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Hello everyone, it’s Lisa here.

Welcome to another issue of The Secret Life of Authors. Today we are super excited because it’s release day for Rachael! Woo hoo! (Cue streamers and champagne corks popping!) If you’ve pre-ordered at digital copy of JUST ONE WISH, it should be on your e-reader by now, so you have our permission to stop whatever you are doing and start reading right away! If you are a paperback reader, you need to get yourself to your nearest book retailer and get a copy immediately. You’ll find this book at all the major bookstores and departments stores from today. If you’re not close to a bookshop, we suggest ordering online from Booktopia. Both Sally and I agree that this is Rachael’s best book yet. We don’t know how she does it, but she just keeps getting better and better. We both think you will absolutely love JUST ONE WISH. In Rachael’s usual style she manages to cover some very interesting social issues while still delivering a light-hearted and fun read. We highly recommend it!

In this newsletter we’ll be continuing our series on the publishing process. This time we’re talking about covers and titles, two subjects we get lots of questions about. We hope you enjoy getting all the goss on what really goes on behind the scenes when cover and title decisions are being made!
There’s also competition news in this issue and some early whispers about another Secret Life of Authors Tour.
Happy reading everyone!

Lisa, Sally and Rachael xxx

Three women, three secrets, one life-changing journey. 

Alice has always been a trailblazer as a scientist, activist, and mother. She knew her choices would involve sacrifices, but now, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, she’s beginning to wonder if she’s sacrificed too much. 

Alice’s daughter Sappho rebelled against her unconventional upbringing, choosing to marry young and embrace life as a homemaker, but her status as a domestic goddess has recently taken a surprising turn. 

Ged, has always been the peacemaker between her grandmother and mother. A tenacious journalist, she knows what she wants in life and love, yet when everything in her world starts falling apart, she begins to question whether she really knows anyone at all.

At a crossroads in each of their lives, Alice, Sappho and Ged embark on a celebratory trip together, but instead of bringing them closer, the holiday sparks life-changing consequences and lifts the lid on a fifty-year secret. 

Can Ged rescue her family if their story is built on a betrayal?

From bestselling, ABIA award-winning author Rachael Johns comes an engrossing and wise novel about ambition, choices and what it means to be a woman.

Click here to purchase from Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Booktopia, etc. 

TOUR NEWS: Rachael is super excited to be doing multiple events in WA, QLD and NSW for the release of JUST ONE WISH and hopes many of our Secret Life of Authors subscribers will be able to attend. For a complete list of events click here.
Today is extra exciting for us here at The Secret Life of Authors because it is also the release date for THE HOUSE OF BRIDES, the debut novel of our good friend, Jane Cockram. This is a beautifully crafted novel. Atmospheric and suspenseful, THE HOUSE OF BRIDES is an absolute page-turner. We wish Jane every success with the book. (Another Five Star HIGHLY RECOMMENED read from us all!)

Rachael Johns

Lisa Ireland

What I’ve been up to 

Since I came home from the Romance Writers of Australia conference at the beginning of August I’ve been madly writing next year’s women’s fiction novel, at this stage titled FLYING THE NEST (and weirdly, I’ve already got a possible image for the cover). Knowing November was going to be crazy, I’ve been trying to write a fast first draft that I’ll be able to edit (trying to take a leaf out of Sally’s book) later. So far I’m at almost 85k and the end is nowhere near in sight. Why can’t I write a short book?  I’ve been writing so much, I seriously haven’t had much time for anything else, except watching inappropriate shows with my teenagers (The Inbetweeners) and reading (see my faves of late below). 
Fave read of late: I’ve read a lot of fab books in the past couple of months – LOVED The Wife and The Widow by Aussie author Christian White and currently can’t get enough of comedian Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life (which is kinda a piss take on Jordan Pederson’s 12 Rules for Life, but actually offers a lot of commonsense advice). My fave rule (although there are many I love) is: You don’t need a media room or home cinema – just watch television in the lounge room like a normal person. Or go to the cinema!

Covers and titles

One question almost always asked at author talks (as well as the old ‘where do you get your inspiration’) is ‘How much control do you have over covers and titles?’ 

