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.

41 thoughts on “Five Bookish Mysteries to Solve

  1. LOL! I love the “red heads taking over inspirational fiction!” I don’t think this is much of a mystery, but I always wanted to know if Bethany House have a room full of different period clothing??!!! All the historical fiction covers are just fabulous!

    • Yes, Annie, I should do a tour of the closet for a future post! We don’t have all (or even most) of the book cover dresses there, since most are rented from theater companies and the like, so it’s not quite as exciting or expansive as you might think. Sometimes, though, we have a custom-made dress, as well as a good assortment of hats and a hoop skirt.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  2. Love this post, Amy! Too funny. I must say I’m seriously impressed with your stamina for keeping that mustard yellow felt art masterpiece up on your wall for so long. Sixteen months??? Whew! You are a heroine in your own right.

    Oh, and to Annie above – I’ve seen the closet. It exists. Historical clothing on hand for anyone who feels the urge to get into character. The selection is limited, but it’s there. At least it used to be. I hope it still is. 😉

  3. I am literally laughing out loud with this post, Amy! You are such a genious for taking a spam message from some creep asking for all your pictures and mysteries– I mean come on, what sounds worse than that?–and turning it into this hilarious post! I love it!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I hope to amass a large following of people around the term “lovely doodly-doo whatchamacallits” so we can make it the default identifier.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  4. This is the best! The best mysteries I had yet to question.
    If you ever feel like round two, I’d love to know why Amish women on covers often have eye-colors that don’t occur in nature 😉
    Great satire! Thanks for the laugh.

  5. I’ve always believed that the Bethany House logo depicted a stylized leaf! (I thought it might be a nod to the branch that the dove carried back to Noah, giving hope of dry ground and a bright future). So, yes. It seems that I do have a theory to add to these intriguing mysteries. 🙂

  6. I love the bit about redheads, especially since I am a redhead! I think most authors use red haired protagonists due to the stereotype: fiery personality, quick tempered, mysterious, ravishing… lol.

  7. I love this post! I always thought the logo was some kind of nut in the middle of a design, until I read somewhere that it is a fountain pin nib.

    A costume post would be neat. You should have a “guess on which book cover this costume appeared” post. On the subject of costumes. Can we please retire this Regency gown? (Pardon the covers that aren’t Bethany House.)

    If one gets desperate, the pattern companies actually have some images on their websites of models in costume. Some of them are actually pretty good costumes and the pictures are not totally tacky. I wonder if they would let a person/agency purchase their pictures for cover art.

    • Glad you had fun reading it, Sylvia! On the subject of Regency gowns…it’s amazing how difficult it is to affordably rent that specific (and short) of an era’s fashion or find high-res images available for purchase. 🙂 But, actually, for Julie Klassen’s latest book, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, one of our editor’s mother happens to be a seamstress and made both gowns from scratch, so they’re completely original!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  8. The mystery I’d like answered is whether or not Elizabeth and I have the same faceless woman on our covers! If you look closely, my lovely lady has a pierced ear where that pearl stud could go . . .

  9. I’m a redhead, have 3 out of 4 children with red hair, and have 3 granddaughters with red hair. I like red hair – (wish mine would have lasted & not turned totally white)! I like to read about red hair. When I was a young child, there were very few redheads – now many are seen. Love it! Keep that red hair going!

  10. I like you! You’re funny, and I really enjoyed your post. I never thought anything about the faceless heroines on the cover images, except now that you mentioned it, I think it’s kind of strange! Especially with the covers where you can see her lips and nose, but no eyes. It’s kind of like when someone is talking to you and stops before they………………………………………

    Never complete their sentence.

    Interesting that no one knows what the logo is. I always assumed it was a leaf, but now…

    As far as your lovely little doodly doos go, I usually refer to them as “decorative scrolls”. But I like the originality of your name. 😀

  11. Pingback: September Happenings – The Green Mockingbird

  12. This a hilarious post, Amy! Thanks for the healthy laughs and fun this morning! I do like the half-hidden faces on covers myself. I like that I can fill in the character’s face the way I like and the mystery of the image is appealing, too.

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