Prayer for Authors: April 2021

It’s the second Sunday of the month (we skipped the first this month because of Easter), and we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Lokkesmoe, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Authors with Books Releasing in April:

Nicole Deese
Leslie Gould
Kristi Ann Hunter
Nancy Mehl

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”—Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For a clear sense of mission and purpose in both career choices and interactions with readers.
  • For readers to pick up one of these books in the time where they needs its message most.
  • For those authors who are working on their next book, for the endurance and inspiration they need to complete it.

We’re always grateful to be able to ask you for prayer for these authors, and it’s a joy to pray for them along with you. Thank you!

April 2021 New Releases

We’re delighted to introduce you to the four stunning novels releasing from Bethany House this month. I’m imagining all four protagonists in the same room: an engaging beauty influencer, a brilliant FBI agent, a daring female jockey, and a compassionate Amish woman. Sounds like the perfect team to me! If you want to learn more, take a glimpse inside each book by reading the excerpt linked to the cover.

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese

Plot Summary: Molly McKenzie has made social media influencing a lucrative career, but nailing a TV show means proving she’s as good in real life as she is online. So she volunteers with a youth program. Challenged at every turn by the program director, Silas, and the kids’ struggles, she’s surprised by her growing attachment. Has her perfect life been imperfectly built?

Night Fall by Nancy Mehl
The Quantico Files #1

Plot Summary: When authorities contact the FBI about bodies found on freight trains–all killed the same way–Alex Donovan is forced to confront her troubled past when she recognizes the graffiti messages the killer is leaving behind. In a race against time, Alex must decide how far she will go–and what she is willing to risk–to put a stop to the Train Man.

Winning the Gentleman by Kristi Ann Hunter
Hearts on the Heath

Plot Summary: When his reputation is threatened, Aaron Whitworth makes the desperate decision to hire a circus horse trainer as a jockey for his racehorses. Most men don’t take Sophia Fitzroy seriously because she’s a woman, but as she fights for the right to do the work she was hired for, she finds the fight for Aaron’s guarded heart might be a more worthwhile challenge.

A Patchwork Past by Leslie Gould
Plain Patterns #2

Plot Summary: Few are pleased Sophie Deiner has returned to her Amish community, but a sudden illness leaves her no choice. She befriends a group of migrant workers but is appalled by their living conditions. She soon finds her advocacy for change opposed by her ex, the farm foreman, and that her efforts only makes things worse. Has she chosen a fight she can’t win?

Which of these genres (contemporary romance, suspense, historical, or Amish) do you tend to be drawn to?

Ask BHP: Miscellaneous Roundup!

(Be sure to take a look at the date that this was originally posted for context on these answers.)

Sometimes we get questions in our Ask BHP poll that are too short to fill up a whole blog post, but I still don’t want to miss the opportunity to answer them. So here’s a rapid-fire combination of some of my favorite shorter Q&A to take you behind the scenes here at Bethany House. Enjoy!

Why do you have so many covers with the model’s head cut off?

There are a number of reasons for this. Sometimes it’s an intentional design, but other times we allow the printers to make any last-minute adjustments to the covers that would make for a cleaner print. They have a habit of enlarging the author name or title at the bottom of the design, therefore needing to bump the cover up and cut off the head of the main character. (I personally think that our production lead there has a thing against certain types of romance heroines and does these decapitations on purpose, but I have no actual proof of this.)

What is the Bethany House logo supposed to be?

You may have heard that it’s the nib of a pen, or a book with a flame inside, but I can confirm that neither are correct—or, at least, that wasn’t the original intention of the design. By digging into our archives, I found that the original design was supposed to be of a peapod or a husk of grain, in honor of the Janette Oke books about pioneers and farmers that launched our fiction line.

Who is Bethany, anyway?

While I know a number of delightful people named Bethany, the real origin of our company name comes from the Hebrew: “Beth” means “oath,” and “any” (or “ani”) means “alive.” (It’s also the root of words like “animated.”) So, Bethany House means “Living Oath,” which also explains the complexity of the contracts we sign with authors. (I kid, I kid.)

What happens to a book when it goes out of print?

Although most of our books are available in ebook form long after it’s cost-effective to continue printing paperback copies, we have a special honor when a book goes out of print. We create a poster of the book, frame it, and underneath it, we choose a five-star review and a one-star review for that title, displaying both beside the cover. These hang in our Archive Room, and editors are known to walk through it as a way to gain perspective—not every book is for every reader!

