Ask BHP: How Does the Cover Design Process Work?

When we put up our annual Ask BHP poll to collect reader questions about what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing company, the #1 category people asked questions about was the cover design process.

I could write blog posts about that. (I have, actually written a few, like this one or this one, in our Ask BHP archives.) But since cover design is such a visual process, we thought it might be more fun to create a series of videos, about one per month, to share details about the design process of one specific book cover. Those videos are hosted over on our Instagram account (which you should visit if you haven’t already), but I’m including one here for any blog followers who might not be on Instagram.

Enjoy! 

What cover design questions would you like us to explore in future videos?

7 Fun Book-Related Activities

Reading is a solitary activity…usually. But in honor of National Book Lovers Day, which is August 9, here are some ideas for games, events, and other outings that you can participate in with your reading friends or book club.

Dramatic Readings

If you have young kids, reading a book out loud might be a regular occurrence, but if you don’t, this can still be a fun way to share a book with others. Even if you’re not usually a dramatic person, you’ll be surprised at how fun it is to read aloud. You might even start slipping into different voices for the characters. This is great in a smaller group, so everyone can pass around the book and read a few pages.

I’d suggest something shorter—such as a middle grade novel, a memoir with episodic chapters, or a novella collection—so you don’t end up scheduling once-a-week readings for a decade to finish Storytime with Tolstoy.

Book Exchange

Gather some friends and ask them each to bring a book or two that they enjoyed but want to pass along to someone else. (Alternately, they can find a book they loved at a used bookstore.) Tell them to wrap up the book and write a few phrases that describe the book on the outside, such as the genre, setting, or the occupation of the main character. Let everyone choose a new-to-them book to take home with them based on those descriptions.

Book Photo Scavenger Hunt

For this, you can use your home library or journey out to a bookstore. Ahead of time, print a list of prompts for each participant (suggestions below, but feel free to add your own). Then set a time limit and gather again at the end to admire all of the bookish photos. For fun, consider giving a bookstore gift card to the person with the funniest or most original shots!

Sample Scavenger Hunt List: a selfie where you are imitating a cover, a book over 1000 page long, an author who shares your first name (or as close to it as you can find), two books displayed next to each other on vastly different topics, a poem made out of a stack of three or more bookspines, a kids’ book with over 20 animals on the cover, a how-to book you’d never personally buy, and the funniest title you can find.

Find a New Local Book Store

I’ve been in bookstores all over the United States on tours with authors, and I can tell you that no other place feels quite so much like home. You probably know if there’s bookstore in your area, but anytime you’re going on a vacation or even a day trip a few hours away, be sure to do a quick Internet search to see what bookish gems you might uncover.

Whenever I’m in Grand Rapids, I always end up buying something at Baker Book Store—their selection and recommendations are amazing. Here in Minneapolis, Wild Rumpus, a children’s bookstore with a variety of pets wandering around, is always fun for a visit.

Recreate a Cover

Pick some favorite books with people on the cover and do your best to recreate them. Bring along someone to serve as a photographer and prop master…or another model if there’s more than one character pictured. Becky Wade has done several of these with the help of her husband and/or kids, and the Bethany House staff even got into our own competition last year.

If you post the pictures on social media (which you should, because why keep all the fun to yourself?), tag the authors so they can enjoy what you’ve created…and maybe get a few laughs.

Book Balderdash

This one requires a little prep ahead of time. Search Amazon for some quirky book titles and covers (middle grade and YA books are often good for this, try not to pick anything too well-known). Read the plot description and write out a one-to-two sentence summary. Then gather some friends or your book club and show them, one at a time, just the title and cover of a book. Each person then has a few minutes to jot down their best—or most humorous—plot description of what that book could be about. Then mix the real description in with the fake ones and read them out loud, letting everyone vote on which they think is the actual plot.

Or, if you want to be able to participate too, don’t read the plot description ahead of time, just write your own description and then award points based on who came the closest to the actual plot (read it aloud after everyone submits their answers).

