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“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?

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Usually, I post this update on the first Sunday of the month, but since last Sunday was Easter, I decided to wait a week. 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 Green, 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:

Patrick Carr
Mary Connealy
Beverly Lewis
Nancy Mehl
Debra White Smith
Lauraine Snelling

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.

“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.”—Galatians 6:9-10 (CSB)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to be a blessing to others through writing.
  • For energy and perseverance to develop as a writer and finish the next project.
  • For those who encounter these books to find something within them that makes them think.

We love having you gathering together with us in prayer, readers. Many thanks, as always!

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Welcome to the first full month of spring! Whether it’s warm and sunny where you are or snowy and freezing like it is here in Minnesota where Bethany House is located, we hope that you’ll enjoy this batch of April books! We’ve got a wide variety of genres—Amish, fantasy, historical, suspense, Western, and contemporary romance. And don’t you just love the new covers for the Jane Austen series?

If you’d like to try out an author’s style, click on the cover to be taken to an excerpt. Happy reading!

The Road Home by Beverly Lewis

Synopsis: Sent from Michigan to Pennsylvania, Lena Rose Schwartz grieves the death of her Amish parents and the separation from her siblings as well as her beau, Hans Bontrager. She longs to return home to those she loves most. However, she soon discovers that Lancaster County holds charms of its own. Is she willing to open her heart to new possibilities?

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

Synopsis: As the influence of the Darkwater Forest grows, the kings and queens of the north desperately try to contain its power while Willet Dura and the Vigil seek the truth of its origins. But danger stalks the rulers of the kingdoms and the Vigil. Together, they must discover a path to keep their land safe, or surrender their world to the growing darkness.

A Breath of Hope by Lauraine Snelling

Synopsis: Though Aunt Gerd has softened towards them, Uncle Einar remains a harsh landlord as two more Carlsons, Nilda and Ivar, join Signe and Rune at the farm in Minnesota. When tragedy lays a dark secret bare, the Carlsons and Strands will have to come together and become a true family.

Blind Betrayal by Nancy Mehl

Synopsis: U.S. Marshal Casey Sloane is tasked with escorting a reporter to testify before a grand jury regarding a missing environmentalist. At first, the assignment seems routine. But when it becomes dangerously clear that there’s more to the story than anyone knows, Casey and two other Marshals—one a man from her past—will have to do whatever it takes to survive.

The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

Synopsis: Trace Riley has been self-appointed guardian of the trail ever since his own wagon was attacked. When he finds the ruins of a wagon train, he offers shelter to survivor Deborah Harkness and the children she saved. Trace and Deborah grow close working to bring justice to the trail, but what will happen when the attackers return to silence the only witness?

Possibilities, Amanda, and First Impressions by Debra White Smith

Synopsis: In these updated Jane Austen retellings, three young women must trust God with their futures.

In First Impressions, Lawyer Eddi Boswick tries out for a production of Pride and Prejudice in her small Texas town. When she’s cast as the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, her romantic co-star is none other than the town’s most eligible—and arrogant—bachelor.

In Possibilities, When Allie falls in love with a young man her family thinks is unworthy of her wealthy Southern upbringing, she yields to the pressure and ends the relationship. But when they find themselves in the same city years later, can she face her regrets before he falls for someone else?

In Amanda, A bit of a busybody, Amanda always has her friends’ best interests at heart. She prides herself on her matchmaking skills . . . but when nothing seems to be going according to plan on the beautiful island of Tasmania, can she learn to listen to her own heart?

Are any of these books on your to-be-read list?

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Tomorrow is Good Friday, and I was pretty sure only the other half of my building had something to say about that. You see, at Bethany House, we have separate marketing teams for fiction and nonfiction. My coworkers down the hall are the ones working with preachers and teachers who trace the gospel through the whole Bible or argue an apologetic of what the world would be like if the resurrection had never happened. They post an Instagram feed of deep quotes and Bible verses, they have the author bios with seminary credentials and terms I didn’t even know existed.

Meanwhile, I’m over in novel-land, my shelves filled with suspense and romance and drama, discussing which dress we should rent for the next cover shoot and posting Valentine hearts for book lovers on social media.

It’s not like Easter is completely absent even from those daily tasks, because faith deeply influences our authors and many of their characters. Just taking a look at reader emails might make you tear up a bit, hearing snippets of how a story connected with them on a deep level, comforted them when they needed it, or inspired change.

Still, in my mind I’d sectioned off holidays into different groups: Valentine’s Day is for fiction—the time when we have oodles of fun giveaways and quizzes and quotes to share—and Easter is for nonfiction.

