Ask BHP: How Does the Cover Design Process Work?

When we put up our annual Ask BHP poll to collect reader questions about what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing company, the #1 category people asked questions about was the cover design process.

I could write blog posts about that. (I have, actually written a few, like this one or this one, in our Ask BHP archives.) But since cover design is such a visual process, we thought it might be more fun to create a series of videos, about one per month, to share details about the design process of one specific book cover. Those videos are hosted over on our Instagram account (which you should visit if you haven’t already), but I’m including one here for any blog followers who might not be on Instagram.

Enjoy! 

What cover design questions would you like us to explore in future videos?

Ask BHP: How Do Editors Work With Different Authors?

I love some of the fun questions readers had about the editorial process. Here’s our June question to answer: “How does an editor tailor their approach to a specific author’s writing and work style when making suggestions/corrections? Or, are editors and authors paired up because of similarities in their approaches to such a project?”

Of course, because I (Amy Green, fiction publicist) work in marketing, I have no idea how editors do this. That’s why I give you…interviews with the fantastic Jessica Barnes and Jen Veilluex, two of our fiction editors here at Bethany House. Even I learned as I read their answers, so I hope you enjoy them.

 

Jessica Barnes

What a great question! I work with about ten fiction authors here at Bethany House, and all of them have different writing styles. I also have a slightly different editing relationship with each of them. Editors aren’t “matched” to authors here in the way you’re asking; it’s usually more about workload and schedule than personality. But as an editor, I see it as my job to be flexible and adapt my working style to my authors’.

When it comes to staying in an author’s writing style while making changes to a manuscript, my initial reaction to the question of how I do it was, “…I just do?” This is so part and parcel of an editor’s job that I don’t even realize I’m doing it anymore. The best answer I can give is that when I’m editing a book, I’m immersed in the story, the characters, and the writing. So if I think a scene needs an extra line at the end, usually that line naturally stems from what came before it, and it fits both the story and the style. By this point I’m so familiar with how my authors construct sentences and how they tell their stories that I’m able to slip into that same voice and add little bits and bobs (or subtract them) when necessary. It’s no different than people who unconsciously take on the accent of whatever place they’re visiting.

As a side note, here’s something that I hadn’t thought of in years that this question made me remember: My freshman year of college, my writing professor started the semester by giving us short passages from famous writers—Hemingway is the one I most clearly remember—and having us rewrite the passage by changing the subject and content, but exactly copying all the sentence structure. In this way, we learned how it felt to construct sentences and paragraphs in that writer’s rhythm and style. Perhaps that has turned out to be more helpful than I could imagine at age 18?

When it comes to matching an author’s work style, this is more straightforward. Some of my authors are extremely collaborative, and I will spend a couple hours on the phone with them at revisions, brainstorming ideas and solutions to trouble spots. Some of my authors work better alone, and they disappear with their edits for two months and then reemerge with a shiny new manuscript, ready for more feedback. For the most part, I let the author lead the way in how involved they want me in their writing and revision process. So far, it seems to be working!

 

Jen Veilleux

Our editing assignments come from our managing editor, who works with our acquisitions editors to determine which editor has the most availability. Most of our authors are contracted to write a series of books, which means that an editor is going to be working with a particular author for years! So while editor or author preference or experience are sometimes taken into consideration, mostly it’s timing.

When I first started at Bethany House, I made it my mission to read the books of as many of our authors as I could. Reading widely across all genres, I began to get a sense of different authors’ voices and styles, which helped me immensely when I became a line editor and began working directly with the authors. The authors I work with vary from biblical to contemporary, from Gilded Age to Regency, and from fantasy to Amish!

Above all, good editors are working with the author. There is a lot of back-and-forth between the author and the editor throughout the process: rewrites, discussions, e-mails, phone calls, drafts, questions, second opinions, fact-checking, more rewrites. You get to know authors over time, like what method of communication they prefer, what characters they’re attached to or will be important in the next book, what phrases they like to use, and how they like to incorporate faith and God into their writings.

As an editor, I am doing my best to support the author’s vision of his or her book, but I’m also advocating for the reader. While authors’ genres and voices may differ, the basics of a story do not: Does the plot make sense? Are the characters well developed? Should this chapter be cut or moved? If I get hung up on a plot point or a strange POV shift, readers might as well. But at the end of the day, it’s not my name on the book. It’s the author’s.

