Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey


cover design

Author Interviews – An Unmissable Compilation of Advice and Inspiration From Authors and Other Industry Experts

Going back through the archives of the blog, I found a wealth of information contained in interviews I’ve done over the last four years. Blogs are great, but who wants to trawl back through post after post, searching for content? Over the coming months I’m going to curate some of that content and bring you the highlights of the best and the brightest blogging from A Writer’s Journey to date. And we’re starting today with expert interviews …

Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler
I found two interviews with indie superstar Terry on the blog, the first from July 2012 about free promotions – and it’s amazing how much of this is still bang on and relevant today! Not so much has changed after all, which is surprising when we feel like we live in times where everything to do with publishing is changing constantly. There is tons of great advice in this interview about Twitter too, so do have a read.

The second interview is more recent, December 2014, and follows the publication of one of Terry’s many big hits, The House of York. This is a stonking good read, highly recommended, and as ever, Terry interviews really well, with lots of fascinating insights and down-to-earth advice.

Linda Gillard

L in Madeira cropped
Another regular, Linda has written a couple of guest posts for the blog, as well as allowing me to interview her, and she’s always so warm and enthusiastic, a real inspiration to other writers. In this interview, from May 2014, we talk about writing in different genres – whether it’s a good or a bad thing – and Linda offers up some great advice as usual.

Martina Munzittu

There are many indie authors publishing fiction, but fewer producing non-fiction titles to the high quality of my next interviewee, Martina Munzittu. With a wonderful idea for a specialised cookery book, Martina went to town and produced the most beautiful coffee-table style self-published book I’ve ever seen. You can read more about it in my interview with her from October 2014.

Kim Nash

In January 2014 I interviewed Kim Nash, who had just gone freelance as a personal assistant to help authors market their books. Here she talks about the best ways to reach readers, offering practical and specialist advice – for free!

Cover Designers Berni Stevens and Chris Howard


Chris Howard_blog
Last but not least in this compilation of interviews, I bring you two from January 2013 which were part of my ‘We’ve Got It Covered’ series. First of all we have Berni Stevens, cover designer to the stars and published author, giving you the benefit of her vast experience, and then the wonderful and talented Chris Howard, my very own cover designer, who is now so popular and prolific I’m worried he’s going to put his prices up! Chris and Berni offer go-to advice for anyone thinking about a cover for their self-published book. The rest of the We’ve Got It Covered series was a lot of fun too, and you can find all the posts on this by typing ‘We’ve Got It Covered’ in the search box above.

Coming next – a compilation of fascinating and eclectic guest posts!

Couldn’t Live Without … those legs!

The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the cover for Can’t Live Without has undergone yet another make-over: the infamous legs are back, although this time they’re brighter and the lettering is in keeping with the new look of the rest of the covers.

Last year I made the decision to rebrand, and ‘the legs’ were amongst the casualties, along with that gorgeous wedding dress on the cover of The Family Trap, and the cute bunting on the cover of Cupid’s Way. I blogged about the decision here, and it wasn’t an easy one. I was happy with the new look, and I do think the new covers are bold and bright and resonate with the readers I’m reaching out to.

But … there was something about the new cover for Can’t Live Without that didn’t quite work. Although lovely, and wistful and full of yearning, it didn’t scream ‘fun’ the way the blurb for the novel does – and therefore didn’t actually reflect accurately enough the content of the novel. In fact, the more I thought about it, nothing did justice to the content of the novel in quite the same way as those iconic legs from the original cover. So, in a very cheerful U-turn, I revamped the cover again, this time using the original image but giving it a cleaner, brighter feel. And I love the results …

Here is the old cover:

CLW cover small snipped

And here is the new, revamped version:

Can't Live Without cover final

You can see in the header above how well it fits in next to The Family Trap and the other novels, and although I loved the original – and still do, very much – I still feel it was important to have a brighter feel to all the books.

And it’s already earning its keep! Following a little bit of promotion of both this title and The Family Trap, Can’t Live Without jumped up into the top 100 bestseller categories this weekend, hitting number 56 in top-level category Romantic Comedy, and #33 in Humour:


CLW bestseller humour #33

It also did really well in the smaller category of Parenting & Family Humour, hitting the #3 spot:

CLW bestseller parenting & families #3

It doesn’t matter that this book has sold tens of thousands of copies – there are still plenty of readers who have yet to meet Stella, and I can’t wait to introduce her to them. It’s all systems go with the third book in the series – Growing Pains – this spring, and the great thing is, I already have the cover for that! So that’s one box ticked and one less job to do.

Just a reminder for anyone who hasn’t yet signed up to my newsletter – I’m currently giving away a free copy of Cupid’s Way to all my subscribers. Check out the box below for more information.

Newsletter sign up and free book

New look website and cover makeovers for all my books!

Today’s the day when I can reveal the new look for all my women’s fiction books, and also a new look for the website and blog. I’ve been working hard to bring a cohesive design to the covers of my novels, as well as making sure I’m pitching this design to speak to my target readers.

