Ask BHP: What Should New Writers Know Before Going to a Conference?

This month’s Ask BHP Question is from an aspiring writer: “I know one of the best ways to meet editors like the ones at Bethany House is attending conferences. I’m planning to go to my first one in the fall of this year. Anything I should know about appointments with editors?”

Here are some tips from one of those editors you might be meeting with. Raela Schoenherr is one of our acquisition editors and an all-around fabulous human being. Here’s how she answered this question:

  • Trust yourself. You know your story better than anyone, so don’t focus on whether you’re giving the “wrong” answer or pitch. If you’re confident in what you’ve written and your goals for it, that will be apparent to agents and editors.
  • Remember that agents and editors are regular people just like you, no matter how intimidating they may seem at first.
  • Stay positive. Agents and editors are taking pitches because they hope to find something that will be a fit for them. Remembering that they’re looking for opportunities to say “yes” rather than “no” will help you keep a positive perspective.
  • Listen to the advice of others and apply what makes the most sense for you. If you’re trying to do (or not do) everything anyone has ever told you, you may have a hard time staying focused on the main point. And you may end up feeling that your pitch wasn’t authentic to you.
  • An appointment is your time to speak with an industry professional, so take initiative to start the conversation and the pitch. Don’t make them drag details out of you.
  • Do your best to answer their questions as well as you can, but if a question surprises you and you don’t have an immediate answer, don’t worry. You don’t want the entire appointment derailed because you panicked over not having an answer to one question. You can gracefully ask for a few moments to think or acknowledge it’s a great question and say you’ll need to jot it down and spend some time thinking and researching when you return home.

Raela also made what I called a “red flag checklist.” It’s a quick, bullet-point list of some common mistakes that immediately brand a manuscript as not yet ready for publication or pitching at a conference. Here’s what she put on it:

  • Confusing point of view
  • Head-hopping (randomly changing point of view in the middle of the scene)
  • Uneven or slow pacing
  • Overly clichéd or predictable
  • Breaks genre or sub-genre standards
  • Word count too short or too long for publisher’s standards
  • Author doesn’t know or understand readership

Those are all great things to look at as you’re preparing a manuscript (or preparing yourself to pitch one).

I’m not an editor, but I am on the team that looks over proposals from new authors in our pub board, so here are a few tips on conferences and manuscript proposals from my perspective.

  • Research the basics. Good news! There are resources all over the Internet about how to put together a book proposal, one-sheet, or cover letter. The proposals we’ve gotten from new authors all have some things in common (like the word count of the completed manuscript and a synopsis), but they don’t ever look exactly the same. Different elements/sections are included in each. That means you can find out what your materials should look like, but you don’t need to stress over matching any template perfectly.
  • Think about what would make you or your book stand out to a marketing team and include that in the proposal. You may not be a megastar or have a huge platform, but if you have connections with author friends, a unique area of expertise, or some great ideas for promoting your book, be sure to mention that in your proposal.
  • Use the conference as a way to connect with other writers. Besides being enthusiastic fans who can spread the word when you do have a book out, talking with author friends and following them on social media will give you great marketing ideas and help you get a better sense of what your readership is interested in. This may end up being more valuable to you than the appointments.
  • If an agent or editor isn’t the right fit for your project, don’t despair! That was the main point of last month’s post of published authors talking about rejection. Be open to feedback, don’t take a “no” personally, and keep on writing!

Hope that’s helpful! If there are any seasoned writers out there who have gone to a few conferences, feel free to add your tips in the comments.

July 2018 New Releases!

This month, we’re celebrating four fantastic summer reading releases. Take a journey through the pages to find romance, suspense, and page-turning plots. As always, feel free to try out a new-to-you author by clicking on the cover to read an excerpt. Happy reading, all!

The Best of Intentions by Susan Anne Mason

Plot Summary: In the aftermath of tragedy, Grace hopes to reclaim her nephew from the relatives who rejected her sister because of her class. Under an alias, she becomes her nephew’s nanny to observe the formidable family up close. Unexpectedly, she begins to fall for the boy’s guardian, who is promised to another. Can Grace protect her nephew . . . and her heart?

