Last week, I received the following Facebook message to the Bethany House Publishers page: “HI! I want all your pictures also the questions and mysteries you have.”
There are a few ways to interpret this cryptic message:
- Someone used Google Translate and it went badly wrong.
- A spam/robot account is sending me auto-generated messages.
- This is a legitimate question that I should answer on the blog.
Being the reasonable person that I am, I’ve decided that Option 3 is clearly the correct one. The following are a number of mysteries, solved and unsolved, from my experience in Christian publishing (with pictures, though not all my pictures).
Mystery One: The Bethany House Logo
Is it a flame, possibly on the page of an open book? Is it an ink quill tip? Is it supposed to be both at the same time? And if it is both, does that mean that our authors are lighting the world on fire, or is it symbolic of the Holy Spirit?
Staff members are divided. You decide.
Mystery Two: Faceless Women
By which I mean the type of cover that shows only part of a woman’s face/head or none at all.
While there’s no hard evidence of why this trend exists, popular explanations include:
- Some readers like to imagine the heroine’s face themselves, and the cover model could never be exactly what everyone is picturing.
- There’s a certain mystery about a half-hidden face that intrigues people.
- Something design-speak about proportions and lines and large faces sometimes distracting from the title and author name.
- And, of course, Regina Jenning’s conclusive research into this issue from a few years ago, my personal favorite explanation for this one.
Mystery Three: Disproportionate Genetic Distribution of Redheads
Someone* at Bethany House actually counted the number of red-haired heroines in our books one year and found that it was 18% of main characters, vs. approximately 1.7% percent of the US population.
This is a startling genetic anomaly that clearly indicates that gingers are trying to take over inspirational fiction. (Or maybe it’s because in three-book series, authors sometimes like to have at least one redhead. That might be it too.)
Mystery Four: The Traveling Felt Art Disaster
At Bethany House, we have a monstrosity of a craft project that makes its way into the office of the newest employee to celebrate their first day. (I had to keep it up for 16 months, a new record partially because it was a long time before we hired someone new and I could pass it along and also because apparently editorial doesn’t make people display it the whole time because they’re interior design cowards.)
There are legends surrounding the original creator of this artifact. Trend-dating, indicated by the atomic tangerine flowers and gold sequins, edges the date of origin toward the 1970s and early 80s. (For reference, that’s when Janette Oke published Love Comes Softly and the rest of the series.) But no one really knows for sure, much like blurry photos of Bigfoot or unsolved cold cases.
Mystery Five: Unnamed Scrolly Things
What do you call those pretty decorative things? At a recent cover meeting, I was brutally and unfairly mocked for referring to them as “ those lovely doodly-doo whatchamacallits.”
I say unfairly because, in fact, no one else in the room could agree on the right answer. “Flourish,” “dingbat,” “decorative element,” “filigree,” “ornament,” and “embellishment” were all suggested as alternatives. Since all of these are either boring or just as odd-sounding as “lovely doodly-doo whatchamacallits,” I will continue to use my term of choice.
Side note: Ever since I found out that the Morse code on Karen Witemeyer’s Heart on the Line and the various languages on Connilyn Cossette’s Out From Egypt series all actually say something, I’ve been wondering how many of our covers contain secret messages.**
I could go on with more specific examples like The Case of the Plagiarizing Blogger with Three Names or the Mysterious Affair of the Red Pen Corrections on Public Signage, but this will have to do for now.
And to the person or robot who sent that original Facebook message…thanks for the laugh.
Do any of you have theories about these mysteries that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
*It was me. I did that. Clearly, I need more to do to occupy my time.
**Probably all of them. You should be at least half as paranoid as me—it makes reading more fun.