When we fill up the available wall space, we take the oldest book and, driving to a nearby lake, give it a “Viking burial” out at sea, to symbolize the journey the book has taken readers on. (No complaints so far about this practice from authorities or environmentalists—Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, so we try to vary the places we go for this ritual.)

What is the point of those annoying paper overlays on hardcover books?

That, my friend, is called a “dust jacket.” Traditional publishing has a history of being elitist, especially in the early days of its history. During the Gilded Age, New York events where the major houses would gather were “tie and jacket” affairs—anyone not wearing a formal suit would not be admitted. One publishing mogul with a sense of humor, Beauregard VonFolio III, decided to bring his latest acquisition to show off to his peers—and he dressed it in a paper jacket. (Stunts like that, incidentally, is how his company got the name of “Random House.”) The trend caught on as other publishers saw the practical value of having a protective covering for their books, and here we are today.

How do your authors come up with their ideas?

It varies from person to person, but one innovation is what we like to call the BHP. No, not Bethany House Publishers, but Baseline Human Plot-generator. It’s an AI machine that, given the genre and style of each author, delivers five elements that an author should work into their plot to attain bestseller status. Now, some authors don’t care to follow through on their five suggestions, but for others, it’s been invaluable when they’re stuck and need something to break free from writers’ block. While we wait for approval on the patent, we keep the location of the machine (inside our elevator that no one ever uses) a closely-guarded trade secret.

Which of these fun facts surprised you the most, readers?

(#AprilFools)

First Line Roundup

Just for fun this morning, let’s talk first lines. I love how authors can set a scene, introduce a character, or jump-start the plot on page one of their stories. Here are some examples from our March and April releases along with my commentary—enjoy feeling like you’re flipping to chapter one while browsing in a bookstore.

If the line is really short, I included a few for context. (Because I’m writing this post, and I get to make the rules.)

Destined for You by Tracie Peterson

“Gloriana Womack was not one to brook nonsense. If her twenty-five years had taught her anything, it was that eight-year-old boys were constantly in motion.”

Thoughts: This opener does a great job of making the main character relatable—haven’t we all had that thought at some point when observing kids?—and draws you into a scene.

Braced for Love by Mary Connealy

“Kevin Hunt came awake with a snap. A metallic clink. He didn’t need to figure out more.”

Thoughts: The first page goes on to describe more of this suspenseful moment, and the action and danger immediately makes me invested.

Hours to Kill by Susan Sleeman

“The brutal killer put a knife to her mother’s throat.”

Thoughts: The stakes don’t get higher than this! This first chapter isn’t told from the main character’s perspective, but the events set a suspenseful plot in motion, and it grabs you from the start.

My Dear Miss Dupré by Grace Hitchcock

“Willow Dupré twirled on the ice, spreading her arms and guiding her body around the other skaters on the frozen lake of Central Park.”

Thoughts: In just a few words, the author shows us a character in motion and identifies the season and setting, before getting into some fun character interactions.

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

“Hardly anyone was buried at South Park Street Cemetery anymore, and yet Ottilie Russell had spent more time there during her twenty years than any other soul living in Calcutta.”

Thoughts: The emotional impact of this one is paired with some intrigue—who is this character, and why has she spent so much time in this cemetery in Calcutta?

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese

“I used to marvel at the way my Great Mimi’s arthritic fingers would pinch her eyeliner pencil and trace a perfect stroke of midnight black along her upper lash line.”

Thoughts: Character voice is present right away in this first-person story, and in a book about beauty and identity, starting with an older woman putting on makeup is a great shifting of expectations.

Night Fall by Nancy Mehl

“Patrick walked next to the railroad tracks as he searched for an open boxcar. November was still especially cold and rainy, and a sudden gust of wind grasped him in its icy fingers.”

Thoughts: The use of description here puts the readers right in this foreboding scene, and there’s a suspicion that something isn’t going to go well here, given the genre.

Winning the Gentleman by Kristi Ann Hunter

“After twenty-two years, Aaron Whitworth should have been aware of his closest friend’s idiocy. Yet it had never crossed his mind Oliver could do something so utterly foolish.”

Thoughts: A bit of humor in the opening works well, as well as showing a strong reaction from the hero to some terrible decision that the reader will want to read on to discover.

A Patchwork Past by Leslie Gould

“Five months ago, planting a large garden on the property of Plain Patterns seemed like a good idea to Jane Berger.”

Thoughts: This line does a great job calling back the cover design, and drawing the reader into Jane’s world, both the quilt shop and the new garden, and why her idea might not have been good after all.

Let’s hear from you! Pick up a book nearby and let us know the first line in the comments.

Reader Survey: Give Us Your Opinions!