The answer? Well, for my first few covers I had absolutely NO input whatsoever. The first time I saw the covers for my early books, they were final, but lucky for me they were also perfect. For the next few books my publisher sent me a cover art sheet, in which I had to fill in questions about the book’s characters, themes, etc, and include my possible ideas for the cover. While I always did this the best I could, I always laughed when the first cover concepts were sent back to me and absolutely NOTHING like I imagined (usually much better - I’ve been blessed by the cover fairies for most of my novels).
 So these days I refuse to fill in cover art sheets because I feel like they are a bit of a waste of time – my expertise does not lie in design or marketing and these two things go hand in hand when creating a sellable cover. 
However, despite not giving much input in the initial stage, I do now get to voice my feedback when the cover concept first lands in my inbox. And… I’m pretty loud about my feelings if there’s something on there that I don’t think is working. For example, the initial cover for LOST WITHOUT YOU had two vases of flowers (spoiler, there are no flowers in the book) and nothing I could see that specifically related to the story OR intrigued someone to pick it up. It was the kind of image I thought I’d like on my wall, but I wanted something more memorable for a cover. I asked (okay, pretty much demanded) that the designers put a photo frame with a wedding dress in it alongside one vase of flowers. A) this meant the image on the front had something to do with the words between the pages and B) I felt like it would make people ask a question – what is the significance of the wedding dress? Personally, I believe the best covers ask a question and invite a person to read the book if they want to know the answer. 
As for titles, I was always told by experienced authors before I was published that one shouldn’t be precious about working-titles because publishers will often insist on changing them. In the end, that’s only been the case for a few of my books but as with the covers, I’m happy to heed the publisher’s wisdom and advice where titles are concerned. My original title for THE PATTERSON GIRLS was PATTERSON’S CURSE and then THE FAMILY CURSE but the consensus was some readers may be turned off by the negativity of the word ‘curse’. For THE GREATEST GIFT my working title was HERS, YOURS, MINE, and for my recent release JUST ONE WISH, I really wanted to call the book BEST OF INTENTIONS, but a few of the folks at my publisher thought that sounded OLD FASHIONED. I wonder which title you like best?
The other interesting thing I should probably mention is that covers sometimes change after a few years. My first rural romance JILTED had a girl on the front with a lovely windmill in the background, but then I became known as the rural author with ‘hot guys’ on the cover (worse things to be known as), so JILTED got a makeover and the current cover has a guy on it like all my later rural romances. My early women’s fiction covers are also currently undergoing makeovers to match my ‘new look.’ You can see the two different covers for both these books below. 

In the end both covers AND titles are a team effort between myself and a whole host of talented people that work behind the scenes at Harper Collins HQ and as they are both SO important for grabbing readers’ attention, I’m thankful it doesn’t all fall on me. 

Sally Hepworth

Rachel Johns

What I've been up to

IAnyone who follows me on social media knows what I’ve been up to! Loving on my new dog, Hannah. 
I mean …  all the heart eyes for Hannah.
Hannah is a 3-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and she has stolen my heart (Lisa is rolling her eyes as she reads this because she thinks I’ve gone dog-mad, but honestly, look at her face!) She is my new obsession and I have now discovered the joy of dog parks and pet shops. I am also now best friends with anyone who is happy to talk about dogs with me for hours. (Lisa has stopped talking to me, but there are plenty of others waiting in the wings). Hannah has been a little anxious so I have just bought her a collar, which releases calming pheromones every so often to relax her. (Lisa’s eyes have just rolled back so far in her head that they may never return to her sockets).
In writing news, I’m nearly finished my new novel, currently titled The Sisters (although as we've covered in this newsletter, the title will most likely change). It’s always a scary thing finishing up a novel as I’m always a little panicky about how it will be received. As such I will be borrowing Hannah’s calming collar. Or maybe just reaching for some Valium. Failing that, wine usually does the trick. At least Rachael and Lisa will join me in that.

Fave read of late: Just One Wish by our very own RJ! Seriously, best book I've read of late. 

Covers and Titles


Why do your novels have so many different covers?
This is a question I hear all the time. And I have to admit, I’m always surprised by it. What can I say? I underestimated people’s interest in covers. (This is probably because I rarely choose a book by its cover. 99.9% of books I read are by recommendation or because I’ve read previous books by the author, or sent it by a publisher. I’m also, as my high school art teacher, Mrs. Chapman, used to say through pursed lips, “not very visual.”) In any case, you guys clearly are visual (Mrs. Chapman would have LOVED you), so here goes.
The reason that my books have so many different covers is that each publisher can (and does) choose its own cover. And now that my books are in over 20 countries… that is a lot of covers.
But why not use the one cover? I hear you cry.
There are a number of reasons, but here are a few of them: 
  • varying publisher tastes 
  • different covers sell better in different countries,
  • publishers trying to align your book with books that have done well locally. 
  • A publisher’s ability (or inability) to license a certain cover image.
That said. 
You may have noticed that my most recent novel, The Mother In Law, only has one cover (actually, that’s not true, the foreign versions have different covers, but it has the same cover in all the English speaking countries. The U.K, Australia/ NZ and North America all have the one cover.)
And it just so happens it is my favourite cover of them all . This cover was originally chosen by my U.K. publisher. I liked it so much, that my agent suggestion that my North American publisher might like to use it (they did). And then, since everyone else was using it … the Aussies did too. Peer group pressure at its finest!

Lisa Ireland

What I’ve been up to: 

Once again, it’s been a busy few months. Sally and I were excited to meet lots of readers at an event we did for Australian Reading Hour at Nunawading library. Thanks to all those readers who came along, to the library for hosting us and to Robinsons Bookshop for being the event bookseller. After the event Sally and I visited Robinsons at The Glen shopping centre in Glen Waverley, which is a truly beautiful store. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you check it out!