I am grateful for the relationships that I have developed with my authors over the last several years, and I am so humbled and proud to work alongside them. Sure, it’s great when books sell well, but oftentimes I’m just so proud that these books exist. An author had a dream and did the hard work of writing, rewriting, and rewriting some more, and then, with a little help from me and with a lot of help from so many others at BHP (copy editors, proofreaders, art and design, and on and on), it became something tangible, something you can hold in your hands or scroll with your finger on an e-reader. Editors are kind of like midwives—helping, encouraging, gently correcting—but it’s the authors who do a lot of the hard work. And when we’ve laid the newly created being in the hands of its creator, we quietly pack up our tools and slip off into the night to help bring the next one into existence.

Let’s hear it for editors! Readers, what do you think would be the most interesting part of working in the editorial department at a publishing house?

Ask BHP: Why Do Some Translations Have a Different Cover?

This month’s Ask BHP question is about the hidden world of translated editions: “I’m always confused when foreign language books have a different cover. Can you tell us why?”


The answer to this one is actually pretty simple. Bethany House currently does most of its translations by licensing translation rights to a foreign publisher. That way, we don’t have to have in-house translators—and the publishers in other countries often know what will work best in their market. For fiction, sometimes very United-States-specific stories, like Amish fiction, won’t work as well in some countries as something more universal, like biblical fiction.

This also answers the question some readers submitted about how we decide which books are translated. Sometimes we’ll pitch a particular author for a translation we think will do well, but ultimately it’s up to their team what projects they’d like to take on.

As the foreign publisher works out the contract with our Rights department, they can specify if they’d like to be able to use the current cover art or create their own That’s why you’ll sometimes see different versions. One publisher might decide that for their market, a different image would be better, or they just prefer contracts without cover art rights.

You may occasionally see authors posting about their new translations from all over the world. This is the behind-the-scene process that goes into it! Here are some fun recent examples for you to enjoy.

This one is interesting…the publishers bought the rights to the cover for the novella collection Hearts Entwined and wanted to use that cover for More Than Meets the Eye (it fit better with their other Karen Witemeyer books).

Ask BHP: Is It Hard Not to Over-Analyze Books?

Our Ask BHP question this week dips into the personal reading habits of Bethany House staff: “As a publishing employee, can you turn off the analytical side of your brain when reading for fun, or are you always critiquing the story in your head?”

As someone who works in our marketing department, the main time I’m reading in Analysis Mode is when I’m reviewing a manuscript that we’ll be considering at our Publication Board, where representatives from marketing, editorial, sales, and rights discuss potential contracts with authors. For new fiction authors, we usually get the full manuscript weeks ahead of time, giving me a chance to read it so I can come prepared to discuss its strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the questions I ask myself as I do so:

  • Does this seem to be a good match for our target audience? (Interests, spiritual/theological background, etc.)
  • Is this different enough to stand out without being so unique that it won’t appeal to readers?
  • How would this fit with other books we’re publishing?
  • Are the characters well-developed?
  • Is the middle of the story interesting enough to carry readers through?
  • After I read the first three chapters, what, if anything, makes me want to read more?

When I’m reading a book for fun outside of work, I obviously don’t feel the same kind of responsibility to go through a checklist like that. It helps that I also read in several genres outside of the Christian fiction I immerse myself in at work (nonfiction of all sorts, ABA mysteries and fantasy, middle grade fiction, literary classics…let’s be honest, basically anything with pages).

This might also be a chicken-egg conundrum: I’ve spoken with several editors who said they went into editing because they already had a natural bent toward analyzing and critiquing a story’s structure, characters, and plot. Working in publishing probably strengthened those skills, but it didn’t create them in the first place.

I think most of us would say that while we can’t exactly “turn off” the part of our brain trained by working in publishing—deciding if the cover makes the genre clear, admiring the author’s voice, predicting what might happen next—the better a book is, the easier it gets to set the technical questions aside and just enjoy reading. After all, if I’m not making a marketing plan for the author or evaluating the manuscript for our publication board, I don’t really need to be thinking about all of those things. All I really have to decide is whether I like it or not.

I probably am somewhat more critical, or at least aware, of the choices the author is making because I’ve spent the past five years in publishing, but “off the clock,” I’m a reader just like any other.

