Ask BHP: What Do You Look For in a Manuscript?

“What makes you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a manuscript from a new author?”

This question was submitted to our Ask BHP survey in various forms, so for all the aspiring authors and curious readers out there, I’m going to focus on one of the later steps in the process: publication board.

At Bethany House’s pub board, the acquiring editor for the project—the one who has interacted with the author or agent and is championing the manuscript—will present persuasive reasons why we should make an offer for a particular novel.

Present around the table are other editors as well as people from our marketing, sales, and rights departments. We’ll all have looked at the sample chapters and book proposal, which gives a summary of the plot, describes the potential audience, lists marketing ideas, and includes other helpful information. Sometimes we’ll even read (or at least skim) the whole manuscript when considering a new fiction author. Most of us come to the meeting with a list of questions, possible concerns, and sometimes strong opinions of whether we want the team to accept or reject a project up for consideration.

Here are a few questions we ask and answer in our pub board meetings to decide what new fiction projects are a good fit for Bethany House. (Remember, these have already gone through several steps before getting to pub board, so there’s nothing here about the basics like correct grammar, coherent plot, and general awareness of good practices in writing.)

Is this too similar to something we’re already publishing?

In a broad sense, there are only so many writers of a particular subgenre that we can publish well without feeling crowded. In a more particular sense, if we have a book coming out next season with a very similar plot or setting, we may need to pass on a manuscript.

 

Will the author make a good marketing partner?

Many industry blogs talk about the importance of a strong platform for new writers. This is absolutely critical for nonfiction authors, and while an impressive following isn’t as important in fiction, we do look to see if the author knows how to promote their books and has included ideas, statistics, and examples in the book proposal. That way, we know that the author will be joining us in getting the word out about the book, which can be helpful for sales.

Is the writing strong?

This is somewhat subjective, but then again, remember that we have read a lot of Christian fiction, even in genres that we don’t personally care for, so we notice when an author’s voice has a little extra sparkle…or when it doesn’t. When we talk about the writing, we explain what we do or don’t like, and often the editors will get other “first readers” from inside the company to weigh in on the writing to make sure we’re not biased by, say, a few people who just really don’t like first-person point-of-view.

At this point, no manuscript is badly written, and we’re all aware that the editors will be asking the author to make changes, but we usually talk about big-picture things that couldn’t be fixed without a total re-write. For example, we might argue that the premise isn’t very suspenseful, or the narrator’s voice is off-putting, or only one of the dual timelines actually interested us.

What are books similar to this one doing in the marketplace?

This one is a strict sales question where we look at the potential audience for the book—is the author inspired by any trends that give it a strong hook? Is this genre seeing a resurgence, or slowly tapering off? Are there a thousand other books just like this out there, or none at all? (Usually both of these extremes aren’t the best for convincing the sales team this can sell.) If the author has past sales, independent or with another publishing company, we’d consider those as well.

Are we excited about this project?

This is so subjective that I’m sure it can be frustrating to hear. But the fact is, if the marketing team in particular finds a new author’s manuscript just doesn’t work for them, then the author probably wouldn’t want us to publish it. We’re the ones explaining the book to the sales team and promoting it to readers, so it would be better for the project to find a home where everyone was 100% enthusiastic about it.

Are the strengths of the manuscript worth any potential drawbacks?

And by that, I don’t really mean strengths or weaknesses in the quality of the writing, which I mentioned earlier. Here are a few examples of possible pros and cons we might need to discuss.

  • Will readers be okay with an unusual setting/time period if the book has a strong cast of characters?
  • There are lower sales for [insert genre here], but this is amazing writing.
  • This plot feels overdone, but the setting is unique.
  • The author’s sense of humor might not catch on, but it has potential to stand out because of that.
  • This is a controversial subject, but handled with grace.
  • We have an unknown author with no platform but a compelling, fresh voice.
  • This is totally different than anything we’ve done before…but it’s totally different from anything we’ve done before.

Sometimes we choose to pass on a project after weighing these pros and cons, sometimes we move forward. The factor most likely to convince us to take a risk is when multiple people on the pub board truly love the author’s writing style and think they have a compelling story to go along with it.