I’m so excited to announce that Bethany House and Revell are looking for some insider information…by asking all of you a few questions!

We’ll ask you to choose between different back cover copy options, vote yes or no on what catches your attention, and give you examples to choose what works best for you. The survey should only take five minutes to complete.

And, if the fun of giving us your opinion isn’t enough, we’ll also be drawing the names of five participants to pick any book of their choice published by Bethany House or Revell in the past year. We’re so thankful to everyone who takes the time to make your voice heard.

Just go to this survey to get started. Can’t wait to see your answers!

Ask Bethany House: Let’s Talk Cover Design!

As usual, there were many questions related to cover design in our Ask Bethany House survey, but here’s one we haven’t heard before that (bonus!) gives me a chance to brag on our amazing staff.

“How large is your design team? How many covers are you working on at any given time? Your design team has produced some STUNNING covers!”

First of all, we totally agree—I’m always in awe of our art department. When in comes to people actually working in Bethany House’s office, we have…

  • Paul – our creative director, who oversees all of our covers, including initial direction brainstorming and guiding covers through the feedback and revision process
  • Kristen – who manages the details like taking notes in cover meetings, helping find the right models and costumes, and adding cover treatments
  • Jenny – creates covers for many of our fiction authors, especially historical romances, as well as marketing materials
  • Eric – usually works on nonfiction covers, but creates some of the promotional materials for our fiction books (ads, banners, bookmarks, etc.)
  • Dan – same as Eric, leans more toward the nonfiction side of things except for marketing materials
  • Chris – helps manage the designers’ job lists and keeps up technical tasks like uploading final covers to our website

In addition to these fantastic individuals, we use a number of freelance designers for some of our covers. Often, we’ll use the same designer to work on books by one author for consistency, unless we’re going in a totally new direction with the “feel” of their books.

As someone who has regularly attended cover design meetings along with representatives from our editorial department, I can tell you that I’m impressed with how designers can translate information from the author and our team and make it into something beautiful.

As for how many covers these designers work on, we divide our publishing calendar into three seasons: spring (all books coming out January-April), summer (May-August) and fall (September-December). That’s right, no winter! Each season, Bethany House has an average of 15 fiction books releasing, and often just as many nonfiction books. Now, of those, a freelance designer might only be working on one or two, but an in-house designer might be working on five or six…and that’s in addition to all of the newsletter banners and quote memes and miscellaneous other design jobs we send their way. Don’t forget, too, that back covers and spines also need to be designed!

If you’re curious to know who designed a book by one of your favorite authors, check the small print on either the back cover or the inside copyright page. You’ll often see them credited there.

To learn more about our cover design process, take a look at our archives on cover design, or follow our Instagram account, where we share a monthly video of the alternate designs for a new release.

Tell me about a cover design that you love so much you’d almost want to hang it on your wall.

March 2021 New Releases

Our fiction team here at Bethany House can’t wait to introduce you to five books, in different genres, to fill your shelves. Whether you’re taking a trip across the historical Lake Superior or enjoying the natural beauty of India, these new releases will transport you to a different time and place for an armchair adventure. Be sure to enjoy an excerpt of each by clicking on the cover.

Destined for You by Tracie Peterson
Ladies of the Lake #1

Plot Summary: After smallpox kills her mother and siblings, Gloriana Womack is dedicated to holding together what’s left of her fractured family. Luke Carson arrives in Duluth to shepherd the construction of the railroad and reunite with his brother. When tragedy strikes, Gloriana and Luke must help each other through their grief and find their lives inextricably linked.

My Dear Miss Dupré by Grace Hitchcock
American Royalty

Plot Summary: Upon her father’s unexpected retirement, his shareholders refuse to allow Willow Dupré to take over the company without a man at her side. Presented with twenty-five potential suitors from New York society’s elite, she has six months to choose which she will marry. But when one captures her heart, she must discover for herself if his motives are truly pure….

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

Plot Summary: When a stranger appears in India with news that Ottilie Russell’s brother must travel to England to take his place as a nobleman, she is shattered by the secrets that come to light. But betrayal and loss lurk in England too, and soon Ottilie must fight to ensure her brother doesn’t forget who he is, as well as stitch a place for herself in this foreign land.

Braced for Love by Mary Connealy
Brothers in Arms

Plot Summary: After his father’s death, Kevin Hunt inherits a ranch in Wyoming–the only catch is it also belongs to a half brother he never knew existed. But danger follows Kevin, and he suspects his half brother is behind it. The only one willing to stand between them is Winona Hawkins–putting her in the cross hairs of a perilous plot and a risk at love.

