Ask BHP: What Goes into Your Instagram Account?

Recently we had a reader write in, “I love your Instagram! What goes into all the fun book pictures and videos, and how do you decide what books to feature?”

Hello, it’s Rachael, here! I’m the copywriter and “Instagram guru” at Bethany House. My main responsibility is to write back covers, ads, bookmarks, and almost anything else that isn’t within the pages of a book. Though, when I started working at BHP, I launched our Instagram account and was given the title “Instagram Queen.” Capturing fun photos, shooting videos, and interacting with readers has become one of my favorite things about coming into work every day.

When I saw today’s Ask BHP question, I was elated! I love talking about our Instagram account almost as much as I love the fun I have with it.

ask bethany house

One of my favorite monthly features that we do on our Instagram account is the cover design videos. Our Senior Fiction Publicist, Amy, and I sneak into our Art Director’s office and steal his files on the books she wants to discuss, and we record short videos where she talks about photoshoots, shows the sketches our designers make before the cover is designed, and tells her theory about ancient helicopter technology that left a character at the top of a snowy mountain (see the video for Hope’s Highest Mountain). I don’t get to sit in on any of the meetings where cover decisions are made, so I’m constantly learning new things when we record these videos. You can find our cover design videos under the IGTV tab or in the “Cover Design” highlight on our page.

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Deciding on which books I’ll be featuring for the month is simple. I keep a list of the books we are releasing every month and make sure that each one is featured on our Instagram. I’m usually found wandering around the office asking coworkers for small knick-knacks they have in their office so I can use them for Instagram photos, or “hiring” hand models to hold books for me while I snap my photos. I love the dollar section at Target because that’s where I find my best props, and Amazon sells fantastic flat lay backdrops!

I also enjoy featuring our readers’ photos on our page, so if you “bookstagram,” tag us on Instagram and use the hashtag #BHPFiction and your photo could be chosen as a Feature Friday!

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I’d be lying if I said that we take our Instagram completely seriously because when it comes to taking photos, I’m usually found in the middle of a new shenanigan. I’ve been caught standing on chairs to get the perfect angle, hauling my entire bookcase into our sitting area for a “great idea,” and making use of the glass from a broken lamp. And since the best lighting in the office is right by our kitchenette, I’ve been caught every time. So when someone walks by and asks, “What could you possibly be doing this time?” I point them to the letter board hanging above my computer that says, “It’s an Instagram thing; you wouldn’t understand” and give them my trademark cheesy grin!

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If you haven’t already, follow our Instagram page at @bethanyhousefiction for sneak peeks at our cover design process, behind-the-scenes glimpses of our photoshoots, ebook deals, and weekly book recommendations! Don’t be afraid to send us a message if you have any questions, or simply want to say hi. I love hearing from our readers!

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I love trying new things, so what would you love to see on our Instagram in the future?

*To ask a question of your own, fill out the form here: https://forms.gle/MyzL6QPGh3JQKzyE8 

You’re Invited to a Game Night!

In the midst of all of the stressful news about cancellations and shut-downs, here are some pieces of good news from Bethany House:

  • Our nonfiction teams are putting together a list of ebook specials on books related to prayer and anxiety to help people who might be reaching out for hope in a stressful time.
  • It’s been fun to see readers sharing online about using responsible social distancing practices to catch up on their reading.
  • Some authors have emailed me letting me know that being freed from social obligations might give them what they need to meet a deadline without pulling their hair out.
  • Others are updating us with prayer requests for additional concerns in their lives right now, from at-risk family members to kids unexpectedly home from school and making uninterrupted writing time harder to sadness over canceled research trips. That may seem like bad news, but it’s a great chance to encourage each other and pray for one another.
  • And, last but not least…We’re hosting our first-ever Bethany House virtual game night, and you’re invited!

Many of our fiction authors wanted to do something fun and cooperative given all that’s going on in the world right now, while still encouraging everyone to be safe. So even though in-person author chats may be cancelled, you can stop by the Discussion tab of our Facebook event tonight, March 19, at 7 PM Central to play a few online games hosted by our authors.

We’ll be giving away books (or book retailer gift cards), challenging our brains (a little), and laughing (a lot) as we play word games, trivia games, and drawing games together. Hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in more game-related fun, Jaime Jo Wright is putting together a landing page for COVID-19 Boredom Survival, including a list of board games you can play virtually that I compiled based on years of experience living ten hours away from my game-loving family. Be sure to check it out!

Do you have a creative approach for fighting boredom during COVID-19 downtime?

