Ask Bethany House: How Do I Get Started in Publishing?

This month’s Ask BHP question was repeated in a few different ways in our survey, so I’ll try to combine and answer them all. Here’s the summary: “I’m interested in getting a job in publishing in the future (or someone I know is). What are some good steps to take to work toward that goal?”

First, I’ll start with education, because that was one angle that this question took in our survey. Many of our editors have degrees in fields such as English, Publishing, Communications, Writing, or Journalism, which prepared them with the skills they needed for their current position. Most also had previous editing experience even before their first job in publishing, such as freelance writing or editing, contributing to local or school newspapers, or grant writing, so that’s also a great way to make your resume stand out.

On the marketing side (where I work), most of us have four-year degrees in Marketing, Public Relations, or the majors listed above for editorial. Background and experience in publicity and related fields is helpful.

That especially applies to those who are students in college, and an added bonus is that most internships are open only to those enrolled full-time in classes. If you’re a student (or you know a student) who’s interested in Christian fiction in particular, let me take a moment to plug the Bethany House marketing-editorial internship open until March 15, 2018 for applications. Many publishers offer programs or positions like this. They’re very helpful for learning about publishing, getting excellent references, and gaining real-life experience with the kind of work you’d like to do. (Or, sometimes, determining what sort of work wouldn’t be a good fit.)

Also, if you apply for a job in publishing, proofread your application carefully.

When I think through the last several candidates we hired who didn’t have formal experience in publishing, many of them were still very familiar with our books. They’d been on author launch teams or had favorite Bethany House authors or could list experience with the programs or tasks or style guides that were part of their jobs. So, one easy thing to do while searching for open opportunities is to read and immerse yourself in the books, industry, and terms of publishing.

Because there are only so many publishing companies, particularly if you’re specifically interested in Christian publishing, I’d also suggest learning all you can about the publishing industry and other book-related careers. That might open up other doors you hadn’t considered before. My job as fiction publicist has a lot of overlapping interests and skills with a literary agent or the community relations manager of a bookstore, for example, though of course there are significant differences.

How do you do that? Follow authors, subscribe to agency blogs (and this one!), read articles in places like Publishers Weekly, and pay attention whenever careers are being discussed. If an author wrote a blog post about their virtual assistant, check it out! If you see a literary agent give a call-out  for questions to answer on Twitter, ask what qualities make a good agent. At a writing conference, meet and greet the folks at sponsor booths as a networking opportunity. Talk to those you know who are involved in any area of writing or editing to learn about what they do. You never know what you might find!

Finally, I often hear people asking if publishing jobs are starting to open up to work-from-home opportunities. The answer is: some of them, but not the majority. Freelance editors and proofreaders and designers, virtual assistants, outside publicity companies, and some other roles are benefiting from the shift to more remote work. That said, I can’t speak to all publishing companies, but Bethany House still hires people with the understanding that they’ll be working on-site, mostly because it’s important to have a team assembled that can attend meetings, confer on projects, and work together in person.

I hope this is a helpful glimpse into how to prepare to work in publishing. Be sure to pass it along to anyone, especially students, who are interested in learning more about what steps to take next.

Following in Paul’s Footsteps: Interview with Angela Hunt

Today on the blog, I’m welcoming the one and only Angela Hunt! Her upcoming release, Paul, Apostle of Christ is a novelization of the film of the same name that releases March 23, one that tells the story of Luke and Paul from the New Testament. I’ve got questions; she’s got answers.

What are some of the challenges of writing the novelization of a film?

Angela: First, having a screenplay to work with takes care of most of the plotting, and that’s a relief. But a screenplay, when turned into prose, comes in around 30,000 words, and a novel must be around 75-80,000 words. So a novelist has to add a lot, but the added material mustn’t detract from or contradict the screenplay. That can be a challenge.

What are some strengths that a novel has when compared to a film? Is there anything that the film can convey more easily than a novel?