Hours to Kill by Susan Sleeman
Homeland Heroes

Plot Summary: Attacked and left in a coma, FBI Special Agent Addison Leigh has no memory of the incident or her estranged husband when she wakes. Full of regret over letting his military trauma ruin their marriage, Deputy U.S. Marshal Mack Jordan promises to hunt down the man who attacked her, and soon it becomes clear that the killer won’t rest until Addison is dead.

What attracts you to the cover of a book?

Ask BHP: How Do Authors Get Paid?

Time for another glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of publishing! Our question this week is: “I’ve always been curious, do authors really get advances before their books are written, or is it more of a royalty type payment after the book releases?”

(If you’re wondering about some of those terms, no worries, I’ll define them. Don’t even get me started on all of the acronyms involved in publishing. I was joking about all the lingo with a new author and then sent her an email saying, “Just checking on whether you have all the PAFs from the RaT dept so we can put the info in Hot Potato for the MM mailing.” And she panicked for a quick second before realizing that I was just teasing her with a string of terms we throw around at Bethany House.)

At Bethany House, as a traditional publisher, we pay authors an advance—an amount paid to the author, agreed on by both parties in signing the contract, that arrives in advance (clever names are not our forte) of the book’s publication. Often, it comes in different installments: for example, 1/3 on signing the contract, 1/3 upon delivery of an acceptable rough draft*, and 1/3 when the book is published. The specifics of that distribution will be different from house to house, and even book to book.

(*”acceptable” meaning, “Great, let’s go through several rounds of edits and get it ready to publish in 10-12 months,” rather than, “Hold on, you turned in 50 pages plus some notes scribbled on the back of a napkin,” or “Wait, this is an epic space graphic novel instead of the historical romance you agreed to.”)

That advance money lets the author cash a check right away as they work on the book. Sometimes the contract is for multiple books, so the author could get part of the advance payment up to several years before the actual book-writing is finished!

Royalties are something else altogether. An author’s contract with a traditional publisher like Bethany House also specifies the amount of the profit of a book the author will be paid, and how much goes to the publisher to pay for printing/distribution expenses, and the salaries of everyone involved in working on the book (editors, marketing, sales, designers, rights, etc.).

But the publisher only starts to cut those royalty checks once the author has earned more than the advance that the publisher already paid. Put another way, royalty payments kick in once sales go above and beyond the advance, as seen in the carefully calculated (and boring) statements sent to authors on a regular basis so they can keep track of all of this. That’s called “earning out,” and it’s a great thing.

But wait, there’s more! (Don’t worry, the math only gets so complicated. We’re book people; advanced math is not our thing.) If a book sells over a certain number of copies, say, over 25,000, they might start to earn a higher percentage of the profit in royalties. And so on with other sales tiers, all specified in the contract. That way, if a book sells above and beyond what we expected, the author benefits from that even more.

As well, the royalty rate the author gains from ebook sales is usually higher than the percentage for print sales. (Because, while you still have to pay editors and such from ebook profit, you don’t have the added expense of printing a physical book.)

Authors also get a percentage of the profit from license deals our rights team strike for things like translations, audiobooks, or other formats.

As to how all of the numbers and terms are decided on, an author and their literary agent (if they have one) will work with our publishing team, especially the acquisition editor, to agree on a final contract.

But, in the end, the simple answer to how authors get paid is that authors have thousands of patrons supporting their work: readers like you! Whether you’re buying their book outright, requesting that your library buy it, or recommending it to others, you’re helping to support authors in their storytelling career (and us in our publishing careers, too).

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the nitty-gritty of our world, especially if you’re an aspiring author wondering how all of this works.

Did you learn anything new, readers? Or do you have any guesses about the obscure abbreviations I used?

New and Improved Romance Tropes: A Valentine’s Day Parody

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and as a publicist for some fantastic romance authors, I had this thought: why not encourage authors to write some truly unique twists on common romantic tropes?

If you’re intrigued, dear reader, read on to find out my foolproof* suggestions for original heroes and plots!

(*Note: This is entirely tongue-in-cheek, just for a few reader laughs. Writers should apply these tropes only at their own risk…)

Brooding Hero vs. Fooding Hero

And by that, I mean a man who brings his woman food. Homemade food, preferably, and as delicious as the guy making it.

Need some reasoning? Fact 1: the ability to cook is an attractive skill. Fact 2: readers don’t like putting their books down to make dinner. Fact 3: delicious descriptions of food-making heroes in novels might prompt those readers to order takeout, making them able to finish said book, so everyone will be happy. This is a win-win.