When we think of “our” readers—people who read Bethany House books—is this story something they would be interested in?

Of course, we’re always looking to reach new readers, but the majority of a new author’s audience will likely be readers who enjoy other Christian fiction that we publish. Because of that, we want to make sure a book feels like it fits our audience. We’ve occasionally said no to a great story that had too many dark elements to it, or felt theologically off for our readers.

As you can see, most of these questions are not personal to the writer, or even to his or her manuscript (although I’m sure it can feel that way). When we don’t choose to offer a contract for a debut author’s novel, it’s not because we think it’s terrible trash unworthy of publication. Not at all. Most of the time, it’s for a combination of more subtle reasons, like the ones above.

Just know that we’d love to publish more books…but there are only so many slots in a year for a traditional publisher. Sometimes we see that a story we had to turn down for one of those reasons finds a home elsewhere—one that is probably a better fit for both the story and the author.

And for the new authors we do have, we’re always delighted to introduce their first novel to the world. (Some recent debut novels have been The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright and Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette. You should check them out…they’re amazing!)

Did any of these questions surprise you? Any other questions you have about the pub board process?

Ask BHP: How Do You Decide on Covers?

Questions about cover design are by far the most popular ones we received to our Ask Bethany House survey. And with good reason: art can sometimes seem a little bit like magic, and not many of us get a glimpse into the process of creating the lovely images that grace our favorite books.

Here’s the question I’ll be answering today: “What does the Bethany House team consider when deciding on a final cover?”

First of all, here’s a list of who’s on the team. The author starts the process by providing character and setting descriptions, covers with looks they love, and ideas for scenes to portray. Our art director and designers work with Bethany House editors and marketers to get the right look. And we always get feedback from the sales team as well, since they’re the ones who know the buyers who will be putting books in stores.

At the beginning stages, a designer will show the editors and marketers several sketches or rough stock photography mock-ups to give us an idea of what the scene on the cover might look like. Obviously, we’re not commenting on the details at that point, but we will indicate a direction by making bigger-picture design choices like whether a character should be pictured close up or as a small figure in the background, what sort of scene would be most interesting, or whether to include options that split the design in half with a title bar.

After the photoshoot (which I’ll cover in more detail in a future Ask BHP post), the designer will take different images and arrange them into designs like the ones the team agreed on, creating a draft version of several cover options. The examples below are alternate covers for A Light on the Hill. They haven’t been polished and tweaked, and occasionally the design team might ask for a major change like “move the model from 1 into the scene of 2,” but we’re starting to get to a clearer idea of the cover.

In this case, while all of these design concepts are striking, the team didn’t care for the harsh color scheme of the first. The third option was some people’s first choice and others’ second, but eventually the argument was made that it would be harder to continue that look for the whole series while still remaining distinct. (There was also one team member who pointed out that the sun being right there on the city made the title really literal.)

We all loved the striking image of the protagonist facing us, and the prominent title. Here is what the final cover looked like once the designer made some tweaks (including moving the series name and using a different image from the photoshoot):

Here are just a few of the things we consider when giving suggestions to the designer:

  • Do the colors of the cover match the tone of the story? (Is it too dark for a lighthearted story or too cheery for a suspense novel?)
  • How can we hint at the setting or historical time period in the background, clothing, or fonts? Is there anything about any of those elements that seems mismatched?
  • Is the background too distracting or cluttered?
  • What’s the balance between type that’s interesting but also legible? (This especially matters because the book will be showing up in a thumbnail online.)
  • What sort of reader will be attracted to this design?
  • If there’s a model, does he or she convey the essence of the character as described by the author?
  • Is this cover too similar to one on an already-published book that readers of the genre would be familiar with? Is it too drastically different from everything else like it?
  • Would you want to pick this book up just by looking at the cover?

There are individual questions for each cover too, of course. For A Light on the Hill in particular, we talked about the best way to show that the protagonist is ashamed of the brand on her face, and how we could establish that the novel was biblical since it doesn’t have the name of a key Old Testament figure in the title to give readers that cue.

So there’s a little glimpse into the process we use to determine what cover makes it on the final book. I love bragging about our designers…they do excellent work! If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more cover alternates, Jocelyn Green wrote about the making of her latest release, A Refuge Assured, on her blog. Be sure to check it out!

