Australian Women Writers Feature: Lisa Heidke

Born in Queensland, Lisa Heidke worked in book and magazine publishing in London and Australia before settling in the northern suburbs of Sydney with husband and three children. An alcohol fueled New Years resolution (and hard work) saw the the release of Lucy Springer Gets Even in 2009 swiftly followed by What Kate Did Next (2010), Claudia’s Big Break (2011) with  Stella Makes Good having been released this month by Allen & Unwin Australia.

In Stella Makes Good, Stella Sparks is on good terms with her ex-husband, Terry, despite the fact he left her for another woman. Stella’s philosophical – the marriage had run its course, they remain friends and the wellbeing of their kids is central to both of them.  Stella’s two closest friends, Carly and Jesse, envy her togetherness and wish they could emulate it. Jesse’s husband, Steve, is a control freak who’s driving her crazy, but she has two small children and can’t see a way out. Carly, meanwhile, suspects her husband is having an affair and isn’t sure what to do about it.  Stella’s life takes a distinctly upward turn when she meets a handsome, apparently single – no ring, anyway – father at her son’s school speech night. For Carly and Jesse, however, the search for happiness and fulfilment proves more elusive…

I enjoyed Stella Makes Good and you can read my review of this contemporary fiction novel posted yesterday here at Book’d Out. Lisa graciously agreed to take part in my 2012 plans to feature Australian women writers with a guest post today and if offering readers (sorry Aust/NZ residents only) the chance to win a signed copy of Stella Makes Good! Read On…

Judging a book by it’s’ cover – do you?

Book covers – ask any author and they’ll either smile and say ‘yeah, great’ or sigh with a ‘been there’ expression while raising their eyebrows knowingly.

Friends often tell me it’s all about ‘the cover and the blurb’ when buying a book.

Probably within seconds of a glancing at a cover, they’ll decide whether they’ll pick up the book and read the back cover blurb or keep on walking until they see a book that’s shouting ‘read me’ the loudest and they’re compelled to pick it up. Most people do that. I used to, too. Probably still do. But…there’s always a but.

As an author, you have very little control over your book’s cover – okay, zero control – unless you’re Bryce Courtney, Nora Roberts or God. But when you’re starting out, you assume, at least, I assumed I’d have some input.

When covers were being considered for Lucy Springer Gets Even, my first book, I was excited. I’d worked long and hard on this manuscript and was finally going to realise my dream – publication. Naturally, Lucy would have a kick-ass cover, sell a trillion copies and I’d feel very pleased with myself.

I got a call from Allen & Unwin. ‘We’re in love with Lucy’s cover and we’re emailing it to you now. Prepare to be stunned.’

Euphoria. And then I got the email.

Oh, I was stunned all right. Gobsmacked. I hated it and cried buckets. Were they trying to sabotage the book before it had even hit the market?

A good cover tells you what the book is about without giving away the whole story.

I didn’t have a problem with the pink background but who the hell was the woman in the ill-fitting purple velour jacket?

This wasn’t my Lucy, the one I’d spent the better part of two and a half years living with. Hello! My Lucy was feisty, fun and pretty (not that she was aware of it, though). And my Lucy was a red head. I didn’t want people having preconceived ideas about her, especially about the Lucy on this proposed cover. But by using a photo, that’s exactly what we were doing – encouraging potential readers to form ideas about my heroine in the blink of an eye.

In my mind, the cover for Lucy Springer was going to be a boppy illustration, along the lines of Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl.

But this one? I knew people would glance at the cover and make a snap decision. ‘I love her’, ‘I hate her’ ‘what the hell’s the story with her gruesome jacket and why is she looking so smug?’ etc and potential customers would be lost in seconds.

After I stopped hyperventilating and my sobs reduced to the odd sniffle, I rang my publisher and politely indicated that I had ‘serious doubts’. But Lucy’s cover was a done deal. I was just the author and had to suck it up.

When Lucy appeared in bookshops, I’ll admit you couldn’t miss her – the pink’s rather eye-catching but I can’t help but think more copies would have sold had the novel had a more aspirational cover.

Which brings me to What Kate did Next, my second novel. I was anxious when A & U told me they’d found the perfect designer and she’d created ‘the perfect cover for Kate.’ I was a little sceptical especially when they told me it was another photo. But when I saw the cover, I danced a very happy jig. I agreed with the decision one hundred percent. Others might hate Kate’s cover, but I was thrilled.

When A & U told me they’d be using the same designer, Ellie Exarchos for Claudia’s Big Break, I couldn’t have been happier. I think the cover captures the mood of the story perfectly. It’s light and fun and screams Santorini!

For my latest release, Stella Makes Good, I was thrilled to know that Ellie would again be designing the cover because I knew what to expect…something gorgeous, aspirational and above all something that would make readers want to pick the book up.

When I saw the cover it was love at first sight! I’m ecstatic (and just a little relieved). It’s divine.

Had I not had the experience I had with Lucy’s cover, I might not have had these feelings for Kate, Claudia and Stella. I would have assumed that publishers get it right every time. It’s their job, right?

I’m lucky. My publishers have hit on a designer who makes my books sing…I’ve been branded and I couldn’t be happier!

These days, I look at book covers in a whole new light. For the record, covers I’m loving at the moment include Dianne Blacklock’s The Secret Ingredient, Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story and Christine Stinson’s It Takes a Village. Interestingly, all photos.

