Risen: A Roman Investigates the Resurrection

Lent begins early next month, and with it comes a season to reflect on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But have you ever wondered what the empty tomb looked like from the point of view of the occupying Romans?

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That’s the concept behind the upcoming film Risen. I had a chance to see an early preview of the film and really enjoyed the perspective it gave on both the life of Jesus and the witnesses to his resurrection who became the leaders of the early church.

The reason I got that sneak-peek look at the movie is because Bethany House is publishing the novelization, written by Angela Hunt!

The novel follows the story of Roman Tribune Clavius who is assigned by Pilate to keep followers of Yeshua from starting a revolution by claiming their lord has risen from the dead. It also includes the point of view of Rachel, a Jewish woman, who had to be cut from the film due to length, but whose story, I think, adds depth to Clavius’ search for truth.

Although the book is fiction, Angela put in hours of careful research, which she explains in the author’s note, to make sure that her story is an accurate portrayal of what might have gone on in the investigation of Jesus’ death…and his disappearance from the tomb three days later. The entire plot is an intriguing what-if: What if the original witnesses of the resurrection had some of the same questions and doubts people have today?

As Clavius searches for the truth, he wrestles with the following objections:

  • The disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied about it.
  • Jesus wasn’t really dead when they took him down from the cross, but actually revived later on.
  • The guards were hallucinating or lying in their second report about angels.
  • Jesus’ followers imagined Jesus was alive because they so badly wanted him to be.

Risen
And a number of others as well. If you or someone you know wants to think critically about the resurrection and get a more complete view of the life and times of Jesus that we kind of skim over sometimes when reading the Bible, Risen is a great choice. You can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover of the book above.

Be sure to check out the movie’s website to watch the trailer and get tickets!

Question for you, readers: what is your favorite tradition around Good Friday or Easter to remember the crucifixion and resurrection?

Ask Bethany House: What Does a Line Editor Do?

Welcome to the last Ask BHP post of 2015! We’ve already talked to one of Bethany House’s copy editors, Elisa. This week, we have Karen, one of our fiction line editors, on the blog to talk about her part in the process of getting great books into your hands. (Be sure to check out the rest of the Ask Bethany House series covering common questions readers ask us.)

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Hopefully when you’re done with this series, you’ll know that there’s much more to editing than fixing grammatical mistakes. But this is still amusing.

Amy: How would you explain your job to someone not familiar with the publishing industry?

Karen: As a line (also known as developmental or substantive) editor, my main responsibility is to work with fiction authors after the first draft of their contracted manuscript is submitted. Often with input from other editors and reviewers, I compile an editorial-comment document, outlining strengths of the story as well as areas we believe need to be revised and fine-tuned. The author and I use that document to discuss revision possibilities and objectives, and after the author had submitted the rewritten manuscript, I complete the first edit.

At this first-edit stage, though many of our concerns have been addressed during the author’s rewrite, I edit the story to enhance big-picture elements like pacing, clarity, plot and character arcs, character development, etc. Though most books receive a copy edit, I also correct/revise typos, grammar, writing flow, and the like, if I notice them.

I am very collaborative and much prefer working through the more significant editorial issues with an author rather than making the decision/revision independently. Of course I make numerous editorial/revision decisions on my own in every manuscript (always taking care to stay true to the author’s vision and voice), but I often find the best solution for larger concerns comes from collaboration (both with the author and with other editors).

Fiction line editors at Bethany House are also responsible for managing each book project through later revisions and corrections from proofreaders and the author, either entering the corrections ourselves or, once the manuscript has been paged, combining the corrections and sending them to typesetters/designers—who enter the corrections in the paged book—and then making sure the revisions have been correctly entered.

Amy: What happens after the work you do with the manuscript?

Karen: After I work with the author on the first edit, the manuscript is copy-edited, proofread (usually three different proofreaders), and reviewed twice by the author—first as a Word document and then as Paged galleys (a representation of what the actual book pages will look like). Once all the corrections have been made, checked, and checked again, the book is off to the printer. The process is more complicated than that, but those are the essentials.

