Seven Ways to Hint that You Want Books for Christmas

Christmas is coming up, and if you’re like me, you want to make sure as many smooth, rectangular packages are underneath the tree as possible. I’m referring to the best presents of all: books. (If you thought I meant gift cards, this probably isn’t the post for you.)

Here are some tips to make sure others get the hint that you’d rather have a new novel or biography than another vial of body wash or pair of socks.

Oh, sure, you could just add a book to your wish list or even outright ask for a particular title as a gift. But come on, readers. We can be more clever than that. Let’s help others in our life realize what we really want for Christmas.

One: Choose a Prominent Place: Tape a picture of a book to a milk carton with the caption: “Have You Seen This Book Under the Christmas Tree?” Add “please” if you’re feeling polite. Other options include: taping a note to a mirror, creating a computer screensaver or lockscreen with a particular book cover, or using up a whole pad of sticky notes with the title’s name and leaving them in frequently-used locations.

Two: Stage an Overheard Conversation. Have a fake phone chat with a friend (for the purposes of this example, we’ll call her Minerva, because why not?). After a bit of small talk with appropriate pauses, wait until you know a friend or family member is nearby, but don’t let that person know you’re aware of their presence. Then say something like, “Can you believe [author’s name] book is coming out just in time for Christmas? Oh, Minverva, I’d be delighted if someone was kind enough to buy me [title] this year!” This has the advantage of being so subtle that the gift-giver will think the present is a total surprise!

Three: Leave a Note for Santa Lying Around. I suggest something like this: “Dear Santa, Whether I’ve been good or not this year is totally irrelevant to the present I’m requesting. Surprised? Well, let me explain. Studies have shown that reading increases empathy and abstract reasoning skills. Also, buying books supports authors, and the following books are written by people who are on the “nice” list (I checked). [Insert title list here] In conclusion: send me books, Santa, not because I deserve it, but because you want to help me become a better person. Sincerely, [your name]” (This is guaranteed to get the attention of someone used to reading saccharine-sweet accounts of exaggerated good behavior.)

Four: Mark the Target Locations: If you’re shopping with a friend or driving through town with your spouse, be sure to sigh longingly whenever you pass a bookstore. Possibly add an indirect, helpful comment like, “If I had a million dollars, I would spend all of them there. On these specific titles. In time for Christmas so I have something to read this January. Hypothetically, of course.”

Five: The Accidental Text. Tell a friend or family member that you’re going to send them a picture of something cute—a puppy with a red sweater you saw on the way to work or your daughter in her angel costume. Instead, text the cover of the book you want. Then say, “Oops! My mistake. I must have that picture on here because I’m hoping someone will buy it for me for Christmas.” Then send the real picture so the person will be in a sentimental mood and buy you the book right away. This works particularly well to influence givers who aren’t in your immediate area.

Six: Enlist the Nativity. Copy some covers of favorite books from the Internet and print them out in miniature. Cut out and fold into a book shape, then insert into the arms of the wise men. (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh can be used to prop them up for the best effect.) Then, dangling from the stable roof, hang up a sign that says, “What Jesus wished the wise men would have brought.” Someone will get the hint.

Seven: Sing. Every time “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on the radio, change “you” to “books.” If someone corrects you, deny that these are not the original and most logical lyrics. Because clearly this is a very deep and coherent song, so if it’s really “I just want you for my own,” referring to a person, instead of “I just want them for my own” referring to the latest paperbacks, isn’t that a little possessive and selfish? And why would Mariah not need to hang her stocking by the fireplace except because paper is flammable and her precious books could go up in flames? I have questions, my friends. Questions that can only be answered with literature.

Do you have any favorite techniques on this list, readers? Or any additional ideas?

New Releases: December 2017

It’s almost Christmas time! And if you’re like me, presents shaped like books are the most exciting of all. (Even as a kid, I’d snoop under the tree to count how many perfectly smooth rectangular packages had my name on them.) If you know and love a reader (or want to leave hints for your own wish list) take a look at the books below…there’s a gift for just about every fiction lover’s style releasing this month!

