SPS-379: AI Artwork for Authors – with Stuart Bache

Stuart Blache- a book cover designer with strong roots in the indie publishing scene, makes an appearance on the Self Publishing Show. Listen as he details observations on the book cover market, how to be a good client, and the ethical implications of AI Art.

Show Notes

  • The recent shift in book cover aesthetics.
  • Balancing workload and pricing.
  • Trusting your designer.
  • AI art and legality.
  • The ethics of AI.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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SPS-379: AI Artwork for Authors - with Stuart Bache

Speaker 1: Want to sell more books? Make sure you are at the Self-Publishing Show Live this summer. Meet the biggest names in self-publishing at Europe's largest conference for independent authors. Enjoy two days packed with special guests, an exclusive networking event, and a digital ticket for watching the professionally filmed replay, including bonus sessions not included at the live show. Head over to self-publishing and secure your spot. Now, the Self-Publishing Show Live is sponsored by Amazon k d p

Speaker 2: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.

Stuart Bache: Amazon are at this moment in time hot on questioning authors, especially self published authors, whether they can prove one, that the cover is theirs. And two, whether the images on the cupboards have been copyable and they need evidence.

Speaker 2: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It's a Friday, which means it's a self-publishing show with me James Blatch

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson. And it's not just any Friday, James. It's Good Friday.

James Blatch: It's a good, it's a good Friday. Is it Good Friday?

Mark Dawson: It's good Friday Is this, we recording this? The week before. Good Friday. But yes, this goes out good Friday. So happy Easter everybody.

James Blatch: Just after morning day Thursday. Okay, good Friday. We really need to get the intro rerecorded. People keep saying to me, I'm not really a first time author. That's

Mark Dawson: That's what we do. Yeah. We have to have to hire Huey again or find someone similar.

James Blatch: We go. I think we should get

Mark Dawson: Jeff Capes.

James Blatch: Jeff Capes is not a professional broadcaster. Yes. Sue Koch.

Mark Dawson: Sue Koch. Yeah, exactly.

James Blatch: I know. I was thinking more sort of Daniel Craig or something

Mark Dawson: Like that. He's, he's not very busy at the moment, isn't he? He's given, he's you know, he's not born.

James Blatch: He's given out. He's retired. Yeah, actually retired. Does that. We should does that Southern detective.

Mark Dawson: I know who we should definitely get, I mean, the obvious choice, isn't it Steve

James Blatch: Keegan, Steve Kegan as Allen Partridge.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. That would be amazing. Let's look into that. Let's tell, tell John that We need to find out how much it would cost to get Steve, Steve Keegan to go into characters as allen parkridge and do our intrigue intro.

James Blatch: Yeah, I'm going to, I'm going to say a lot. He runs companies and probably a lot

Mark Dawson: Since like 20

James Blatch: Seconds. I've never heard him do voiceovers in written. Well, not recently. Didn't his early days. He loads but Anyway. Yeah, I could probably do one. Look, we've got a few things to talk about and then we have a really good interview with Stuart Bass. We're going to be talking about cover design, how to be a good client of a cover design artist, how cover design changes happening at the moment. Trends to keep an eye on particularly in romance. And we are also going to, also going to talk about artificial intelligence, AI cover design and AI generally, actually, because Stewart's quite into all that stuff that's coming up in a few moments. Got a few things to mention before then. We should say that the ing show live tickets available at self-publishing live can't wait for that show in June. It's going to be June the 20th and 21st here in London. Europe's biggest indie conference chance to rub shoulders with the indie royalty in Europe and, and America. I should have lost people coming from the states. Make friends, find people who are doing the same thing as you. We have some innovations on that front this year. So we're going to have some genre stations in the big foyers, a massive foyer at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre. And there'll be genre stations, mark. So you can go and stand next to a pillar that says

Mark Dawson: That's right.

James Blatch: Or whatever.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, that would be that was something that we got quite, we a lot of feedback last year. Had little suggestions box, and then we spent an hour kind of going through the, in the anonymous suggestions, which is always fun a afterwards. And one of the things that came out a lot was that people wanted to identify other writers in their genre. So we are going to have little gathering spots where people can, you know, hang out with their fantasy or scientific romance writing contemporaries. And also thanks to our friends at Readsie, our Ricardo especially, we are going to have little badges as well that you can put on a, a badge that says you're a thriller writer or stick on your la lanyard or whatever you want. So it'll be easier to identify kindred spirits, which should be quite fun.