So, readers, what’s an element of book cover design that you love to see? Are you able to complete the phrase, “I’ll be drawn to a book almost instantly if its cover…”?

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.

Ask Bethany House: What Marks a Discerning Reader?

It’s a new year, and I’ve gotten some great questions for our Ask Bethany House series in 2018! (If you’d like to contribute a question, it’s not too late. Send it in to our survey.)

Here’s our first one for January: “How would you define a ‘discerning reader’? What kinds of things do they observe about a book, its quality, its depth, its characters that make authors and publishers know that the reader has really invested in the story?”

What a fun question! First, I’d like to start off by saying that authors and publishers love to hear that you enjoyed a story—that it entertained you or took your mind off your worries or made you want to take a trip to the setting or made you think or laugh or cry. All of that is great, and also relatively simple. No need to get fancy.

That said, if you’re looking for ways to read like a writer or editor—either to get better at noticing why you enjoy a book so you can leave more specific reviews on blogs or retail sites, or maybe even to learn how to write a novel yourself—here are my tips.

  • Savor descriptions. It’s gone out of vogue to put in long blocks of exquisite prose describing every blade of grass the hero can see, and that’s probably a good thing. But when you notice some excellently crafted details about the setting or the expression on someone’s face, appreciate them, and maybe jot them down to quote later. (Booklist’s starred review of A Refuge Assured called it “almost overwhelming in its sensory detail,” so that one would be a great place to start.)
  • Notice the symbolism. I remember telling Elizabeth Camden that I loved a moment where her heroine in With Every Breath examines a “paperweight with a daisy blossom that would remain forever frozen in silent perfection inside the glass” because it was a great symbol for the issue that character was struggling with. She was delighted that I’d noticed the little detail she’d slipped into the story. You can obviously go overboard with this to the point where everything is a symbol (when it really wasn’t meant to be), but it’s fun to be on the lookout.
  • Take a look at word choice. I believe it was Melissa Tagg who said at a writing seminar that there’s a big difference between a door “painted a bright cherry red” and one that’s “streaked with blood-red paint, curling off in disrepair.” In one, you’re in a happy scene, in the other…look behind you to make sure the murderer isn’t coming. Often, loaded adjectives and verbs give scenes a certain atmosphere. The author chose those words carefully. Enjoy them!
  • Watch those secondary characters. Most authors have strong, well-developed protagonists, but the novels I love the most spend time making you care about the minor characters too, even if they rarely show up. You get the sense that even they have quirks and histories and personalities. I noticed this in Becky Wade’s True to You in particular with the heroine’s co-workers.
  • Admire a good plot twist. Not every story needs one of these, of course, and they might actually feel jarring in some genres. On the small scale, though, it’s fun when a character says something unexpected but perfect, or a secret is revealed at the end (as in many Beverly Lewis books). For big-scale, jaw-dropping plot twists, I’ll always recommend Patrick Carr…The Wounded Shadow, the last novel in his Darkwater Saga, is coming out in April and I can’t wait!

I could go on and on with often-overlooked aspects of great writing and recommend dozens of books that demonstrate them, but I should probably keep this post to a reasonable length. Whether you are a detail-noticer or just a happy-ending lover, a discerning reader is one who knows just which books to put on the keeper shelf…and which to get out again for a re-read!

Now I’ll turn it over to you, oh readers. Is there an aspect of a story that makes it a standout to you? Anything in particular you love to see in the books you most enjoy?

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?

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.

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.

Ask Bethany House: What’s Next in Christian Fiction?

Today’s Ask BHP question is a big-picture one: “What do you forecast for inspirational romance? More nods to spirituality or a ‘toned-down’ approach to broaden the net?”

Now, isn’t that a loaded question?

You have to be careful predicting the future. Remember what happened to Pippin and the palantir?