Publishing is an organic process, and since I first uploaded Can’t Live Without in May 2012 there have been many changes, both in the world of ebooks and also in my own writing and self-publishing journey. Each new book has taken me on a different path, and opened up exciting different options and opportunities. Inevitably you end up with a bit of a mish-mash of styles and designs. (I love the word mish-mash!) For a while now I’ve been desperate to bring it all together with a very particular look, and the release of Keeping Sam was the ideal opportunity to rebrand, relaunch and refresh.

Changing Can’t Live Without was hard, of course. That cover will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first and has been described as iconic by more than one person. But legs on covers are very dated now – it deserved a new look; it deserves to be introduced to a new readership. Stella Hill’s experience of losing everything she owns in a house fire is not, after all, light-hearted chick-lit, and this book does tackle some serious topics. The new cover suggests a sense of longing, and demonstrates what I’m moving towards in all my covers from now on – a sense of the emotions in the book, and a clear message to the target reader, not a literal representation of what the book contains.

Can't Live Without final cover

The old cover for The Family Trap was one of my favourites, and the new design is also a favourite – I just love the girl with the jaunty pose and the red umbrella! You’ll notice in the banner at the top of the website a new cover for the third in the Stella Hill Series, Growing Pains – this is the last book in the Can’t Live Without trilogy and will be coming to you by early summer next year. Very excited about that one!

The Family Trap final cover

The final redesigned cover is Cupid’s Way, and this is the third cover this book has been graced with! I love this new look, and I feel it really highlights the romance in the story, as way as the playfulness. Now I have the new covers I’ll be gradually updating them on Amazon and elsewhere, and possibly updating the paperback files, although I’m not sure about that yet. The gorgeous Flora Lively covers are perfect as they are and need no makeovers, thank goodness!

Cupid's Way final cover

As for the website, a quick update to the Baskerville theme and a rejig of some widgets sorted me out beautifully. WordPress is a wonderful tool, and so very easy to use. Do let me know what you think of the rebrand, and what you think of redoing covers in general. Bye for now x

The Flora Lively Series Revamped

Today I’ve got news of another revamp, and this time it’s a biggie! The first in my Flora Lively series of contemporary mysteries with a romantic slant has undergone a complete transformation, ready for the launch of the audio book this month and the next in the series later this year.

Now, there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the old cover – in fact it was really lovely. But, the cover wasn’t working as well as it should. It wasn’t attracting the right audience, and this was a real problem.

Part of the problem with Murder at the Maples is that it is a genre-mixing book. Described (mainly by me) as ‘Bridget Jones meets Midsomer Murders’, the Flora Lively series is intended to combine elements of the chick lit/contemporary romance novel with the light, or cozy, mystery genre. Of course, mixing genres is always a tricky thing to pull off. The danger here was two-fold: readers of my other books would be put off by the mystery/murder elements, while mystery fanatics would find the romance and deeper issues explored a turn off.

With nearly a year’s worth of sales data it became clear to me that I had to make some changes to help the book find its ideal readers. First of all I needed to change the description, which placed far too much emphasis on the murder/mystery themes. This isn’t a pure mystery, cozy or otherwise, and this wasn’t reflected in the blurb or product description at all. That done, it was down to the cover to work a lot harder to say the exact right things about the book.

So what did I need the cover to ‘say’? It had to be more upbeat and fun, for starters, and reflect the fact that the book is, in parts, quite funny. It had to say ‘young protagonist’, because I think the name Flora might sound like this is an old lady investigating crime in a Miss Marple kind of way. It also had to show, very immediately, that the book is a mystery, and one in the lighthearted, cozy genre. And it had to look like part of a series.

Phew, quite an ask. I had a very clear image of what I wanted, but describing this to my cover designer was difficult. I decided to go down the visual route, so I set to with my daughter’s paints and a set of scissors and began creating. (You can see my efforts at the end of this post.) The visual guide really helped, though, because Chris Howard could instantly see what I was trying to achieve. He took over, with his considerable skill and knowledge, and came up with …


The new design is just perfect, and it does everything I’m asking of it and more. As the second in the series is well underway I decided to commission the next book cover right away. Seeing the two books together really highlights the fact that this is a cover that works as part of a series as much as it works alone.

FL_a date with deathv3

A Date With Death is due for release in November this year, and the third in the series will follow in 2015. I recently listened to the entire Murder at the Maples audio book to approve the narration, and it reminded me how much I love Flora’s character and the whole chick-lit/mystery concept. (There’ll be more about the audio book next week.) I’ll definitely be pulling out all the stops to give this series the chance it deserves to find a new readership, and to entice my existing readers to give it a go.

Not read Murder at the Maples yet? Don’t buy it now! Wait until Thursday when the book will be on free promotion for 5 days!

And yes, I promised to show you my own mocked-up version, made with cut-out lettering and painted with my 6-year-old’s paints! Here it is 🙂


I think it’s safe to say that the cover designer’s version is just a little better 😉

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