Spotlight On: Bethany House Publishers
Dave Long, senior acquisitions editor at Bethany House, said, “We’re probably as full as we’ve ever been in terms of acquisitions.” This wasn’t encouraging, but he made predictions, highlighted genres, and gave excellent lessons.
The field of fiction will see attrition, “compressing” of stores willing to shelve Christian fiction. Walmart is backing away, for example. There will be fewer authors and publishers, although Bethany House plans to continue strong.
- Fiction publishing is economically driven and will deflate. Ebooks are having a definite effect, but writers will find more readers. Publishers’ front lists will take the biggest hit, but books that won’t work on shelves will find readers that might not be reached otherwise. Bethany is putting all backlist titles into ebook formats.
- Independent bookstores become more important. With Borders gone and Barnes & Noble resembling a “toy store,” independent bookstores are seeing new prominence. Books that explicitly tackle faith are being received well. Now, Amazon.com is the number one retail outlet for Christian fiction.
- What we read will change. Novels won’t disappear, but they won’t be our main form of fiction. Novellas and short stories will become more popular and serials will return. Long predicts the rise of “enhanced” books, involving more interaction and even video segments.
At Bethany, historical is “competitive as it’s ever been and difficult to break in,” Long said. “We see a lot of the same things, so we’re looking for originality. The quality of the writing needs to be fantastic.”
The 1800s continue to be Bethany’s sweet spot, though they are publishing early 20th-century books more than before. Long is interested in historical romantic suspense, and although Bethany has never published historical fantasy, he’s interested in “steampunk.”
Long is open to romantic suspense and women’s suspense. Contemporary women’s fiction is heavily published already. However, Bethany is approaching contemporary romance for the first time, particularly in “high drama” works (think Nicholas Sparks). “You can write deep books of faith in this area,” said Long.
The “catch-all category” at Bethany includes suspense, legal thrillers, YA fantasy, and “bonnet” (Amish) genres. It can’t acquire more YA fantasy unless the author is “C.S. Lewis come back from the dead and writing Narnia no. 8.”
- As an editor, Long has an opinion. However, just because he doesn’t like your manuscript doesn’t mean it’s terrible.
- For some authors, it’s simply not yet time for a particular manuscript or genre.
- “Publishing in general is about strange people.” (Long included himself here.)
- Publishing has become less about the book and more about working with authors.
Long’s presentation was an excellent overview of Bethany House. He said Bethany does developmental editing and its authors aren’t required to help with marketing (but it’s great when they speak or establish websites). He defines successful publishing as “acquiring a book that will sell well enough to enable the author to write another book.”