James Blatch: Yep. okay. I have something else to mention, which is a conference. I really, I mean, I would love to go to this conference if I could possibly make it work, but June is going to be a very busy month for us. It's in Appleton, Wisconsin. It is the Cops and Writers Interactive Conference 2023. So this is our friend Sarge Sergeant Patrick O'Donnell, film former of Milwaukee Police Adam Richardson, RJ Beam, other guests, what will be happening. You'll learn how to improve your stories at a real working police and fire academy complex. They'll spend time covering topics from firearms, fingerprinting, all that stuff. I think there might even be some ride alongs and cop car stuff. And you'll hear from the real deal to, I mean, not just make sure that your stories have that authentic note to them. But I think just tremendous fun.

Who wouldn't enjoy that? That is June the first. June the fourth in Appleton, Wisconsin. So I guess the kind of greater Chicago area, something like that. I think Chicago is one airport you can fly into for that area. And if you want to know more about that, simply go along to, let me look up this u r url premeditated camp 2023 premeditated fiction com slash cop camp 2023. But if you also go onto Facebook and look up Patrick O'Donnell sarge in his Cops and Writers Facebook group, you'll learn all about it there. Really wish I could make it, but not going to do that. And we should I mean, if there was a military, military aviation camp for writers, how much fun would that be? Maybe I should do that.

Mark Dawson: We've fun for you. No one else be a small, small conference you can have in your front room.

James Blatch: I wouldn't get tornado in there. So I've started actually on that front of doing, we've done two weeks in a row now. We've done a live TikTok on a Thursday night with a former fighter pilot guy called Sean Bell, who retired from the Air Force as an Air Vice Marsh was now a defence analyst, but he was an operational commander in Afghanistan, having been a squadron commander been a fighter pilot for, for most of his career. And we chew the breeze for an hour on TikTok and answer questions about military stuff. And it's,

Mark Dawson: Chew the breeze. You could either shoot the breeze or chew the cud.

James Blatch: Oh, really? Don't you chew the breeze? Shoot, shoot the breeze. Shoot the breeze. We shot the breeze. Yeah, I chewed the card. But it's been really good fun and slowly building a live audience. It's difficult to build live audiences on TikTok. But we'll do that for a bit and see how it goes.

Mark Dawson: Interesting. Goes against the, the, the idea of the platform, doesn't it? Because it's, it's supposed to be kind of bite size and then you ask be able to see around for, for longer form content. So it's kind of bit odd.

James Blatch: Yes. And people scroll through. So the, you know, though we have knocking on 500 viewers, the average view time is less than a minute. So people sit on there for a minute or so and then they, they move on. Although there's a hardcore of 10 or 13 or so who seem to, to be there the whole time. Anyway, we'll see how that goes. It's our audience building and brand building for me and, and somewhere that I can sell my books. And for Sean, who is now a sort of front of camera person for the TV news channels in the uk, that's kind of booking window for him as well. So hopefully it'll work both, both ways, right. We've got anything else to say? I'm looking at our notes.

Mark Dawson: No, I don't think we do. I think we can probably cut if we haven't missed.

James Blatch: Cut. Cut to the cut.

Mark Dawson: Cut to the, yes.

James Blatch: Oh, cut. Cut to the breeze.

Mark Dawson: Yes. Just checking. We haven't got any patron support. I have a funny thing. We might have missed one, so I might have to ask Catherine to double check. We, we've mentioned everyone, oh, here we go. Yeah, I found it. It's Lisa Coolman no address from March the 23rd. We were told about that. So thank you very much, Lisa, for supporting us on Patreon. Very much appreciated means that you know, we can keep doing things like transcripts and yes, James can afford his fancy cameras and I can just kind of jam my webcam and all that kind of stuff, actually, weirdly, because it's a bit of a tangent here. Bit of a segue. So I did there.

James Blatch: Well done. Well done.

Mark Dawson: I just, I've graded to what's the the Apple operating system, the current one, whatever it is. I, I've graded yesterday.

James Blatch: I don't even know if I'm on it, but

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's, it's, it's worth doing it actually. And one of the things you can do is you can use your iPhone as as webcam and kind of hang it off the back. Ah, and then can you, and then use the, obviously the much superior camera. So I'm, I haven't done that yet, but maybe next time I will do just to see what the difference is.

James Blatch: Ah, James's iPhone 13 Pro Max camera. Let me, let me try cause I'm recording myself separately.

Mark Dawson: Oh, do it now. Oh God. Oh yeah. Oh, there

James Blatch: We go.

Mark Dawson: I can see your photography. God,

James Blatch: I wish

Mark Dawson: That's weird. Wow.

James Blatch: That's much better, isn't it? Than the built in camera. It's

Mark Dawson: Very good. How did you, how did you do that? What was, yeah,

James Blatch: I just changed the camera down at the bottom on oh yeah, I can do it too. On Zoom.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Wow. That's cool. Anyway, so that, so

James Blatch: Do I

Mark Dawson: I should say this is completely pointless for anyone who's listening, so apologies. Okay. Yes, James, we can see your writing and, okay.

