Ask BHP + Giveaway: Who writes the short descriptions in the back of books?

Hello dear readers! Rachael here! You may have seen my blog post back in May where I talked about writing the synopsis on the back of our books. I’ve returned to talk about another intriguing responsibility that I have as the company’s copywriter. . . .

If you grab almost any Bethany House book and flip to the last few pages, you will find book recommendations—or as we call them, the back-of-book ads (BOBs for short).

Nearly a year before our books release—before I write the back cover copy and often before the book is even written—our marketing team works with our authors to write a book synopsis that makes its way into our seasonal catalog and online. They take an author’s original synopsis from their proposal that could be anywhere from one page to ten pages and shorten it down to about 150 words.

Once those are approved and edited, it’s up to me to deliver an even shorter description to our marketing team that is 360 characters or less . . . including spaces. Counting the fiction titles only, I write approximately 15 of these every four months—but counting our nonfiction divisions, I spend over a week writing at least 40 of these.

They are so fun to write, but they are not easy in the least. Not only do I need to cut a three paragraph synopsis down to three sentences, but I also need to make sure that I’m hooking a reader’s attention while delivering a concise and intriguing book description. They also have to run by our marketing team and editorial team for review and some usually are rewritten multiple times until we can guarantee that it is perfect.

Not only will you see these in our back-of-book ads, but they also make appearances in newsletters, print and digital ads, and on our social media accounts too!

Here are the short descriptions that I wrote for our November releases. Let me know which ones stand out to you!

After an abusive relationship derails her plans, Adri Rivera struggles to regain her independence and achieve her dream of becoming an MMA fighter. She gets a second chance, but the man who offers it to her is Max Lyons, her former training partner, whom she left heartbroken years before. As she fights for her future, will she be able to confront her past?

After She Falls by Carmen Schober

As the nation’s most fearless travel columnist, Augusta Travers explores the country, spinning stories for women unable to leave hearth and home. Suddenly caught in a scandal, she escapes to India to visit old friends, promising great tales of boldness. But instead she encounters a plague, new affections, and the realization that she can’t outrun her past.

Every Word Unsaid by Kimberly Duffy

After a deadly explosion at the Chilwell factory, munitions worker Rosalind Graham leaves the painful life she’s dreamt of escaping by assuming the identity of her deceased friend. When RAF Captain Alex Baird is ordered to surveil her for suspected sabotage, the danger of her deception intensifies. Will Rose’s daring bid for freedom be her greatest undoing?

As Dawn Breaks by Kate Breslin

When a renowned profiler is found dead in his hotel room and it becomes clear the killer is targeting agents in Alex Donovan’s unit, she is called to work on the strangest case she’s ever faced. Things get personal when the brilliant killer strikes close to home, and Alex will do anything to find the killer—even at the risk of her own life.

Dead Fall by Nancy Mehl

How would you write a short description for your favorite new release? Write your blurb below and include the title. Remember, it has to be less than 360 characters!

We will choose three random entries to win a copy of any Bethany House book that released in 2020-2021.

*No purchase necessary. Giveaway ends on Monday, October 25 at midnight CT. Winners will be chosen at random on Tuesday, October 26. Winners will receive one copy of a 2020-2021 Bethany House book of their choice. US only. Winner must be 18 and older or have parental consent.

October 2021 New Releases

Welcome to October, readers! We can’t wait to show off our list of new novels this month…as well as their lovely covers, hinting at the stories inside. We hope that you’re intrigued enough to check them out and read the first chapters by clicking on the covers.

A Flicker of Light by Katie Powner

Plot Summary: Widower Mitch Jensen is at a loss with how to handle his mother’s odd, forgetful behaviors, as well as his daughter’s sudden return home and unexpected life choices. Little does he know Grandma June has long been keeping a secret about her past–but if she doesn’t tell the truth about it, someone she loves will suffer, and the lives of three generations will never be the same.

Waiting on Love by Tracie Peterson
Ladies of the Lake #3

Plot Summary: Fulfilling a promise to her dying mother, Elise Wright watches over her father as cook on his Great Lakes schooner. But the behavior of a new sailor unsettles her and first mate Nick Clark, who secretly begins investigating. When tragedy strikes, Nick and Elise must rely on their faith and each other as they confront their greatest fears.

