Ask BHP: What’s a Hard Part of Your Job?

Today’s Ask BHP question is more specific to me, Amy Green, BHP’s fiction publicist: “What’s one of the hardest aspects of working in the publishing world?”

If we’re talking “hard” as in “What part of my job is the hardest?” I have a few frontrunners:

  • Planning book tours, because so much goes into it: arranging times and flight schedules and hotels and sending posters and trying not to mess everything up so the authors/bookstore owners/librarians don’t hate me forever.
  • Fixing HTML errors in the things I code. Let’s face it, I am significantly more creative than detailed, and finding one tiny mistake in a page of code is like a treasure hunt…if the treasure was a missing </p> and there’s no map and you’d rather just leave it for the next pirate to find.
  • Cutting things out with an Xacto knife. (If you think I’m joking, you have never seen me trying not to hack off a finger cutting out a mounted book cover for an author. I have our designers print me an extra, because I almost always have to start over at least once. I can mess up straight lines even when using a ruler, which, come to think of it, is pretty impressive.)
I was going to make a joke about Mondays, but since I'm basically Anne of Green Gables, I'll go with this instead.

I was going to make a joke about Mondays, but since I’m basically Anne of Green Gables, I’ll go with this instead.

But if the question is asking what is the hardest part of working in publishing in general, I’d say that one thing that tends to frustrate me as someone who works in marketing—and I’ve heard the same thing from coworkers in editorial—is when a really talented author’s books don’t “take off” the way we’d like them to. They’re getting great reviews, but not the blockbuster sales they deserve, and no one is quite sure why.

The good news is, you can help with that! Probably right now you’re thinking of a book you read that isn’t by a super-famous author. Maybe none of your friends would recognize the name. Maybe the book is in need of a little love on Goodreads.

So leave a review. Post a picture of you with the book on Facebook to recommend a cozy fall read. See if the author has a contest or sale or announcement you can share on social media. Write the author a note of encouragement via his or her website. Buy another copy of the book and give it to someone as a present. I always love seeing readers doing something a little bit extra for their favorite authors, so thank you!

We can start it right here: what’s a book you read recently (or not-so-recently, if you like) that you want the whole world to know about?

The Bookshelf Game (and Giveaway)

Let’s play a little game, just for fun.

Since today is 9/22, take a book off your shelf, then go to page 22 and pick a random excerpt starting on that page. Then count nine books away from your first book, turn to page 22 there, and pick an excerpt to add to the starting half you picked from the first book. (You can determine where to start it and how much to use. Feel free to look for parts that would make the story more coherent or funnier!)

I tried this myself to give you some examples. A few of my favorites:

“While I don’t doubt my ability to complete the accounting portion of the business, I’ll need a jug full of grape juice.”

Taken from: The Artisan’s Wife by Judith Miller, Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

Her relationship with her daughter had never been easy, particularly since she had died from some disease in a South American hospital.

Taken from: The Midwife’s Dilemma by Delia Parr and A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson Continue reading

Inside a Book Tour

It’s getting near the end of Beverly Lewis’s fall book tour to promote her new release, The Wish. From last Wednesday until this coming Saturday, fans in the South had a chance to meet her, ask her questions about the Amish, and get their favorite books signed. (You can find the schedule here. If you missed a signing near your home, check the store: Beverly signed some books to leave there that you might be able to snag!)

I was able to tag along on the tour to manage the line, hand out newsletter sign-ups, take pictures with every variety of camera imaginable, and chat books with readers.
It was quite a whirlwind week with three stops every day! Here are some pictures of the tour. (You can find more on Beverly’s Facebook page.)

Sometimes Beverly will speak at events, sharing the inspiration for her book and her writing journey.

We ran into lots of Tennessee fans on a big football game day!

We ran into lots of Tennessee fans on a big football game day!

Little Leo, asleep with Mom, was the youngest book signing attendee.

Little Leo, asleep with Mom, was the youngest book signing attendee.

On Sunday, we went hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

On Sunday, we went hiking in the Smoky Mountains.