Amy: What is one of your favorite parts of what you do, and why?

Karen: There are so many things I enjoy about my job, but I think the most exciting and fulfilling aspect of my job is working with every author to enhance the wonderful story they have already created. Though the stories are theirs, and theirs alone, I like to compare myself to a loving aunt, standing alongside and supporting proud “author parents” as they send their “book babies” out into the world. I guess that is a bit corny, but it is exciting for me.

Amy: That’s not corny at all! (I always think of myself as the teachers of those book babies—I have several at once when they’re a little more mature and their “author parents” have sent them out into the world.) So, any words of advice or encouragement for those who might want to become editors someday?

Meet Karen...she's the best!

Meet Karen…she’s the best!

Of course, schooling experience is helpful—often whether applicants have schooling in a clearly related subject area is a natural selection cutoff for potential employers. And any publishing/editing/writing craft classes you can take or experience you can get is beneficial. But more than that . . . read, read, read—anything and everything, but especially from the publishing area you are hoping to get a job in someday.

It is not enough for you to simply like a book, or dislike it. Analyze the books you read, figure out what is working and what is not working—why, and how could they be improved? Being analytical, whether by nature or through practice, and learning to communicate concerns clearly and graciously, is very helpful skill for people interested in becoming a line/substantive editor. I like to think such a trait allows me to effectively help the authors I work with create more logical, intriguing plots and consistent, compelling characters.

If you are interested in a job with Bethany House (and I expect this is true of any publisher), you can’t have read too many of our books—it is a plus when you can name favorite books you have read and articulate what you have appreciated about them. And read a broad range of books, even genres you are not particularly drawn to. In most publishing houses, there are many genres you might work with. We all have our genre preferences, but we don’t often get to focus solely on our favorites. Analyze what works in every genre, and learn to appreciate what individual genres have to offer.

Before I started working at Bethany House, other than a few of the classics, I had read few fantasy/speculative books and had little interest in that genre. But soon after starting at BHP, I read Kathy Tyers’ Firebird series and was hooked, and since then I have been blessed to edit several fantastic fantasy/speculative books and series. Learn to appreciate well-drawn characters, compelling plots, and captivating writing regardless of the genre a book is categorized by and your potential as a valuable asset at any publishing house will increase.

Thanks so much, Karen! To get some practice with those analyzing skills, tell us about a book you loved and one specific reason why you loved it!

Happy Thanksgiving from Bethany House!

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As we celebrate Thanksgiving, here’s one of my favorite verses:

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:5-7, ESV

Because God is near and present in our lives, we don’t have to worry. And we replace fear and anxiety with prayer and thanksgiving, both asking for what we need and praising God for what we have. The result? Peace, based not on our circumstances, but on Christ and what he has already done.

Blessings on your Thanksgiving!

Five Reasons We’re Thankful for Readers

About once a year at a Bethany House meeting, someone will read excerpts from reader letters, either sent directly to us or to our authors. Hearing stories of people whose lives have been changed by the books we publish is always very meaningful to me, and it made me realize how much the end goal of what I do—getting great books to readers—motivates my daily routine.

Because of that, and because Thanksgiving is coming up, today I wanted to list a few reasons why we here at Bethany House appreciate readers.

I can't send you all cookies, but you can print this nifty tag here!

I can’t send you all cookies, but you can print this nifty tag here!

One: You give us feedback.

Everyone’s participation in the Ask Bethany House survey has been great, and last January we held a BHP Book Banter where you answered survey questions and helped us brainstorm. Look for that to be coming up again this year! All of that is really helpful for us, and we appreciate you giving of your time. (If you’d like to be invited to future BHP events, add BHP Amy on Facebook.)

Two: You interact.