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

by Julie Klassen

Synopsis: In the confines of Ivy Cottage, friendships thrive, romances blossom, and mysteries await! Gentlewoman Rachel Ashford has moved into Ivy Cottage with the two Miss Groves, where she discovers mysteries hidden among her books. Together with her one-time love Sir Timothy, she searches for answers—and is forced to face her true feelings.

Buy for Someone Who: Loves British dramas and all things Jane Austen, enjoys getting to know a delightful cast of characters.

The House on Foster Hill

by Jaime Jo Wright

Synopsis: Fleeing a stalker, Kaine Prescott purchases an old house sight unseen in Wisconsin, which turns out to have a dark history: a century earlier, an unidentified woman was found dead on the grounds. As Kaine tries to settle in, she learns the story of her ancestor Ivy Thorpe, who, with the help of a man from her past, tried to uncover the truth about the death.

Buy for Someone Who: Wants a page-turning suspense novel with lots of twists and turns, can’t choose between historical and contemporary genres.

Holding the Fort

by Regina Jennings

Synopsis: When dance hall singer Louisa Bell visits Fort Reno to see her brother, she is mistaken for the governess that the harried Major Daniel Adams is waiting for. Between his rowdy troops and his two daughters, he has more responsibility than he can handle alone. Eager for the opportunity, Louisa sets out to show the widower that she is a perfect fit.

Buy for Someone Who: Loves to laugh and get to know lovable characters, can’t resist a hard-won happy ending to a delightful romance.

The Probing

by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky

Synopsis: In cycle three of the series, the Harbingers team investigates more mysterious and fascinating supernatural occurrences in Hollywood, a small town in North Carolina, and elsewhere. Can they keep the growing darkness at bay? This fast-paced and ongoing collection reads like your favorite TV series, with each linked episode written by a talented author.

Buy for Someone Who: Enjoys Stranger Things and other speculative stories, wants something a little edgy and fast-paced.

What’s a book that you’d love to receive for Christmas this year?

Prayer for Authors: December 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 November:

Alton Gansky
Angela Hunt
Regina Jennings
Julie Klassen
Bill Myers
Frank Peretti
Jaime Jo Wright

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.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.–John 1:14 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For balance and moments of peace and reflection even when there are other demands on authors’ time and attention.
  • For freedom from comparison and inadequacy.
  • For booksellers to have a productive holiday season and the ability to deal well with stress amidst the busyness.

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy days to pray for these authors and their books. We appreciate having you join with us!

We Need Your Questions!

Hello, readers!

As some of you regulars may know, we have an ongoing monthly series on the blog called “Ask Bethany House” where I take questions from readers about anything related to BHP, our authors, or book publishing in general.

So that I can plan ahead for 2018 posts, it’s time for me to request questions from you again! If you have a behind-the-scenes type of question, submit it here in our survey, and I’ll choose one per month to answer next year.

You can glance over past questions I’ve answered here, but I’m fine with a slightly different angle on an old question, or even a request for an updated answer to a question I already covered. (A lot can change in two years!)

And, to thank you for being such great question-asking fans, let’s have a giveaway! Next week, I’ll pick two random winners for an early copy of your choice of one our January 2018 books (Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse, A Song Unheard by Roseanna White, Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt). Enter by commenting with an answer to this question: what is one book you read in 2017 that you really enjoyed?

Why Your Favorite Author Probably Can’t Give You a Free Book

It’s a dilemma that many in my circles are puzzling over: in today’s world, authors have nearly limitless creativity and research sources and opportunities to get their stories out to a wider audience…but fewer people are willing to pay for them.

I’m an administrator for a few dozen authors’ Facebook pages, and from time to time I glimpse notifications of another message with the same question, phrased in a few different ways: “Why is your book (or ebook) so expensive?”

If you’ve ever wondered that yourself—and I don’t blame you, because I did too before I started working in publishing—here are a few thoughts that authors probably want to say but feel they can’t, because it seems a little too direct, a little too self-serving (even though it really isn’t).