7 Reader Survey Results

Recently, we’ve been putting up fun, reading-related polls on the Bethany House Facebook page. (Be sure to vote on them—they go up on Mondays!)

Because I’ve gotten a kick out of looking at the results, I thought all of you might too. Enjoy!

 

When you use a bookmark, is it more likely to be…
181 – Some random flat thing
114 – An actual bookmark

Look at our split between the orderly people and the grab-what’s-on-hand ones. You’ll notice I didn’t give an option for…*shudder* folding a corner of the page down.

 

Have you ever read a book where the main character shares your first name?
27% – I have!
73% – Sadly, no.

It was fun to have people share their fictional namesakes in the comments, or explain why their unusual name just hasn’t come up. A place to go for inspiration for future author naming crises? Maybe so!

 

How often do you visit your local library?
39% – Around 1-2 times a month
61% – More often than that

Book people love their libraries! The “regulars” shared about their favorite programs and services that make their library a go-to location. (Did anyone else ever dream about getting locked in a library overnight? That was all I wanted as a kid, but my mom was too vigilant to let it happen. So sad.)

 

Honest truth time: have you ever walked out of a bookstore without buying something?
16% – Hahahaha…no.
84% – Maybe once or twice

Okay, so either there are more fiscally-responsible browsers out there than I’d realized or some people are deluding themselves. If the books don’t get you, the little bookish gift items certainly will!

 

How do you feel about the (mostly joking) term “book boyfriend”?
67% – Not my favorite.
33% – Love it!

This one, posted near Valentine’s Day, was a little surprising to me. Most people agreed that it’s harmless fun, but the ones who didn’t care for it thought it was weird to think of fictional people as being real-ish, while the ones who loved it just got carried away with enthusiasm for their favorite romance couples. To each their own!

 

Do you set specific yearly reading goals?
44% – Yes! It’s motivating.
56% – No, too organized.

This was actually the closest to a 50-50 split of our polls so far. Not surprising, given our audience…if we’d asked the world in general, I think the reading goal-setters would be outnumbered. Whether you’ve got a challenge or resolution to guide you or you’re totally winging it (like me), here’s to many good books in the year ahead!

 

Do you have a favorite genre of books?
67% – Of course!
33% – Don’t make me pick!

Shoutouts to all genres made it into the comments, although there were some people who read so widely they couldn’t call out one as their favorite. I’m glad we’ve got books of all kinds to keep all readers happy.

So, readers…did any of these results surprise you? And in which of these were you part of the loud-and-proud minority option?

Ask BHP: What Are the Best Things About Working for a Book Publisher?

Greetings, readers! Rachael Wing—copywriter and fiction Instagram coordinator—here! This week, our publicist and blog host, Amy Green, is at our seasonal sales conference at HQ in Michigan where they are discussing our Fall 2020 releases and other important publishing topics. Meanwhile, I was given control over the blog for this week and discovered an intriguing question in the Ask BHP inquiries: “What are the best things about working for a book publisher?”

Instead of naming off all of my favorite parts about working at Bethany House (which are innumerable), I sought out answers from multiple BHP employees to hear what they love most about their jobs. Enjoy!

ask bethany house

One of the best things about working for a book publisher is getting to help create products that I enjoy outside of work. I’m fueling my own favorite pastime, and working with people who love it as much as I do,”—Kristen, Art/Design Coordinator

“Being surrounded by book people! I love that I can ask anyone, ‘What are you reading?’ and come away with a great conversation and probably some new book recommendations to add to my TBR pile.”—Jessica, Editor

“Reading has played a huge role in my life since childhood, and I admit that it’s a dream come true to work with books and authors each day. One of my favorite things is getting to know who each author is as a person—it makes me smile to be able to encourage them in their coffee/chocolate addiction and hear what’s new with them. I also enjoy that my role includes a broad variety of tasks, such as researching confetti prices or personalized matchbox vendors.”—Brooke, Fiction Marketing Assistant

“I like getting to go back and forth with the author about plot and setting and characters. How many times have you wanted to do that with books you’ve read?!”—Jen, Line Editor

“Knowing how many people it actually takes to create a book and get it into the hands of the readers. Authors often include acknowledgements pages that do at least hint at that, but so many readers, myself included, skip over those that it wasn’t until I started working at a publishing house that I had a true appreciation for all the teamwork necessary to make a book a success.”—Kate, Copyeditor