I can’t tell you how fun it is when people comment on the blog or Bethany House Facebook posts. I love it when readers share novel recommendations, spread around the latest book news, and give feedback on cover designs. Keep it up! There are actual, living people behind author social media, and even (gasp!) publisher social media. And we really do enjoy hearing what you have to say. (And here’s one super-relevant way you can interact: vote for The Secret of Pembrooke Park in the Goodreads Choice Awards final round! I’m so excited that Julie made it to the finals, not just because it’s great that inspirational fiction is represented, but because I loved this book.)

Three: You love books as much as we do.

Okay, some of you may love books more than we do, especially if you measure that by the sheer number of books you read per year! It’s always fun to be around people with a common interest, who “get” your desperate need to know what happens to people who don’t exist (but should).

Four: You pray with us.

Besides our monthly “Prayer for Authors” post, I know many of you routinely lift up both the authors and readers of our books in your prayers, and that’s so important to the success of what we do. Though I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: thank you!

Five: You encourage our authors.

This is last on the list, but it was easily the first thing that came to mind for me personally. At Bethany House, we want our authors to feel like part of our family. So, just like a mom appreciates the coaches, teachers, and friends of her kids who pour into their lives, I’m very grateful to those of you out there cheering “my” authors on and encouraging them. Whether that’s in a professional way by promoting and reviewing their books or a personal way by being there for them when life gets hard, your support matters, not just to the people writing the books, but to those of us who are watching.

Thanks, everyone, for being part of the larger Bethany House team. We wouldn’t exist without readers, and the fact that you’re enjoying our books makes what we do worth it.

To celebrate, I’ll be giving away one of our December releases to five random followers of the blog. (You can follow the blog by clicking the little red button on the left sidebar and entering your email. It will send you weekly updates when we post.) If you’re already a follower, there’s nothing more you need to do. I’ll notify you via email by 11/30 if you’re a winner!

What’s something that you as a reader do to encourage authors? (Or, if you’re an author, what’s something readers have done that has been encouraging to you?)

Ask Bethany House: What Does a Copy Editor Do?

This week’s Ask Bethany House question seems straightforward at first: “What does the job of an editor at Bethany House involve?”

Of course, my first response to this is: “What kind of editor?” Yes, it makes a difference, and to add to the confusion, publishing companies don’t always use the same terminology to refer to each type of editor.

The ancient version of copy editors?

The origin of modern copy editors?

If you’re interested in the perspective of an acquisitions editor, check out this Q&A. Today on the blog, we’re chatting with Elisa, one of our copy editors, about the work she does on Bethany House books.

Amy: If you were explaining to someone totally unfamiliar with publishing terminology what you do as a copy editor, what would you say?

Elisa: I work to make a book consistent and polished so that the author’s vision is clearly expressed to the reader. People usually associate copy editing with grammar and spelling, which are certainly a large part of the job, but it also includes keeping character descriptions consistent, tracking timelines, verifying sources and references to real people and places, making sure all necessary pieces are included, and following the first rule of copy editing: Do no harm. It’s not my book, and in a sense I aim to make my work invisible so that the author’s message is cleanly delivered to the reader.

Amy: Interesting—I don’t even know that I would have thought of all of those areas. So, then, what three qualities would you say are most important in someone who wants to be a copy editor?

Elisa: A copy editor should be attentive, cooperative, and patient.

Amy: Someone reading this might think, “Yes, I am all three of those things.” What practical advice would you give a person interested in a career in editing?

Elisa: Find as many possible ways to gain experience now. This could include working on a school newspaper or literary journal, doing freelance proofreading for a local magazine (this is how I started), volunteering as a writing tutor, proofreading newsletters for an organization or ministry, doing an internship or informational interview in the industry, and taking editing, proofreading, and writing classes. When you are first starting, also look for opportunities to develop the skills you will need as an editor, even if the tasks may not seem to directly correspond to editing. In college I worked for over two years as an assistant to our band director and managed our music library, learning about Excel, data entry, organization, and how to manage stacks and stacks of paper all around you (all of which are still applicable in my job today).