Book Recipes

Some books feature food prominently—you know the ones, with mouth-watering descriptions of flaky pie crust (hello, Beverly Lewis and Leslie Gould’s Amish fiction) or characters who work in the fine dining industry and know their stuff. Others might just mention a region’s traditional dish in passing. Either way, jot down these ideas for later, because nothing helps bring a book to life like eating what the characters ate. (Although I will admit to being disappointed that Edmund sold out his siblings for something as thoroughly un-tempting—to me, at least—as Turkish Delight.)

Or, if you and some friends all enjoy a book set in a particular locale, consider doing a carry-in and bringing dishes that fit the setting. The Mark of the King Cajun Night, or a Julie Klassen Regency tea, anyone? The possibilities are endless.

How about you, readers? Any fun bookish games or trips you’d like to suggest?

August 2019 New Releases

Welcome to August, everyone! As summer winds down, it’s the perfect time to pick up a few page-turning novels to keep you awake late into the night. (What better way to enjoy the longer daylight hours than to pretend that you’re just going to read one more chapter?) We’re excited to introduce you to five new releases this month from Bethany House. Click on a cover to start reading an excerpt!

Fire Storm by Nancy Mehl
Kaely Quinn Profiler #2

Plot Summary: FBI profiler Kaely Quinn visits Nebraska to care for her ailing mother. She can’t help but notice suspicious connections among a series of local fires, so she calls on her partner, Noah Hunter, to help find the arsonist. Together they unwittingly embark on a twisted path to catch a madman who is determined his last heinous act will be Kaely’s death.

 

The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey
Coastal Guardians #1

Plot Summary: When a Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Special Agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous assignment yet. Complicating matters is the arrival of investigative reporter Gabby Rowley, who’s on a mission to discover the truth. Can they ignore the sparks between them and track down this elusive killer?

 

A Perfect Silhouette by Judith Miller

Plot Summary: To help support her family and make use of her artistic skill, Mellie finds employment at a daguerreotype shop, where she creates silhouette portraits. When romance begins to blossom with one of her charming customers, her life seems to have fallen perfectly into place—but when the unexpected happens, will she find happiness despite her hidden secrets?

 

King’s Shadow by Angela Hunt
The Silent Years

Plot Summary: Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court: the king’s only sister, Salome, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, and her lowly handmaid, Zara, who sees the hurt in those around her. Both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.

 

A Song of Joy by Lauraine Snelling
Under Northern Skies #4

Plot Summary: New to America, Norwegian immigrant Nilda Carlson is encouraged by her wealthy mentor to better herself and the community of Blackduck. While her ideas to help other immigrants meet resistance, she finds delight in her piano lessons with a handsome schoolteacher. But with a detective digging into her past and a rich dandy vying for her hand, Nilda must decide which future she will choose.

Have any of you read a previous book from all five of these authors? (Between them, they’ve written well over one hundred books!)

Seaside Books Giveaway

We stole this idea from Amanda Dykes, who was a guest on a podcast episode of Read-Aloud Revival, talking about various writerly things, but also recommending some favorite seaside-set books.

We figured, why not do a blog post featuring beach reads—meaning books with actual beach-like words on the cover. We expanded it to include recent titles with a water-related word in the title. Here are a few of them:

The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis
Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes
To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden
The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright
The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller
The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey
Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green
Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin
Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

(For a bonus, we found a few more that had a watery scene depicted on the front cover, just not in the title: Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, Keturah by Lisa Bergren, Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette, Flight of the Raven by Morgan Busse, Sweet on You by Becky Wade, and Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson. We’re probably forgetting some!)

And just for fun, a giveaway! We’ll pick three winners on August 1 to win their choice of one of these seaside books. To enter, just comment on this post with a favorite watery vacation spot you’ve been to. (River, ocean, hot springs, indoor pool…anything goes!)

