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


  1. Wow! This looks great, Anita. Thanks so much for inviting me to write a post for your blog :)

    1. Thanks for writing such a fab post, Julie! Lovely to have you here :-)