“Getting to read manuscripts extra early!”—Raela, Senior Acquisitions Editor

“I love that I am surrounded by people who love words as much as I do! In fact, we have a board of sorts on my office window where we record ‘vocab points’ and ‘fauxcab points’ (made-up words)—every time someone uses a fun word, we add a post-it note to the board. Some of my favorites are: recalcitrant, obfuscation, and ‘schimid’ (shy/timid).”—Rachael, Copywriter and Fiction Instagram Coordinator

“My favorite thing is having access to hundreds of books at all times! Also, I love that I get to help launch authors’ stories out into the world for people to read.”—Serena, Fiction Marketing Assistant

“For me, learning what goes into creating and publishing a book has been really fun to learn. Having the opportunity to see a book start as a manuscript and go through so many different processes and people to become a physical book that I can hold and read is amazing. Every time I get to learn about another piece of the publishing puzzle is a good day.”—Mycah, Nonfiction Marketing Assistant

“I like that everything we produce is ultimately intended for the edification of people, especially our fellow brothers and sisters wherever they are. To lift up people with words infused with Jesus’ message to His creation. Our books are designed to have a positive impact on the world—to educate, inspire, and entertain—to build up and not tear down. We are the privileged ones that get to carry the message of hope which emanates from the actual creator of the universe. And, we get to do that with the gifts He’s given us.”—Paul, Creative Director

If you worked for a book publisher, what do you think your favorite part would be? 

*To ask a question of your own, fill out the form here: https://forms.gle/MyzL6QPGh3JQKzyE8 

Seven Bookish Valentines Gifts

Okay, so it may be too late for you to drop hints about what you really want for Valentine’s Day, but these romantic gifts could be great anytime. Or just get them for a reading buddy…or yourself. All the best gifts are made better when you add in books!

(Not a disclaimer: Bethany House isn’t associated with any of these companies. These are just fun things someone on staff liked and recommended!)

One: Adorable Floral Page Flags

Girl of All Work has several other cute designs too, from cuddly animals to retro looks. Perfect if you’re keeping your spot in a book, marking great quotes, or (for authors) marking edits in a galley copy!

Two: Bookish Bath Products

I’m including my favorite, Lord of the Rings inspired, but check out the whole MacBath line, including Three Musketeers face masks, Anne of Green Gables rose bath bombs, and more!

Three: Jane Austen Mug

You really can’t go wrong with any Austen swag, but this mug has the added benefit of being practical and perfect for some afternoon tea…while enjoying some literary zingers and profound thoughts.

Four: Enneagram Valentines

The Enneagram personality test is all the rage these days for understanding others (and creating characters), and these pretty prints and Valentines are perfect for loved ones who are just your type.

Six: Literary Chocolate

It’s a Valentine’s classic…but with books! The packaging and the flavors are themed for some of your favorite novels at Open Book Chocolates. Yum!

Seven: Cozy Book Candles

Frostbeard Studios has a number of book-related scents, but this one sounds perfect for a February night with a blanket and a book.

 

What literary gifts have you loved, readers? Tell us about them!

 

Eight Things Guaranteed to Make Readers Nostalgic

There are lots of great conversations you can have with readers, but some of my favorites are about what makes us nostalgic. Whether it’s a childhood picture book memory or the bookstore that got away (aka isn’t in your hometown), I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

One: Book-It

If you weren’t one of the millions of kids who got a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut for completing a reading goal, starting in 1984, I’m sorry for your joy-bereft childhood. You should sit down right now, make a monthly goal, and reward yourself with a greasy, cheesy, don’t-have-to-share-with-my-sister little slice of glory if you make it. Because this was the best reward program ever. Plus, the badges, am I right? So good.

Two: The First Read of Your Favorite Book/Series

Sure, you’ve re-read it, recommended it to friends, maybe seen the movie version a dozen times, and so on, but nothing beats the excitement of the first time you read a favorite book. Before you knew what would happen to the characters, back when every cliffhanger left you agonized (especially if there were years between releases in a series), to all the late nights reading “one more chapter.” Ah yes. If only we could time travel and re-experience that wonder. Sigh.

Three: Reading Contests

Whether it was run by your library over the summer to keep you off the streets or some elementary school achievement bribe, there’s something about checklists and competition that warms a reader’s heart. Like, okay, I can still read a stack of books now, but I won’t be able to put snobby Susie Accelerated Reader Queen in her place, edging her out in the last few days by binging a bunch of Nancy Drew mysteries. It’s just not the same level of satisfaction. Besides that, remember the prizes? Those multi-colored clicky pens, slap bracelets, yo-yos, erasers shaped like small animals, and all manner of plastic toys that broke the first recess you took them out. Real treasures, for sure.

