Publishers Corner: Zarahemla Author Guidelines

I haven’t been doing much blogging or posting in any social forums lately, mainly because I’m trying to finish up one big book project and gear up to start the next, so I don’t have much extra literary energy to spare these days (and I’m not even talking about Zarahemla projects but projects I’m authoring and/or editing for other publishers, whether contracted or on speculation). And I have to admit, the blog discussion I got into here a couple of months ago about Zarahemla Books threw me for a loop. But it caused me to do some thinking and evaluating, and I came up with some new author guidelines that I thought I’d share, not least because they include some realistic thinking about Zarahemla’s niche. So without much further ado, here are the new guidelines, and if they prompt any comments, fine. Deep down, I hope some author out there comes up with such a great book in Zarahemla’s niche that I absolutely MUST publish it simply because it’s so exquisite.

Zarahemla Books fills a small, distinct niche in Mormon culture: we publish novels and memoirs that are too realistic for mainstream LDS publishers and yet too Mormon for national publishers. While we believe that our titles are ultimately faith affirming, the stories often include realistic elements that might be equivalent to a PG-13 or R rating. In addition to contemporary stories of Mormon life, we are interested in Mormon-flavored speculative fiction, especially supernatural, horror, and post-apocalypse. We are not interested in considering poetry, children’s books, romance, or nonfiction religious or historical topics.

Authors generally should not submit to Zarahemla until after they have tried to sell their manuscript to mainstream LDS publishers and/or to national publishers, either of which will sell far more copies than Zarahemla will. We are a small publisher of last resort for compelling, provocative Mormon-themed novels and memoirs that cannot find a home elsewhere. Our best-selling title has sold about 2,000 copies, but most titles average between 100 and 200 copies. We publish as many as three titles per year.

In general, Zarahemla does not seriously consider a manuscript unless it is recommended to us by other qualified literary experts, such as published authors, creative-writing teachers, editors, and critics. We encourage would-be authors to network by joining literary and writing groups, getting professional training, and otherwise making connections that can help open the way to publication.


Zarahemla accepts only e-mailed submissions; paper manuscripts are returned or recycled without being read. Authors can initiate the submission process by e-mailing us a one-page query letter that includes the following elements:

Description of the story
Thoughts on why Zarahemla is the only possible publisher for it
The author’s publications and credentials
E-mail addresses for two or three experts who have already carefully evaluated the full manuscript and are eager to vouch for its readiness and its need for publication. (If Zarahemla is interested in the project, we will contact these experts directly to request their frank, confidential appraisal.)

When Zarahemla receives an interesting query with sufficiently encouraging recommendations, we forward it to our own panel of readers. If any of these readers request to see part or all of the manuscript, we ask the author to e-mail us a Word or PDF document, which we then forward to any interested readers. If reader enthusiasm warrants it, we make an offer to publish the story. Zarahemla does not send out official rejection notices. If you don’t hear back from us, please assume that you are free to submit your manuscript elsewhere. PLEASE, NO PHONE CALLS.

E-mail submissions to

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7 Responses to Publishers Corner: Zarahemla Author Guidelines

  1. Th. says:


    Overall I like this. My two suggested alterations:

    1. Don’t go the rating-comparisons route. That will give the wrong impression at least twice as often as it helps clarify anything.

    2. Sending a rejection notice is just a common courtesy.

  2. Mark B. says:

    I agree with the thing about rejection notices. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – a standard template you can cut and paste into an email. Hardly any work but plenty of good decent-human-being karma.

  3. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I’m in agreement that a rejection should be sent. I, for one, have waited months and months to hear back from national folks. Respect people’s time with a quick kick to the gut. It will set them free.

    Also, I really don’t get why Z has to be the "last resort." I realize that’s what its been for many writers, but Chris, as your company grows, it becomes more impressive and I bet writers out there aspire to be published by you. Writers may recognize that you are the only choice and best choice.

    Lastly, I think Th. is correct that you should drop the ratings comparison. It implies that the prophet wouldn’t approve of some of these books when, so far, lit has succeeded in remaining out of that fray, at least in terms of labels. Why encourage thinking about books that way?

  4. Melinda W. says:

    I agree with the other comments, especially the ones about sending rejection letters.

    And I want to know which title sold 2,000 copies.

  5. Th. says:


    Oo! Oo! I know! I know! Pick me! Pick me!

  6. Moriah Jovan says:

    Horshack. In da house.

  7. I have a novel being considered by dorrance publishing in pittsburg. It’s scifi about Mormon settlers and other faiths settling Vestra an asteroid beyond Mars 100 years from now. I am Retired USCG living in a retirement home-this may be my last harrah. It’s a great novel-I think. I may have Dorrance do it but would want LDS publishers to handle it-but the thought of submitting this to you by computer staggers me. I may just leave it as a gift to my kids when I go. Just not sure what to do??

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