 

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey

Plot Summary: Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

 

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Annalise knows painful memories hover beneath the pleasant façade of Gossamer Grove. But she is shocked when she inherits documents that reveal mysterious murders from a century ago. In this dual-time romantic suspense novel, two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their town before it’s too late.

 

In Dreams Forgotten by Tracie Peterson

Plot Summary: After her parents’ deaths, Judith Gladstone travels to San Francisco to find her last living relative. Her unrequited love, Caleb Coulter, helps her search, and when his connections lead Judith to a wealthy, influential family, she learns shocking truths about her heritage . . . and finds herself in danger from someone who wants to keep the past hidden.

What’s on your summer reading list this July?

Prayer for Authors: July 2018

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in July:

Susan Anne Mason
Tracie Peterson
Dani Pettrey
Jaime Jo Wright

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.“—Psalm 90:14 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For renewed joy in the writing or editing process in whatever they project they are working on.
  • For times of rest in the midst of the busyness of release month.
  • For readers who need to hear the message of a particular book to pick it up at bookstores or libraries.

Once again, we’re very grateful that you take time (some of you every month) to remember our authors in prayer. That means a lot to them…and us!

 

Ask BHP: How Often Were Published Authors Rejected?

Our question today is aimed especially at aspiring writers out there: “How many times does an author typically get their book turned down before getting it published for the first time?”

To get the answer to this question, I decided to poll a number of Bethany House authors and see if their stats matched. Here are some quick facts.

Clearly, everyone’s path to publication is different, but take note, aspiring writers: by this statistic, only about 25% of our authors published the first novel they ever wrote. That may seem discouraging at first, but it’s a great reason to keep writing and keep improving.

I tried to get a count on how many rejections from editors and agents these authors faced for their novel that eventually did get published, but so many of them said “countless” that it was hard to tally up.

Besides just those numbers, I wanted to pull out a few snippets that tell part of the publication story of these authors. Below are stories from authors of many different genres: fantasy, historical, romance, contemporary, and just about everything in between. Enjoy!

Patrick Carr, author of The Wounded Shadow: I wrote three full-length novels before A Cast of Stones was picked up by Bethany House. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Before those three novels there was a veritable parade of unfinished novels extending back in time.

Mary Connealy, author of The Accidental Guardian: I was rejected too many times to count by agents and editors. One year alone I counted 40 rejections.

Connilyn Cossette, author of A Light on the Hill: Counted with the Stars received a number of rejections by agents (one devastating response made me nearly give up permanently because I was told that it was absolutely unsellable) but there was mostly just a lot of silence and not much feedback other than judges in contests that either loved it or thought it was the worst clap-trap ever written.

Leslie Gould, author of A Plain Leaving: In my early years, I sent three novel proposals, one by one, to the same editor. The first two times, she responded with: We like your writing but don’t want this story. The third time, she offered me a contract. I learned so much between writing that first novel and writing the third one!

Beverly Lewis, author of The Road Home: Since I was writing magazine articles and stories for several years prior to ever writing a novel, there were no unpublished book manuscripts in my drawer. My first published novel was actually for pre-teen girls, which turned into a 14-book series (HOLLY’S HEART). My first book manuscript for adults, however, was rejected. So, I went back to the drawing board and wrote The Shunning, which launched my adult writing career.

Nancy Mehl, author of Blind Betrayal: The first novel I ever wrote was never sent to anyone. It’s my “novel still in the drawer.” Thanks to some great writers I encountered through various online groups, I discovered early on that I had no idea what I was doing.

Tracie Peterson, author of In Places Hidden: Before I was published, I also had a file drawer full of stories that I had sketched out – probably over fifty. I always encourage new authors to keep putting together story ideas even if they are published because this made it so easy for me when the contracts started coming in. I didn’t have to worry about coming up with story ideas, because I had files full of them.