Then again, all readers are on some level, asking questions like “Does this opening chapter grab me?” “Is the plot too predictable?” and “Do I care about these characters, or do I kind of hope they fail because they’re so annoying?” Maybe you wouldn’t actually describe your reading process that way, but we’re all analyzing the story at some level. Hopefully not to the point where we can enjoy ourselves or get lost in a great story, but in a way that helps us appreciate what we love about our favorite authors.

Your turn, readers! What is it about a good book that makes it easy for you to turn off your analytical side and just enjoy the story?

Ask Bethany House: What Annoys Authors Most?

This month’s Ask Bethany House question caught my eye because of its focus on readers: “Most of the time, I think it’s great that readers like me can connect with authors easily on social media, through their website, etc. But sometimes I hear stories that make me wonder if there are things that readers say that bother or annoy authors. What would some of those be? (So I can avoid them, ha!)”

First of all, super interesting question! I agree that for the most part, easy access to authors is one of the amazing things about the Internet. Almost all authors love being able to hear from readers and know their books are making a difference.

That said, there are some questions or comments that are harder for authors to know how to respond to. Sometimes they’ll ask me if I have any ideas for good responses, which is how I know which reader comments are more likely to be problematic.

Take these with a grain of salt—there are contexts where saying these things may be totally fine, and if you’ve said one of these in the past, it’s not a big deal. These are just etiquette tips from what I’ve observed working in publishing. (And yes, most authors have gotten all of these in different forms.)

Each individual author’s preferences will vary…but I don’t know of a single author who doesn’t appreciate a spontaneous kind word from a reader. That’s something you can always count on! Continue reading

Ask BHP: How Has Bethany House Changed Over the Years?

Today’s Ask Bethany House will take us back to the past: “Who has worked for Bethany House the longest? What are their favorite things they have learned since working there? What kind of change have they seen?”

I love this question because it doubles as an answer to another question we received: “What do you think is an aspect of publishing that most people don’t know about?”

With that in mind…meet Randy Benbow!

 

If you count years at Bethany House itself, Jim Parrish, our executive VP, has been here longer, but Randy worked in the pre-press department of the print shop that created books and other materials for the missions organization that started Bethany House, back in the 1970s.

His job in the production department of Bethany House started in 1993. What does that mean? Basically, Randy’s job involves all of the unseen technical details that get a book into your hands and keep us running: printing “proof” covers to make sure they’ll look great on the final books, backing up and archiving our files and covers, sending the printers what they need to roll out books and deliver them to bookstores and libraries all over the world, and more.

I asked him a few questions to learn about his job (and had to find definitions for some terms, meaning even I don’t know all of what Randy does). Enjoy!

Amy: Tell us a little bit about how your job has changed over twenty-five years.

Randy: One of my favorite things working at Bethany House is actually looking back…and marveling at how computer hardware and software has improved over the past twenty-five years. When I started working here November 1993 our typesetting system was totally code-driven. My workstation also had an Apple Macintosh Classic II with a teeny-weeny little screen tethered to a larger 22” black-and-white monitor to create…

(Can you guess what task might have been so important to be automated that it was done on one of four computers at Bethany House?)

Barcodes! I still create all our barcodes, but it’s a much easier and faster process now (with a bigger screen).

Back in those days, we only had three other Mac computers. Dan Thornberg was designing book covers on one in the then Art Department (after he hand-painted his illustrations!), while his sister Sheryl designed ads and promo pieces on one in the Marketing dept. Peter Glöege was also designing book covers on a Mac at the time. Those persevering designers pioneered the beginnings of digitally-designing book covers, ads, marketing and promotional pieces…and we still have the files from those first few book covers designed in 1993!

Another task I took on we found we needed was on-site Mac tech support as well as managing a stack of 3-4 hard drives cabled together for our primitive beginnings of a file server—running software utilities (sometimes before they arrived in the mornings, or after the designers left in the evenings), managing backups and archiving our Mac files. Ah yes, those were the days—slow, expensive, inconsistently stable Macs.

Amy: Wow, I can’t imagine doing any production or design work without computers. I’ve seen some of Dan’s original cover paintings around the office. It’s amazing how much work he put into them, although I can see how it would also be much harder to make tweaks and changes like we can now in Photoshop.

What was the most involved process that now no longer takes a lot of time because of technology?