Five Ways to Make Time for Reading

(This week’s post is from our fantastic summer intern, Jessica Pollard. Enjoy her tips!)

Let’s face it. Life is always going to be busy. Even though everyone says summer is the time to relax, you will always have lawn to mow, gardens to weed, and windows to clean. Not to mention no one can remember the last time the pantry was cleaned.

To help you escape the woes of summer cleaning and busy schedules, here are five ways you can make time in your life so you can soak in the summer rays with your favorite book.

Always Carry a Book

Everywhere is a good place to read: the doctor’s office, a sporting event, or even a road trip. (Unless you are driving. You’ll have to settle for an audiobook instead.) We waste so much time between events scrolling on our phones or gazing awkwardly into space. With a handy book in your purse or car, you can save your battery and look sophisticated at the same time. If you think books are too clunky to carry around (or don’t want to save your battery or look sophisticated), you can always have a few ebooks on your mobile device so that instead of mindlessly playing that game you’ve played a million times, you can go on new adventures with your newest character-friends.

Audiobooks

Some summer cleaning is inevitable. Trust me, trying to find an onion for wild rice soup is easier if you don’t have to venture through the menacing forest that grew around them. (Yes, I speak from experience.) However, you can make the work more enjoyable if you spend it with your favorite characters listening to audiobooks. Crossing stuff off your to-do list and reading books at the same time! You will be crowned the best multitasker in the world. Maybe you can even imaging you are the character as they make dinner or clean the house along with you.

Read What You Love

Yes, this may seem obvious at first glance. Of course, you should read what you love…but think of all the things you do read when you are “too busy” to read a book. Random news articles, your social media feed, bills. It only takes one masterfully woven page-turner to keep your attention hooked for hours. You will wonder how you ever claimed you didn’t have time for books. You may also wonder what sleep is.

(WARNING: Sleep is necessary for human function. Follow your doctor’s advice. But then again, if you really need to know who killed that guy…I guess you can read one more chapter…Someone else was killed? Okay, one more…What just happened??? Only two more chapters this time…Whoops, that’s the end of that book. But there was a cliffhanger…I guess you can start the next one.)

Set Goals

As with most things in life, you will get more done if you set goals (and stick to them). You will be amazed how many pages you can read while you’re brushing your teeth, making dinner, or before you go to bed if you know that reading 54 more pages will allow you to check the little box on your list. Making color-coded charts and spreadsheets to chart your progress can be as motivating as a to-do list.

(WARNING: Making color-coded charts and spreadsheets is addictive. You don’t want them to cut into your valuable reading time. It’s best to listen to an audiobook while making them.)

Be Challenged by Peers

If following through on your goals is not your forte, there’s nothing like a little peer pressure to keep you reading. Join a book club or start one with some friends. You don’t want to be the one who shows up to the meeting and responds “Well…you see…” when asked if you thought the main character was justified when she decided to go on a date with Bill instead on Rob in chapter nine. Trust me, you want to avoid the judgmental stares of book-lovers. Their gazes won’t stop after the meeting is over. They will follow you. Everywhere. For the rest of your life.

I think cleaning the pantry can wait for next month.

I hope these tips will inspire you to read more this summer. How do you make time for reading in your life?

July 2019 New Releases

Good thing you don’t need a passport or visa to travel through books, because our two July fiction releases will take you all over the globe, to ancient Israel in Until the Mountains Fall, and to Russia, the Bahamas, Greece and many other countries in Storm Rising. Click on the covers below to read an excerpt of each of these page-turning books, perfect for summer reading.

 

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig

Plot Summary: Once lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold ancient secrets—and dangers. Former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe has been tasked with capturing the ancient text, but a Bulgarian operative snatches it, determined to secure her freedom. When a series of strange storms erupts, they must form an alliance to thwart impending disaster.

Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette

Plot Summary: Recently widowed, Rivkah flees Kedesh, refusing to submit to Torah law and marry her husband’s brother. Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but after her disappearance, he throws himself into the war against the Canaanites and is forced to confront not only his wounds, but also hers—including the shocking truth that has kept her from returning.