It’s the same reason restaurant owners can’t give you a free dinner: because that’s how they make a living. Sure, a chef might comp a meal for a celebrity or a food blogger who will recommend the café to a large audience, but for the most part, they charge for their product both because it’s worth the money and because doing so allows them to continue making five-star creations.

Before I go on, let me first say: this is not intended to make you feel bad if you’ve ever requested a review copy from an author, talked about how ebook prices are too high, or can’t buy every new release that catches your eye. Not at all. You don’t have to feel defensive, because I’m also a reader who loves a good deal and lives on a budget.

This is just a different perspective, written in consideration of some people I care a lot about: our authors. It’s easy for them to get discouraged when hearing about general trends—readers buying fewer books at lower prices—or getting direct messages from readers concerned that their books are priced too high. My goal isn’t to scold anyone, just to ask questions that might be helpful when thinking about this issue. Continue reading

10 Book Small Talk Questions

Most of us here at Bethany House are admitted book nerds. (There was a lunch conversation where we discussed our favorite punctuation marks.) I actually own a game called Jenga for Book Lovers, which is your typical pull-out-a-block-from-the-tower game, but with reading-related questions on each of the pieces that you then read aloud and discuss. Most of the questions are fairly general, asking you to name a favorite genre or character or asking if you prefer ebooks or print.

It did get me thinking, though: what are some interesting conversation starters among readers? If you’re having a social event with your book club, need inspiration for a book blog post, or just want to quiz your fellow reading friends, here are some that I came up with.

One: What sort of stats would you have to track if you formed a version of Fantasy Football, but with authors instead of sports figures? (Character deaths? Vocabulary choices? Bestseller status or just number of tissues needed for the ending?)

Two: Name a classic you feel is overrated and should never be required in schools.

Three: What genre, character type, or trope that most people go crazy for do you secretly (or not-so-secretly) hate?

Four: Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you have never read? How about one that you’re embarrassed you have read.

Five: What would make you enjoy a book that didn’t have a traditional happy ending? (Or do you actually prefer those?)

Six: Pick an author, living or dead, who you would want to meet. What questions might you ask that person?

Seven: What is a book published in the last few years that you think will be considered an enduring classic in one hundred years? Why would you say that?

Eight: Have you ever actually thrown a book across the room? Why? (Or why did you consider it?)

Nine: You can live in any book’s world for a day, but only as an observer. Which book do you choose, and what day?

Ten: Can you remember a particular childhood book, series, or author that made you love reading?

Pick your favorite question above and answer it in the comments. I’d love to get to know some of the frequent readers of our blog by hearing your answers!

Prayer for Authors: November 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 November:

Julianna Deering
Sarah Loudin Thomas
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.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.–1 Chronicles 16:10-11 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For mental energy for multiples tasks and decisions that may need to be made.
  • For readers to be surprised by unexpected truth and encouragement in these stories.
  • For future writing projects–the creativity for starting them and the dedication for finishing them.

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy days to pray for these authors and their books. We appreciate having you join with us!

November 2017 New Releases!

Happy November, everyone! One thing I love about this month’s round of books (besides the great stories, of course) is how they’re all historical fiction, but even the covers give you glimpses of how they’re different in tone. From the sassy glint in the eyes of Jen’s heroine to the lovely atmosphere of Sarah’s to the crisp pop of color and drama on Julianna’s, they each hint at the humor, romance, and mystery inside. If you’d like to test them out, click on the covers to read an excerpt of each!

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

Plot: When shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair’s mother catches Gertrude Cadwalader, paid companion to the light-fingered Mrs. Davenport, returning a pilfered item, she comes to the wrong conclusion. However, Harrison is eager to mend fences once he realizes the error. After a real thief starts preying on society, can Gertrude and Harrison catch the culprit?