Michael Phillips, author of The Legacy: My first series was rejected over 30 times over a five year period before I took it to Bethany after they started publishing fiction. After those thirty rejections, the letter from a Bethany House editor expressing “cautious” interest was the turning point in my writing career.

Debra White Smith, author of Reason and Romance: The company I published my first novel with decided to cancel their line of fiction not long after my book was released. Then, the struggle was on. I got many, many rejections for five more years. Then, finally, I started selling all books that I had written during the five year wait. When the door opened, it was a floodgate that also involved non-fiction titles and a speaking ministry.

Karen Witemeyer, author of More Than Meets the Eye: When my first completed novel was requested by an editor, I received a rejection letter. They liked the writing, but the storyline was too similar to something they had recently published. However, there was one element they really liked: the dress shop. Could I write a story about a dress shop? Umm . . . the dress shop burned to the ground on page four. Ouch. No tweaking could fix this. I’d have to start over from scratch. Should I just try to pitch the original story to someone else, or should I write a new book? I decided to keep my foot in the door that God had cracked open for me and wrote a new story that centered around a dress shop, A Tailor-Made Bride.

In addition to sharing their numbers of rejections, authors also flooded my inbox with encouragement and advice for writers out there who may have had a bad pitch session with an editor or received disappointing news after a conference. Here they are…bookmark this post and come back to it whenever you need a pick-me-up from authors who have been there. Continue reading

Inside the Book World: Interview with Christine Sharbrough

Hello, readers! Today we have a special guest joining us on the blog. Christine is a strong advocate for Christian fiction, a super-cool librarian who always has a book recommendation, and and all-around delightful person to know. And in addition to all of that, she’s a reviewer for Library Journal, so as part of our new series interviewing people behind the scenes, Christine offered to let us in on more of what she does. Enjoy!

Amy: What would you say is your favorite part about reviewing for Library Journal?

Christine: The five years that I have been reviewing for LJ (and over 600 books reviewed, not counting the ones I read and do not review), has been an honor and pleasure to give back to the library community. I have to admit that being one of the first to see the new titles and new authors is a thrill every single time.

Amy: 600 books! That’s incredible! And yes, I totally understand the excitement of opening a galley months before a book officially releases.

Let’s get into the actual writing of reviews. How do you decide what to say in the evaluative part of the review? Especially if you didn’t care for the book, how can you tell if it just isn’t for you or if it objectively could have been better?

Christine: Because librarians use LJ as a source for purchases, LJ asks that we not include reviews of books that are purely negative. Now, that may give readers pause…and make authors wonder if they didn’t make it into the Journal because their books are terrible. Not so. We are limited by space constraints and therefore are limited to the number of reviews that can be included in the print journal. As a librarian, I want books that are timely, relevant, that fill a hole in my collection or augment a popular one. I am looking for a fresh take on an existing genre or a new voice that throws me a curve.

Amy: Too many books…such a great problem to have! So, when you explain to others that you read and review Christian fiction, what are some stereotypes that you’ve encountered?

Christine: From clergy most times I’m scoffed at and told that there is no such thing! From non-readers of the genre sometimes I can pique a reader’s curiosity, but sometimes I get the eyes widening and backing away slowly. It can be a tremendous conversation stopper. Mostly it’s the stereotype of preachy evangelizing that makes people worry. I have found that it’s a 70/30 split: among those who haven’t heard of Christian fiction, about 70% have no interest, and 30% would be interested if I can give them the right recommendation. This is when it pays to know your audience and your authors’ writing styles.

Amy: We’re glad you do! You mentioned stereotypes that are no longer true. What is the biggest change that you’ve appreciated in inspirational fiction over the years?

Christine: I believe the biggest change I’ve noticed is the broadening of the subgenres. This is great news for readers who are used to a variety of subgenres in their fiction diets. Reading inspirational fiction does not mean that you are limited to Amish or romance, which is a common misconception. There’s something out there for everyone.

Amy: That’s one of the things I love about looking at the fiction titles on display at a Christian bookstore. So much variety! That said, is there anything you’d like to see (or would like to see more of) in the future?