 

Since these books both have the protagonists on the cover, what do you feel like you know about them already just from a quick glance?

Prayer for Authors: July 2019

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:

Connilyn Cossette
Ronie Kendig

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 call to you from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength. Lead me to a rock that is high above me, for you have been a refuge for me, a strong tower in the face of the enemy.”—Psalm 61:2-3 (CSB)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For strength for the additional tasks needed during release month.
  • For safety during any travel, either personal vacations or writing conferences.
  • For the right readers to pick up these books at a time when they need it.

It’s a powerful thing to have a group of readers gathering together to pray for these authors. Thanks for joining with us!

Publishing Vocabulary 101

When I first started working at Bethany House almost six years ago, I remember thinking, “There are so many terms and acronyms in publishing.” If you’ve ever seen an unfamiliar word used in book circles, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve asked some of our staff members to contribute some assorted publishing vocabulary words—take a look at the list and see how many are new for you!

Advance: the non-returnable payment to authors by publishers against which the royalty earnings are offset

AE: Acquisitions editor—finds new projects and works with the author and manuscript through all stages of publishing

ARC: Advance Reader Copy—an early version of the book sent to media and endorsers

Backlist: all of the titles by an author published before their latest release

BOB: Back of Book ad—the final few pages of a book that include author information and book suggestions

Book performance review: a meeting evaluating sales a year or more after a book’s release

Book proposal: information about a book that an author sends to a publisher/agent, usually including sample chapters

Colophon: inscription at the end of a book with facts about its production; can also mean an identifying mark or logo

Comps: either “rough sketch” cover options, or, when used with “titles,” books similar to the one being discussed

Copy: the text on back covers, ads, and other promotional materials

Em dash (—): Per the Chicago Manual of Style, the “most versatile of the dashes,” used to set off material or mark a break

Leaf: a section of the book comprising both right and left pages

Perfect binding: a method where individual pages of a book are glued together as opposed to section-sewn

Positioning: a meeting where marketing, editorial, and sales find a book’s unique fit in the marketplace

Press release: a written announcement that draws media attention to an author or new book release

Proofread: the final step in the editorial process, focusing on cleaning up any small typographical errors

Pub board: a meeting where marketing, editorial, and sales discuss future book contracts

Publishers Weekly: a trade review publication used by booksellers, buyers, and other professionals

Publicist: a marketing role that focuses on creating non-paid “buzz” for a book rather than advertising, such as media interviews

Recto: right page in printing

Royalties: the percentage of profit from sales of a book that the author is paid

Running head: the text at the top of a page that usually contains book title, chapter, or author name

Signature: a portion of paper folded to create several pages, which, when sewn together, create a book

Stet: “let it stand” (Latin); dots beneath and stet in the margin indicate to disregard a marked deletion or change

Style manual: guidelines for the consistent treatment of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, numbers, and other elements in writing and publishing

Style sheet: a document used by copy editors to maintain consistency of character names, dates, and other details

Synopsis: a detailed description of the plot of a book, often given to the publisher before the book is complete

Target audience: a specific group of readers likely to be interested in a particular book

Verso: left page in printing

Which of these words or phrases did you find most interesting?

Ask BHP: How Do Editors Work With Different Authors?

I love some of the fun questions readers had about the editorial process. Here’s our June question to answer: “How does an editor tailor their approach to a specific author’s writing and work style when making suggestions/corrections? Or, are editors and authors paired up because of similarities in their approaches to such a project?”

Of course, because I (Amy Green, fiction publicist) work in marketing, I have no idea how editors do this. That’s why I give you…interviews with the fantastic Jessica Barnes and Jen Veilluex, two of our fiction editors here at Bethany House. Even I learned as I read their answers, so I hope you enjoy them.

