Add to the perennial question “What Makes a Book Mormon?” another: “What Makes a Publisher Mormon?” A look at Agreka Books, of Scottsdale, Arizona, may help us at least decide what is not a Mormon publisher.
With this post I begin a series on the publishers in the LDS market and those of interest to Mormon authors. I hope and expect that these posts help authors to distinguish between all the options in the LDS market.
But I don’t want these posts to be solely about whether the publisher is an option for the Mormon author. I hope also to discuss the issues and problems in the LDS market, and at least gain additional perspectives on these issues and problems, if not practical solutions.
I’ve started with Agreka Books simply because it is included in several of the lists of LDS publishers available on the Internet. And as soon as I started talking with one of the owners of Agreka, Linda, it became clear that Agreka doesn’t fit the definition of a “Mormon” publisher the way, say, Cedar Fort does, and depending on your viewpoint, may not be “Mormon” at all!
The issue of how to characterize Agreka begins with its owners: they are not Mormon.
Linda explains that their involvement with Mormon books came when they were approached about a book about the polygamist FLDS Church in Colorado City, Arizona. After reviewing the book, Agreka agreed to publish it, believing that information about the problem of fundamentalist polygamy needed to come out. By 2006, Agreka had published at least 7 books on Colorado City and polygamy (all but one are still in print) and had several other titles of interest to a Mormon audience.
But they also ran into a problem. One of the men mentioned in one of these books didn’t like how he was portrayed. Upset, this man filed a lawsuit against both Agreka and the author. The case took two years and many hours of legal work to resolve, leaving Agreka with significant cost even though the lawsuit was eventually dropped.
As a result, Agreka has all but dropped Mormon-related titles. Linda says she is likely to reject Mormon submissions, unless the manuscript “reveals things that need to be revealed.” Short of that, Mormonism isn’t of interest to Agreka.
While Agreka did have quite a few Mormon titles prior to the lawsuit, it was never really involved in the LDS market. It has never been a member of the LDSBA, and hasn’t built relationships with LDS bookstores, so sales of its Mormon titles have come principally from the traditional U.S. market.
The company does focus on non-fiction and on fact-based fiction, leaning strongly toward issues prevalent in society. A look through the company’s list reveals books on animal companionship, some Utah tourism and historical titles, and a line of “Art Puzzles by Number.” In addition, Agreka also publishes family and local history under the imprint Agreka History Publishing, without regard to whether the material involves Mormonism.
Nevertheless, Agreka does have a number of titles still in print that will be of interest to Mormons, including Orson Hyde: Olive Branch of Israel, and The Correlation of Muslim Doctrine and Latter-Day Saint Doctrine: Based upon the Holy Scriptures; and a few others out-of-print, including the now rare The Osmond Family Trivia Book, and Conquerors of the West, Vol. 1: Stalwart Mormon Pioneers. A few others, such as Utah’s “Dixie” Birthplace are likely to have at least some Mormon content.
And despite Agreka’s ugly legal experience, Linda didn’t want to rule out the possibility that the right kind of Mormon title could come along. Regarding Mormonism, Agreka is looking for titles that “reveal things that need to be revealed” and that are unique.
I’m not sure exactly where this leaves Agreka. Mormon authors should certainly consider Agreka, at least for non-fiction titles that are not strictly Mormon, and maybe even for some non-fiction that is Mormon, if it meets their criteria. But I wouldn’t really consider it part of the LDS market, since it doesn’t target its sales to LDS bookstores and LDS Church members.