Friday, June 20, 2008

Mormon Coffee-Table Book Ideas?

As a freelance writer/editor, I work with a gent named Ken Webb of Worth Press, a publisher in England who puts together high-quality, illustrated, full-color-throughout, coffee-table-type books that he prints cheap in China and then sells through places like Costco and Barnes & Noble. He's sold over 4 million copies of his titles worldwide so far, the key to his success being unique, high-quality, pride-of-ownership books offered at attractive prices.

After Ken read about the Doubleday edition of the Book of Mormon some time ago, he decided to look into doing a Mormon-themed book. He and I were put into contact, and I did a Mormon history timechart with him that has sold well enough for Costco to reprint it several times, and now their distributor has commissioned a revised edition of it.

Based in San Diego, employees of that distributor recently noticed the impressive LDS temple there and have requested that we do a big, illustrated, full-color, coffee-table book on temples, and we're just now finalizing that deal. The title is Latter-Day Houses of the Lord: Images & Details of the First 125 Temples.

So now Ken feels that there's an untapped vein for more Mormon books along these lines, and he wants to do all kinds of Mormon books. We're talking about doing a Mormon history wall calendar and an illustrated Mormon pioneer almanac to bring to life the 1846-1860ish pioneers. Other ideas he's talked about include Mormon-themed "social stationery" (is that a British term?), notebooks, planners, recipe books, all kinds of stuff.

I've sort of become their Utah/Mormon go-to guy, and frankly I need to get some more book ideas to talk about with them. Does anyone have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, pointers, referrals for potential Mormon-themed coffee-table and other kinds of mass-market books? Ken actually asked me to start brainstorming with other Mormons to see what's wanted, what gaps in the Mormon market exist, what LDS publishers may have already tried but not with enough lavish full-color treatment and low price point, etc.

So what impressive, full-color Mormon-themed books can you envision sitting on your coffee table? Thanks in advance for any input you may have, and please pass on this request to others who may be interested.


Anonymous said...

The rights issues may not work, and this may have already been done, but it seems to me that the work of Minerva Teichert cries out for the full coffee-table treatment.

Maybe too big budget, but a "Day in the Life" type book focused only on Mormons could be really cool. I'd cheat a little and go from a noon Saturday to 10 p.m. the next Sunday.

And the obvious one after temples would be historical structures, locations and monuments.

Anonymous said...

I think a book about the Mountain Meadows Massacre would be appropriate, or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, consider a book with a mini-biography on all the prophets from Joseph Smith to Thomas Monson. Something along those lines.

Anonymous said...

Collaborate with the Church Museum of Hiatory and Art. Look at the art from the International Competions. Then curate various themes from the artwork's subject matter such as the Savior, pioneer history, family, etc.

Scott Passey said...

How about a "Why Mormons Don't Drink Coffee" coffee table book? (Ever see the Seinfeld episode where Kramer conceptualizes the coffee table book about coffee tables?)

All humor aside, consider a collection of very short biographies of the most unlikely, or perhaps most unusual Mormon converts, replete with lots of pictorials. You could highlight the usual suspects but then mix in a bunch of lesser known people. It might be research-intensive and involve lots of interviews but I think it would have broad appeal.

Anonymous said...


I was just interviewed by a missionary couple here in Santa Fe for a BYU project of member biographies. I have no idea if this project is world wide or what, so i have not ideas of the number of peole involved. This could be psrt of the research part of your idea.

Anonymous said...

I would buy a book about Elfie Huntington the Utah photographer in a New York minute, if only someone would publish one. Preferably a big coffee-table sized one with large images. BYU has a collection her work, I believe, but it's not published anywhere I can find.

Anonymous said...

Here's a few ideas:

"Mormon Missteps"

A look at historical blunders made by the church and church members. Episodes such as the Deseret Alphabet, the failed footings for the Salt Lake Temple, the overgrazing of the benches along the Wasatch front, etc..

I felt closer to the church, and historical church figures, when I saw them as real humans who made mistakes.

"Mormon Inventions"

Don't we have quite a few? The odometer, television, Word processing software, online credit card processing,... etc.. etc..

Laura said...

Women--especially mothers--are a huge part of the LDS market so why not try something aimed at them? Maybe a RS presidents bio book or mothers of the prophets book. That last one has already been done in regular book form but the coffee table would probably be a huge hit for mother's day. And what about Christmas or Easter themed stuff? I love all the different nativities at the Temple Square--that event seems ready made for a coffee-table book.

Michaela Stephens said...

One on Mormon pageants, with pictures.
One on missionaries, both young and old.
You could probably do one just on Temple Square.
One on the Tabernacle Choir
One on BYU (past and present)
One on BYU Idaho
One on BYU Hawaii

One on the MIA/YoungMen/YoungWomen
One on the Relief Society
One on members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles (that didn't end up as president of the church)

Anonymous said...

The mind bloggles...

I'd very much enjoy a coffee table book with some of the more interesting characters of Mormon history and present. Each subject would have a page of illustration (full bleed photo or collage) opposite a page of text. Names like Porter Rockwell, Orson Hyde, J. Golden Kimball, Butch Cassidy, Earl Bascom, Samuel Brannan, Osmonds, etc. There's a plethora of colorful stories attached to our history; it'd be fun to see them assembled in a picture book.