James Blatch: Know. Oh my God. Well, you, well, remember this is not the view that're going to say, I'm going to disconnect. Now I can. Okay. So

Mark Dawson: I can just see your picture ch choose your normal camera. There we go. Yeah. Better. So, yes, sorry about that. Okay. Everybody like, oh my,

James Blatch: I'll get, I'll get John's John for your watching on YouTube. John will include some of that shenanigans on there. I don't think I've got anything No one can see. It's just notes about the show. And what's on my whiteboard, I mean, good. I actually haven't used my whiteboard for a bit. I've been using, I used my notepad down here. I don't think there's anything anyone can see. There's no secrets. I mean, the password to my bank details obviously on,

Mark Dawson: Well, you, whatever. That's, that's fine.

James Blatch: Yeah. Oh, well do you know well that's a bit of a, a game changer cause I think I might even dispense with the Sony behind, which is a bit of a fan. I think we, what

Mark Dawson: You need is, there's probably a cradle now that you can get to hang off the I have one Yes. Or even that. Yeah. So James, James is holding of a cradle for his phone there for those who, again, who are listening. So yeah, I might look into that. But you, you may find next week a step change in our video quality. Cause I'm not going to be using everything. Not going to be using the MacBook camera anymore.

James Blatch: No, everything's going to change. How exciting. Okay. Alright. Well look, we've forwarded foreshadowed with this interview. I know what the words are but we should get on with it. So Stuart Bache who is a very good friend to self-publishing formula, he's a part of F'S books with me and Mark a superb cover designer. Honestly, I could not have been happy with the designs he's come up with for my books. I know Mark's very happy as well with his, but what I like love about Stuart talking to him is he's very thoughtful about the industry. He's absolutely laser focused on covers the sell books, not do anything else. And so he notices these trends and there's been some trends. I mean, I think, I think quite a significant moment that we both talked about is, is a trend started by Lucy's score effectively of a, of a certain type of romance cover. And that's an indie led trend. Normally they're trad. But we've got all that in this interview. And we are going to talk about ai and Mark and I will be back for or chat off the back of this interview. Or will it be, will we be replaced by robots? Only you can tell.

Speaker 2: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Stuart, Bache welcome back to the Self-Publishing Show. It's been too long since we've had you on. You are like the, I was going to say that you are the in-house cover designer, but for our, our publishing enterprise that Mark and I have you and you have, you are the in-house cover

Stuart Bache: Designer. Yeah, yeah. It's quite

James Blatch: A Posher publishing company has its own design department.. We're like traditional now.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, you are. Exactly. You're getting, you're getting there. You're very much traditional in style and focus. I click,

James Blatch: I'm going to get a big building overlooking the River Thames soon. Okay. Look, we are going to talk two things. We will talk cover design, of course. We would be remissed of us not to to explore that topic with you in latest trends. But we're also going to talk about AI because you are personally very interested in this. I know you've been fiddling with the AI tools that are available and crafted your own one. And we'll talk about how it can be used a little bit about the ethics, but also the practicalities of the best way of using it for authors. Like us both who are writing from time to time and trying to get things done. And whether it can help us. Well, let's start, if you don't mind, with cover design. I know you've been,

you posted a couple of times recently about sort of trends that are, are, are happening in the, in the market at the moment. Is there anything that you have been surprised about that that's emerging at the moment?

Stuart Bache: Yeah I've been calling it the aesthetic shift. It's a sort of you might have noticed it yourself a across the world actually. So when I often, when I talk about Google design, I talk about UK usually predominantly because we have such a large publishing industry and lots of other countries across the world by not just the books, but the, the, the covers as well across Europe. But mostly places like Australia and Africa and places like that. And America for a long time had their own sort of name. But what's actually happened in the last, say four or five years is America has started to either buy or produce very similar looking book and book covers to the uk, which we have always. I've as a, as a someone who learned cover design through trad publisher, we always been very sales based.

So it's always about looking at the the, the end user, the, the reader and what they're how they're going to pick up the book and what, how they, how they pick up books in the first place, how they read and their favourites and all their authors and the covers and the, the trends and all that sort of thing. And whereas in America it's always been a little bit more sort more sort of the, the lowest common denominator as it was. So you are always looking for a design that will be many people. So, The designs don't always are always specific. They can look, you can't always guess the genre straight away actually,

James Blatch: Which you've always taught us is a big no-no. Like the thing, the one thing you shouldn't do.

