When my now 14-year-old daughter was an infant and toddler, we employed a nanny to care for her. Since we were fairly permissive employers, we allowed her to use the time when our daughter was sleeping as she saw fit. One day I came home to find her reading Sam Taylor‘s Heaven Knows Why?
She later joined the Church.
I don’t mean to suggest that she joined the Church solely because of this book. [It is a delightful read, but, IIRC, not particularly conventional as far as LDS market titles go. Its largely about the main character’s struggle with his coffee addiction, and his unintended deception that got several members of his ward, including the bishop, to also drink coffee.]
But the book may have been an ancillary factor in our nanny’s conversion in spite of exposing the foibles of Church members. I hear stories like this from time to time. Authors and publishers tell anecdotes of how their books helped some non-member join the Church. And while I have many doubts about many of these stories, I do see how some of these stories might be true to a small degree. I’ll bet LDS books have made a difference, if only a small one, in at least a few conversions. [I must say that I doubt toeing the LDS market standards line is a requirement — Signature, Sunstone & Dialogue probably get a share of those conversions also.]
I’m not saying that LDS publishers should produce books with a missionary goal in mind. [In fact, I think its perhaps a sure way to loose money.] But I do think that missionary considerations are legitimate. If you are going to publish a book anyway, why not make it non-member friendly if you can? or why not make it available to non-members?
Few LDS publishers do this, even for books that could be of interest to or reach a non-member audience. Here is a few quick suggestions that might help:
- Consider reducing or eliminating LDS jargon, or somehow defining the term in the text or in the book. [The Mormon Terms project may be of help.]
- Make the content relevant to non-members where possible.
- Use recognizable cover images that draw-in non-members so that the title isn’t as LDS-centric.
- Make sure that the book is actually available where non-members can purchase it. If you only sell to LDS bookstores, non-Mormons aren’t likely to see it. If the book isn’t categorized the way that the national audience expects it, they will have a hard time running into it on Amazon.com.
- If there is something about the book that might appeal to the general public, consider actually selling the book to the national market — come up with a marketing message for that audience, prepare sales kits and materials, contact bookstores and get them to stock the book.
I’m sure there are other things LDS Publishers can do. It may not be possible to create a publishing program with a missionary goal, but there may be a role in any case.