There are people I respect in the publishing industry who think Christian fiction will survive by sticking to strong faith themes and overt spirituality—after all, they say, look at the breakout novels in the history of the CBA. Beverly Lewis’s The Shunning created a whole genre of people who admired the Amish culture’s simple faith and family values. Frank Peretti’s books focused on spiritual warfare, the Left Behind series starts with the Rapture, and Redeeming Love is the story of an Old Testament prophet. From Janette Oke’s prairie romances to current apocalyptic thrillers and novelizations of Christian movies, many of the standout sellers haven’t tried to downplay faith; it’s made up the core of what the book is.

That can change, because our culture is changing, argues the other side, claiming that traditional inspirational fiction is more or less dead, but that Christian storytelling will always be vital. Shifting covers and content to more ABA style is the way to go—allegories and family dramas and beautiful storytelling can be faith-filled without having characters eavesdropping on sermons, quoting Bible verses, or even explicitly mentioning God. Looking at the content of bestsellers in the past is no way to determine what will happen in the future, and don’t forget that many Christians writing fiction with ABA publishers have also hit bestseller lists.

So, what do I think? To no one’s surprise, I agree with both. (I promise, I don’t do this so I can be right regardless of what happens.)

Writers create stories they’re passionate about, exploring themes that they find compelling. Readers buy books they’re drawn to, seeking out and recommending the novels that fit their felt needs. Publishers try to get a sense of both of these and find the manuscripts that do both.

There will be writers who are passionate about a story that can’t help but be explicitly Christian in its tone and characters and dialogue. That’s as much a part of the writer’s voice as a sense of humor, love of poetic descriptions, or tendency toward strong female leads. Those writers will have readers who love what they’re doing.

And there will be writers who are passionate about a story that, while deeply true and faith-filled, achieves a different goal with different methods. They will create the stories of their heart and might feel that inserting the moral of the story would defeat the purpose. Those writers will have readers who love what they’re doing.

That’s why I think it’s good that there’s a range of spiritual content within Bethany House novels and other CBA publishers, and I expect that to continue.

I realize that’s not much of a ground-shattering crystal-ball-type prediction, but there you have it. Because I believe deeply that authors and the novels they create are unique, I don’t expect them to uniformly veer in one direction or the other. That doesn’t mean there won’t be trends or breakout novels (and a wave of imitators) that push the market in a particular direction. Just that, at the end of the day, if readers want different experiences, authors and publishers will provide them.

One more misconception I want to clear up about this question: it’s not at all an issue of cliché vs. well-written or faithful vs. sell-out. I’ve read some books with strong Christian content that deserve a place on the shelf with the masters, and others that fell short. I’ve read some books with subtle Christian content that taught me more about faith than a sermon would, and others that felt like watered-down lemonade.

That said, if writers focus on the story they feel called to write and do so to the best of their ability, maybe this question will become secondary. My hope for Christian fiction is the same as it’s always been: that followers of Jesus would let the truth and love of God sink down deep in their souls…and then tell stories.

What do you think, readers? Any big or small trends you think we’ll see (or you hope we’ll see) in Christian fiction in the future?

Ask BHP: Who Are Some New Authors I Should Know?

Here’s one of my favorite questions to answer, pulled from our Ask BHP survey, because it gives me a chance to brag on our fabulous authors. “As a reader, I have a list of favorite authors who are “must-buys,” but I also love finding new authors. Any upcoming names I should know about?”

Obviously, “new” depends on how often you stalk the fiction section of your local bookstore, but I’m going to use this question to introduce all of you to three authors whose first book with Bethany House either has released or will be releasing in 2017.

Because so many of our current authors are continuing to write wonderful books, it takes a special spark of talent and just the right subject matter for a new writer to find a place at Bethany House, so you know these books come highly recommended. I also picked these three because their styles and genres are so diverse—you can read the description and see which one might be a good fit for you.

Here they are, in order of release:

Jennifer Delamere

Title: The Captain’s Daughter

Released: June 2017

The series was pitched to us with an intriguing premise: what if three sisters grew up in George Muller’s orphanage—a man who famously depended on God for all donations and aide—and had to learn what that kind of faith looked like in the difficult and sometimes dangerous world of Victorian London? We were sold, and we hope you will be too!

Plot: When unfortunate circumstances leave Rosalyn Bernay penniless in 1880s London, she takes a job backstage at a theater and finds herself dreaming of a career in the spotlight. Injured soldier Nate Moran is also working behind the scenes, but he can’t wait to return to his regiment in India until he meets Rosalyn.