Randy: Typesetting—formatting files for the interior of a book so it can be printed—is very different than it was when I started out. Covers and ads used to involve processing film, while paper for book text involved being pasted in a layout, then photographed. Since I’d had quite a few years’ experience maintaining a film processor for Bethany’s Graphic Arts camera, I processed the film and paper outputs, monitoring and maintaining its chemicals, cleaning as needed.

Now typesetting is done on large screened Macs in Grand Rapids to digital files; no light-sensitive film, no chemicals. Instead of transferring files via “SneakerNet” (by walking or mailing), floppy disks, or larger capacity disks and drives, files are transferred to and from designers, coworkers, foreign or domestic Subsidiary Rights vendors, and book printers via email (if they’re small enough), or Dropbox-like links or other transfer systems if they’re larger.

Amy: I can’t imagine walking files around and the extra time that would take.

What’s a recent experience you’ve really appreciated about your job?

Last February 2018 I was blessed to have the opportunity to visit our parent company Baker Publishing Group’s home office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I got to meet and personally talk to the people I’d been emailing for fifteen years! They were so hospitable, gracious, warm and kind! While conversing with them, seeing their facilities, faces, and workstations, I found we had many things in common at work as well as in our personal lives, which gave me more satisfaction in my job knowing who I work with “on the other side of the pond.” It was great—I loved it!

Anything else you want to share with readers?

Just a favorite joke of mine…do you know why there are RUSH jobs in the printing industry? Back in the day when Gutenberg invented the first printing press with moveable type, his first customer kept the proof over the weekend… <sigh> and they’ve been behind ever since.

Thanks, Randy! How about you, readers? What’s one technological advancement in the past twenty-five years that has changed your life for the better? (Mine would definitely be GPS…)

Ask BHP: How Do You Determine Book Lengths?

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who participated in our Ask BHP survey! (You can still add your questions, but the giveaway winner has already been picked.)

There have been so many intriguing questions submitted already, including several I’m especially excited to investigate…because I have no idea what the answer might be!

This month, we’re pulling out a technical question, one that you may have wondered if you’ve noticed the difference in spine widths along your bookshelf: “Who decides how long a book gets to be? I know some books are longer than others, so who decides, and how do they decide on the length?”

When an author creates a book proposal, they often give the approximate word count of their novel. Debut authors—authors who have never published a novel before—almost always have a complete manuscript, so even if some editing might be needed, the word count is pretty easy to figure out. Authors who have published before, however, sometimes only have a few sample chapters and an outline…which they may or may not follow closely, so their word counts are more hypothetical. You can think of the estimated word count as the general goal the author is aiming for. It’s usually phrased something like: “90,000 words plus or minus 15%,” so it’s not a strict amount.

As far as why the number is chosen, the average length of one of our novels is in the 80,000-100,000-word range. There are some slight preferences—contemporary romance tends to be closer to the 80,000-word mark, some historicals will be more likely to creep toward 100,000 or beyond—but that’s a good general estimate to keep in mind.

One major exception is epic fantasy, which tends to be much longer…after all, the authors have to build an entire world and then introduce a threat that could end the entire world. According to our editors, the conclusion to Jill Williamson’s Kinsman Chronicles, King’s War, set a new fiction length record: 656 pages and 222,000 words total, more than double our typical novel size!

Bethany House doesn’t currently publish children’s books, but of course every target age group within that industry has a different ideal word count, and even sentence length, based on reading level. (Along with those few Harry-Potter-like exceptions that defy length norms.) Mass market fiction and novellas have conventions as well.

As far as getting to that word count, some authors will “write long”—let their first draft go wild with subplots, long descriptions, backstory dumps, and other words that will be eliminated the second time they go through their manuscript. A few authors purposefully write scenes that they know will need to be cut or at least shortened later to keep the momentum of the story flowing, while others only decide in the editing process what might need to be trimmed. This gets them back down to the word count they’re aiming for.

The other camp is made up of those who “write short”—telling the basics of the story to get it out on paper, then going back and adding fun character details, smoother transitions, and additional tension-building scenes after they have a draft. The most minimalist will basically create a detailed, fifty-page outline for their first draft, but others will only be a few thousand words short that they then sprinkle throughout to make the story more vivid. This gets them up to the word count they’re aiming for.