Stuart Bache: And that's, that's true because they're also what I found with as a, you know, as you know, I designed predominantly for self-published orthos. And a huge part of my market is, is American clients and our American clients shall se and they are I design using my, what I've learned in the uk and it works for them. And, and actually I do think that a large part of why trad especially is sort of in, in the US is moving toward a more UK based things. Not nothing, not me, I'm not in this case because of me, but because a lot of big indie authors are thinking more about their market and thinking about how they're sending their books. And some of the best studying authors in the states are in indie authors. And I think that's really started to implement trad as well.

Anyway, with with, in terms of trad in the States, they are producing book covers that are looking very similar to UK book covers. And they're actually, we're actually sharing artwork now. So a UK publisher may, they don't, so HarperCollins in the uk, if they have a book it might not be a HarperCollins in the US at Abhi, it might be a different publisher. And so there will sometimes buy the artwork from each other. Used to be that we would do completely unique covers, but actually now they're starting to share a lot more which tells me that the market's becoming much more similar.

James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. How homogenys, is that the word?

Stuart Bache: Were they, yeah, it's, it seems quite negative word, but it, it's I think it's to do with internet really. And it's a huge, you know, Amazon and places like that, you know, they share so much artwork between the different indie authors and there's so many more writers now. I think things like that are, are helping.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well I, we certainly noticed Lucy's scores book, which took off last year. Things we never got over and the sequels just hit number one and the New York Times and Amazon store this year, that cover did spark a lot of similar looking covers. In trad as well. I saw trad authors in the UK with a very similar and I think I started, so that's, that's amazing really that an indie author, I mean, I know she's tried published as well the print version of that book, but I think that cover was, came from her, her route, you know, whoever her cover designer is.

Stuart Bache: Yeah. Yeah. It's, I think, I think that's why I'm, there's definite aesthetic shift. I call it the aesthetic shift because as we release these, the the cover is a bit more beautiful or a bit noal to look at. He only works certain genres so he wouldn't work for Crime and Thriller and that kind of thing obviously. But it's really big in historical fiction. Specifically anything to do with mystery, anything that is sort of what I think, I think they call it myth and fantasy. So you've probably seen the massive surge in sort of mythological figures. So Siri was one of the titles, and I'm trying to think of some of the others now. And my wife and Tasha has been reading a lot of them. I've got them one on my bookshelf.

But they, they are they are absolutely beautiful covers and what's really interesting is that it's, they are commercial as well, so the traditionally only really literary novels were beautiful. and that didn't really matter whether they sold or not because, you know, they, they might win awards there for the awards really. And commercial fiction always focused almost solely on people buying and how to design a cover, how to create a cover that would make people pick it up. That was much more the focus. And that's why sometimes you see lots of not to repeat, you know, even today. And it'd still work, it'd probably work forever. But the Running Man, the in crime and thriller is still very, very, very dominant. You see in any bookshop in an Amazon, it'll always be that way probably. But actually there has been a, a, a tonal shift in in more beautiful looking covers that also goes to things like cosy fiction a lot. I get a lot of people come back at me. I've done a few different conferences over the last few years where I've, I've brought up people like of course the, the, the of course his name is, he's a massive, massive author over here in the UK especially. And Richard Osmond. Yeah.

James Blatch: Richard I wondered if you were to wear Richard Osmond. Yeah, yeah,

Stuart Bache: Yeah. His illustrated more, I wouldn't say beautiful, but it's much more aesthetically pleasing. style. Because he was such a big bestseller. It is starting to, you know, I, you know, I call familiarity theory, you know? they are. Other people are,

James Blatch: Oh, unquestionably, I've noticed that, seen

Stuart Bache: That cover. Yeah. So many times I've seen it all over the place. But

James Blatch: That's it. And that, that's happened before with, with Trad, hasn't it? And those big one-off, what was the David Mitchell cover? That was

Stuart Bache: One, one day.

James Blatch: One day. And that suddenly was, that started that trend. But what I think is interesting is that Lucy Score is an indie author and going the other way, which is how he started this, this revelation really, that the indie world is now more probably moving into more vibrant dynamic areas and, and wagging the wa the tunnel more metaphors mixed up wagging the traditional publishing, which is fantastic.

Stuart Bache: Yeah. Yeah. It's it's, it, it's happening more and more and it's really great house to be a part of that. And obviously I, I, I don't design everyone's covers, but it's obviously, I, I, you know, we decided to, I decided to 200 to 300 covers a year. And so I start to see more and more, and I also work with, and have worked with lots of cover designers who work in the industry. I'm becoming I'm working more and more with Indie authors or whether it's should places like Readzy or whether they've just reached out through, because they've seen their names on book covers and things like that.

James Blatch: Do you do 300 covers a year?

Stuart Bache: Up to 300? Yeah.