Angela: In a film, the viewer only knows what he can see and hear. In a novel, the writer can help a reader “hear” a character’s thoughts and experience what a character tastes, smells, intuits, and feels beneath his fingertips.

Conversely, a filmmaker can show the image of a building or a landscape and convey in a second what might take a writer a thousand words to express.

As you researched, did you discover anything about the life and times of Paul, or the culture he wrote in, that might be surprising to readers?

Angela: Most Christians are quite familiar with Paul because he wrote so many books of the New Testament. (Luke actually wrote more words of the New Testament, and how like a writer to consider word count.) What I found myself doing was looking for logical connections Paul might have had with other characters. He was part of the Sanhedrin along with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Did they know each other? Did they interact? We know Paul was present when Stephen was killed, but did he know him before that day? Since nearly every religious Jew went to the Temple during the Pilgrimage festivals, could Paul have been present when the twelve-year-old Jesus was confounding the rabbis during Passover? The world was a smaller place in those days, so those situations might have happened . . . and that intrigued me.

So, why read Biblical fiction at all? Isn’t the Bible enough on its own?

Angela: I wrote about this in more depth on my blog, but here’s a summary: because the human spirit resonates to STORY.

That covers fiction in general, but why read fiction specifically based on biblical events?

  1. Because a trustworthy author will not violate Scripture.
  2. Because the fictional elements should be logical and based on historical facts.
  3. Because human nature is consistent over time.  We often think our problems are unique, and we’re relieved to discover that we aren’t alone. Others have been in similar situations.
  4. Because historical fiction helps us better understand the culture and history of familiar story events.
  5. Because we learn from the lives of other people.
  6. Because God Himself recorded stories, and Jesus taught with them since humans are hard-wired to appreciate story. Who would know that better than the God who created us?

God gave us Scripture, and the doctrine of biblical sufficiency states that the Bible gives us all we need to know about God. But it does not give us all we want to know, and our quest for knowledge is a God-given gift. We yearn to know more, and well-written biblical, historical, and contemporary fiction can meet that need. So don’t hesitate to open your heart and mind to a well-written biblical novel. You may be surprised to learn a truth you had never before considered.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Paul, Apostle of Christ?

Angela: As I worked on the novel, I found myself convicted by the all-or-nothing attitude Paul and Luke evidenced. We live in a post-Christian society where people can look at you askance if you talk about Jesus or even take a stand against sin. Paul and Luke lived in a world where for talking about Jesus you could be arrested on the street and hung on a burning cross by nightfall. That is a sobering realization. They would not have retreated from the possibility of being shamed on Facebook, yet how many times we do choose not to speak for fear of reprisals? I hope readers will realize the price the early Christians paid for our faith—and the price we must pay if we are to be faithful for future generations.

Thanks so much for being with us, Angela! Here’s a question for you, readers: what story or figure in the Bible fascinates you?

Ten Book Lover Conversation Hearts (That Really Should Exist)

You know those candy hearts that show up around this time of year? The ones with sweet mottos like “Crazy 4 U” or “Kiss Me” written on them? I’ve always thought they needed to be more specific. And by that I mean…bookish. Here are ten new conversation hearts that don’t exist but totally should.

(For the purpose of this post, we’re pretending that these candies actually have flavors, when we all know they really taste like chalk with slight tints of artificial coloring.)

The Basics

Do I know why “love” is abbreviated “luv” when it saves only one letter and looks ridiculous? No, I do not. Just go with it. This is your standard “declare where your heart is” candy.

Ideal flavor: Classic cherry.

 

Use this as an excuse to keep reading…not that you need an excuse. (And not that you actually need to keep to the limit described here.)

Ideal flavor: Potato chip. Because you can’t eat just one! (Hey, JellyBelly’s most popular flavor is Buttered Popcorn. This could work.)

 

Wouldn’t we all? I’d suggest keeping a candy dish of these on your desk at work or near whatever appliance is responsible for your least-favorite household task.

Ideal flavor: Cinnamon and sadness.