Since our last newsletter I’ve been busy doing the copyedit and now the proofread on The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan. This is my last chance to catch any mistakes or make any changes, which is a tiny bit nerve-racking. Wish me luck!

What I've been reading: This hardly ever happens but I’m currently reading two books at once. My lovely editor sent me a copy of Germaine by Elizabeth Kleinhenz. It’s an utterly compelling biography of Germaine Greer, which I’ve found hard to put down. This weekend, however, I had a short break from Germaine, to start Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys. Holden is a debut Australian author, and in my opinion, he’s destined to be a superstar. (You heard here first, folks!) Invisible Boys is gritty and bleak, funny and tragic, heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. I highly recommend it.

Covers and Titles

A book’s title and its cover are critical to the book’s success. Many readers choose to buy on these elements alone and so it’s important to get these components of the book right – which is terrifying to me!
You see, I’m not one of those authors who is good at coming up with snappy titles. Some authors can’t even start writing unless they have a title. Not me! Often my book will be called something ridiculous while I’m drafting. One book was given the title The Damn Book in the first draft and I called another one The Turkey Book while I was writing it! Obviously, titles are not my thing. 
Of my five published books only one has the title that I originally gave it. Can you guess which one? I’ll give you some hints. It wasn’t Breaking the Drought. I called that one Dancing with Fire, but my publisher didn’t love that title, mainly because it didn’t signal to readers that it was a rural romance. (Fair point.) It wasn’t Feels Like Home. That book was originally titled, Homecoming Queen, but my publisher thought it sounded too American. (Another good point! )I struggled to come up with a title for The Shape of Us, and it was a friend who finally gave that book its name after the publisher rejected my first title. The Art of Friendship was originally titled, The Other Side of Us, but the publisher thought that title might cause readers to think that the book was a sequel to The Shape of Us, which it’s not! That leaves just one already published book (my third rural romance), and this book was always called by the title it has today. If you know the name of that book, you can put yourself in the running to win an advanced reading copy of my next book,The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan. (Scroll down for competition details.) I’m excited to tell you that I also chose Shirley’s title myself and my publisher loves it! I hope readers will love it too.
As far as covers go, I really have no idea what makes a good cover. I’m not a particularly visual person, and what appeals to others doesn’t always appeal to me. I’m one of those rare people who hardly ever pick a book because of its cover. I usually read books on recommendation or because I’ve read a good review. I can’t remember the last time I chose a book on cover alone. This fact makes me the worst person on earth to judge whether a cover is good or not. So far, I’ve had very little input into my covers, and I’m okay with that! Some I’ve really liked and others I’ve been ambivalent about, but I’ve always trusted that cover design team at my publisher know what they’re doing.  Right now, I’m anxiously awaiting a cover design for Shirley. I can’t wait to see what the team comes up with. In my head the cover will feature a Kombi van. I wonder if I’ll be right! Hopefully I’ll be able to reveal all in our next newsletter.

Last Competition Winner!

So many wonderful wishes were sent in – thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Sadly there could only be one winner, so congratulations to Annette Hallett who has been sent a pre-release copy of JUST ONE WISH. Happy reading, Annette!

Win an Advanced Reading Copy of Lisa’s next book, The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan.
“Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a little smirk.”
When Shirley Sullivan signs her eighty-two-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge nursing home, she has no intention of bringing him back.
For fifty-seven years the married couple have shared happiness and heartbreak.
And for most those years, Shirley Sullivan has been nursing a guilty secret . . .
These days Frank may not know who she is, but he knows he wants to go home.
So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities (and their furious daughter Fiona) to give Frank the holiday he’s always dreamed of.
 Intercutting between the runaways’ intrepid road trip and their five decades of marriage, The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan is a charming, nostalgic and heart-warming story for women of any age. 
Would you like to be one of the first people to read THE SECRET LIFE OF SHIRLEY SULLIVAN?
To win an Advanced Reading Copy of this book, all you need to do is tell us which of Lisa’s previously published novels did NOT have its title changed by the publisher. (Lisa’s left some big hints above, and you can find a list of all her published books at Email your answer to  (or simply hit reply to this newsletter) and if you answer correctly, your name will go into the draw! Winner to be announced in the next newsletter.
Secret Life of Authors Victorian Tour

We are in the very early stages of planning our next tour. This time Sally and Lisa will be chaperoning Rachael around their home state Victoria. (Anything could happen, because we all know Lisa and Sally have no sense of direction and get lost on an almost daily basis!)

If you’d like us to visit a library or a bookshop near you, please get in touch via email ( or let us know in our Facebook group. We’d love to meet as many of you as possible.
Copyright © 2019 Sally Hepworth, All rights reserved.