Publishers Corner: Some Basics on WiDo Publishing

Guest post by Karen Gowen

WiDo is located in Salt Lake City. It has quite a few Mormon authors but avoids LDS fiction unless it has something remarkable about it, such as Heroes of the Fallen by David J. West. (West’s book has the appeal of being based on the last days of the Nephite nation, yet with a fantasy style and tone.) Several manuscripts submitted early on were accepted with the caveat of “only one conversion story per manuscript please,” and as authors and editors cut back on the LDS themes, they liked the results so well they took out all the rest of the religion as well.

WiDo wants truth in its books, but steers clear of agendas, whether LDS or otherwise. Mormon authors for some reason love to put agenda in their work; even when they don’t think it’s there, it often is. Our editors take it out. Although a reader might agree with a particular agenda, most of us don’t like it in our fiction.

WiDo distributes through Ingram to bookstores and through Follett to libraries. Distribution to LDS bookstores is through Brigham Distributing. Online, WiDo’s books are available through Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com, Target.com and other online sites, with a select few available through Borders.com and The Book Depository. WiDo’s titles are sold in numerous independent bookstores from East to West in the United States, although bookstores are cutting back on their purchases for obvious reasons. For this reason, WiDo wants their authors to have a strong online presence to maximize online and ebook sales.

There are five editors, two interns and two copy editors who go over each manuscript numerous times to make sure it is polished and professional before it heads to the typesetter. Once typeset, it is again reviewed by an editor and at least one copy editor. No book is released until it is thoroughly and completely edited even if that means release dates are pushed back.

Cover designs vary from original artwork, photography, to computer-generated designs, depending on the genre and the tone of the work. For this reason, WiDo’s books do not look anything alike. It would be very difficult to pick out three titles from a group and say “these all look alike and must be published by the same company.”

Genres accepted for publication range from memoir, women’s fiction, YA, fantasy, mystery, to action adventure. With WiDo, the story is key. If we like the story, the writing style, the characters and feel like the work has something special, we don’t care about genre. WiDo likes a book to be around 50K- 80K words, but will publish less than 50K and up to 100K if the work merits it. We do not publish illustrated children’s books, how-to books, self-help, middle-grade (unless it has wide appeal), and erotica. We might add LDS fiction to this list as well. Deseret Book, Covenant and Cedar Fort have the market on that genre, and we aren’t interested in competing with them.

WiDo has been slowly building. There have been several business models that have had to be readjusted based on economic changes. An advantage to a small press is the ability to adapt quickly when times merit change. For this reason, WiDo has kept its releases down, with only five titles published since it started in 2007.

However, acquisitions and editing have continued. This year, 8-10 new releases are planned, with the majority of them by LDS authors.  A historical fiction work, Fires of Jerusalem by Marilyn Brown, will be the first release of 2011. Close behind it will be In the Mirror by Ann Carbine Best, a memoir about her husband who was a homosexual BYU professor in the 1970’s and the impact this had on the marriage and family. Following these will be regional novels Mississippi Cotton by Paul Yarbrough (not a Mormon), and Arizona Guy by Raymond Spitzer.

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14 Responses to Publishers Corner: Some Basics on WiDo Publishing

  1. Interesting information. I’m wondering a bit about the space between the statement “WiDo wants truth in its books, but steers clear of agendas, whether LDS or otherwise” and the statement “as authors and editors cut back on the LDS themes, they liked the results so well they took out all the rest of the religion as well.” What if some elements of religious belief are necessary in order to tell the story? For instance, I haven’t read Ann Best’s novel (though I’m looking forward to doing so someday), but it’s hard for me to imagine that such a story could be told honestly and fully without including a lot about Mormon religious belief — if only to create a context for the importance Ann placed on her marriage. Note: I’m not trying to challenge WiDo’s editorial policies, but simply to understand this part better.

    Of course, you do say elsewhere that you’re not interested in publishing LDS fiction per se… That being the case, how do you see WiDo as being distinguished from other publishers out there? Why should people send their manuscripts to you, rather than to some other publisher? Again, I’m not trying to ask this in a challenging way, but rather inviting you to talk more about what you perceive your “market niche” as being.

  2. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of WiDo. Thanks for posting it and thanks to whoever asked you to do so. It sounds as if you’re interested in fiction and non-fiction that would appeal to Mormons, but that is not designed to promote the faith. The faith may be incidental to the narrative, but the purpose of the narrative is neither to affirm nor to challenge the faith. It sounds as though you may be aiming for some of the work Shadow Mountain doesn’t take. Are these fair assessments?