A Deep Divide by Kimberley Woodhouse

Secrets of the Canyon #1

Plot Summary: When her father’s greedy corruption goes too far, heiress Emma Grace McMurray sneaks away to be a Harvey Girl at the El Tovar Grand Canyon Hotel, planning to stay hidden forever. There she uncovers mysteries, secrets, and a love beyond anything she could imagine–leaving her to question all she thought to be true.

The Heart of a Cowboy by Jody Hedlund
Colorado Cowboys

Plot Summary: Traveling the Santa Fe Trail on a botanical exploration, Linnea Newberry longs to be taken seriously by the other members of the expedition. When she is rescued from an accident by Flynn McQuaid, her grandfather hires him to act as Linnea’s bodyguard, and Flynn soon finds himself in the greatest danger of all–falling for a woman he’s determined not to love.

Love on the Range by Mary Connealy
Brothers in Arms #3

Plot Summary: Assigned by the Pinkertons to spy on a suspicious ranch owner, Molly Garner hires on as his housekeeper, closely followed by Wyatt Hunt, who refuses to let her risk it alone. But when danger arises, Wyatt must band together with his problematic brothers to face all the troubles of life and love that suddenly surround them.

Tell us in the comments about the latest book you read and loved.

Prayer for Authors: October 2021

Since it’s Sunday, 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 Lokkesmoe, 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.

Authors with Books Releasing in October:

Mary Connealy
Jody Hedlund
Tracie Peterson
Katie Powner
Kimberley Woodhouse

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.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For joy in the creative process of writing (and in their personal reading).
  • For moments of inspiration and just the right words for authors working on new projects.
  • For those who recommend books to others or give them as gifts to match the right person with a book they might need.

As always, thank you so much for praying with us! It’s always an encouragement to us here at Bethany House, and to our authors.

Ask BHP: Where Do You Get Those Costumes?

A reader submitted this question to our Ask Bethany House survey, “I know you all do a lot of videos on the design part of your covers, but can you tell me more about the process for choosing a model or costume (especially for historical novels)?”

This is actually a question I don’t know how to answer! So instead of making things up, I sent it to Kristen Larson, who handles this area. I threw in a few bonus questions about cover design logistics too, mainly because I wanted to know them.

Kristen Larson is the Assistant Art Director for Bethany House Publishers and Chosen Books. Among a myriad of other tasks, the bulk of her work consists of assisting the art directors in the creation of book covers, choosing cover treatments and materials, and working with marketing, editorial, designers and production to get each book perfected for the printer. So, basically, the ideal person to answer today’s question. Welcome, Kristen!

After getting a description from an author of their character, what’s your process for going from that to choosing the model for the photoshoot?

The process is both simple and complex! The designer combs through models through local talent agencies, either by exploring the website or reaching out to our representatives to help us narrow down options. We always work hard to find the right model to fit the description the author has provided for us! We also keep in mind models we’ve used in the past to make sure we haven’t used them on a recent book cover. However, if we are only seeing the back of the model or if the model is very small on the book cover where the face isn’t recognizable, we’ll sometimes reach out to some of the great talent we’ve worked with in the past. It’s fun being able to use those models a second, or even third, time!

Where do you get those costumes, especially for historical dresses? And how do you choose the color and style?

Historical costumes come from all over the place. We have used local costume outlets, online rental facilities, and have even ordered from overseas! If it’s an especially complex costume, we’ve gone so far as to have them custom made!

Do you have a favorite dress or two that you’ve helped pick out?

The dress we used on Verity by Lisa T Bergren was a fun one!

Any fun photoshoot memories you’d like to share with us?

I was recently at the photoshoot for Turn to Me by Becky Wade. We all fell in love with the male model we found for the hero, he fit the description perfectly. As an added bonus, his real life girlfriend was able to pose as the heroine! They were such a fun couple to shoot and really brought life to the cover. It’s one of note for sure!

I learned so much from this interview. Thanks so much for sharing, Kristen!

How about you, readers? Is there a costume on a cover (Bethany House or not) that stands out to you?

