Friday 11 September 2015

Julie Stock on Book Covers!

My guest today is Julie Stock, who I've met a couple of times, at Phillipa Ashley's book launch, and at the Romantic Novelists' Association's Conference in July. Also, I've spoken to Julie online, via Twitter and Facebook over the past year or so. Julie has a strong social media presence, and is extremely supportive of other writers. On her blog, Julie has an Author Spotlight feature, where she says:

"I want to be able to help other authors gain some more visibility by featuring them on my blog in the same way that I have been lucky enough to be featured on other authors’ blogs."

Julie also writes posts which aim to help writers, including those on how to list a Goodreads giveaway, and on book covers. The book cover for 'From here to Nashville' won a gold star in the e-Book Cover Design Awards in February 2015. And I think you'll agree, it's a lovely cover, so I've invited Julie to talk about the process of having a book cover designed.

Over to you, Julie...

Julie Stock on Book Covers!

Firstly, I would like to thank Anita for having me on her blog today to talk about book cover design and how I go about sourcing it.

As an indie author and with only the one book published, I haven't had a lot of experience of sourcing book cover designs. However, the experience I had last year before self-publishing my debut novel From Here to Nashville was an interesting one and as I'm on the brink of having a new cover designed for my second book, now is a good time to review the process I went through before.

Gather your ideas
As I explained in the two blog posts I wrote on my own blog about the process of Choosing and Working with a Book Designer (Part One and Part Two), right from the very beginning, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to include on the book cover for my debut novel. It's a contemporary romance with a country music theme so a guitar was a given for me and there had to be something to suggest romance. I found a stock photo which I liked and downloaded it to use as a provisional cover. I put this image, along with countless others in a Word file and kept looking at them to remind me of the sort of thing I was looking for. I haven't done a provisional cover this time but I have been keeping relevant photos on Pinterest for a while now on a new board. I think this is a vital first step and leaving the ideas to percolate in your brain for a while is an important part of the process.

Think about your genre
This time, my story is a contemporary romance set on a vineyard in Alsace in France. One of the villages my characters go to has a fortified medieval church on a hillside and this image has really stayed with me so I would like to have this as the central focus of my new cover. In most of the pictures I have seen or taken myself on a recent holiday to the area, there are vines in the foreground so this is perfect for my setting. The swirling vines could also make a nice border to the cover with the occasional heart nestled in amongst the grapes around the outside. For my first cover, the designer added in a heart-shaped dot to the 'i' in Nashville at my request and this worked nicely. It would have been nice to keep that idea as a theme running through my covers, except that the current title doesn't have an 'i' in it!

Although I want my books to look like they are romance stories, I want to make sure that they stand out too so this time, I won't be having any pink on the cover, I don't think because it doesn't suit the story. One of the advantages of being an indie author is that you can make those decisions for yourself.

Start thinking of yourself as a marketing brand
I really like the font used on my first cover and would definitely like to keep it or something similar for the next book. I would also like to keep the illustrated look we went for in the final version of my debut. I know that I don't want to use photos as the actual cover but they will come in handy for explaining what view I would like on the new cover. When I went to the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) Conference last year, I was lucky to receive a free book in my goodie bag which had a lovely illustration on the front of it and I noted it for future reference because I liked the style. The book was written by Rosanna Ley and if you look her books up, you'll see that the book covers are almost like painted versions of photos. I like that idea so I'm hoping for something like that on my next cover, which will be different to my first but still in keeping with what I did before.
Received for 'From Here to Nashville'
Research your designer
Look at their website/Facebook page and their portfolio if you can. If you've come to them by way of one of their cover designs, then you should mention that in your first discussion. If you really don't know where to start but you belong to a professional organisation, ask other members for their recommendations.

Once you've decided on your designer, discuss your schedule and how they like to communicate. Start early because it doesn't matter if it's ready first and waiting for everything else, just as long as you're sure about the title and the brief. Be honest about your expectations by sharing your experiences with them from the past, it's best to tell them what went well and what didn't. Don't be afraid to say what you want!

Communicate with your designer
As you can see, I've already gathered plenty of ideas and had some strong thoughts of my own about the design. My designer last time was very thorough in asking me what I was looking for, even down to asking me to complete a detailed questionnaire. Still, the first version of the cover was a long way from what I'd been hoping for so it was good that I had built in plenty of time to my schedule for the design process. This allowed us to go back and think again. The second round of designs was so different and I found it hard to choose between them but in the end, I was really pleased with the final design, which later won an award from Joel Friedlander (

Do ebook and print versions at the same time if you can
In the end, I realised that I should have gone for the ebook and print covers at the same time mainly because it is much better value so this time, I will definitely do that. For my debut, not having both versions delayed the release of the paperback and yet it was so easy to do the paperback that I know I can get both versions done together this time.

Don't be afraid to try someone new

I explained how I'd found my designer in my blog posts last year and in the year since, I have come across a number of other designers whose work I admire so it will be a difficult choice this year to decide on who to go with. In the end, it has to be someone you can work comfortably with and who understands what you're trying to achieve.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write such an informative and generous post, Julie! I expect that your advice will be especially helpful to writers who plan to self-publish, and to traditionally published authors who plan to self-publish their backlists.

Find out more about Julie here, with links to her website, and social media accounts:

About Julie

Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and of The Alliance of Independent Authors.