There are always exceptions to word count goals, where authors start writing and realize they just can’t tell the story they’re trying to tell in the word count they decided on in earlier. (This seems to happen more commonly than authors who decide their book needs to be much shorter than they’d planned.) At that point, they talk with their editor to create a new word count estimate. If an editor reads a 120,000 word manuscript and decides, “A lot of these scenes don’t advance the plot,” they’ll suggest edits to get the word count down to the target amount.

But sometimes an editor reads a 127,000 word manuscript and decides that nearly everything is essential…which is what happened with A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green. Jocelyn explained it this way: “My first draft is usually between 100,000 and 110,000 words. But then, as we flesh out character development and subplot threads, I always end up adding more to the novel. I do delete entire chapters that weren’t necessary during that process, but what I add to the book always outweighs what I strike out. Dave and Jessica [Jocelyn’s editors] say that as long as the book doesn’t lag, and as long as every scene is necessary, they don’t mind the length. What we don’t want is an underdeveloped storyline or an abrupt ending, just to squeeze in the last chapter before hitting a certain word count.”

So there you have it! Word counts aren’t magical, but neither are they an exact science. Authors and publishers both want to make sure there’s enough space to tell a good story…without giving too much space for meandering.

What’s the longest book you can remember reading? How about a book you wish could be longer because you love the characters so much?

We Need YOU to Ask Us Questions…with a Giveaway!

That’s right, all you readers and writers out there. It’s that time of year again, when I take a moment to refresh our Ask Bethany House mailbag by requesting you to send in your questions! As always, these can be about the publishing process, what it’s like to work with authors, how we do our various jobs, or anything else that relates to our books or our company.

This year, I have five short prompts to help you think of some great topics for me to write about on the blog. To thank you for coming up with great questions, we’ll also choose a winner to receive three books of their choice from 2018. A randomly-chosen winner will be contacted by January 2, 2019 via email.

If you’d like to check out the archive of Ask BHP posts and see what’s already been covered, go ahead. But no worries about duplicating something—there are lots of topics we write about multiple times.

One other note: if next year you see me answer a question close to yours, but not quite, sometimes if I see lots of people asking about the same thing, I combine their thoughts into one post so I can do the best job possible of covering topics that people want to know about.

Ready to start? You can find our survey here.

I look forward to seeing your responses…and investigating the answers to your questions in 2019!

Ask BHP: What Changes Are Made to Covers?

Cover design is always a popular topic in our Ask BHP poll, and this reader wants to know: “I’d like to hear a little bit about the cover design process. Specifically, I know there’s a group that approves or asks for changes to covers. What are the most common things you change?”

At our first meeting, editorial and marketing representatives meet with our creative director to talk about their vision for the covers of that season’s books—usually about 15-16. All will have read the synopsis (the book is rarely finished at this point), and they’ll bring covers they really like or other visual aids. The creative director, Paul Higdon, then translates this feedback to the designers.

For the next stage, the team is mostly looking at pencil sketches or stock photo approximations of what the poses for a cover might look like, especially when there will be a photoshoot of one or more models. This is the point to say, “Wait, that’s a totally different direction than the first two books in the series,” or “I think the silhouette is a better idea than the split-scene” or “Let’s be sure to have her outdoors instead of inside.”

Later, after many hundreds of hours of work on photoshoots and Photoshop, the designer will present a semi-final version of the cover…actually, usually 6-10 different versions. Some are in totally different styles and tones, others are similar with smaller variations on the type or model pose. We’ll give another round of feedback, this time more specific as to what we like or don’t like, voting on our favorite designs.

One of our designers, Jenny Parker, said, “The designers probably have the best idea of what an author goes through, because we have our art critiqued by others—sometimes while we’re in the room! Then it’s time to take that feedback and make changes.”

And that’s a hard task, especially because most of us have vague instincts like, “That type is hard to read” or “something about that model’s expression looks unpleasant” or “the color pallet just seems off.” They might be true statements, but the designer has to find the way forward to actually do what the team members are suggesting.

Once we agree on the right design (or a Franken-combo of designs), there are still tweaks to be made. At the near-final stage, here are some recent comments jotted down in meeting notes.