    What titles have you published? Five is not many across 4 years. You list: memoir, women’s fiction, YA, fantasy, mystery, to action adventure. Six categories. How have your titles spread out among these categories? And I’m not clear. Are you print-on-demand? I assume so.

    • Karen Gowen says:

      Lisa, 5 titles in 4 years is not many at all. Especially considering that the first year was 1, the second 0, the third 2 and the 4th 2. Probably why you hadn’t heard of us. We were doing large print runs (the print and pray model), with the plan to sell through local Costco warehouses and the independent bookstores. We now are focusing on ebooks and smaller, much smaller, print runs. We have more titles planned for release in 2011 than in our entire history combined.

      “It sounds as if you’re interested in fiction and non-fiction that would appeal to Mormons, but that is not designed to promote the faith. The faith may be incidental to the narrative, but the purpose of the narrative is neither to affirm nor to challenge the faith.” Exactly, very well said.

      Jonathan, Ann’s book deals with elements of the Church’s teachings, but it is done just enough to explain things to non-Mormon readers without going into depth. She has handled it in a way that is very subtle, tasteful and I believe, non-offensive regardless of one’s beliefs.

  3. Th. says:

    .

    I’ve only read one WiDo book (David’s), but it was quite good and I recommend it.

  4. Karen Gowen says:

    Jonathan, sorry I missed the question about the market niche. I’d say it is “small press.” It isn’t even regional, because altho Mississippi Cotton by Paul Yarbrough, Arizona Guy by Raymond Spitzer, and Super Cowboy Rides by Daris Howard are regional books, they aren’t of the same region and none are set in Utah. Why would someone submit to WiDo? Because they might not fit anywhere else. We take unagented authors, debut authors, unsolicited manuscripts that have a spark of originality and tell a good story.

    • Paul says:

      A good story, in my opinion, may have a regional slant, but if it is well-received, its “region” will become secondary; whether it is written by Jack London, Zane Grey or Margaret Mitchell.
      PHY

  5. Ann Best says:

    Re: Karen’s last comment. I submitted to WiDo because I didn’t think that my book, a memoir, would “fit” anywhere else. Richard Cracroft, an early reader before WiDo, agreed with me that the “problem” was the homosexual Mormon husband. He mentioned what he thought were some possibilities, which led me to WiDo. Happily, they took it; and now, thanks to their team of excellent editors, the book is ready for LDS and non-LDS audiences, and the ARCs are right now in the hands of five authors/literature professors, one of whom has already written a positive review. I’m excited about the book, as is my publisher.

  6. James Gough says:

    As a first time author looking for the right fit, I was drawn to WiDo publishing because of their drive to publish mainstream, value-based novels. My debut novel is (hopefully) as mainstream as you can get. It has value centered messaging, but leans more towards things like honesty, loyalty and selfless sacrifice. That’s what I love about WiDo. They get it. I always feel that they’re out to create the best novel, not just the best Mormon novel, but the best overall.

    In my opinion, much of the YA fiction out there is being laced with very adult themes in order to titillate youth. I’ve watched kids have their personal values challenged in popular novels by agendas that didn’t need to be there. Youth are hungry for great books that will entertain without offending or preaching. WiDo Publishing is set up to find those works and publish them.

  7. Raymond L. Spitzer says:

    What attracted my attention to WiDo was the web site: “Readable but not formulaic, entertaining without being fluff, uplifting without being preachy, literary but not obtuse, realistic and thought-provoking without being graphic…Above all, books that tell a darn good story.” References about giving the new writer a chance also caught my eye.

    I have been well-treated by the editors who have helped me refine my vision. Frankly, my story was too preachy. I needed to focus on the story and leave the preaching for church. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a message beyond solving the mystery, but the the deeper meanings must now be dug out to be examined. That makes the gold shine all the brighter when it is discovered.

  8. It sounds like Raymond Spitzer had the same experience I had with the editing. I realize that my project FIRES OF JERUSALEM was huge and heavy, and I appreciate the time the professional editor Kristine Princevalle spent to perform a quality of editing which I firmly believe I would never have received at any other near-LDS press, even the big ones. I am pleased with the product at this point, and grateful to film maker Douglas Johnson for producing a fabulous cover.

  9. Brinley says:

    Hello, I know this post is older, but I was just wondering if anyone has had any problems with WiDo Publishing? I have recently sent my two manuscripts in for review so was just looking for some experiences?

  10. Wm says:

    All this information is old, but it’s the only thing I’ve seen:

    A Motley Vision post (full disclosure: I’m part of this blog)

    Absolute Write forum thread (note that WiDo would reject some of the analysis in this thread — and some of their authors show up to do so)

    So it very well may be a good fit for you, depending on what you’re prepared to do yourself as an author and if you are okay with the contract terms.

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