She blogs about her path to publication on her website, ‘My Writing Life’. You can also connect with her on Twitter, on Goodreads and via her Facebook Author Page.

When she is not writing, she works part-time as a teacher. She is married with two teenage daughters and lives with her family in Bedfordshire.

Read other guest posts from Sue Moorcroft, Alison Morton, Talli Roland, Jane Holland, The Romaniacs and New Romantics Press here

Saturday 5 September 2015

Managing What Your Friends See on Facebook

I wrote a post for this blog in June, Managing What You See on Facebook, which explained how to set up your News Feed so you only see the updates you wish to see.

In this post, I’ll explain how to manage which of your updates your Friends see. Most of my neetsmarketing posts are written to answer questions I’m asked on courses, or by clients, and often these questions come up:

How do I stop my family, close friends, and acquaintances from seeing my writing updates? (generally, because they are not interested, make fun of my ‘hobby’, or it makes me feel self-conscious when writing a blog post if they’re going to read it).

How do I stop readers and writing acquaintances from seeing my updates intended for family and close friends? (ie personal photos of husbands, wives, kids etc).

What can I do about those Friend requests I accepted (or feel obliged to accept because I know the person ‘in real life’ slightly and don’t want to offend them), where I don’t want them to see my updates?

Is there an alternative to unfriending the Friend who leaves provocative comments on my posts?

My Anita Chapman Writer Facebook Page
Set up a Facebook Page (if you haven’t already)

There are ways to make it better, and the first thing to do is to set up a Facebook Page, if you don’t have one already for updates relating to your writing; and ask your writing acquaintances to Like it. You can also direct readers to this page when they send you a Friend request (if you wish to), and explain that your Facebook Page provides updates for readers. 

Here are my Facebook Pages: Anita Chapman Writer is for writing updates, and it goes with my neetswriter blog on writing; and neetsmarketing is for social media for writers and book marketing updates, which goes with this blog.

My neetsmarketing Facebook Page
Facebook Pages don’t get that much attention these days, unless you pay for promo; see my post: Is it worth paying to promote a Facebook Page?. Recently I've paid £3 to promote each new blog post on my relevant Facebook Page, and the post has reached around 1000 people. I selected, ‘People who like your page and their friends’ when boosting the post, and spread the advert over three days.

Here is a useful post I saw on Twitter the other day by reedsy:

A Facebook Author Page, Still Worth It?

Social media works best if you play around with it a bit and there are ways to expand your reach with a Facebook Page, by posting effective content and by posting regularly. I’ve noticed that if the post isn’t getting any attention in the first place, paying for promo doesn’t make that much difference to the number of Likes and comments (and hits if it's a link to a blog post). Sometimes it’s worth giving a Facebook Page post a few hours and if it’s getting lots of Likes and Comments, to then choose to Boost it.

Setting up Lists in Facebook

It’s also possible to divide your Facebook Friends into groups (not Facebook Groups, this is something different, for another post), by setting up lists. You can use these lists to stop certain Friends from seeing certain updates when you post.

With Facebook there are a few things to consider: what do you post, and who do you want your audience to be with each post?

Photos of your family
Links to blogs, articles etc on writing
Photos or links relating to your novels or research
Promotion for your books or blog posts

My lists are:

Close Friends for close friends and family (created by Facebook)
Writers for writing friends and acquaintances (created by me)
Acquaintances (created by Facebook)
Restricted (created by Facebook)

Acquaintances are Friends you wish to see less of in your News Feed. You can choose to select Friends except Acquaintances when you create a post.

Restricted are Friends who can only see your updates if you select Public as your audience

One thing to remember is that if you post to a list, Facebook doesn’t give your audience the option to share. So, for example if you post a link to your blog post and select your Writers list, no one will be able to share it, and then you’re restricting how much attention your blog post will get.

That's it, I think! I've linked to the relevant pages in Facebook's Help Centre, throughout the post for the technical side and how to set up, because the explanations are really clear.

My Social Media Course for Writers

I’m running a Social Media Course for Writers on 3 October 2015 at The Hotel Mandolay in Guildford, which is £70, from 10am-5pm, including a two course lunch, plus refreshments (with cake in the afternoon). It promises to be a fun day with the chance to socialise with other writers. Attendees can bring their laptops and tweet/update Facebook live, and see results on the big screen (only if they wish to, of course). Bookings have been coming in over the past couple of weeks, and there are three places left, so let me know if you'd like to book at anitajchapman at gmail dot com; and find out more via my website, which includes an endorsement from Ian Skillicorn, publisher at Corazon Books

This is the lovely private room, where the course will take place:

It's good to be back, after a lovely summer break. I went on a road trip to Italy this summer with my family, and I wrote a post for my neetswriter blog here about the trip, my writing, and the aforementioned course: A Grand Tour, a Deadline, and a Course 

Upcoming guest posts:

Here, on my neetsmarketing blog, 11 September: 'Julie Stock on Book Covers'

On my neetswriter blog, 18 Sept: Lisa Eveleigh of Richford Becklow Literary Agency on 'What Agents Look For'

And if you missed my posts on the RNA Conference in July, here they are:

neetswriter blog: Going to a Writers' Conference as Two People

neetsmarketing blog (here):

Latest on Book Marketing from #RNAConf15, Part I

Latest on Book Marketing from #RNAConf15, Part II