Help Authors Be Social on Social Media

**Update: We have winners! Suzie and Samantha, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address. To everyone else, thank you, THANK YOU for your feedback! I’m compiling it all right now to present to authors at the conference, and I know they’ll find it extremely helpful!**

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Pretend I’m a Christian fiction author sitting down to host a focus group made up of you and a few of your reader friends.

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After offering you coffee and chocolate chip cookies (no, it’s not bribery; it’s hospitality) here’s what I want to know:

One: How have you seen social media used by authors in a way that really worked for you? (You can list the types of posts that get you to comment/click, give an example of something creative and fun you’ve seen an author do, or go in basically any direction you want with this.)

Two: If you knew an author was really busy with deadlines and only had time to interact with readers in one way, what would you suggest?

Three: What is something about the way authors sometimes use social media (or the way they phrase things) that annoys or bothers you? (No names, please…just general examples of the type of thing that bothers you.)

As you read these questions, do you know what your answers would be? Great! Now, let’s make it real. I’m going to be teaching a class at the ACFW conference in September with Melissa Tagg on Stress-Free Marketing for authors. That means we’re going to be giving lots of your favorite Christian fiction authors (and some future favorites!) tips on marketing and social media.

I’d love your feedback on these questions so I can give authors a reader perspective. If you could answer one or all of the questions in the comments on this post, that would help so much! (Just be sure to identify which question your answers are addressing.)

Since I can’t really send coffee and cookies your way, focus-group style, next Tuesday, I’ll pick two random commenters who will each receive copies of our two August releases, The Potter’s Lady by Judith Miller and Not by Sight by Kate Breslin. Winners will be posted in this post by noon on Tuesday, so be sure to check back!

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Be as thoughtful with your answers as you can…remember, I’m actually going to pass these answers on to some of your favorite authors from a number of different publishing companies! And thanks in advance for your help…I’m excited to read your thoughts!

Four Reasons to Read a Novella

Earlier this month, I wrote a post on some problems that authors face in knowing how many free books to distribute to reviewers. That said, we also realize that sometimes it’s hard to take a risk on a new-to-you author without knowing if you’ll like their writing style.

One of the ways Bethany House has recently dealt with this is by releasing free ebook-only novellas, available to download for free on an ereader, iPad, or your computer. Before coming to work at BHP, I don’t think I’d ever read a novella, so it was an entirely new form to me. Here are a few reasons I’ve come to appreciate novellas as a reader, and why you might want to give them a try.

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One: They’re basically like those little mini boxes of chocolates. You have a sampler of a variety of different styles so you know exactly what you like. Also, they are addictive in about the same way. (“These are short, I can read just one more….”) The added benefit: novellas are calorie-free!

Two: You feel so much better about your TBR pile when you add novellas to it and check them off. You can often finish these in one sitting, which rarely happens with full-length novels. (I can’t be the only one with an intimidatingly-long list of books I’d like to read! It’s nice to take a break from longer works with a novella.)

Three: There’s a lot of story in a little amount of space. For some people, this is a downside to novellas…they just end too quickly! To me, though, there’s an art to a good novella, and the brilliance of it is that the author has to make you care about the characters immediately, include conflict and obstacles in a much-shortened middle, and still make you sigh with happiness by the end. Also, if complicated love triangles or prolonged misunderstandings are tropes that bother you, you won’t find them in novellas, because there just isn’t time!

Four: All of our free novellas contain a sneak peak at the full-length novel, so you’ll know what to read next if it catches your attention. Also, sometimes the characters overlap, so you get the chance to read the continuing story of some fictional folks you’ve already gotten to know in the novella.

It’s completely fine to prefer full-length novels to their shorter-form cousins, but if you haven’t ever given novellas a try, I’d highly recommend it.

Some of you may have seen announcements about these free novellas on our website or social media when they first came out. In case you missed a few, though, here are the free ebook novellas we’ve released so far. (Click on the cover, then on one of the links to the left to choose where you’d like to download them, or search your favorite retailer for the title.) They all contain a sneak-peek at the author’s full-length novel as well. Give them a try…and enjoy!

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When Charlotte Wilson asks God for a husband, she decides He must want her to pursue Mr. Hamilton Beckett. He’s the catch of the season and, therefore, the perfect man for her…or is he?

Love by the Letter

Dex is relieved when Rachel agrees to help him write a letter to a mail-order bride, but her lessons soon have him questioning the whole endeavor.…

 Appalachian Serenade

Delilah has always wanted to be a mother. When she is widowed young, she fears she never will be. Will Delilah have the faith to pursue a new dream—even if it means giving up the old?

Out of the Storm

Having grown up in a lighthouse, loneliness is all Isabelle has ever known—and all, she assumes, she ever will know. But when her father rescues a young man from the lake, her sheltered world is turned upside down.

Three Little Words

Ava Kingsley is ready for a change. But she didn’t expect to fall for small-town life . . . or the old friend who invited her there in the first place.

Lady of Esteem

When, quite by chance, Amelia Stalwood crosses paths with the aristocratic Hawthornes and their family friend, the reformed Marquis of Raebourne, her world is turned upside down.

For a novella to work well, the characters have to be likeable to the reader right away. What makes a character someone you want to cheer for?

10 Signs You Are in Love With a Fictional Character

It has come to my attention that authors sometimes do such a good job telling their stories that some readers are pulled into the story world, to the point where those swoon-worthy characters seem like they could be real. And thus hunks and heroes from novels have been breaking hearts of readers everywhere, just by refusing to actually exist.

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Has this ever happened to you? See if you recognize any of the tell-tale signs.

