2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review
By Andrew Hall
Part 2: The Mormon Market
Link to Part 1: The National Market
Wm notes: portions of this bibliographic review rely on comments from sources who have chosen to remain anonymous. As I said with his report on independent Mormon publishers posted here at AMV last July: Iâ€™m personally confident that Andrew has used his anonymous sources judiciously and within standard journalistic practices. But also keep in mind that the comments here represent particular points of view.
(Note: I am now posting at Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature.Â The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film.Â I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)
In this section, I will look at the Mormon fiction market by analysing recent trends, introducing each publisher, noting books that have received especially strong reviews, and noting the passing of a beloved author.
Despite the troubled economy, the number of literary works published by Mormon market publishers rose considerably in 2010. This was despite the fact that the publishers owned by the Churchâ€™s Deseret Media Companies, Deseret Book Publishing and Covenant Communications, stood pat on their annual output. The rise was due largely to an increase in the number of fiction works published by independent publishers Cedar Fort, Leatherwood, and Valor. Publishers report, however, that the book-selling economy remained stagnant in 2010, which means that more authors and more books crowded into the market, increasing the competition for market share. Continue reading “Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market”
2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review:
By Andrew Hall
Part 1: National Market, 2010
(Note:Â I am now posting atÂ Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature.Â The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film.Â I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)
Mormon authors continue to enlarge their presence in the fields of nationally-published young adult and middle grade novels. Brandon Sanderson is becoming a leading light in the epic fantasy genre. Stephanie Meyer published another bestselling book. Glenn Beck sold nearly as many novels as he did non-fiction. I appreciate the width and depth of the work that Mormon authors are producing, and feel tribal pride in their success. But only a small percentage of the nationally published novels Mormons are producing what can be called adult literature. And only a miniscule amount of these novels specifically address Mormon doctrine, culture, or history. Brady Udall is a nationally recognized literary craftsman of the highest order. The fact that he has taken his skill and used it to explore a subject fundamental to the history of Mormonism, and did it with such skill, humor, and charity, thrills me to the core. For these reasons, without a doubt the 2010 Mormon novel of the year was Brady Udallâ€™s The Lonely Polygamist. Continue reading “Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market”
Wm writes: Andrew Hall has really outdone himself this year with this look at the Mormon market which features not only works published but a run down of the players in the market as well as some original reporting on them. Sadly, Andrew is probably not going to be able to also do a look at film and theater. Happily, it’s because he and his family are moving to Japan where Andrew has secured a teaching position. Always cause for rejoicing in this tough market for academics. Congratulations and thank you, Andrew.
Click here to view data on the number of books published per publisher from 2000-2009.
Recently I have been worried that the Church-owned sector of the LDS literary market (publishers Deseret Book, Shadow Mountain, and Covenant, and the bookstores Deseret Book and Seagull) were taking too much control of the market, squeezing the independent actors out. That remains a valid concern in terms of the ability of independent publishers getting shelf space or promotion space in the Church-owned bookstores.Â Independent publishing has not dried up and blown away, however.Â Just the opposite, independent publishers published more literary works in 2009 than in 2008, and the ranks of the independent publishers grew slightly. Together with a downtick in the number of titles published by the Church-owned publishers, the percentage of titles published by the independent publishers was 50% of the total works published in 2009. This returns the market to the equilibrium that existed for most of the decade before 2008, when a drop in independent publishing resulted in the Church-owned publishers producing 64% of the titles. Of course, the Church-owned publishers achieve sales of which the independents could never dream.Â But I am glad to see that the independents have life in them. Continue reading “Andrewâ€™s Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market 2009”
Wm writes: Once again AMV is proud to bring you Andrew Hall’s Year in Review in Mormon letters.
The story of the year in nationally published literature by Mormons was the memoir.Â Â Two Mormon women, Elna Baker and Kathryn Lynard Soper produced honest and interesting life stories, to excellent reviews. While other Mormon authors sold more books, few other nationally published author made their Mormonism so central to their story.Â Â Other big stories for the year include Stephanie Meyerâ€™s continued dominance of the fiction landscape, Brandon Sandersonâ€™s rise to the top of best sellerâ€™s lists, and the continuing flood of young adult speculative fiction. Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2009”
Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters.Â AMV is pleased to bring you Andrewâ€™s Year in Review for 2008. The review concludes today with a look at poetry and short fiction. Read the other entries in the series.
Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction
I am aware of two major poetry collections published by Mormon authors in 2008. Neil Aitken’s debut collection, The Lost Country of Sight, won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Aitken, a graduate of BYU, is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California. C. G. Hanzlickek, a judge for the Levine Prize, wrote, “It’s difficult to believe that Neil Aitken’s The Lost Country of Sight is a first book, since there is mastery throughout the collection. His ear is finely tuned, and his capacity for lyricism seems almost boundless. What stands out everywhere in the poems is his imagery, which is not only visually precise but is also possessed of a pure depth. The poems never veer off into the sensational; they are built from pensiveness and quietude and an affection for the world. ‘Travelling Through the Prairies, I Think of My Father’s Voice’ strikes me as a perfectly made poem, but poems of similar grace and power are to be found throughout the book. This is a debut to celebrate.” Continue reading “Andrewâ€™s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction 2008”
Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters.Â AMV is pleased to bring you Andrewâ€™s Year in Review for 2008. Today — a look at the Mormon market for books. Read the other entries in the series.