Four: Beloved Original Copies

I’m not talking fancy first editions here, just the battered-and-scarred books that have seen a lot of love in their day and hold a place of honor on the bookshelf. Even if newer, cooler covers have come out, there’s something sentimental about the originals, even if the originals are falling apart at the spine. Like, okay, I know the words inside are the same and it shouldn’t make a difference, but seriously, what nonsense are the new cheap-animation-knockoff Boxcar Children covers? Heresy.

Five: PBS Book Programming

Whether you still have a hard time remembering that the main characters of all classic novels aren’t Jack Russell terriers or now have the Reading Rainbow theme song stuck in your head, PBS had some delightful book-themed shows. (Reading Rainbow retweeted one of the flowcharts I made for Bethany House about getting people books for Christmas, and it was one of the happier moments of my life.) If none of that resonates with you, just accept the fact that in Wishbone, a dog stars in reimagined classics with so many canine puns (Ivanhound, Frankenbone, Bone of Arc) and that LeVar Burton is the actual best. That’s all you need to know.

Six: Scholastic Book Fairs

Picture tables of books with shiny, colorful covers, all within arm’s reach, with the visual appeal of a candy store window full of those giant lollipops that no one can actual eat. There was the avenue of horse and puppy books with big round eyes begging you to adopt them. There were displays of absurdly gender-specific reads, including super gross potty humor titles and books about princesses with embossing or glitter. There were rows and rows of chapter books that made you feel like the Awesome Big Kid you totally were, because look, there’s only one black-and-white picture per chapter now! My school cleverly paired the book fair with Grandparent’s Day, because what grandma is not going to buy their precious angel a stack of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure survival books? (She was not, for the record, thrilled about the Captain Underpants trend.) Man. Those were the days.

Seven: Vacation Bookstore Visits

It seems like everyone has been on a trip where they find The Bookstore of Their Dreams. Whether it’s elegant and rambling with every book you could ever imagine or cozy and cramped with hilarious signs in the stacks, something about it makes you want to move in. Like, permanently. (And if you never visit bookstores on vacation, build it into your schedule, it’s the best.) Unfortunately, this near-mythical bookstore is too far away for regular visits, so you can only think wistfully of how much of your budget you’d spend on books if it was across the street instead of across the country, or even the world.

Eight: Iconic Children’s Book Characters

Bonus points if said character had a weird name, because let’s face it, you don’t get characters like Amelia Bedelia, Yertle the Turtle, Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in grown-up literature, which is a real shame. But seriously, forget the Internet fandoms over TV shows and such, I want to get into a hearty debate over whether the ending to Charlotte’s Web is more or less tragic than Where the Red Fern Grows. Or is Willy Wonka even a reasonable protagonist, or a thinly-veiled sociopath? And why is Goodnight, Moon a kids’ book when it is so deeply eerie? These are the real questions, guys.

Which of these makes you feel the most nostalgic? Tell us about it in the comments!

Is This Wrapped Present a Book? (A Handy Flowchart)

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m on constant Christmas surveillance to detect my favorite presents under the tree…books! After years of careful research, I’ve come up with some ways to be confident in my guessing abilities.

This is Amy Green, fiction publicist…and sneaky book-present detective. Here is my top-secret method for your instruction and use. Enjoy!

Okay, readers, what tips have you used to determine whether you have any book presents under the tree?

Ask BHP: What’s It Like Being Married to an Author?

This question for our Ask Bethany House blog series might just be my favorite yet: “Any chance you can ask some of your authors’ husbands about the interesting/amusing things they’ve lived through while being married to an author? I’d love to know!”

Was this question submitted by a real reader, or a spouse of one of our novelists trying to find out if he’s the only one who finds writers’ quirks strange? We may never know. But I do know that when I asked our authors to submit a line or two from their husbands about being up close and personal to the novel-writing life, I got some great answers! Enjoy.

Dave, husband of Beverly Lewis: “Being married to a novelist means I get to enjoy the roleplaying Bev and I do for some of the protagonist’s scenes and dialogue with her love interest.”

Peter, husband of Leslie Gould: “I get to go along with Leslie on research trips and look, listen, and participate in conversations that turn into stories, from imagining an Amish girl at Gettysburg in 1863 to visiting on the porch with a contemporary Amish family in Indiana.”

Paul, husband of Elizabeth Musser: “As a writer, she guesses (correctly) the ending of every movie we watch. Spoiler alert!”