James Blatch: Wow. You don't employ people anymore though, do you? Or do you still No,

Stuart Bache: Absolutly all me. No. Yeah, it's just me. So, and I've even changed Books Cupboard, it's going to be no more very shortly. It'll be just me, Stu of h design a little a little question on, on as many platforms as I could. So in my newsletter, the Facebook and places just asking, you know, how do you, do you know who Books Cupboard is? Do you know who Stuart Bates is? Do you know, that kind of thing. And you know, if you, who's a book cover designer, have you ever used these people and people, I'm not sure who books covered are, I'm not sure. But I know who Stuart Bates is. And I'm sorry, why have I, not just, why do I not just go well straight ahead with Stuart Bates design, but yeah. That, so anyway, that's why I am now. And

James Blatch: Well, so it's exciting for you cause when you first left Trad,

Stuart Bache: Yeah.

James Blatch: You probably felt a, probably general sense was, you know, the kind of like the David Mitchell covers kind of the leading game-changing covers come from trad, but you are serving traditional indie author, so you want to make sure they fit in, whereas that, that is the shift as well as the aesthetic shift with the sort of physical change that shift that you are now sitting at the front line. And without question, there are people in the trad industry sitting at desks on the internet looking at what you are doing. Looking at Lucy in Colleen Hoover and those early, I mean, she's now trad as well, but there's early indie authors and that's amazing.

Stuart Bache: I, I know for a fact that they look at all those things. I've got still have a lot of friends in trad who are doing very well work in different aspects of of trad who know everyone. They know you all, they watch stuff. Some of them probably take, you know, your course for example, or keep an eye on things. You know, I mean, a lot of Indie authors have been some of my clients have had trad reach out to them to write new books, not necessarily to take what they have already. And they don't always sign up, you know, because sometimes the deal isn't as good. But then at the same time, you know, there, there is a thing about readers that. A lot of readers don't always know the difference between a trad and an indie, especially because now where they shop is the same place, you know?

but people still walk around bookstores and I think sometimes that's where people pick up names. So, you know, if you want to become a hybrid or it's not the worst thing. Even if the deal's not great, you know, you might get into bookshop, you might actually then have that person buy one book and then buy all your indie books. You know? So actually you are making money in that respect, I guess. And it's that thing, isn't it? I always find that personally in my career, I've rarely said no to something, whether it's a a new job opportunity or working with someone new or whatever, or trying something completely different in my, in my area of expertise, you know, from genres, which are what it was before, you know, I was always crime and thriller. And then I got really into literary and trad and designing beautiful covers.

And then I went into like, you know, children's, I worked in children's, so some of them I've failed Spectacular Ads spec. Yeah. But I can't speak, but but I've learned, always learned. And and I think that's, that's the same with indie author, you know, and that's a big thing that I've taken from you guys and from so many of my clients is just trying something new and putting yourself out there and trying different deals and stuff, you know, always why wife, why, why my wife, for example, she wrote a book last year and it was published last year and I reached out, I to cause I've been doing a bit like managing and stuff behind the scenes, but I reached out to w f Hows about an audiobook and the audio book was picked up and we signed a contract. And that's

James Blatch: Brilliant.

Stuart Bache: That's just been published recently. And, you know, little things like that, just asking and getting out there, I think that's the, the big part of

James Blatch: At its heart, we, we write, write our books, which exposes us and makes us vulnerable and put stuff out there. So in a way, the next bit, the phoning WF house should be the easy bit because the creative side, which means Tasha has done, and I can see the book if you're watching on YouTube behind You, the Winter Krone. Yeah. that's her. And it's a vulnerable time. I know when you release a book and not all the comments you get back are positive. Of course. That's the nature of the beast. So if we go through that, we can certainly start taking chances with our marketing and other areas. And I think we're in a good position to do that. I, I'm, I'm going back to the cover design. I'm pleased that the Running Man's not going anywhere. Cause I, my new series, I'm twisting a little bit, I think I've told you from the kind of the overtly military aviation to spy espionage with a bit of military aviation in there. So I'm thinking when we talk about the cover for my, my current work in progress, it is going to go back to, to Running Man, or in this case Stu Running Girl, but or Running Woman. depending. it's a 1970s. It's 1970s. So Running Girl I think is probably what they term her in I five. Maybe. You

Stuart Bache: Probably would. Yeah.

James Blatch: I'm so most exciting part of this and I, I'm superstitious enough that I need a big chunk of the book under my belt before I talk to you about the cover. Cause I was, don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm very excited about that that conversation and what that's going to look like.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, that is exciting. It's it's it's exciting for you, but it's exciting for me too because I feel like I've been on, you know, from when we very first started working together on courses actually, and I great, I put that cover together. Your first ever cover the final slide, didn't I? Yeah, there, yeah.