Elisa likes to visit libraries in her travels. This is the view from the top floor of the Amsterdam Public Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam). On this same trip to the Netherlands, she had the chance to visit the Corrie ten Boom house museum, to see the location of The Hiding Place in person.

Elisa likes to visit libraries in her travels. This is the view from the top floor of the Amsterdam Public Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam). On this same trip to the Netherlands, she had the chance to visit the Corrie ten Boom house museum, to see the location of The Hiding Place in person.

Thanks so much for joining us, Elisa! And readers, watch the blog for more behind-the-scenes interviews with Bethany House employees in the coming months!

What question do you have about what goes on behind-the-scenes at Bethany House? We may cover it in a future blog post!

Announcing our BHP Fiction Pinterest Page!

Time for a little fun on the blog! Bethany House is starting something new on Pinterest. We have our official BHP page, with both fiction and nonfiction to highlight new releases, and now have a more informal Pinterest page, shared with some of our authors. We’d be happy to have you follow either of them for book-related fun!

Here are a few of my favorites from some of our boards. Enjoy!

From our “BHP Pets” board, I give you Dewey, owned by one of our editors, Jeff, and named after the Dewey Decimal System (only at a publishing company…).
Dewey
We’re pulling out our inner word nerd on the “Book Stats, Trivia, and Infographics” board. (See any ones on here that are tricky for you?)

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For a little laugh, check out the “Book Humor” board. I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar to the cartoon below:

PinterestAnd quotes about writing, reading, and other book-ish things on the “Book Smart” board.

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And, of course, many more! There will be new pins to the BHP Fiction board…this is just the beginning. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments of this post. We want to know what you’d like to see from us!

Don’t forget to stop by the boards of some of our authors (they have fun stuff that will help you picture the characters and settings of their books):
Elizabeth Camden
Julianna Deering
Jody Hedlund
Dani Pettrey
Becky Wade
Connilyn Cossette
Sarah Loudin Thomas
Tamera Alexander
Leslie Gould
Kristi Ann Hunter
Kate Breslin
Dina Sleiman

What’s your favorite thing to pin on Pinterest? Any boards you’d be interested in seeing on the Bethany House page?

Ask Bethany House: Where Did You Get Your Name?

This month’s Ask Bethany House question is a bit more on the trivia spectrum, and something a number of readers have probably wondered: “What inspired the name Bethany House?”

This question takes us back to the early days of Bethany House. In 1956, when BHP began, it was part of a larger missions organization called Bethany Fellowship, an organization dedicated to training and supporting missionaries. Printing books became one of the ways they funded international missions, along with donations and various other business endeavors.

As of today, this novel has sold more than a million copies!

As of today, this novel has sold more than a million copies!

BHP started out with an exclusive focus on nonfiction until publishing Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly in 1979. It is often considered the first inspirational novel. Ever since then, we’ve had a proud history of publishing books from some of the best Christian fiction authors out there. (Scan the bottom corner of the spines on your bookshelf, and I’m guessing you’ll see a few of the BHP quill logos there!)

But none of that explains why the the missions organization decided to use “Bethany” in the first place. According to Bethany International’s website, “The name ‘Bethany’ was chosen because it was a place Jesus would retreat with his disciples for rest, prayer and reflection.” (So if your guess was that it was named after the city Bethany in the Bible, most famous for being the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, you were right.)

In 2003, Bethany Fellowship sold Bethany House Publishers, and we became a part of the Baker Publishing Company family. Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to change our name. So even though it can get confusing to people living nearby (Bethany International, Bethany Church, and Bethany Global University, a college training young people for ministry, are all our neighbors, even though we are no longer officially connected to them), we still proudly have the name Bethany House.

If you didn't realize this was a quill, don't worry...it took me a full year working here to make the connection.

If you didn’t realize this was an inkpen quill, don’t worry…it took me a full year working here to make the connection.