Ivan, husband of Mary Connealy: “I was reading one of my wife’s books once (I forget which one), but Mary tends to kill off worthless husbands so the hero can come riding to the rescue. Knowing what I’ve heard about authors drawing on their own lives for their books, I couldn’t stop trying to figure out if I was the hero or the worthless husband.”

Mark, husband of Susan Sleeman: “When I come home from work I never know where your mind will be. Sometimes you’re killing people. Sometimes helping people escape from an evil villain, or worse, you’re in the mind of the villain.”

Bill, husband of Elizabeth Camden: “My wife usually has scenes with different ethnic cuisines in her books. Neither one of us are great cooks, so we go out to do ‘research’ at cool restaurants all over town. We’ve been to German beer-gardens, a Polish deli, a Japanese place, and lots of Irish pubs.”

“His Highness,” husband of Becky Wade: “I never get to figure out how a movie ends on my own. She always tells me what’s going to happen before it does.” (From Becky: “I still feel sheepish about ruining The Sixth Sense for him, poor guy!”)

Jacob, husband of Kristi Ann Hunter: “She analyzes. Everything. And I mean e-ver-y-thing.”

Mike, husband of Dani Pettrey: “The most interesting thing is probably drifting off to sleep while she talks herself through the latest way to plot and execute the demise of the victim in her next book. In the morning, my fitness tracker says I basically slept with one eye open the entire night!”

Tim, husband of Nicole Deese: I was married to my wife for over eight years before she started writing her first novel. In that time I witnessed many of the characteristics that contributed to her becoming an outstanding author. Creativity, humor, emotion, passion (and a desire to become an expert in things she was passionate about) and the ability to tell a story that would enrapture any room were on full display before she wrote word one of her first book.

But as she prepares to release her tenth book, the thing that has been the most interesting to me through this whole journey is how…unexpected it was. Hear me. I was first drawn to my wife because of many of the same qualities I just mentioned. I knew she was funny. But I didn’t know she would be able to write humor that would make me snort water out of my nose. I knew she was great at expressing emotion when she told stories, but I didn’t know I’d be sitting on a crowded airplane reading her latest book and trying to cover my man-sobs with a too-small cocktail napkin. No, I didn’t expect that.

I guess I should have seen it coming before she wrote her first book. With her tenth book in process, I definitely should know that anytime I read something she’s written I can expect to be surprised. But the interesting thing is that every time I read something new she’s written I’m totally caught off guard all over again. Maybe I’m just a slow learner. Or maybe she just keeps getting better.

Aren’t these answers heartwarming? What do you think would be an interesting aspect of being family members to a writer? (Or you can speak from personal experience if you are!)

6 Ways Books Are Like Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and with that, I got to thinking about the many similarities between this traditional festive feast and how I approach reading books.

Skeptical? Read on, my friend. Read on.

One: You feel a deep gratitude for the people you spend time with.

Whether they’re your real family gathered for the celebration…or fictional friends who feel just about as real. Who here counts books among their blessings? (Hopefully all of you. If not, you’re not reading the right books.)

Two: There’s always something to pass around.

In my family, the rule of Thanksgiving dinner is “Don’t ask, just pass,” which I feel applies pretty well to the way I foist my favorite books on—I mean, generously share them with—my unsuspecting friends.

Three: Everybody has different (often very strong) opinions on what’s good or bad.

There’s no argument like an argument over whether to serve mashed potatoes and gravy or sweet potatoes with those little marshmallows…unless you watch a die-hard romance lover argue with a literary fiction fan. As with food, to each their own! (Except I think we can all objectively agree that ham is tastier than turkey.)

Four: You’ll be on the edge of your seat, wanting to find out what will happen next.

Books often have cliffhangers and plot twists, much like the moment when your Uncle Larry brings up politics while passing the cornbread stuffing. The drama! The stakes in a book are probably higher, but they’re also slightly less impactful to your real life.

Five: The best part is usually at the end.

Don’t tell me you don’t eye the dessert tray (or table) before budgeting room in your stomach for the rest of the meal. it’s a smart practice. Similarly, the best books are great all the way through…but the real payoff is in those last several chapters.

Six: You finish feeling surprisingly full.

…and maybe a little lethargic. It’s a lot of content to take in, especially if you consume it all (book or Thanksgiving meal) in one sitting. But it’s a great feeling nonetheless. And you can always enjoy leftovers the next day—or re-read the book again.

What books are you thankful for this November, readers?