Carol Award Winners Giveaway!

Earlier this month, several Bethany House authors won the 2021 Carol Awards, awarded by the American Christian Fiction Writers. We always love celebrating our books…and giving them away to readers is fun too. Read a little about each one so you’ll know which you want to choose if you win, then find entry directions at the end of the post.

Dead End by Nancy Mehl

Mystery/Suspense Winner

Dead End Plot Summary: When multiple corpses are found, their remains point to a serial killer with a familiar MO but who’s been in prison for over twenty years–Special Agent Kaely Quinn’s father. In order to prevent more deaths, she must come face-to-face with the man she’s hated for years. In a race against time, will this case cost Kaely her identity and perhaps even her life?

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette

Historical Romance Winner

Like Flames in the Night Plot Summary: On a hunt for his daughter’s killer, Liyam’s last hope is a bargain to rescue a strong-willed woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted. Can Tirzah convince him to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will his thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, God, and the woman he’s come to love?

Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray

Contemporary Romance Winner

Love and a Little White Lie Plot Summary: After hitting rock bottom, January decides she has nothing to lose in working at her aunt’s church–while hiding a lack of faith. A minor deception until she meets the church’s guitarist and sparks fly. Can she avoid disaster–especially when a handsome landscape architect has an annoying ability to push her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried?

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green

Historical Fiction and Debut Novel Winner

things-we-didnt-say Plot Summary: In this epistolary novel from the WWII home front, Johanna Berglund is forced to return to her small Midwestern town to become a translator at a German prisoner-of-war camp. There, amid old secrets and prejudice, she finds that the POWs have hidden depths. When the lines between compassion and treason are blurred, she must decide where her heart truly lies.

The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser

Contemporary Fiction Winner

promised-land Plot Summary: Desperate to mend her marriage and herself, Abbie Jowett joins her son in walking the famed Camino pilgrimage. During their journey, they encounter an Iranian working in secret to help refugees and a journalist searching for answers from her broken past–and everyone is called into a deep soul-searching that threatens all their best laid plans.

To celebrate these authors and their lovely books, we’re giving away one of them to five winners (winner’s choice of which one). To enter, just comment on the blog with what earns a book a place on your “keeper” shelf. We’ll choose five random winners on 9/29, so be sure to enter before that!

Book Cover Lookalike Fashion, Part Four

And so we come to what is now an annual feature of the Bethany House fiction blog…pairing the costuming choices of some of our historical book covers with modern fashion! Take a look at these beauties, releasing in 2021, and their corresponding lookalike dresses. (You can scroll through first, second, and third years of doing this as well.)

Which of these dresses is your favorite? Which do you think matches the book cover most closely?

Prayer for Authors: September 2021

Since it’s Sunday, 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 Lokkesmoe, 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.

Authors with Books Releasing in September:

Misty M. Beller
Elizabeth Camden
Jennifer Delamere
Amy Lynn Green
Beverly Lewis
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.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace when making decisions or facing stressful or anxious days.
  • For moments of inspiration and just the right words for authors working on new projects.
  • For the books releasing this month to be read by those who need them most.

We’re so grateful to know there are readers like you praying for these authors (and others). Thank you!

September 2021 New Releases

Looking for something fun to read this September? We’ve got six new releases for you to explore, all of them set in different eras and locations, from the wilds of the War of 1812 to modern day Lancaster county. Take a look at the summary, click on the covers to read the excerpts, and see what stands out to you.

The Beginning by Beverly Lewis

Plot Summary: Susie Mast’s Old Order life has been shaped more by tragedy than her own choices. But when she decides to stop waiting on her childhood friend and accept another young man’s invitation, she soon realizes her mistake. Will family secrets and missed opportunities dim Susie’s hopes for the future? Or is what seems like the end only the beginning?

Crossed Lines by Jennifer Delamere
Love along the Wires

Plot Summary: Mitchell Harris is captivated by Emma Sutton, but when his best friend also falls in love with her and asks for help writing her letters, he’s torn between desire and loyalty. Longing for a family, Emma is elated when she receives a love note from a handsome engineer but must decide between the writer of the letters and her growing affection for Mitchell.