Next time when you’re in a bookshop (and please go – they’re rapidly becoming an endangered species) pick up a cover that doesn’t necessarily appeal to you. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Find Lisa Heidke at

Website I Facebook I Twitter I

Lisa Heidke’s books are available to purchase at

Amazon I BookDepsoitory I BoomerangBooks I Booktopia and many other outlets in Australia and overseas


Enter to Win

1 signed print edition of

Stella Makes Good by Lisa Heidke

(Australian/New Zealand Residents Only)

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28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mystica
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 08:30:20

    I liked the bit specially about the covers. Made me think quite a lot on how we choose books. Entering this giveaway with an aussie address!



  2. bernadetteinoz
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 10:25:56

    That’s really interesting to hear….I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for an author to know people are going to judge their book by its cover AND then have no input into said cover.

    I’m being strict about keeping my TBR pile under control at the moment as I’m in the process of selling my house so I won’t enter the draw for the freebie but thanks for offering it 🙂



    • lisa Heidke
      Jan 14, 2012 @ 13:52:05

      Hi Bernadette, Thanks for your comment…it usually comes as surprise to find that authors have little to no input into their covers…it certainly did to me! Lisa xx



  3. Brenda
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 10:27:17

    I haven’t read any of Lisa’s books before Shelleyrae, but firstly your review, then the above interview, has made me want to. Thanks for the opportunity:)

    +1 Like on GR



    • lisa Heidke
      Jan 14, 2012 @ 13:53:43

      Hi Brenda, Shelleyrae wrote a great review (I paid her lot of money…) Hope you get the opportunity to read one of my books. Would love to hear your feedback! Cheers, Lisa x



  4. 1girl2manybooks
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 11:36:17

    I have to admit I judge books by their covers sometimes, even though I’m making more and more of an effort not to. Especially after reading books like Anna and the French Kiss, where I put it off for an age, because I thought the cover was terrible and ended up loving it! It’s interesting to hear that there are authors out there who are upset or disappointed with the covers they receive and that they don’t have as much input into the process as I would’ve assumed!

    1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com
    +2 for liking on GR/Blog



  5. Shirley Patton
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 12:55:26

    Great article. And having just finished my first novel and obtained an agent last month (still pinching myself) I found Lisa’s thoughts on covers very informative as, of course :), I have imagined what mine might look like, should it get published! Congratulations to Lisa.



  6. Kathryn Willshire
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 13:58:48

    Luckily for me (and I guess Lisa!) I discovered Claudia before Lucy. Loved Claudia’s Big Break and then went on the hunt to read all of Lisa Heidke’s other books. I must admit when I had a copy of Lucy in my hands from the local library, I remember thinking that if this book was on the shelf and I hadn’t heard of the author that I don’t think
    it would be the sort of book that I would
    pick up let alone buy because if the cover.
    Certainly leant



    • Kathryn Willshire
      Jan 13, 2012 @ 14:00:48

      A big lesson in not judging a book by it’s cover!!



      • lisa Heidke
        Jan 14, 2012 @ 13:40:26

        Thanks Kathryn. I do think if lucy had been blessed with a cover like Stella or Kate’s, she would have sold more copies. Hopefully, readers like yourself will read Lucy after discovering my other books – assuming they like my writing style! Lisa x



  7. The Australian Bookshelf
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 14:02:37

    Great article Lisa! It was really interesting what you have said about cover designs and reader interest. You certainly have found a great style across your books that makes them unique.

    I hope I win Stella Makes Good!

    Thanks for the giveaway Shelleyrae.

    Jayne, NSW
    +1 tweet (@austbookshelf)
    +1 like Book’d Out review



  8. Mary Preston
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 20:26:23

    I do indeed judge a book by it’s cover. I recently read a book & the models on the cover did not look anything like the description of the characters in the book. I found it disconcerting, I can only imagine what the author felt.

    Mary P QLD



  9. Mary Preston
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 20:27:38

    LIKED the review of STELLA MAKES GOOD on Goodreads.

    Mary P




  10. Trackback: Dabbling in writing by Australian women #1 | Reactions to Reading
  11. Trackback: Bookish news and publishing tidbits 16 January 2012 | Read in a Single Sitting - Book reviews and new books
  12. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 14:10:10

    The later covers definitely make me think of Dianne Blacklock’s covers, so I’m not surprised that Lisa likes them. Given that the cover can so easily make or break a book–after all, it’s what makes some gravitate towards a book–it’s essential that they look great. And, um, yeah, purple velour….

    I’ve definitely been surprised by books with not-so-great covers, though. Some of my favourite 2011 reads had, quite frankly, awful covers, and I felt terrible for being so judgemental when I realised how brilliant the content between the covers was!



  13. Teddyree
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 21:19:28

    Being a bit of a cover whore I once bought a well known YA book based solely on the stunning cover and didnt enjoy the story much at all lol. Wonder if I’ve learnt my lesson 🙂
    An author friend told me how little say most authors have in the cover process. I can imagine how frustrating and depressing that would be if the cover was at odds with the story or your expectations.

    Love the covers of Kate, Claudia and Stella and I haven’t read anything by Lisa (oops sorry) but I’d love to!

    Sheree – QLD


    liked review on GR



  14. Juliet Madison
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 00:54:36

    I’m a very visual person so a cover often influences me, but having read your wonderful work Lisa I’d be happy to read any more of your books even if they had the cover from hell!
    Haven’t got Stella yet so would love to read it.
    Juliet (from NSW)
    + I liked the Facebook post 🙂



  15. VeganYANerds
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 13:13:29

    I love that this is set in Sydney, I’d love to win a copy.

    Mands from NSW, I also liked the Goodreads post and I’m about to tweet about it 🙂



  16. Mademoiselle Slimalicious
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 09:32:29

    I’d love to win this book, one my 2012 New Year’s resolution is to read more!



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