 

Jessica Barnes

What a great question! I work with about ten fiction authors here at Bethany House, and all of them have different writing styles. I also have a slightly different editing relationship with each of them. Editors aren’t “matched” to authors here in the way you’re asking; it’s usually more about workload and schedule than personality. But as an editor, I see it as my job to be flexible and adapt my working style to my authors’.

When it comes to staying in an author’s writing style while making changes to a manuscript, my initial reaction to the question of how I do it was, “…I just do?” This is so part and parcel of an editor’s job that I don’t even realize I’m doing it anymore. The best answer I can give is that when I’m editing a book, I’m immersed in the story, the characters, and the writing. So if I think a scene needs an extra line at the end, usually that line naturally stems from what came before it, and it fits both the story and the style. By this point I’m so familiar with how my authors construct sentences and how they tell their stories that I’m able to slip into that same voice and add little bits and bobs (or subtract them) when necessary. It’s no different than people who unconsciously take on the accent of whatever place they’re visiting.

As a side note, here’s something that I hadn’t thought of in years that this question made me remember: My freshman year of college, my writing professor started the semester by giving us short passages from famous writers—Hemingway is the one I most clearly remember—and having us rewrite the passage by changing the subject and content, but exactly copying all the sentence structure. In this way, we learned how it felt to construct sentences and paragraphs in that writer’s rhythm and style. Perhaps that has turned out to be more helpful than I could imagine at age 18?

When it comes to matching an author’s work style, this is more straightforward. Some of my authors are extremely collaborative, and I will spend a couple hours on the phone with them at revisions, brainstorming ideas and solutions to trouble spots. Some of my authors work better alone, and they disappear with their edits for two months and then reemerge with a shiny new manuscript, ready for more feedback. For the most part, I let the author lead the way in how involved they want me in their writing and revision process. So far, it seems to be working!

 

Jen Veilleux

Our editing assignments come from our managing editor, who works with our acquisitions editors to determine which editor has the most availability. Most of our authors are contracted to write a series of books, which means that an editor is going to be working with a particular author for years! So while editor or author preference or experience are sometimes taken into consideration, mostly it’s timing.

When I first started at Bethany House, I made it my mission to read the books of as many of our authors as I could. Reading widely across all genres, I began to get a sense of different authors’ voices and styles, which helped me immensely when I became a line editor and began working directly with the authors. The authors I work with vary from biblical to contemporary, from Gilded Age to Regency, and from fantasy to Amish!

Above all, good editors are working with the author. There is a lot of back-and-forth between the author and the editor throughout the process: rewrites, discussions, e-mails, phone calls, drafts, questions, second opinions, fact-checking, more rewrites. You get to know authors over time, like what method of communication they prefer, what characters they’re attached to or will be important in the next book, what phrases they like to use, and how they like to incorporate faith and God into their writings.

As an editor, I am doing my best to support the author’s vision of his or her book, but I’m also advocating for the reader. While authors’ genres and voices may differ, the basics of a story do not: Does the plot make sense? Are the characters well developed? Should this chapter be cut or moved? If I get hung up on a plot point or a strange POV shift, readers might as well. But at the end of the day, it’s not my name on the book. It’s the author’s.

I am grateful for the relationships that I have developed with my authors over the last several years, and I am so humbled and proud to work alongside them. Sure, it’s great when books sell well, but oftentimes I’m just so proud that these books exist. An author had a dream and did the hard work of writing, rewriting, and rewriting some more, and then, with a little help from me and with a lot of help from so many others at BHP (copy editors, proofreaders, art and design, and on and on), it became something tangible, something you can hold in your hands or scroll with your finger on an e-reader. Editors are kind of like midwives—helping, encouraging, gently correcting—but it’s the authors who do a lot of the hard work. And when we’ve laid the newly created being in the hands of its creator, we quietly pack up our tools and slip off into the night to help bring the next one into existence.

Let’s hear it for editors! Readers, what do you think would be the most interesting part of working in the editorial department at a publishing house?