 

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Plot: After a terrible mine accident in 1954, Judd Markley abandons his poor Appalachian town for Myrtle Beach. There he meets the beautiful and privileged Larkin Heyward, who dreams of helping people like those he left behind. Drawn together amid a hurricane, they wonder what tomorrow will bring—and realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

 

Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Plot: Drew Farthering finds a new mystery on his hands when he arrives at Thorburn Hall in Scotland for the 1935 British Open. His host, Lord Rainsby, asks Drew to investigate a suspected embezzler—then dies in a suspicious accident the next day. However, the house is full of guests with potential motives. Can Drew discover the killer among them?

What stands out to you about the covers of any of these books? (I’m a fan of all of them!)

Ask BHP: What Are Some Tips for New Writers?

From our Ask BHP Mailbag, here’s a great question that several people asked in various ways. “I’m an aspiring author and hear that it can be difficult to ‘break in’ to the world of Christian fiction. Any advice for a newbie?”

One of our acquisition editors, Raela Schoenherr, just answered this question from a different perspective, so take a look at that too. But I wanted to share the answers that Noelle, fiction marketing director, and I gave at the Bethany House Spotlight at ACFW. So you get three related questions and answers for the price of one! (Which, since the price was free, might not be that much of a deal.)

A recent picture from an author visit! Noelle is in the center wearing yellow, and Amy is next to her wearing pink.

Question 1: What would make a proposal from a new author stand out to someone in marketing?

Amy: The first thing I look at is always the writing quality. If the story isn’t compelling, even an interesting marketing angle isn’t going to be helpful. After that, though, I love to see that an author has an understanding of their audience. If a proposal tells me why this book will stand out to readers—whether that’s answering the question of what need it’s filling in a compelling way, showing other recent similar titles that sold well, or describing other ways Christian readers have demonstrated interest in this topic/era/theme—then I can picture how to position and market it.

Noelle: I agree. If reading the story makes me forget that I am “doing it for work,” it becomes natural to be an advocate for it. I’d say more but that gets me talking about our next FAQ.

Question 2: Is a large platform necessary for a first-time fiction author?

Amy: For me, what’s more important than the numbers is an author who shows that they understand and are willing to be a part of the marketing process. A list of potential marketing strategies can be helpful with this—it might include endorsements and author connections who would help in telling others about your book, knowledge of practices used by authors to connect with readers, and any ways the author is already connected to readers, especially if there’s a niche community related to the book or the author has made him/herself an expert in an area related to the book.

Noelle: A year or two ago, we would have said “for fiction, platform doesn’t matter. All your effort will maybe sell a few hundred copies. We work in a world that aims to moves thousands at a time.” But with the decline of retail space and the abyss of Amazon that makes discoverability increasingly hard, I would say it is beginning to matter. Still not to the extent of a non-fiction author, but you do need to be active in the book world. Not a marketing master, but at least engaged and aware.

Question 3: What’s the difference between “chasing a trend” and noticing that readers are drawn to a particular topic/era/genre and writing to meet that need?

Amy: The quality of the story plays into this a lot as well. It’s easy to tell if a writer dashed together a story to fit a trend—the research is often sloppy, the characters don’t feel real, and the story as a whole isn’t compelling. But if a particular genre or theme is popular and it seems to be a natural fit for your writing voice and what you’re passionate about, go for it. Just know that you might be building a career around that type of writing. (Some authors successfully jump around genres and styles, but often what you first write about becomes your brand. Readers want more of the kind of story they’ve come to love for you.)

Noelle: It’s probably also good to think about what trends have longevity. A ripped-from-the-headlines issue as the main focus of a book likely won’t be timely in a year or two when the book comes out (although some conflicts and issues, used as part of the plot and not the whole basis of the book, are perennial). Some genres and trends “cross-over” from the ABA into the CBA. Regency romance is an example. Others don’t, at least not with the same kind of widespread success, like young adult paranormal. It’s also interesting to note that a lot of the mega-bestseller trends of the CBA started in the CBA (from Beverly Lewis’s Amish to Frank Peretti’s supernatural to the Left Behind apocalyptic that lives on in Jonathan Cahn and others). All of those things should go into consideration when thinking about trends.