Recommended for: Readers who enjoy British-set books, want to learn something about the history of theater, or miss a good Lawana Blackwell Victorian-era series.

Rachel Dylan

Title: Deadly Proof

Releases: September 2017

Romantic suspense you’re familiar with, but have you tried legal romantic suspense? Rachel brings years of experience as an attorney to this book to make the details authentic, plus her Love Inspired suspense novels have found her lots of excited readers waiting for a new series. Dani Pettrey and Lynette Eason both endorsed and recommended this one, so you know it’s worth the wait!

Plot: 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?

Recommended for: Readers who enjoy reading about strong female characters in a male-dominated profession, high-conflict romance, and plenty of twists and turns.

Jaime Jo Wright

Title: The House on Foster Hill

Releases: December 2017

If you’re constantly stumped when asked to pick your favorite genre and can only answer “a well-written story,” then I’ve got a book for you! Jaime’s debut novel is set half in the present, half in the past, with an intriguing suspense plot that ties the two together. Our team loved her writing voice and were hooked from the first page—we hope you will be too!

Plot: 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.

Recommended for: Readers who enjoy intricate plots, a storyline that doesn’t shy away from tough issues, and page-turning action as the tension ramps up.

One of the greatest encouragements for authors is to see early sales and reviews for their books—especially newer authors. So go ahead, pre-order the ones that stood out to you. Support a new author that you can be confident is worth your time. We only recommend the best!

What’s another way you can think of to encourage a new author?

Ask Bethany House: How Do Authors Do Research?

One of our readers asked this question in our survey: “How much research do your historical authors do to write their novels? What does that look like?” My answer, of course, was: I have no idea. But I do know who to ask!

I decided to get some answers by asking the authors of our two historical fiction releases for this month. Methods, time spent, and overall enjoyment level will vary from person to person, but here’s a little glimpse inside the research process from Melissa Jagears and Connilyn Cossette.

Amy: On a scale from 1-10 (1 being I’d-rather-be-live-bait-at-a-mosquito-farm, 10 being this-is-better-than-pure-happiness-dipped-in-chocolate), how much do you enjoy research?

Melissa: 6. (Using the research while actually writing is much more fun.)

Connilyn: 10! I absolutely love research and spend many happy hours following rabbit trails of information that don’t ever make it into my books or that constitute the background of one line that no one will probably ever notice. But that’s okay with me! I am a well of useless knowledge. Although research paired with chocolate would be even better.

Amy: What’s one research tip you’d pass along to a writer who was working on a historical novel for the first time?

Melissa: Don’t stop writing to check on historical accuracy unless you know it will derail your story or make you rewrite a significant portion if you’re wrong. For example, don’t stop to look up if the word “thingamajig” was in use yet or what sort of car your hero could drive, just make a note in the margin to look it up and go on. You can lose your writing momentum and hours of work in history rabbit holes. Go back to your margin notes and fill in the details when editing, because who knows, you might ax the whole paragraph anyway.

Connilyn: Keep track of your sources so you can find it again later. This was something I did not do for my first book and I sorely regretted it. I like to double-check my facts and if I cannot find my source then I have to waste time in the editing stage searching for it all over again. Nowadays I keep links to most sources in Evernote and Scrivener so it’s pretty simple to check back later.

Amy: What’s one research tidbit that played an important role in your latest novel?

Melissa: For my Teaville Moral Society series, I had to figure out how they’d treat and discuss an infant with fetal alcohol syndrome before anyone knew what it was.

Connilyn: Alanah, my main character, is an archer so I had lots of fun researching archery. My kids just happened to be taking an archery class during that time so that helped, but I also spent a couple of hours watching videos about how to construct a compound bow from wood and sinew, just like Alanah would have in Ancient Canaan. If the power grid goes down and I have to hunt for my own food, YouTube totally has me prepared.

Thanks for helping me answer this one, ladies! If you’d like to see how history is interwoven with these two stories, check out an excerpt of A Love So True and Wings of the Wind.

Readers, is there an era of history you especially like reading about?