Christine: I would like to see more contemporary fiction that deals with hard issues. Obviously, those issues can be difficult to address well, but I believe readers of any genre should be able to find themselves in a book.

Thanks so much for joining us, Christine! Readers, what Christian fiction books have you read recently that address hard issues? (Even though Christine mentioned contemporary in particular, feel free to include historical titles.)

 

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2018

Welcome to another round of travel through the pages of books! This is a yearly feature where we show you where our latest releases are set so you can take a novel vacation even during your staycation. The books below are published by Bethany House between July 2017 and June 2018. Enjoy!

US Settings

Alaska: Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

California: In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

Colorado: The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin

Georgia: Deadly Proof and Lone Witness by Rachel Dylan, Possibilities by Debra White Smith

Kansas: A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

Maryland: Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey

Michigan: The Road Home by Beverly Lewis (also set in Pennsylvania)

Minnesota: Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson, The Promise of Dawn and A Breath of Hope by Lauraine Snelling

Missouri: Blind Betrayal by Nancy Mehl

Nevada: The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

New Mexico: Too Far Down by Mary Connealy

New York: A Dangerous Legacy and A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden, Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

North Carolina: Probing by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (along with other states)

Pennsylvania: The Proving by Beverly Lewis, A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould, A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Oklahoma: Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Oregon: Beloved Hope and Cherished Mercy by Tracie Peterson

Texas: Hearts Entwined by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jagears (along with other states), More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer, First Impressions by Debra White Smith

Washington: Falling for You by Becky Wade

West Virginia: The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Wisconsin: The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Other Countries

Australia: Amanda by Debra White Smith (Tasmania specifically)

Egypt: Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt, Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

England: A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, An Inconvenient Beauty and A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen, A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason, The Heart’s Appeal by Jennifer Delamere

Iraq: Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig (along with Egypt, Afghanistan, Germany, and other countries)

Israel: Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt, A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Italy: The Assault by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (along with other countries)

Nevis: Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Scotland: The Legacy by Michael Phillips, Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Other Realms

For when it’s not enough to visit places on Earth…

King’s War by Jill Williamson

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr

SettingMaps

And since I’ve been putting these together for the past five years, here’s a map that shows the US states covered by Bethany House books in that time (links below the map). If your home state isn’t covered, well…time to message an author?

Enjoy the other road trips by checking out past years’ lists:

2017

2016

2015

2014

Readers, what was a recent vivid setting that you traveled to in the pages of a book?

June 2018 New Releases!

Welcome to the first month of summer! If your library is hosting a summer reading challenge, or if you just want a great book to take along on your next vacation, I’ve got some fabulous recommendations for you: these four beauties releasing from Bethany House this month! Get an early start by clicking on a cover to read an excerpt.

A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

Plot: Dr. Rosalind Werner is at the forefront of a groundbreaking new water technology—if only she can get support for her work. Nicholas, Commissioner of Water for New York, is skeptical—and surprised by his reaction to Rosalind. While they fight against their own attraction, they stand on opposite sides of a battle that will impact thousands of lives.

 

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter
HAVEN MANOR #1

Plot: Forced to run for her life, Kit FitzGilbert finds herself in the very place she swore never to return to—a London ballroom. There she encounters Graham, Lord Wharton, who believes Kit holds the key to a mystery he’s trying to solve. As much as she wishes that she could tell him everything, she can’t reveal the truth without endangering those she loves.

 

King’s War by Jill Williamson
THE KINSMAN CHRONICLES #3

Plot: The remnant of the Five Realms has finally found a home in Er’Rets. However, peace is much harder to secure, and forces from within and without threaten Trevn’s new rule. The Hadar family and their allies prepare to make one final stand in the name of Arman: There shall be war—in Er’Rets and in the Veil—to vanquish evil or be ruled by darkness.

 

More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

Plot: Seeking justice against the man who destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront the person responsible. But his quest is derailed when, instead of a hardened criminal, he finds an ordinary man with a sister named Evangeline—an unusual beauty with mismatched eyes and a sweet spirit that he finds utterly captivating.