A few more behind-the-scenes fun facts:

  • In our rental van in between stops, Beverly and I regaled our longsuffering tour manager, Steve, with a singalong to classic musicals like Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music.
  • After years of doing these tours, we’ve seen nearly everything go wrong that could: missed flights, lost luggage, freak storms, sickness, mixed-up schedules, car troubles…you name it, it’s happened. There was even one book signing tour where Beverly didn’t do any actual signing because of an injury to her right arm! Somehow we always make it through to the end (and we appreciate all the readers who pray for the tour).
  • This tour, our most unusual stop was probably The Original Moon Pie General Store and Book Warehouse. It gives away free mini Moon Pies to guests!
They also had large barrels of candy. I was excited!

They also had large barrels of candy.

As someone who usually stands near the front of the line, I always overhear great stories about how Beverly’s books have changed readers’ lives. It just goes to show there’s a lot of power in fiction!

Do you have any questions about what goes on during a book signing tour?

Advice for Perfecting Your Contest Entry

One fun thing about working at a publishing company are the connections I have with what goes on “behind the scenes,” including writing contests. Since I know many writers follow this blog, I decided to interview three judges who have experience evaluating first chapters, synopses, and other entries. Their comments are kept anonymous (to keep their mystique of course…and so if you happened to enter a contest where they were judges, you wouldn’t worry that all of their comments here were talking about your entry). I hope you learn a lot from them!

Amy: What’s a common mistake (or a few) you saw in the manuscripts you judged?

Judge One: The most common problem I saw was when writers would tell me what was going on with their character instead of showing me. One example of this would be an author telling me how a character felt about a significant event in his/her life instead of showing me how he/she reacted to said event (e.g. a wife narrates her angst over an argument with her husband instead of showing me the argument itself). Another common example would be an author trying to fit too much backstory in the first couple pages of a novel. I fall into this trap too, so I get it—it’s hard to find the balance between confusing your readers and keeping them in suspense. But too often, authors would tell me everything that had happened to a character to bring him to this point in the story (lost his job, became an alcoholic, wife divorced him) instead of leaving me with a little mystery and letting me find out those things one by one while I read.

Judge Two: Some entries did a lot of telling instead of showing—outright stating characters’ emotions or motivations instead of showing what they looked like. But other entries made the more subtle mistake of showing and telling. They did a great job of using dialogue, body language, and vivid verbs so I understood what was happening…and then tacked on a totally unnecessary explanation of it in case I missed all of that. As a reader, I feel cheated, like the author didn’t trust me. It’s also a waste of words, because it says the same thing twice. Other mistakes that are a bit more obvious include a slow start to the story with lots of backstory or info-dumps, unrealistic dialogue, and too-perfect characters, all of which brand a manuscript as a beginner.

Judge Three: Because I was only able to see the very first part of the book, a strong beginning was crucial, as it was all I had to focus on. Several of the submissions could have had much snappier starts. I would also advise entrants to be very careful about their synopsis and not skipping necessary details or assuming knowledge. Several times I came away confused on things like timeline and certain plot points

Amy: When an entry caught your attention in a good way, what were some characteristics of that entry that made it stand out?

Judge One: Last month I watched the women’s gymnastics at the Olympics, and one thing the announcers keep saying over and over is that these young women have to do the hardest things in the world and make them look easy. The entries that caught my attention did the same thing—they worked in historic details without losing the story’s momentum, dropped in the occasional foreign word to provide a sense of place, or added an accent to a character’s speech without making it cheesy. The plot, dialogue, and character development were all there too, but these authors had gone the extra mile and made the world of their imagination into a world I could picture visiting. They had paid attention to the details without letting the details overwhelm the point of the story.

Judge Two: One huge thing is that in the best entries, a scene accomplished more than one thing. For example, it didn’t just give information…it also advanced the plot, showcased the personalities of the main characters, and foreshadowed something still to come. Or it didn’t just raise the stakes of the suspense, it also hinted at the hero’s backstory, introduced a minor character, and reinforced the spiritual theme. These are just a few examples of what a scene can accomplish. If you read a chapter in your manuscript and realize that if it disappeared, you wouldn’t be missing much, or it could be easily replaced with any generic obstacle, it’s not doing enough work.

Judge Three: It’s hard to quantify, but simply the fact that I wanted to keep reading and was bummed I wasn’t given the whole manuscript. The other aspect is that I didn’t notice the writing, I just became so engrossed in the story and really bought into the character’s voice and perspective. Heavy use of adjectives or stilted dialogue can make you notice the words over the story and pull you completely out of it.