Fun side-note on names: Remember the first Bethany House fiction book, Love Comes Softly? The editor who acquired that novel and hundreds of others through the years was Carol Johnson. She and her husband Gary led Bethany House’s editorial team for many years. Carol was instrumental in starting up the Christy Awards to recognize Christian fiction authors, and the American Christian Fiction Writers honored her recently by changing their fiction award to the Carol Awards.

 

So here’s my question for you: Bethany House was named after the place Jesus went for rest and reflection. What’s your place for rest and reflection? (It can be a room in your house, a favorite local restaurant, a vacation destination…anything.)

Ten Secrets Bethany House Employees (Almost) Never Tell

A few months ago, Becky Wade wrote a blog post called “Ten Secrets Authors (Almost) Never Tell.” It was such a fun glimpse into writers’ lives that I thought I’d do something similar for Bethany House. So here are a few secrets from life working at a publishing company…don’t tell!

One: It’s common to see red pen corrections on email messages, charity flyers posted on the fridge, and even notices in the bathroom. When you’re surrounded by editors, it happens, people.

Two: During cover design meetings, when choosing between poses of models, certain members of the team will suggest humorous captions for what the models are thinking, or attempt to imitate the facial expressions. (I considered snapping undercover photos to document this practice, but I think the parties involved wouldn’t appreciate that.)

Three: Whenever there are weapons used on the cover of a book, and thus lying around the office, a certain fiction publicist who writes this blog always has to go inspect them. And sometimes takes them into meetings, because who’s going to disagree with you when you’re holding a sword?

From Patrick W. Carr's The Shock of Night.

From Patrick W. Carr’s The Shock of Night.

Weapons1

From Lynn Austin’s Keepers of the Covenant (we ended up using a bow and arrow instead of the spear).

Four: There is a sharp divide, particularly in the marketing department, between cat people and dog people. (I was actually asked to take a side during my interview.) Once, I tried counting the number of cat items in our marketing vice president’s office. I gave up at 80. Continue reading

Ask Bethany House: How Do You Decide on a Book Cover?

Today on the blog I’ll be answering this reader question (okay, it’s not actually phrased as a question, but you get the idea): “I would love to learn more details about how book covers are created from beginning to end, including the author’s role in helping with it.”

This was one of the most frequently-asked questions in our Ask Bethany House survey (behind questions about publication which I answered here and here). To a lot of us, myself included, the work that designers do on book covers is a lot like magic.

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Before our designers begin the covers, they get all the necessary background from the person who knows the story best. The author sends in information about their characters, setting, and key moments in the book, including pictures that show what their hero and heroine look like. Obviously we can’t call in those celebrities for a photoshoot, but sometimes the models we choose look surprisingly like the more famous counterparts the author chose.

The editor of the book, who is familiar with the story and has read it if it’s already been completed, is a part of all of the meetings to give feedback on whether the cover fits the story and its tone.
Paul, our art director, runs the meetings where we discuss cover options. Other representatives from marketing (including me!) and editorial are there as well. In the first meeting, the designer typically presents some mock-ups, or rough ideas to get a direction for where the cover should go. This happens before a photoshoot. (Not all books use a photoshoot. It really depends on the direction we want to go with the cover.)

Once we pick a direction we like, the real design work happens, and at a second meeting, often a month of so later, we see several options of different poses, layouts, and backgrounds that we critique. Sometimes there’s one cover that stands out to everyone. Sometimes it’s more of a “that model with that type box but without the little swirly things, and make the author’s name stand out more” type of discussion.

Often, we’ll meet again to discuss tweaks to the final cover or see different options for the title type. At that point, the cover is sent to the author for approval—they occasionally notice something out-of-place, like a need for a change in hair or eye color that we didn’t catch. By that point, the cover is complete and ready to present to the world!

There’s a lot more going on for the actual designing part, and I might do a Q&A with one of our designers later this year to talk about how they run photoshoots, choose images, add effects, and so on, but that’s the basic process for deciding on final covers for our books.