Under the Texas Mistletoe by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: Spiced with Witemeyer’s signature blend of humor, thrilling frontier action, and sweet romance, this charming holiday novella collection includes three novellas, “An Archer Family Christmas,” “Gift of the Heart,” and a brand-new story, “A Texas Christmas Carol,” along with a Christmas devotion, holiday recipes, and fun facts about 1890s Christmas celebrations.

A Warrior’s Heart by Misty M. Beller
Brides of Laurent

Plot Summary: On assignment to help America win the War of 1812, Evan MacManus is taken prisoner by Brielle Durand–the key defender of her people’s secret French settlement in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. But when his mission becomes at odds with his growing appreciation of Brielle and the villagers, does he dare take a risk on the path his heart tells him is right?

Carved in Stone by Elizabeth Camden
The Blackstone Legacy #1

Plot Summary: When lawyer Patrick O’Neill agrees to resurrect an old mystery and challenge the Blackstones’ legacy of greed and corruption, he doesn’t expect to be derailed by the kindhearted family heiress, Gwen Kellerman. She is tasked with getting him to drop the case, but when the mystery takes a shocking twist, he is the only ally she has.

The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green

Plot Summary: After Pearl Harbor, sweethearts Gordon Hooper and Dorie Armitage were broken up by their convictions. As a conscientious objector, he went west to fight fires as a smokejumper, while she joined the Army Corps. When a tragic accident raises suspicions, they’re forced to work together, but the truth they uncover may lead to an impossible–and dangerous–choice.

Do you ever re-read novels? If so, what makes a book worthy of a second read?

Ask BHP: What Do You Look For In New Authors?

From our Ask BHP survey, we’re answering a question from very early in the publishing process: “What are factors Bethany House Publishers look for when considering publishing a new author?”

This was probably the question that we got the most via our survey, with slight variations. We know that both aspiring authors and readers love to hear what goes on in deciding to publish a book, and even though we’ve shared about this before, it’s a fun one to revisit.

Keep in mind that because we continue working with many established authors every year on their next releases, Bethany House usually doesn’t have more than 1-2 new-to-us authors every year, and not all of them are debut (first-time) authors. I don’t say that to be discouraging, just to give context to some of the items below. Traditional publishing tends to be more competitive because logistically, there are only so many “slots” that our staff and publishing schedule can handle.

That said, it is possible to stand out in the crowd with some focused effort. Here are a few of the top answers I’ve gotten from Bethany House team members in recent years when they share what draws them to a project from a new author.

A complete manuscript (for a debut author). We want to see that you can not only start a story well, but have a strong middle and ending as well. It’s rarer than you might think!

What you can do: Finish that book! Also, make sure that you’re not making the first 3-4 chapters super polished for contests and proposals and neglecting the rest of the book. We can always tell, and many first readers at publishing companies care.

A story that’s a good fit for our audience. Sometimes we give a “no” to an otherwise strong manuscript because of the way a faith theme is treated or because me notice a prominent element that our core readers might not respond well to. In those cases, we’re really not a good fit.

What you can do: Make sure you’re familiar with the breadth of books we publish, and be able to explain why your book fits in nicely with them.

A strong pitch for the sales team about how the book will sell. Obviously, there is a time for experimentation and risk, and our team is willing to do that for a project that has other strong points or is just a story we feel we have to publish. Generally, though, our sales team is hesitant to sign projects that are squarely in categories that have sold poorly in the past, unless we and the author can demonstrate that a particular genre is on the rise.

What you can do: Know the market and what’s currently selling. If you know you’ve got some sales obstacles, collect and present data. Tell us why your book is different, show evidence that readers are interested in this genre/setting, give us some recent comparable titles that have done well.

A story that finds the balance between original and familiar. The best story pitches have a mix of compelling points that make the sales team think, “Ah, yes, readers love that” and fresh takes that will make them think, “Nice, this will stand out.” We’re usually less interested in both ultra-safe stories that only repeat super common tropes and zany tales that break nearly every reader expectation.