One: The main reason you would want to be the heroine of your favorite book is because of the hero, not because of her good qualities or exciting life (although that’s a nice bonus, of course).

Two: Every time he says anything romantic to the heroine, you sigh. Actually, any time he says basically anything, you sigh.

Three: When you move on to another book, you feel a little guilty for liking the new hero. Particularly if it’s a series by the same author and Hero 2 is Hero 1’s brother or best friend. (Not naming any names here…Alaskan Courage series.)

Bonus points if you changed your phone background to the book cover like Melissa Tagg did for the upcoming Like Never Before.

Bonus points if you changed your phone background to the book cover like Melissa Tagg did for the upcoming Like Never Before.

Four: When someone mentions time travel, you immediately think about visiting your favorite historical characters…before realizing that they were not, in fact, real historical people. Continue reading

Ask Bethany House: Can You Give Me a Free Book?

I’m cheating and taking this month’s Ask Bethany House question from a survey of our authors about what questions they have about marketing. I think it might be interesting for readers to eavesdrop on something several of their favorite authors are struggling with. Here it is:

“I never know what to say when readers request free copies of my book in exchange for a review. Why are so many readers doing this, and how should I respond?”

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I want to handle this question carefully, because I’ve seen it addressed in a way that makes the entire publishing industry seem like whiny terrors who hate readers and life in general. I can’t emphasize enough that authors and publishers love books, and they love readers.

Here’s the thing, though: that doesn’t mean that readers should expect free books from authors or publishing companies, even in exchange for a review.

Yet there are many who do, some very polite and well-intentioned. Most authors are not angry or upset with them, they’re just not sure how to respond because they can’t give books to everyone…and feel like they shouldn’t. I agree.

So let’s ask why this is so common. Here are my best guesses:

Reason One: Social Media

Because of social media, readers can trade stories and comments with their favorite authors, bond over a shared interest, and see pictures of their authors’ kids, cats, and kitchen remodels. And there is so much that I love about that. But there are downsides. For example, Facebook and Instagram make authors feel like best friends…and best friends give you books as gifts, right?

And that’s where the logic stops working.

I think social media has confused the boundaries of our relationships with one another. Everyone is a generic “friend” on Facebook, whereas in real life, we have to consider what we should expect from others and how we can best interact with them.

For example, it’s totally acceptable for me to send a “Happy Birthday” text to a fellow youth group leader…but my mom would be disappointed if that’s all I did to celebrate her special day. Their expectations are different because my relationship with them is different.

I think readers requesting (or, in some cases, demanding) free books comes from misplaced expectations. Continue reading

Prayer for Authors: July 2015

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.

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Authors with Books Releasing in July:

Melissa Jagears
Susan Anne Mason
Tracie Peterson
Jen Turano

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.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. —Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For discernment when making difficult choices, especially ones related to their writing careers.
  • For readers to identify with a character’s struggle in a way that helps them understand God’s love and truth in a new way.
  • For wisdom in knowing how to relate to editors, agents, readers, and others they interact with personally and professionally.

Once again, thank you so much for taking a few moments to pray for these authors. Your prayers are so appreciated and needed!

July Bethany House Books

One of the great things about fiction books of any kind is that we learn as we read. While Christian fiction is primarily a good story, as in life, characters will go through changes and come to realizations along the way, and as readers we get to eavesdrop on that process. I asked our July authors to share about the theme or themes that show up in their books. Whether they put them there intentionally or not, we can all enjoy them. Enjoy reading a little bit about this month’s new releases (and be sure to click on the covers to read an excerpt)!

IrishMeadows_mck.inddSusan Anne Mason, Irish Meadows: “The underlying theme in my story is ‘being true to oneself.’ In one way or another, all the characters grapple with this issue during the course of the book. Brianna O’Leary has always felt second-best to her sister Colleen, clearly her father’s favorite, and has craved his attention and approval. Although Brianna wants to go to college, she defers to her father and becomes betrothed to their neighbor’s son. But she finds that in order to be truly happy, she must learn to follow her own desires and go against her father’s wishes. Similarly, out of a misguided sense of loyalty, Gilbert goes along with James’s plan to court the banker’s daughter, all the while feeling shame over deceiving the girl who idolizes him. By the end of the story, all the characters come to an epiphany, realizing that their happiness is tied to following not only their heart, but God’s will, as well.”

Bride at LastMelissa Jagears, A Bride at Last: “I often set out with what I want the characters to learn based on their personality and goals, but I have found almost always during writing a book that some nonfiction book I’m reading will have just this little snippet of clarity that I can add into the book. This time Beth Moore in Believing God wrote about the Promised Land in a way I’d never seen before. That little bit of insight fit my characters’ spiritual journeys, and so I tweaked a conversation a little to fit what I’d learned into their story.”

 

Refining FireTracie Peterson, Refining Fire: “Learning to trust God when life has never given you any real understanding of trust is what Militine’s character is up against. Thane also is dealing with a bad past and trust issues. Both are wounded, and terrified of letting someone into their heart—especially God. The story is about coming to understand that despite the disappointments and truly horrific things that sometimes happen in our lives, God is always with us, always faithful, and always watching over us. It’s also about realizing that until we learn how to trust God, it’s impossible to have a relationship with Him. It’s the same for our relationships with other people. Trust is vital.”

In Good CompanyJen Turano, In Good Company: “What I hope readers come away with after reading  In Good Company is that it doesn’t matter what station you occupy in life–what matters is what type of person you are, and what you do with the life you’ve been given.  Far too often, we care about what others think about us, what clothes we wear, what foods we drink, but at the end of the day, or the end of our lives, the only thing that really matters is how we treat each other.”

Can you name a book that changed the way you thought about something or reminded you of an important truth?