Except after I’d put it into those specific terms, I thought about it more. Why does fiction get Valentine’s Day? Well, because so many fictional stories feature love: romantic love, often, but also the love between siblings, friends, parents and children. Fictional stories can highlight love in a more vivid and engaging way that most nonfiction books could even dream of.

And that’s where I made the connection to Easter.

We love stories where the main character is put in a place of near-hopelessness…and makes a hard choice to do the right thing anyway. We swoon for heroes willing to risk their lives and sacrifice everything for the ones who love them. We cheer when reconciliation comes to broken relationships and good triumphs over evil.

All of these are quiet echoes of the greatest Story, the one where the hero doesn’t just risk his life but gives it…and not for the ones who love him, but for his enemies, so that they can become his friends.

There is the apologetic of fiction. Often the moments in stories that we remember the most, the ones that punch us in the gut or linger with a staying power that goes past the last page are the ones that remind us of the truths of Good Friday and Easter.

Love is stronger than hate.

Faithfulness is a choice, not an emotion.

Forgiveness, even of someone who doesn’t deserve it, is beautiful and freeing.

The world we live in is hard and dark and broken, but there is still hope.

I love that I work with authors who put these truths at the heart of their stories. And I love that fiction, too, has something to say as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, maybe more than any of us realize.

Have you read a novel that reminded you of a spiritual truth in a powerful way?

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To celebrate our lineup of amazing books this month, I thought I’d give our fabulous blog readers a chance to win a copy of all five new releases. Here’s how:

Step One: Follow our blog, if you haven’t already. You can do so by clicking the red “follow” button under our lists of posts to the left. That way, you can keep up with our once-a-week updates, including fun author news, quizzes, and Q&A about publishing, cover design, and more.

Step Two: Take the following quiz and jot down your answers.

Step Three: Comment with your answers (1:e, 2.c, etc.) on this blog post.

Sound easy? Well, then let’s get started:

1. According to our editors, Paul, Apostle of Christ, is the fastest turnaround for an adult fiction book that Bethany House has on record. How long did the process take, from blank page to publication?

a. Fifteen weeks
b. Eighteen weeks
c. Twenty-two weeks

2. In Places Hidden joins how many other Bethany House fiction books with “Hidden” in the title? (Including out-of-print books and children’s books)

a. Six
b. Nine
c. Eleven

3. Which author’s book is set in the area where she currently lives?

a. Melissa Jagears
b. Tracie Peterson
c. Jennifer Delamere

4. According to the author’s Pinterest, this is the hero inspiration for:

a. Aaron from A Chance at Forever
b. Patrick from In Places Hidden
c. Michael from The Heart’s Appeal

5. And this author shared the image above as being a reference for her heroine:

a. Tracie Peterson
b. Susan Anne Mason
c. Angela Hunt

Okay, readers, subscribe to the blog and then put your pop quiz answers in the comments below! I’ll choose the winners on Monday, March 26—one winner who got all five questions correct, one winner drawn randomly who just participated. (So feel free to comment, even if you’re outright guessing!) Winners will each receive a copy of each of our five March releases.

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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…”?

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Recently, I had an exchange with a reader via Facebook message who did not approve of romance novels and wanted to explain why Bethany House shouldn’t be publishing them. Her biggest issue seemed to be that she didn’t perceive genre or commercial fiction, like romances, as having the same inherent value as the classical authors she listed (including Jane Austen, who doesn’t count as a romance author, apparently).

I responded with something vague and polite, but if we had been friends sitting down over a cup of tea, this post is probably what I would have said instead. You’re welcome to eavesdrop on our hypothetical conversation (and enjoy a cup of imaginary tea…I recommend Licorice Spice).

First, I’d say, give me book recommendations anytime! I love literary fiction, and I’ll often pick up a good classic novel. Those books affect me in a special way. They have the power to reshape the way I think and challenge me and let me appreciate the sheer beauty of words and descriptions. Many of them will endure for generations, and that’s amazing.

But do you know what else is amazing?

An author who can keep me up late, turning pages and laughing in just the right pages. A story that transports and entertains me, especially if I learn something interesting by the end. Plots that help me see the world as it ought to be while characters overcome odds and make sacrifices to reach a happy ending. Well-written genre fiction does these things and more.

Oops. Shouldn’t have brought that up, because now my imaginary tea party friend accuses happy endings of feeling fake and untrue to reality.

To which I say I’m sure every now and then there’s a poorly written one that does. But let me tell you, I’ve read three literary novels this year with tragic endings that felt painfully artificial—like the author just wanted to break convention and inject some gratuitous misery into their protagonists’ lives toward the end to make a philosophical point. Besides, with all the craziness in the world, some people prefer unambiguously happy endings, and most at least like hopeful ones. Nothing wrong with that.

My tea, at this point, is getting cold, so I let my friend deliver an extended analogy where she compares genre fiction to fast food—mass produced and cheap but with very little nutritional value.