And before you try to tell me you can’t have multiple novels where the hero is a culinary genius, let me run some numbers by you. There are 459,000 professional chefs in America alone. There are, by contrast, 2,095 billionaires worldwide and 24 English dukes. So, who’s the more statistically likely hero now, hmm?

Marriage of Convenience vs. Marriage of Conspiracy

Okay, this one is only here because I love all things spy-related. Heists, escape rooms, secret codes, campy treasure hunts with unrealistically-preserved clues from a secret society. More of that, please. I mean, what woman wouldn’t want to be asked to join a plot on a first date?

(Is this just me? Maybe this is just me.)

Enemies-to-Lovers vs. Enemies-to-Polite-but-Distant-Acquaintances

So it’s not quite as catchy. But some of these feuding neighbors/co-workers/business rivals you see in books really need to sit down and engage in clear and mature conversation instead of sabotaging and insulting each other one minute and flirting the next. I mean, maybe there are exceptions, but most of the time, if you can’t stand someone, you shouldn’t marry them, you should put up boundaries and date someone you actually enjoy being around.

Firefighter Hero vs. Plumber Hero

Seriously, think about it. On average, how often does your house burn down? (We’re not talking about how it’s literally impossible for me to make bacon without setting off the smoke detector. Real fire, okay?)

Got that number? Good. Now think about how many times in the past year you’ve dealt with a drain clog, toilet overflow, leak, or other pipe-related problem. (Not to mention attempted princess abductions by video game villains named Bowser.)

It just makes sense, people.

Alpha Male vs. Alpha Centauri Male

Why go with your run-of-the-mill assertive and manly hero when you could actually have an alien main character? Think of the drama! The mystique! The star-crossed pathos of it all! Clearly, this is the ultimate in forbidden love.

Mail-Order Bride vs. Mail-Order Housekeeper

To be clear, I don’t mean that the heroine of the story should fall in love with the hired cleaning help. Nope. Just that she has the means to take out an ad for someone to dust and do dishes while she reads or takes bubble baths or whatever. If we’re talking female fantasies here, I think clean toilets and dog-hair-free furniture might beat rock-hard abs and dramatic declarations of love.

Love Triangle vs. Cheesecake Triangle

Do I even need to explain why this is superior? (Hint: you can only top one of these with caramel, and you never have to worry about your favorite character being heartbroken.) It can even have the drama of the original. “Which flavor do I choose?” the heroine mutters, pacing. “The Cherry Supreme or the Chocolate Mocha? They both have so many amazing qualities!”

Secret Baby vs. Secret Room

I think every romance novel would benefit from at least one secret room. Consider the classics. Like…Jane Eyre. Nancy Drew, probably. Or…Narnia. (That counts, right? Even if the “room” was a world?) The point is, there’s precedent, don’t quibble over the details.

If you really had to work in a secret baby, you could make the secret room a nursery. After all, if the baby is so all-fired secret, why keep him or her out in the open? Time for a concealed panel and a swinging door. Bonus points if it’s hidden behind a bookcase.

Which of these new tropes is your favorite? Do you have any other ideas to contribute?

February 2021 New Releases

Happy February, everyone! Even if some of your new year goals and resolutions have proven challenging, I hope you added an easy one on there: reading more books. If so, here are some great suggestions to help you stay on track. Whether you’re looking for romance, intrigue, or drama, we’ve got a book for you. Enjoy browsing the new releases below, and click on the cover if you’d like to read the first chapter.

The Way It Should Be by Christina Suzann Nelson

Plot Summary: Zara Mahoney was enjoying newlywed bliss until her life is upended by her estranged sister, Eve, and Zara must take custody of her children. Eve’s struggles lead her to Tiff Bradley, who’s determined to help despite the past hurts the relationship triggers. Can these women find the hope they—and those they love—desperately need?

Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green
The Windy City Saga #2

Plot Summary: When Sylvie Townsend’s Polish ward, Rose, goes missing at the World’s Fair, her life unravels. Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder and Rose’s violin instructor, Kristof Bartok, for help searching the immigrant communities. When the unexpected happens, will Sylvie be able to accept the change that comes her way?

The Prince of Spies by Elizabeth Camden
Hope and Glory #3

Plot Summary: Luke Delacroix’s hidden past as a spy has him carrying out an ambitious agenda—thwarting the reelection of his only real enemy. But trouble begins when he falls for Marianne Magruder, the congressman’s daughter. Can their newfound love survive a political firestorm, or will three generations of family rivalry drive them apart forever?

Do you keep track of the books you read each year? If so, how?