Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Little Team That Could

by Jeffrey S Savage


Imagine being asked to field an NBA basketball team. Only you have less than 5% of the budget the other teams have. You play in a high school gym, and mostly you can only recruit players from junior colleges.

You could have a lot of fun, you might occasionally find a talented player or two, you might even have a pretty decent coach. But honestly what would your chances be of winning many games? I’ll bet most of the other teams would sneer at you. They’d look down on you and insinuate that you weren’t a “real” basketball team.

But then imagine that a really great coach came along—a coach who had vision. And he joined an awesome GM who had an eye for hidden talent. Imagine that they put together a top notch staff and began to recruit players no one else noticed. Suddenly they started to win some games. Of course people still looked down on them. Surely their wins were flukes.

Except the wins kept coming. As the season progressed, the little team that couldn’t, did. Other coaches began to take notice of them. All around the league, people were talking. Who was this team? Where did they come from, and how were they winning games when they were supposed to be satisfied with their place in the cellar? After a long hard fought season, the playoffs came. And this team that shouldn’t even had made the playoffs knocked off one opponent after another.

Now the media finally took notice. They pointed out what great players the team had, and how good their coach was. All of the top stations were talking about this team. And just when it seemed it couldn’t get any better, the team did the unthinkable. They won the NBA title.

Pretty exciting stuff huh? I’ll bet everyone was surprised. Everyone that is except the team. When the coach got up to the podium, he announced that he and his staff had planned all along to win the championship. They knew they had talent, and they knew how to use it. For them, winning the title was not an impossible dream. It was a goal set and achieved.

I could be talking about the Jazz here. They did come from obscurity, and they have a real shot at going all the way.

But I’m not. In truth, I’m not even talking about a sports team. Nope I’m talking about a publisher.

Last year, Shadow Mountain—an imprint of Deseret Book, and a relative nobody in the world of the publishing behemoths, set a goal. They decided they wanted to get a book on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Right. Like that was ever going to happen. You can’t just put a book on the NYTBSL, it takes major marketing dollars, big time author, the distribution arm only the big guys have. Other than books by general authorities, that kind of thing doesn’t happen in the LDS market. In fact most authors published by “national” publishers didn’t even consider them a real publisher. “They’re just a regional, right?”

But this last week Shadow Mountain attained their goal. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull hit number 8 on the NYTBSL for children’s chapter books. If you haven’t read Fablehaven, you should. It starts out just a little bit slow for my tastes, but after a couple of chapters you are completely pulled in and wrapped up by the charming creatures, unexpected twists, and wonderful imagination of the author. I absolutely fell in love with it.

Still, a great story isn’t enough. You have to have great editing, excellent cover and artwork, amazing marketing, and a staff that is willing to put everything that have into a title. So today, I would like to wish Bandon Mull, Lisa Mangum, Chris Schoebinger, and the rest of the SM staff a big congratulations. Chalk one up for the little guys. You’ve earned it!


2 Comments:

At 5/15/2007 10:26 AM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Well said, Jeff, and they definitely deserve a big congratulations. My agent told me they are being noticed big time, and she sees their books everywhere she goes.

Let's hope, er, that the success, er, continues for their next, er, authors.

 
At 5/15/2007 11:45 AM, Anonymous kerry said...

Absolutely, James! If there's another series that should make it big, it's yours!

Not that I'd ever disagree with Jeff, but I didn't think Fablehaven's problem was a slow start. I thought its problem -- if it had one -- was a somewhat unlikeable central character. (The chicken didn't do much for me, either.)

But all was forgiven and forgotten when I read Fablehaven II -- Rise of the Evening Star. The character is redeemed, the storymaking is masterful, and the beginning is captivating, I promise! I like the chicken better as a mortal, too. (Oops! That was a first book spoiler, wasn't it? Sorry!)

Michele Bell invited me to write a guest review for Meridian on Fablehaven II and, let me tell you, it's one of the greatest joys and honors I've received. Hopefully it will be published.

Thanks, Jeff! I didn't know the story, but I did read in the advance copy to II that Mull sells 200-300 books at every signing coast to coast and (obviously) quit his day job. May I just say . . . wow!

 

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