I disagree as politely as possible. (And I also take the last two cream puffs without shame because, really, she just insulted a lot of authors I love by criticizing their value and implying it’s easy to “mass produce” one of their novels, and that’s just mean.)

To me, the food analogy works better if you say that literary fiction is a presentation-first tray of gourmet appetizers, while truly good genre fiction is the crusty homemade bread you stick in the toaster for breakfast, or the apple you toss in your lunchbag, or the Crockpot soup you have going so it’s ready when you come home from running errands. Not all of it is fancy or rich or exquisitely shaped, but it’s what we love and need for everyday life. As my good friend* G.K. Chesterton put it when responding to similar criticisms of genre fiction: “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

Fiction sustain us. We shape our stories, and then they shape us, and not just the ones that are sprawling, articulate tomes or deep, character-driven tales. People read for a lot of good and legitimate reasons—to experience a new time period, to be distracted from a hard reality, to have something to talk about with their friends, to find out what happens next—but it comes down to the fact that we need good stories, and those good stories can be found in almost any section of the bookstore.

Probably, by the end of this conversation, I have not convinced the no-nonsense reader to end her crusade against romance novels and give one a try. But maybe, hopefully, she’s a little more thoughtful about the books she claims aren’t thoughtful enough.

If you’ve ever wondered why genre fiction is worth reading, I hope this is helpful to you. Don’t judge a book by its ISBN.

Sure, there may be rhetorical questions in the back cover copy where you could probably guess the answer.

There may be certain tropes you know to look for—a hero with wounds in his past, a setting you’ve seen before, or a dramatic reveal of a clue.

There may be a cover that looks less traditional and more lighthearted than the good ol’ classic volumes of yesteryear.

But there may also be an excellent story, one that draws you in and makes you ask “what if” and keeps you guessing and gives you a reason to laugh or cry or see things in the shadows that aren’t there or sigh from happiness or generally feel a little more human.

So, now that tea is over, how about taking some time to read a good book?

*We would have been good friends if he hadn’t died fifty years before I was born. I just know it. I would love to have tea with him instead, although he would probably eat more than his share of scones.
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Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, 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 Green, 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 March:

Jennifer Delamere
Angela Hunt
Melissa Jagears
Susan Anne Mason
Tracie Peterson

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.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”—1 John 4:18-19 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For discipline and focus in all of the boring parts of the writing life.
  • For a renewed sense of joy in responding to readers and writing the next book.
  • For the readers who will be picking up these novels to learn or be reminded of an important truth.

Many thanks, readers, for so faithfully joining with us in prayer for these authors and others in your life. It’s always appreciated!

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Our new releases this month will take you on a variety of adventures, whether that’s navigating romance and class differences in Victorian England, protecting the manuscripts of the Bible in the first century, or finding love in the American West. If any of these “sneak peek” descriptions seem intriguing to you, try out the first few chapters by clicking on the cover to read an expert. I hope your March is full of good books (and enough time to read them).

Paul, Apostle of Christ by Angela Hunt

Synopsis: In this powerful novelization, the apostle Paul, bound in chains in Nero’s bleakest prison, awaits his execution. Luke, a friend and physician, risks his life to visit him. Resolved to write another book, these two men race against time and history—and an emperor determined to rid the world of Christianity—to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason

Synopsis: Stable hand Nolan Price’s life is upended when he learns that he is the heir of the Earl of Stainsby. Caught between two worlds, Nolan is soon torn between his love for kitchen maid Hannah Burnham and the expectations and opportunities that come with his rise in station. He longs to marry Hannah, but will his intentions survive the upstairs–downstairs divide?

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

Synopsis: In the early 1900s, Camri Coulter’s search for her missing brother, Caleb, leads her deep into the political corruption of San Francisco—and into the acquaintance of Irishman Patrick Murdock, who her brother helped clear of murder charges. As the two try to find Caleb, the stakes rise and threats loom. Will Patrick be able to protect Camri from danger?

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

Synopsis: Mercy McClain joined the school board to protect the children of Teaville, Kansas, from the bullying she experienced as a child. When the worst offender from her school days applies for a teaching position, she is dead set against it. Yet Aaron Firebrook claims to be a changed man. Can he earn Mercy’s trust—and her support for the challenges to come?

The Heart’s Appeal by Jennifer Delamere

Synopsis: Julia Bernay has come to London to become a doctor—a glorious new opportunity for women during the reign of Victoria. When she witnesses a serious accident, her quick actions save the life of barrister Michael Stephenson. He rose above his family’s stigma, but can he rise to the challenge of the fiercely independent woman who has swept into his life?

What a great group of books and authors! Is there a title on this list that you’re most excited about?

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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.

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