Community Voices: LDStorymakers

As the founder and president of LDStorymakers (pronounced LDS Storymakers), I’ve had many questions about the group and decided that here would be the perfect place to outline our founding, our purpose, and who can join.

In October 2002, the Pleasant Grove library held an author book signing event, where I met Josi Kilpack and Julie Wright. We had a good discussion about the LDS market and publishing. They’d learned a lot while publishing their novels, but like most newer authors (and even more established ones) they had a lot of questions. I asked them if they’d be interested in joining an online LDS author group where we could all share our experiences and help each other. They said yes. The next day I started a Yahoo group, then called LDSSmallPressWriters, and sent Josi, Julie, and other authors I knew invitations to join.

This wasn’t the first online group I’d tried to start, but unlike the first group that was limited to a select group of authors who published with certain publishers, LDSSmallPressWriters was open to any LDS author publishing with any traditional publisher. I knew that by including more authors, we could take turns sharing experiences, which would not only cut down on the advice e-mails I was writing on a daily basis but might help me learn a thing or two as well. By 2004 we had about twenty authors and had become so close, we worried about expanding and losing that family feel. About then we held our first writers conference, and we learned so much and had so much fun that we’ve been doing them ever since.

But member BJ Rowley couldn’t be satisfied. He wanted LDStorymakers to grow, giving more opportunity to all LDS authors. I also had a vision of our organization someday having enough clout to become a strong advocate for authors, similar to certain national groups that help with unfair contracts or dishonorable treatment by publishers, and we couldn’t do that by staying small. Some of our members felt a little reluctant to move forward, fearing we would lose our closeness by expanding, but we accepted BJ’s challenge and reorganized in a way that would sustain more members. We created an Executive Committee and a Board of Directors, which has undergone several changes over the years to accommodate our growing membership, and became a registered nonprofit corporation with the State. We voted on goals that we felt most LDS authors could strive for:

1. To raise the quality of LDS literature by promoting and acknowledging outstanding authors and exemplary works within the LDS community.

2. To promote literacy and an appreciation for wholesome art and literature, through which to foster a better understanding of LDS culture and values.

3. To provide a safe and comfortable environment wherein LDS authors can associate and share information, experience, and tools of the trade within the LDS writing and publishing industry.

Over the years, we’ve made good headway on these goals, especially in the author support area. Our four required lists (on which authors can choose individual e-mails, digest, or web-only) and auxiliary lists are designed to meet the needs of LDS authors. By holding writers conferences, critiquing each other’s work, discussing grammar and writing, and supporting the Whitney Awards, we are raising the quality of LDS literature. We believe the novels coming out these days are stronger than many that were released a decade ago. We still have a long way to go, but everything we learn and pass on to others propels us in the right direction. Perhaps even more important, the members see through the same lens of the gospel and can relate to experiences unique to LDS writers. Try finding that in any other published author group.

To join LDStorymakers, an author must be a member in good standing of the Church (as decided by the author applying) and have one book published within the past three years by a reputable publisher (for expanded details on eligible works visit http://LDStorymakers.com/how_to_join.php ). Employees or contract workers with any publisher are not eligible, unless they were already members before their employment, and even these are excluded from certain lists in order to maintain a safe place for authors to discuss their publishers and contracts.

From website and list management to conferences and literacy events, LDStorymakers is run completely by volunteers. We have grown to over 120 members and had over 450 attendees at our writers conference this past April. To learn more about LDStorymakers, visit http://LDStorymakers.com.

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9 Responses to Community Voices: LDStorymakers

  1. Wm Morris says:

    What constitutes a reputable publisher? Do small/indie presses count if they put out a good product?

  2. Small presses do count, provided they aren’t owned in whole or in part by the author or the family of the author. The author cannot have participated in any way toward the publishing of the book. E-book-only publications are not considered.

  3. Th. says:

    .

    So . . . if I own stock in Random House and they pick up my book, I’m disqualified from membership? (I know it’s an obnoxious question, but I’m genuinely curious.)

  4. Wm Morris says:

    Don’t be obtuse, Th.

    With Random House the acquisitions editor isn’t one and the same as the CEO or a majority shareholder. Clearly, the point is to keep out self-publishers. That’s certainly an understandable position to take (whether it is a wise one depends on how things progress in the publishing arena over the next 5-10 years).

    And hey — at least the Whitneys allow self-published authors to enter (as evidenced by Riley Noehren and Gravity vs. the Girl).

  5. Moriah Jovan says:

    [b]Clearly, the point is to keep out self-publishers. [/b]

    Yes. The link clarifies a lot.

  6. Incidentally, if a self-published book does become a Whitney finalist, the author can certainly become a member of LDStorymakers, if they would like. Some have chosen to do so. The reason for excluding self published novels is that while some are excellent, most are very far from par. As a volunteer group, we don’t have time to read through all the self-published work out there to judge the quality. If we open the group to one self-published author, we’d have to open it to everyone who published anything. Keep in mind that our group is not designed for self-publishing or to help self-publishers find a traditional publisher. It is designed for helping published authors, who have already worked hard to get where they are, to better succeed.

  7. Wm Morris says:

    I think it’s good to have parameters on a writer’s group, and it makes sense for LDStorymakers to be configured the way it is, especially since the genesis of the group really comes out of Covenant genre authors.

    I do think that the "who have already worked hard to get where they are" line is a bit condescending, though. The self-publishers who do it right work just as hard if not harder than authors who publish with a publisher. And it’s quite likely, considering the way the book market is going, that some LDStorymakers authors may find themselves, like many mid-list authors with national publishers, in a position where the best course for them to take is self-publish or engage in an enterprise that is much closer to self-publishing than traditional publishing (Amazon Encore, for example). But as I say above, that all remains to be seen.

  8. Jonathan Langford says:

    William wrote: "And hey — at least the Whitneys allow self-published authors to enter (as evidenced by Riley Noehren and Gravity vs. the Girl)."

    To which I add: Not to mention Dave Farland’s In the Company of Angels, which actually won the overall Whitney for best novel this year.

    I think it’s interesting, by the way, that Farland, a published author with (among other things) at least one title that’s been published by Covenant, felt it was better to self-publish for his mainstream Mormon historical work. Has there been a detailed explanation published re: his reasons for doing so? If not, I think that would be an interesting thing to recruit from him, either as a guest post here or as the focus of an interview at AMV.

  9. Wm Morris says:

    David talks about his reasons for self-publishing here: http://www.inthecompanyofangels.net/writing/

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