What you can do: If your book is something more common, like a marriage of convenience romance, great! Some readers love that. You’ll just need to make it very clear why it’s different than the thousands of other marriage of convenience stories out there. If you’re trying something that’s less common in Christian fiction, then tell us what makes it familiar as well—a detail that readers would recognize and feel drawn to the story.

An author with demonstrable marketing savvy. We love it when proposals show that an author knows their way around the world of connecting with an audience of readers. That could mean they have friendships with published authors who will endorse their book, or they’ve started a platform (often by talking about others’ books) where they have an audience already, or they have a great plan for how to launch their book. All three is even better! Publishing is a team effort, and being an author with marketing savvy is a great way to stand out.

What you can do: We know that most authors start out focusing just on the craft of writing—as it should be! But you should also consider an investment in marketing know-how (via conferences, online seminars, and even old-fashioned experimentation) as the next step in becoming a professional writer. Just know that it’s very unlikely that you’ll find a quick fix to accumulating marketing know-how or building a platform in the space of a few months. This is usually a long-build process.

A fantastic story. This is always key for us. Even marketing team members like me have read widely and will always advocate strongly for characters that jump off the page, a compelling voice, and a plot that keeps us turning pages.

What you can do: Besides the obvious of investing in your craft and always learning and improving, get feedback from other writers or beta readers to make sure your story shines. As a bonus, you’ll start to learn more about doing rewrites based on others’ recommendations, a great publishing skill. I also tell new authors to keep writing. If the first story of your heart can’t find the traditional publishing home you wanted, it might be time to work on a new one, applying all you’ve learned. Out of more than a dozen debut novels that Bethany House has published in my eight years here, I believe only one was the first book the author had completed. The best way to become a better writer is to do more writing!

How about you, readers? Are there other questions you have about the publishing process, either from a writer or reader’s perspective?

Four Places to Travel Through Books

If your summer is winding down and you feel the need for one last adventure, here’s an easier solution than packing your bags: you can go anywhere (and anywhen) in the pages of a novel. Here are four books with lovely atmospheric settings to give you some bookish travel ideas…and we know you can come up with many more. Feel free to share in the comments!

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

This novel starts in the heroine’s home country of India, including natural beauty, city life, and details of traditional methods of art like beetle-wing embroidery.

From the Book: “Calcutta was a beautiful place, a vibrant mixture of British and Indian architecture, traditional and modern, planned and chaotic. Where wealthy English roses lounged on palanquins and took the air on King’s Bench Walk, and also where bent women, their arms taut from decades of labor, washed clothing on the steps of the ghats.”

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson

If you want to visit the London of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes (both the scenic and the seedy parts), dive into this legal historical novel. You’ll find yourself as intrigued by the setting as the mysterious crime under investigation.

From the Book: “Out the stern cabin windows of the Padget, the harbor waters rippled as the ship edged toward the London dock in the rhythmic tugs of the oarsmen off the bow. The midnight moon split the Thames into streaky lines that ducked and weaved amidst the crowd of scows, schooners, brigs, and warships docked or anchored on the river. The scents and sounds of London grew stronger the nearer the Padget drew to the quay.”

Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes

In the middle of the Battle of Argonne during WWI, the descriptions of the forest can vary from magically beautiful to sinister depending on what the characters are experiencing. Throughout, you’ll feel like you’re journeying with the characters to safety.

From the Book: “At some point–and I cannot pinpoint precisely when–I entered another world. There was no mark of it–no creaking of hinges, no fall into a rabbit hole, no flight unto a second star to the right. More of a gradual mist of quiet, where the pleasant smell of decomposing leaves and pine washed away the smell of decomposing flesh. Where the air was tinged with open clarity, not a veil of sulphur.”

The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser

The characters in this novel travel down the Camino, a famous pilgrimage road through France and Spain, and readers are treated to lush descriptions along the way.

From the Book: “Most of the homes and shops in the village are made from volcanic stone. I soak in the contrast of the ancient black stones and the red tiled roofs against a background of rippling, green-carpeted mountains. I feel like I’m standing in paradise. I take a photo on my phone, although I know full well I cannot capture the unique beauty of this place.”

Where have you most recently traveled in a book you read? Share the destination and book title in the comments.