. Hansen any credit.

 
At 1/01/2007 9:03 PM, Anonymous Jim Hansen said...

One last thing. One Covenant author I talked to during my research mentioned that he thought authors were being treated better in recent years because of the fact that former authors stood up for their rights. The company apparently didn't want to risk losing any more authors. Perhaps that is part of why Ms. Hansen has enjoyed such a nice relationship with her publisher. I'm sure that will continue with the new owner, and I wish her the best.

 
At 1/01/2007 10:43 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Jim,

I assume this is a pen name since I don't see any Jim Hansens publishing with DB. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

This is a great opportunity for everyone concerned, but only if people put away their past hurts and focus on making it great.

I understand your past hurts, but your current comments are very slanted to say the least, and I believe you know that most Covenant authors are happy with their relationships.

Jennie has a good relationship with Covenant because she has published many great books with them. Should I accuse you of "toeing the line" with DB?

Of course not. I appreciate every LDS author regardless of who they publish with. But let's stop taking potshots. 'kay?

 
At 1/02/2007 2:15 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I don't get why Jim would consider Jennie's comment to be self-centered. It seems to me that he took her comment and attributed a meaning to it that wasn't even there. I agree with her, incidentally. With Covenant and DB merging, that creates the possibility that authors who have left Covenant will return. What's self-centered about saying that? If the contracts are cleaned up and those authors who've had beefs in the past decide to come back and give it another shot, that's natural. I don't think Jim caught what Jennie was trying to say -- it seems that the grumpy quotient is higher than it ought to be.

 
At 1/02/2007 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see Jennie Hansen on this thread anywhere. What's Jim talking about? (Anonymous who wrote those other anonymous posts)...:)

 
At 1/02/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I don't think any of us know what Jim is talking about -- that's part of the problem. :)

Jennie's post is 9th from the top of this comment trail.

 
At 1/02/2007 8:11 PM, Anonymous Jim Hansen said...

Actually, I'm not published yet. I'm waiting to see if anyone likes my manuscript. I didn't mean to take pot shots. I felt that Ms. Hansen was doing just that when she implied that people had made her life miserable at Covenant and that it would be funny in a serve-them-right kind of way if they were forced to return. It seemed to have no bearing on anything except to take a shot. Of course, people who might take offense would probably never see it. Well I did forward it to some people. I had a friend who worked for Covenant and his reatment was worse than poor, so I'm a little touchy. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure there are disgruntled authors at other publishers, but this was really over the top. If any of you have anything personal to say, you can e-mail me privately at jim_hansen_writer@yahoo.com. I don't have a website. It would be nice to see clarification from Ms. Hansen herself.

 
At 1/03/2007 10:04 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Personally, I don't see as Jennie has anything to clarify. Nothing she said was ambiguous, let alone self-centered or untoward.

There are probably people reading this blog who don't know who Jennie Hansen is, so let me perhaps "clarify" a couple of points from my perspective. Ms. Hansen is one of the reasons people like Jim and I have a shot at writing in the LDS market in the first place.

Briefly (or as brief as I can ever be):
Jennie Hansen has been publishing with Covenant for more than a dozen years. Nobody "smoothed her path" there, because she forged it herself. In the last decade-and-a-half, Jennie has done as much as anybody on the planet to define and refine LDS literature. She has been a tireless advocate -- as a best selling author, as an employee of the library systerm, and as the fiction book reviewer for Meridian Magazine. (A job that pays nothing and yet requires untold hours, keen insight, and more tact and generosity of spirit than most of us mortals possess.)

I could go on . . . and on and on and on . . . but comments are supposed to be somewhat shorter than the combined works of Tolstoy, so I'll just add a final disclaimer in case anybody is wondering if I'm biased. You bet I am! Jennie Hansen is my hero -- personally and professionally. She is among the most selfless, dedicated, and genuinely good people I have ever met. I would not still be writing for Covenant -- or anybody else -- if it weren't for her early encouragement and continued love and support.

I promise you, Jim, you misunderstood the intention of her post. She wishes only the best for everyone, and when your book is finally published you can rest assured that Jennie will be the very first to find everything good in it -- and share her review with the LDS fiction-reading world. I'm so glad you found us and hope you'll hang around. People who are passionate about our market are rare, and your voice is very valuable. I appreciate your input -- even when I see things differently.

And, Jennie, in case you read this: thank you for everything. I don't say it often enough, publicly or privately, but you really are everything I wish I could be!

 
At 1/03/2007 11:05 AM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

Sariah S. Wilson said...
I feel like I don't know enough about the LDS industry to know what this means, so can't really comment. Like everyone else, I'll be interested in seeing how this all plays out.

I don't think many people do know much about the LDS industry. You might try listening to the first of John Dehlin's podcasts on this issue, posted last night. You can find them at MormonStories.org. The interview gives a bit of an overview of the history of LDS publishing and some context to compare it with the national publishing industry.

The podcast is two hours long (two separate files), but its worth a listen.

 
At 1/03/2007 11:07 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Kent. I'll be sure to check it out!

 
At 1/14/2007 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Kerry Blair!!!

xxx ooo

-Ryan

 

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