James Blatch: Was here and that's been updated and I saw someone post as military thrillers if you're watching on YouTube as the first cover, which is amazing cover. Which Stuart did. But, but one of the things that we, you know, I wanted to, I noticed that there was a slightly different thing happening with a particular, once I started marketing the book and looking at the also boards that started to inform me about the marketing process. So we, we changed the covers. Not that I don't love this cover, but we changed it to more vehicle centric. Which is, this is one of the sequels in the other books. I did see a post on the ministry thrillers book the other day and they had the three book covers and, and of mine and it said, I don't know if anyone's read this guy, but these covers are amazing and I see that all the time. The covers are screen an unfair advantage I have. So thank you. Yeah,

Stuart Bache: No, there's a front of fun to do. It's actually really when you said you wanted to try something different, I had a, I had for a while, I think I'd even mentioned to you before, I had been thinking about like being, noticing a new sort of trend happening and sort of thinking, you know, I think becoming really, really impactful and just, you know, they're really simple. Covers

James Blatch: Impact is brilliant and and they work perfectly in that genre. So in the marketing, I mean, I've been able to turn those limited series into a profitable series. I was telling Mark, actually, I've just had my third month in a row of around a thousand pounds, like 800, 900 and a thousand just over a thousand my first four. This is profit, not income

Stuart Bache: Wow, that's great.

James Blatch: Which is amazing. Yeah. So, yeah.

Stuart Bache: That's amazing.

James Blatch: So feel like I'm on my way. That did, I did have a book, Bob, towards the end of last year. My first one, which was a massive bill. Now

Stuart Bache: That is, that is a big deal.

James Blatch: But yeah, so currently occupied with my work in progress, which has a more la feel to it. And I do think that I figure on the cover is going to be,

Stuart Bache: I, I did Design Macari for a while, so I

James Blatch: Know it is He, he's one of my favourite authors. And one of the reasons I'm struggling with this book, and I actually went through about a month without writing it, is because once I started writing it, and I've read so much Macarai, I just felt I wasn't good enough to write this book. I'm not good enough to do it, to do this. But you've gotta shake your head, get out of that and just write your book. Yeah, because I'm not writing Macarai book, I'm writing my book and it's not going to be the same.

Stuart Bache: Yeah. And it's, it's interesting to say though, see I think everyone in their own industry feel that way. But as my wife is, is the writer now and she's writing a second book and I see the same things as you just said, you know moments where she sort of really freaks out about it and thinks, well, you know, this doesn't as good as the first, or Yeah, you're really struggling with this. And I just think I hear this so often and, and I actually heard it the first time Ra the first book and she got through that. But you know, it's it's hard. But you, you, I think as you've already proved that you can do it several times over and I think it's just getting out of your, your own. Getting yourself out of your own, out of the way, you know,

James Blatch: Is completely that and it's very easy just not to take any notice of any past success and just look at the terrible writing of your first draft and think that's who I am. Anyway, that's my ang answer and I know lots of people will, will quite like hearing anybody say that because it helps us all here. Yeah, absolutely. That we all suffer the same thing. But anyway, I've been writing last few days, I'm back into it and enjoying and I wrote a scene this morning I'm really, really happy with, so

Stuart Bache: Oh,

James Blatch: Makes you feel better. Okay, well look, that's cover design and we should say, I mean, you are available for cover design. It sounds like you have a bit of a waiting list if you're doing quite so many.

I mean, how long does it take you to design a cover? You must be doing one or two a day, I'm guessing.

Stuart Bache: I do two, three a day. I only work from eight 30 or so. Drop the kids off to 12 when I pick one of them up. And then I work sometimes in the evening, so Yeah. Do, it's quite intense. But I, I'm at the moment it takes a couple of days to come up with some concepts and stuff. Now I've, I can, I've got the process down, do it for quite a while. but in terms of how booked up I am, I'm actually have availability in May and then the rest of the year is pretty much open. So yeah, it's it, I I was a bit nervous because I put my fees up the end of last year because I just had to. I've been working on the same trees for so long and I

James Blatch: Think I was one of a number of people encouraging you to put your fees up. I know some people ly won't thank me for, but you, you know, no, you can't be flogged to death. Something has to change. I say the same thing to my plumber, by the way. Who, Who you can't get for like two weeks. He'll come at an emergency and he comes like nine o'clock at night cause he's been so busy. And I say to him, put your, put your fees up to do, to do less work for the same money and you'll do, it'd be a better life. Cause he was stressed as hell anyway.