Here’s a question that divides both readers and our list of books this month: do you prefer to see the main character’s face on the cover of a book or not? Or does it not matter to you?

Prayer for Authors: June 2018

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in June:

Elizabeth Camden
Kristi Ann Hunter
Jill Williamson
Karen Witemeyer

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.“—Hebrews 12:1-2a (NLT)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For endurance in writing routines and in life in general.
  • For a fresh burst of creativity for current and future projects, whatever stage they are in now.
  • For those who will read these books to be encouraged by the truth within them.

We appreciate you joining us for this time of prayer, readers! Thanks for your faithfulness to bring authors before God.

 

Spring Cleaning Audiobook Giveaway!

Hello, readers! Our archive room (the locked, mysterious vault where copies of all of our books are kept) has been getting very full. Because of this, our intrepid editorial assistant, Hannah, recently cleaned out several dozen audiobooks on CD and offered them to Bethany House staff for free.

Rather than keep the bounty all to ourselves, I thought I’d do a fun flash giveaway for you readers.

To enter, all you have to do is comment on this post by noon tomorrow (Friday, June 1), with an answer to this question: what do you like about audiobooks?

If you’re one of three randomly-chosen winners, I’ll contact you via email and ask you what genre you prefer, then send you a fiction audiobook in that genre (I may be able to find specific Bethany House authors, but no guarantees!).

Ask Bethany House: Do You Hate One-Star Reviews?

This month’s Ask Bethany House question takes a look at a somewhat-controversial subject: “As a publicist who works with reviewers, do you ever get mad when you see one-star reviews of your authors’ books?”

So, let me first note that while I love my Bethany House authors, I have a good deal more objectivity when it comes to reading negative reviews than the authors themselves. After all, I didn’t spend months (or even years) of my life lovingly crafting a fictional world and putting imaginary people through trauma to get to a happy ending.

To give you a glimpse behind their side of the desk, I’ve heard of authors who…

  • Don’t ever read reviews to avoid obsessing over them.
  • Find one-star reviews normal and sometimes even hilarious.
  • Feel completely crushed and stressed out when they first read a scathing review.
  • Ask a friend to read bad reviews and pass on any reoccurring themes that might be helpful as they write the next book.
  • Love to read five-star and one-star reviews of their books and others’ because it gives the whole spectrum of who the book’s audience is (and isn’t).

Back to the actual question. I admit, I’ve gone through pretty much all of those stages when it comes to our authors’ books. Where I’ve landed is this: not every book is for every person. That’s just the way it’s going to be, and one-star reviews are evidence of that.

Sure, there are times when reviewers will make a completely unsubstantiated claim or reveal that they were biased against the book from the start…but clearly, they weren’t the intended audience for the book in the first place, and if they want to disclose that to the Internet as a whole, fine by me. It’s only in an environment where people feel able to say anything about a book that you can trust the praise of glowing, five-star reviews.

(Although one clarification: I always recommend that book reviewers keep it classy and refrain from making harsh generalizations or personal attacks on the author. There’s a difference between critical and mean.)

To prove my point—one-star reviews are necessary and even a little bit fun—below are excerpts from one-star Amazon reviews of award-winning Christian fiction…along with some commentary by me. (To be taken in good fun. Sometimes authors need to laugh at these so they don’t cry!) I’m leaving the titles off for all the authors out there who might still be a bit sensitive to these words. But trust me, these authors are all highly regarded and for each book included, there were hundreds of four- and five-star reviews.

“The chapters were a combination of jarring, illogical ‘bad’ events interrupting a dry litany of ‘Old West’ chores and Christian ‘values.’”
Hmm…how to respond? At least the “bad” events kept things interesting?

“Formulaic. Too easy to predict. Less of a historical piece and more of just a disguised romance novel.”
[Another one-star for the same book] “This was classified as a romance novel and it just doesn’t seem like one to me. Nice story, wrong genre.”
This just goes to show that it’s impossible to pick a genre categorization that everyone will find perfectly describes a book. Continue reading