Andrew Hallâ€™s Mormon Literature Year in Review â€” Part II: Mormon market books
Click here to view data on the number of books published per publisher from 2000-2008.
There was a slight drop in the number of fiction books published by Mormon publishing houses in 2008, from 94 in 2007 to 86 in 2008. The dip was due largely to a decrease in the number of books published by independent publishers, such as Cedar Fort, the third largest publisher. Covenant and Deseret Book, which are now both owned by the Church, published slightly more novels in 2008 than they did in 2007. As a result, the Covenant/Deseret Book combination published 65% of the novels in the Mormon market in 2008. That is up from 56% in 2007, and around 50% in the five years before that.Â I have heard from some independent publishers that Deseret Book’s bookstore division makes it difficult for them to get even standard Mormon-themed novels onto their shelves. That is a very disconcerting trend.Â In any case, it is a good bet that the total number of Mormon fiction titles will go down again in 2009, because of the dip in the economic outlook. Continue reading “Andrewâ€™s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part II: Mormon Market Books 2008”
Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters.Â AMV is pleased to bring you Andrewâ€™s Year in Review for 2008, continuing in this post with the second part of his look at Mormon authors being published in the national market. Also see Part Ia.
Andrew Hallâ€™s Mormon Literature Year in Review â€” Part 1b: National market books continued
In the wake of Harry Potter, Deseret Book’s Shadow Mountain imprint has made a big push into the national young adult fantasy genre.Â They had four authors producing five novels in 2008. The most successful is Brandon Mull, whose Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague was the third in his series. The series reached #3 on the NYT Children’s Chapter Series bestseller list.Â Obert Skye released two novels, Leven Thumps and the Wrath of Ezra, the fourth in a series, and Pillage, a stand-alone humorous novel. Shadow Mountain also brought in two authors who have previously published in the Mormon market. James Dashner published a successful fantasy series for the Mormon publisher Cedar Fort. Shadow Mountain contracted with him to write a national middle reader fantasy series, The 13th Reality. It tells the story of a contemporary 13-year-old who is presented with a series of letters and clues drawing him into a adventure. A reviewer at Kirkus wrote, “Though there are chunks of text that are overwritten, the telling is generally laced with a strong sense of humor and a sure hand at plot; the author is plainly in tune with today’s fan base.”Â A reviewer at School Library Journal wrote, “This book had great potential. The beginning of the adventure starts with a bang, but by the middle of the story things begin to drag. The immediacy gets lost in the daily struggle to figure out the riddles and the unending descriptions of Tick’s life as he awaits the next one.”Â J. Scott Savage has written several mysteries in the Mormon market. Through Shadow Mountain he published the fantasy Water Keep: Farworld. Meridian Magazine reviewer Jeannie Hansen wrote, “There’s enough magic and strange creatures populating the book to please the most avid fantasy reader, but there’s an added dimension of mystery and philosophy that marks this fantasy as a cut above many fantasies currently being marketed to young adults.” Continue reading “Andrewâ€™s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2008, Part Ib”
Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters. It is an amazingly detailed work that is both fun to read and important both as a bibliography and as a gauge of the state of Mormon literature. AMV is pleased to bring you Andrew’s Year in Review for 2008, beginning with a look at Mormon authors being published in the national market.
Andrew Hall’s Mormon Literature Year in Review — Part 1a: National market books
The publishing story of 2008 was a Mormon author, Stephenie Meyer.Â Meyer was one of three Mormon authors who reached the top of the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list, the first Mormon authors to reach that position since 1995. In fact, there were more Mormon-authored novels on the best seller lists in 2008 than ever before.Â None of these best sellers contained openly Mormon characters or concepts, however. Vampires, romance, heart-warming tales of Christmas, and speculative fiction was what brought the Mormon authors to the top.
The world in 2008 was Stephenie Meyer’s. She is the biggest publishing phenomenon since J. K. Rowling.Â Little, Brown released her adult science fiction novel The Host in May, and it went to the top of the Times’ Hardcover list.Â By the end of the year it was still at #5 on that list. August saw the release of the fourth and final volume of her Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. The series has dominated the Times’ Children’s Series list for the last two years (the Times created the Children’s bestseller list in 2000 to clear all of the Harry Potter books off of the main hardcover and paperback lists, and the Children’s Series list in 2004 to consolidate each series into a single entry).Â At the end of the year the USA Today list, which is a single list for all fiction, hardcover and paperback, had the four Twilight books occupying 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th places, with The Host down at 22nd. Without a doubt Meyer was the best selling fiction author of 2008.Â Bookscan estimates her total at almost 15 million units sold in 2008.Â Also, the movie version of the first volume in the Twilight series was released in the fall, and was a box office success. Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2008, Part Ia”