Stuart Bache: That was a big part of it too actually. It was you know, talking about mental health and everything, I was really stressed. I was doing that amount work and I felt like I had to do that amount of work because, you know our mortgage went up by 600 pounds a month because of you know, the things that happened at the end of last year and all those little things like that. And I just was like, oh, how are we going to do this? And I was really reluctant to put my fees up because I don't want to lose work. You always feel that that's what's going to happen. And I've been quite surprised actually that people I, if I either said, that's fine. You know, clients, you know have lost a couple of clients and that's fine. Actually people will get in touch. New people have got in touch and said, yeah, that's great, let's go. So I'm just as busy. I do less obviously because I can afford to do a little less. But yeah, it's sort of, it's about balance isn't it? It's always about balance.

James Blatch: Yeah. And where do people find, is it still books, you're going to retire that url?

Stuart Bache: Url? It will be retired, but, and, but they at the moment it's still books covered code K and you, you can still use that in the future because I'll have things direct using that to direct to Stuart b Yeah. Code uk. You know, I still do the SPF F discount, which is an ebook and some marketing for 520 pounds. And that's a really good deal. And you can obviously upgrade that to the paperback and, but my standard fees now for ebook, ebook only in 650 and for ebook and paperback is 800. That is a lot. I know it is. I know it's different from a lot of places. But actually art who's a big competitor and are fantastic of bad saying now. interesting. Some other places that are doing similar as well.

I think, I think it's just, I think for me it's, it's also actually makes me feel, and it is not what really we're here to talk about, but it actually makes me feel a little bit more like I'm being treated more as a specialist. And there is an aspect I think when you hire a design, especially if you don't really know who they are. I'm not saying that I'm anyone special by the way, but you know, I've got a huge amount of experience and I think I feel like the fee is now paying for that experience. And I think the people who are accepting the fee are people who are, are happy for me to be, to say, you know, I don't think that's the right direction. And, you know, and we have more of a conversation whereas before I felt like it was just, I wonder that's why idea. So get go on with it, you know? And I'd kind of think, hmm,

James Blatch: Yeah,

Stuart Bache: You know, I know what I'm talking about and no one's listening to me. And

James Blatch: What's it's final question on cover design, although I think there's an AI overlap cover design question coming, but

what, what makes a good client? How can we be a good client to get the best out of you?

Stuart Bache: I think there's a, a balance. I've always said that, I've said this for years now it's a good designer of any sort is hasn't got too ego. So one side is ego, which is I know best I'm not even going to listen to you or read your pre I know what's working, you're just going to accept it. And then the other side is what they used to call a Mac monkey, which is such an old term now. But if someone who just does exactly what they say, they have no autonomy and as exactly as they're told, they say, and you're in the middle, A good designer is in the middle. Someone who has experience and enough ego to say, I, I, I know what I'm talking about, but I'm going to listen to you. And if you really don't like that idea, if you do really don't want to go that way, I'll do what you ask me to do.

But I'm, I'm going to offer you my experience. And I think in terms of a client who comes to me, I think it actually not, I don't need too much information, you know blurb length synopsis is enough for me. Mostly comparative covers. That's the thing that really, I can really, I'm a visual person. So seeing where, you know, when, when you pick some visuals out and you say where these are the covers, these are the books, and the alls that are in my genre are doing well. And my story is very similar to these. I, when you are picking those out, you are telling me what you are seeing in a sense, you know, and I I, and that's, that's better. But than a manuscript there'll be lots of covered designs. He'll say, I have to read the manuscript. I just have to, because otherwise I can't get it into the, into, into the right mindset.

And I either think they're lying or they don't have a lot of work on because I just don't, I can't, I can't do that. And I also as a, a works from a sales perspective, no one has read the book before they've bought it. So they don't know all of that in those, in, in Tric, I can't say that word, intricacies, that's the word. They don't know all of that. They just know what they're seeing. And that's how I like to work. So, you know, I think you and Mark, there's lots of other authors as well lots of other clients, but I always use you and Mark as a really good benchmark because, you know, mark will send me a brief to saying, right, okay, so he's in Egypt and this is a bit of a scene and he goes over to Washington and there's a bit of a scene man, and that's enough for me.

I can get on with it. It's a bit easier I guess with that kind of area because I've been designing those covers for so long and I know crime and thriller inside out. But that's what I like, I like, I like a good visual, I love good comparative covers and be as simple as possible. Then the more complicated you make it. And it's okay to have ideas. And I've had also recently clients who have sent me little mockups of their own, you know, ideas and they've said, I'm really sorry, this is embarrassing. I don't want to show you what I've done, but I don't mind that. I don't mind gives me an idea of what they've been thinking about and how I can kind of emulate that a little bit or maybe take some of the idea from lacking into something else. But on the whole, you know, the clients I've had the most issue with are the ones who have really focused on what they want, what they like, and they can't seem to move away from that. And it's very, they've

James Blatch: Been over prescriptive to you based on their version of what's happening in scenes, which is all irrelevant as you said, to someone who's not read the book.