Could this apply to situations other than being completely engrossed in the last few chapters of a page-turning book? I mean…I guess. If people have other hobbies besides reading that would lead them to threaten people, but that’s not something I can personally relate to.

Ideal flavor: Arsenic. (Kidding.) (Mostly kidding.) What about licorice? To me at least, that’s basically the same thing.


For when “call me” or “date me” is too subtle. Let that special someone know what gift would be really attractive. Seriously, why people exchange chocolate and cards on Valentine’s Day instead of books is beyond me.

Ideal flavor: Flirty fruit punch.

Specialized – For True Readers Only

Whether you’re mourning the fact that your to-be-read pile will grow until the day you die or pledging your loyalty to adding to said pile no matter the cost, this one’s for you.

Ideal flavor: Everlasting gobstopper. (Not entirely sure that’s a flavor; Willy Wonka didn’t return my calls.)

Book boyfriends: breaking hearts everywhere by technically not existing.

Ideal flavor: Tropical fruit, like the island where you and the (fictional) man of your dreams could travel together….


When you want to #humblebrag about the advance reader copy you got of a book that won’t come out for several months and taunt all of your book-loving friends who have to wait for the release date like mere mortals. (Oh wait…is that just me? My bad.)

Ideal flavor: Green apple and power trip.


For those of you who know what the Oxford comma is…and have opinions about it. Comes in gif form for you to include in passive-aggressive comments on badly-written social media posts.

Ideal flavor: Lemon. Or maybe red pen ink.


Stock up on these anytime a new movie adaptation comes around. Bonus points if you bring them into the theater and hand them out.

Ideal flavor: Grape with a hint of crushed expectations

If you wish you had a whole bag of these candy hearts, then you should be sure to stop by our Valentine’s Day Facebook Party on Friday, February 16. There will be book (and bookish gift) giveaways, plus games and contests, storytime excerpt readings, and more! The event is in the morning/early afternoon, but the giveaways will be open for 24 hours afterward, so RSVP to get a reminder whether you can come during the timeframe or not. Hope to see you there!

Can you think of any bookish conversation hearts that need to be made?

Prayer for Authors: February 2018

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 February:

Lisa T. Bergren
Connilyn Cossette
Jocelyn Green

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.

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you..”—Psalm 86:4-5 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For increased joy in the work of writing (and editing and marketing).
  • For wisdom in what new opportunities or commitments to say yes to, and which to turn down.
  • For the sales team that sells books into stores and help spread the word about new Christian fiction titles.

Many thanks, as always, for taking time to pray for these authors and many more who are busy creating the books we love to read. We at Bethany House appreciate you!

New Releases: February 2018

I’m excited to present the three historical fiction releases coming from Bethany House this month. Beautiful covers, beautiful stories…this is a month’s worth of books that you need to check out. As always, click on the cover to read an excerpt of each book.

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Plot Synopsis: In 1772, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters inherit their father’s estates and travel to the West Indies to see what is left of their legacy. On the island of Nevis, every man seems to be trying to win Keturah’s hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. Set on saving their heritage, can she trust God with her future—and her heart?

A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Plot Synopsis: After being branded during the battle of Jericho, Moriyah has had no prospects for marriage—until now. She hopes to please the man, but things go horribly wrong and she is forced to flee for her life. Seeking safety at one of the Levitical cities of refuge, she is unprepared for the dangers she faces, and the enemies—and allies—she encounters on her way.

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Plot Synopsis: Vivienne Rivard fled revolutionary France and seeks a new life for herself and a boy in her care, who some say is the Dauphin. But America is far from safe, as militiaman Liam Delaney knows. He proudly served in the American Revolution but is less sure of his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. Drawn together, will Liam and Vivienne find the peace they long for?

Okay, readers, a fun question for you: would you rather live in Israel during the time of the Old Testament, on a Caribbean island in colonial times, or just after the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania? (Hint: there’s a lot more hardship and adventure in all of these places than you might think, so choose carefully!)