Just for fun—and because we get to see this part of the “magic” all the time—I thought I’d show you some of the covers for Until the Dawn, by Elizabeth Camden and talk you through our process for choosing the one we did. The final cover is pictured above at the beginning of the post—it comes out in December, and I just finished reading it. It’s wonderful!

Here are some of the other options Jenny, the designer for this one, presented to our team. (Keep in mind that these weren’t final images…Jenny would have worked on them more if we had chosen one of them as our favorite.)

UntiltheDawn_rd1.inddThis one, with the garden and gate imagery, was a bit too close to another historical we’ve published.

UntiltheDawn_rd1.indd

Everyone liked the look of this one, but there was concern that you couldn’t really tell that it was historical instead of a contemporary romance.

UntiltheDawn_ideas-fleshed.inddThe design for this one was a bit overwhelming (though we liked the title font and used it on the final cover).

UntiltheDawn_ideas-fleshed.indd
The editor pointed out that in this one, the woman in the picture doesn’t match Sophie, since she’s not a wealthy noblewoman, but a cook and a volunteer for the Weather Bureau (though the colors of that sunrise in the top are so lovely!).

UntiltheDawn_ideas-fleshed.indd

We loved the idea of including the beautiful Dierenpark mansion on the cover, since it plays such a key role in the mystery of the story, but we felt that showing Sophie as well would be a better choice. Some liked the coloration on this cover, others thought it was too much.

I chose this title in particular because there were lots of unique designs that we liked…but we felt like this one best fit what we wanted to do with the book.  It was slightly different from other books by Elizabeth Camden, everyone liked the rosy glow (which also fits the heroine’s outlook on life), and there was a hint of the beauty of the estate that forms the setting of the story, described in lovely detail throughout the book. There’s even a slight glow of dawn behind the character and, I think, a sense of the mystery that is found in the book (and kept me guessing until the last page).

As far as how long all of this takes, our designers each work on several titles a season. Right now, they’re working on covers for Summer 2016!

Which of these alternate designs for Until the Dawn is your favorite?

Help Authors Be Social on Social Media

**Update: We have winners! Suzie and Samantha, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address. To everyone else, thank you, THANK YOU for your feedback! I’m compiling it all right now to present to authors at the conference, and I know they’ll find it extremely helpful!**

FeedbackWinners

Pretend I’m a Christian fiction author sitting down to host a focus group made up of you and a few of your reader friends.

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After offering you coffee and chocolate chip cookies (no, it’s not bribery; it’s hospitality) here’s what I want to know:

One: How have you seen social media used by authors in a way that really worked for you? (You can list the types of posts that get you to comment/click, give an example of something creative and fun you’ve seen an author do, or go in basically any direction you want with this.)

Two: If you knew an author was really busy with deadlines and only had time to interact with readers in one way, what would you suggest?

Three: What is something about the way authors sometimes use social media (or the way they phrase things) that annoys or bothers you? (No names, please…just general examples of the type of thing that bothers you.)

As you read these questions, do you know what your answers would be? Great! Now, let’s make it real. I’m going to be teaching a class at the ACFW conference in September with Melissa Tagg on Stress-Free Marketing for authors. That means we’re going to be giving lots of your favorite Christian fiction authors (and some future favorites!) tips on marketing and social media.

I’d love your feedback on these questions so I can give authors a reader perspective. If you could answer one or all of the questions in the comments on this post, that would help so much! (Just be sure to identify which question your answers are addressing.)

Since I can’t really send coffee and cookies your way, focus-group style, next Tuesday, I’ll pick two random commenters who will each receive copies of our two August releases, The Potter’s Lady by Judith Miller and Not by Sight by Kate Breslin. Winners will be posted in this post by noon on Tuesday, so be sure to check back!

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Be as thoughtful with your answers as you can…remember, I’m actually going to pass these answers on to some of your favorite authors from a number of different publishing companies! And thanks in advance for your help…I’m excited to read your thoughts!