Amy: If you could give one piece of advice to someone editing a contest submission, what would it be?

Judge One: Get someone to edit your submission for you first. (Seriously. I know this is mentioned in every piece of writing advice ever, but it was clear that the better entries I read had already benefited from detailed and constructive editing—and that the not-so-great ones still needed more help than I could give in a simple scoring sheet.) Ideally, you’ll have three or four editors, or better yet, a whole critique group of them. And these can’t be friends or family members who will love your writing no matter what. You want your first readers to be people a little bit distanced from your work so that they’ll be honest with you, and you also want them to have enough writing experience to be able to kindly point out potential trouble areas. After you get this first hurdle out of the way, go ahead and bring in those friends and family members for another go-around. They’ll be able to give you a reader’s point-of-view, warning you of any confusing sections and telling you where the action could be sped up a bit. Plus, they’ll give your confidence a great boost!

Judge Two: Read your entry out loud. Not only will you catch small mistakes like typos or missing words, but you’ll also notice when you’re using the same sentence pattern over and over to the point of monotony. And nothing points out a bit of cliché or boring dialogue like hearing your characters say it out loud in your own voice.

Judge Three: Make sure you get someone to read and edit the entry who knows nothing about the story. This will help you eliminate any missed details or loopholes that someone familiar with it will naturally fill in. Good writing won’t overcome a confusing story.

Readers, what would make you lose patience with a book if you encountered it in the first few chapters? Writers, tell us about a mistake you made early on in your writing career that now makes you cringe.

Prayer for Authors: September 2016

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.


Authors with Books Releasing in September:

Davis Bunn
Beverly Lewis
Susan Anne Mason
Tracie Peterson
Roseanna M. White

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.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.– Psalm 37:4-5, ESV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace and clarity when it comes to making career decisions.
  • For these new releases to get into the hands of readers at just the right time for what they’re struggling with.
  • For the authors to be able to invest in their relationships with friends and family even during a busy time.

Thanks again to everyone for praying, especially for those of you who are Prayer for Authors regulars. It’s so great to have a prayer-centered community of readers!

September Bethany House Books

On this first day of September, I’m excited to let you know about five new releases from BHP. They’re set all over the map: the Pennsylvania countryside, Montana’s frontier, the halls of Edwardian England, a New York horse farm in the 20s and the bustling Wall Street of current day. Take a trip inside the pages by clicking on a cover to read an excerpt.


The Wish by Beverly Lewis

Leona lost her best friend the day Gloria’s father was expelled from the Amish church. When she receives an unexpected letter from Gloria, Leona makes up her mind to go after her friend. To the alarm of her fiancé, the deacon’s son, she sets out on a mission to persuade Gloria to return to the Amish church. Will Leona’s dearest wish lead to her own undoing?

Love Transformed

A Love Transformed by Tracie Peterson

Widowed and penniless, with two small children, Clara Vesper returns to her uncle’s ranch in Montana, the only place she has ever been happy. As she tries to find that feeling again, she encounters a suitor from her past and is soon followed by her brother-in-law, who will stop at nothing to bring her back to the family business.

Domino Effect
The Domino Effect by Davis Bunn

Esther Larsen, a risk analyst at a powerful banking institution, is convinced she has uncovered a ticking bomb with the potential to overshadow 2008’s market crash. She has to do something—but what? With global markets on the brink, and her own life in danger, Esther races against the clock to avert a disaster that threatens worldwide financial devastation.

Lady Unrivaled
A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White

Lady Ella Myerston knows of the danger that haunts her brother, and she intends to put an end to it. While visiting her friend Brook, the true owner of the Fire Eyes diamonds, Ella accidentally gets entangled in an attempt to blackmail the dashing, newly reformed Lord Cayton. Will she become the next casualty of the alleged curse?

Love's Faithful Promise

Love’s Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason

When her mother suffers a stroke, Deirdre puts her medical career on hold and persuades Dr. Matthew Clayborne to help treat Mrs. O’Leary at Irish Meadows. But since the doctor has no intention of leaving his life in Canada, and Deirdre has sworn off marriage altogether, how will they deal with the undeniable spark between them?

Since school is starting up, here’s a question: what’s a classic novel you read in high school or college that you genuinely enjoyed?