Five Bookish Mysteries to Solve

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.

Ask BHP: How Do You Choose a Release Month?

From our Ask Bethany House mail bag, someone is getting practical with this question: “How do you decide how many books to release in a certain month?”

At Bethany House, we release anywhere from two to seven novels per month. As to how we determine that, I wish I could give you a magical answer, like, “Our production team uses a multi-step algorithm based on page count, reading level, and the position of the North Star when the contract was signed,” but that’s not the case at all. It’s a very imprecise science, but here are a few factors that go into what month a book is being released:

  • When can the author finish writing the book? (Obviously, this is the most important factor here so it has time to be edited. It’s where we start when creating a production schedule for the book.)
  • Is there a special appeal for a certain season? (For novels, that includes Christmas-themed stories, but this applies even more to nonfiction with books aimed at graduates or gift books perfect for spring bridal showers.)
  • Will this book get good placement in the stores at this time?
  • Is there a similar book releasing that month? Better split them up so we don’t oversaturate the market.
  • Is there a similar book releasing that month? Great, let’s keep it because we can place ads promoting both of them. (Yes, this is sort of a contradiction. It’s a case-by-case thing.)
  • Does it fit with the authors’ writing schedule? (You may have noticed that some authors have books that release at the same time—or times—every year, while others move around more.)
  • Is everyone going to be stressed and overworked because we scheduled too many books for the same month?
  • Did we release another book by that author, like a novella collection, that same month? (We try to avoid that.)
  • Was the manuscript completed on time so we could keep the scheduled release month? No other disasters that might delay the release?

Even though the process for determining a release month is going to be different for each book, the past several years, Bethany House has been consistent in the number of books we released in a year (around 49-53 titles). I always get excited about each month’s new round of books and hope you are too!

Speaking of months, it’s the time of year for the ACFW Conference! (No, that transition didn’t quite make sense, but go with it.) I’m headed there today, and our marketing manager, Noelle Chew, and I will be at the Bethany House spotlight to answer your questions, so if you’re an author who reads this blog, we’d love to see you there.

Inside BHP: Book Tours!

This week, I’m with Beverly Lewis, traveling around North and South Carolina at libraries and bookstores to meet and greet some wonderful readers! (You can see where we’ve been and the few stops still to go here.) Despite some storms and rain from Hurricane Irma, the signings have all been full of amazing people excited to get a copy of The Proving.

For more tour pictures, take a look at the album on Beverly’s Facebook page!

Beverly loves chatting with readers, speaking at library events, and giving hugs. It’s always so fun for longtime fans in particular who are meeting her for the first time.

And what’s my job on the tour, you ask? Anything that needs to be done, from handing out bookmarks to taking pictures to explaining what the reading level of Beverly’s kids and youth books. With three events a day, it’s a lot to do, but also a delight. Thanks to all the readers who prayed for this tour, and we’d love it if you continue to pray for safe travel over the next few days.

I’ll be back to regular blogging next week, but enjoy this sneak peek inside the life of an author and publishing team.

Have you ever met an author in person? If so, who, and at what sort of event?

Announcing Our September New Releases!

A new month means a new list of books to add to your TBR pile. Take a look at these beauties…don’t you just want to ask the lead characters what their expressions indicate? Be sure to click on each of the covers to read an excerpt.

The Proving by Beverly Lewis

Having left the Amish life for the English world, Amanda Dienner is shocked when she learns that her mother has passed and left her Lancaster County’s most popular Amish bed-and-breakfast. The catch is she has to run it herself for one year, acting as hostess. Amanda accepts the terms, but coming home to people she left behind won’t be easy.

Cherished Mercy by Tracie Peterson

After surviving the Whitman Massacre as a child, Mercy still prays for peace between the native peoples and the white settlers of Oregon Territory. Longing for purpose, she travels to another mission to help a friend. There she meets Adam, a handsome young minister. When tragedy strikes yet again, Mercy and Adam must rely on their faith to make it out alive.

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan has been appointed lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical in a claim involving an allegedly dangerous new drug. She hires a handsome private investigator to do some digging, but when a whistleblower is found dead, it’s clear the stakes are higher than ever. Will this case prove deadly for Kate?

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig

Suddenly shot at a picnic, Tox discovers it’s a strange invitation to join an old sniper pal’s quest for revenge over his fallen team. Despite the injury, Tox feels sympathetic to the cause—and battles a growing darkness within himself. But when he learns Alec is using a deadly ancient artifact in his plan, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

The Duke of Riverton has chosen his future wife with the same logic he uses to make every decision. However, his perfect bride eludes his suit, while the beautiful Isabella Breckenridge seems to be everywhere. When the time comes, will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and initial notions to embrace their very own happily-ever-after?

 

Just for fun…knowing a little about the story, what emotion would you say is dominant on each of the cover characters’ faces?

Prayer for Authors: September 2017

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 September:

Rachel Dylan
Kristi Ann Hunter
Ronie Kendig
Beverly Lewis
Tracie Peterson

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.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.–Psalm 62:5-6 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For books to go out into stores and libraries and into the hands of the readers who need them.
  • For physical health and energy during book launch month.
  • For a renewed sense of purpose and hope in God for their lives and writing careers.

We so appreciate you joining us in prayer for these authors (and others in your life). Thanks for being a part of this monthly tradition!