  • Check with the author to make sure those earrings are appropriate for the time period. It might be fine.
  • I’m not loving the series logo…can we get rid of some of the froufy frilly things around the text?
  • The woman’s dress is really close to the blue dress of the first book in the series. Let’s make it more teal, or a different color altogether.
  • Will the author like this? Because it’s a very different direction than what we’ve done for her in the past.
  • So…no one else thinks the guy in the background on Cover 3 looks creepy? (Consensus: we did not go with Cover 3.)
  • Let’s make sure to get her hair a little darker. It’s edging toward blond, and she clearly has light brown hair from the character description.
  • The author’s name should be in a thicker type to make it easier to read.
  • Does the pose look like a “strong, independent woman” or just over-the-top to you?

Then…more designer magic happens, and the final cover is sent to the author for feedback, as well as to members of our sales team for approval. Once everything is set to go, it gets placed in our catalog, the one that the sales team uses when presenting to bookstores (usually 8-10 months before release).

Here are some examples of those middle stages in the process. For Tracie Peterson’s new series (releasing in March 2019), our creative team asked if Jenny could have a large face above Western scenery as a way to set the series apart. Here are a few of the options we saw.

…but interestingly enough, Jenny put in a few designs with a totally different feel, trying to imitate a Wild West poster. Everyone loved that direction, even though it was different than what we had originally suggested. We had different poses to choose from in that design, and this is the one we went with after a few tweaks, the final cover of When You Are Near.

So there you have it, a small glimpse into the world of book cover design. Hope you enjoyed it!

What’s a cover that stood out to you recently? It can be in any genre.

Ask BHP: What Books Are You Excited About?

One reader asks, “Can you tell me some books/authors you’re really excited about and want to make sure everyone reads?”

Well, I already wrote a post about my favorite Bethany House book (spoiler: it was published in 1993), so long-time readers will know that I can’t pick among current authors. It would be way too hard.

But since “ALL our books” isn’t a long enough answer for a blog post, I’ll reply by saying that today, I’m especially excited about Bethany House books that were nominated for Christy and Carol Awards. The Carol Award winners will be announced this Saturday at the ACFW conference, and the Christy winners at an award ceremony in November, but to me, all of these titles are winners already.

Chances are you haven’t read all of these yet, so add them to your list—they’ve got a seal of approval from some pretty discerning judges (and me, of course).

True to You by Becky Wade

Plot Summary: After a broken engagement, genealogist Nora Bradford decides focusing on her work and her novels is safer than romance. But when John, a former Navy SEAL, hires her to help find his birth mother, the spark between them is undeniable. However, he’s dating someone, and Nora is hesitant. Is she ready to abandon her fictional heroes and risk her heart for real?

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: 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.

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Plot Summary: Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code, but the presence of Sir Colin Beckwith at a rival news agency puts her livelihood at risk. When Colin’s reputation is jeopardized, Lucy agrees to help in exchange for his assistance in recovering her family’s stolen fortune. However, the web of treachery they’re diving into is more dangerous than they know.

A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould

Plot Summary: Returning for her father’s funeral, Jessica faces the Amish life—and love—she left behind years prior. Struggling with regrets, she learns about the life of a Revolutionary War–era ancestor who confronted some of the same choices she has. Will Jessica find peace during her visit, along with the resolution she hopes for?

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Plot Summary: Despite her training as a master violinist, Rebekah Carrington was denied entry into the Nashville Philharmonic by young conductor Nathaniel Whitcomb, who bowed to public opinion. Now, with a reluctant muse and a recurring pain in his head, he needs her help to finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: Grace Mallory is tired of running. But when she learns that the villain who killed her father is closing in, she has no choice. Grace is waylaid, however, by Amos Bledsoe, who hopes to continue their telegraph courtship in person. With Grace’s life—and his heart—on the line, can Amos shed his shyness and become the hero she requires?

An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund – a free ebook novella!

Plot Summary: Longing to do more with her privileged life, Christine Pendelton begins volunteering at Centre Street Chapel. There she meets Guy Bedell, a pastor who shares her heart for the less fortunate. When Christine challenges Guy’s methods of helping, can they find a new way to reach out to the poor—and to connect with each other?

King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

Plot Summary: After the foretold destruction of the Five Realms, the remnant that escaped by sea searches for a new home. As the king’s health worsens, Sâr Wilek assumes command and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts and dark magic endanger his life. One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms in the future: Who is this Deliverer?

Okay, readers: out of the books above, how many have you read?