Stuart Bache: And they also have an idea in their head, which we can, I can't, I can't create that cover. That's in their head. I can't see it. Like they can. So yeah It's kind of for the area.

James Blatch: Good. Well there is a design course which is available, which is actually a really big part of this course is about that process of, of what covers work and, and getting to that point, which I think really helps you as an author do the brief and have the dialogue and get to a good result. So self-publishing formula dot com forward slash design. It's primarily, I suppose, the courses of people who are going to diy, they're going to, it's going to teach the techniques and the theory behind the genres and stuff. But it's really good I think just for all us who work with cover designers as well. I learnt a lot through that process. Yeah,

Stuart Bache: Absolutely.

James Blatch: Let's talk about ai. So there is, you say you know, coming knocking on the door of both writing, cover design and lots of areas of life is this artificial intelligence, which I don't know why technically is suddenly the last sort of 18 months or so seem to taken a step forward to more user friendly basis.

One thing that's happening is that there are such things as AI cover designers now, but this is an area fraught with some legal uncertainties and I believe there's a court case going through at the moment. You just want to give us a bit of background on that before anyone leaps to using a service such as this?

Stuart Bache: Yeah, absolutely. So you know, there, there're also different apps online and on, on phones and places like that, like Mid Journey Dali two stable Diffusion, I think one, but even some stock image libraries shows Stock now has an area that you can click on that said the way you can like type in your enter. I think it uses Dali two too, and its own images and shows a stock to create some new images for you. So yeah, I, you know, I've had took an interest straight away because I love all this sort of stuff anyway, I love coding and I learned some basic code last year, some Python and thought I could just play with with it myself. So rather than just using what they, what they showed, you know, I was open AI when they sort of talked about it about a year ago, maybe two.

And I signed up for it and I didn't hear back, I didn't really hear anything about it. And then suddenly I was accepted in about a year later and started playing around with it and I thought, wow, this is actually really, really cool. And then Dolly two, which was the sort of the image based our F ai came about and then he started hearing about Mid Journey. The mid journey I think especially has, they're doing something separate as well. So they're not part of open ai, I don't believe. They're illustrated covers of or just images that are incredible. And it's all about the prompt. So a prompters your, you, the very basic prompt would be make a fantasy book cover illustration with two figures. One figure looks like this, you have a figure, looks like this background looks like this.

And then it would create, there were three versions of that. And then you would pick one and you could continue down the line using that. So you kind of get to a point where you, you actually like it. That's incredible. You know, obviously people very excited are very excited. It's a an affordable option for a lot of authors. A lot of people I already looked for their jobs in sort of animation. So not necessarily the animator themselves, but the people coming up with the storyboards and stuff who would, gaming people who work on games who'd come up with these massive storyboards, with beautiful illustrated images that they could use as inspiration. A lot of people have lost their jobs already because now they're doing it in-house using place things like mid journeying instead. So I looked into his and I thought, yeah, I even started thinking, right, I might do something for Book of a Design that uses a similar thing.

I'd start, I started looking at the code, I started creating images, started working them, creating better prompts that would make images so I could use them personally, but I could also maybe have something online like a, something like a, a book book brush, you know, but it's using AI had all these ideas and then we started thinking, well, where are these images coming from? And what did they use? And I'm sure they're all fine, you know. And I am from a Chad background. We have legal and picture researchers, legal teams, and picture researchers working on everything. And I would, everything would be all of the covers that I would ever design. I would have to give every single image I'd ever use on that cover over to a picture researcher to make sure that each individual licence was correct and could be used.

And not only that, whether, you know, SIM licences would only allow you to have it for so long so for five years and in a limited amount of places. So maybe only in the uk, maybe worldwide, maybe worldwide. But excluding the US though, I've always been really aware, you know, I never used free images. I never used, I don't even use Un Splash which is a, a free image site because I used one image that also stem me from there. And it got picked up as it couldn't be used because the building in it was relatively new and had, and lots of new buildings have the architects have a licence,

James Blatch: So you can't put the shard on a front cover of a book without seeking permission.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, absolutely. Wow. I can keep it as long as it's in a, there might be certain ways of doing it. Maybe if, if we put, if it's on its own and sitting, you know, centre, then yes, no, you can't, you shouldn't be able to use things like that. So I started looking into a bit more and, you know, there are some concerns about copyright infringement mid journey. So with the Getty get Getty images of of suing mid journeying and a bunch of others because they're saying that or they're dis claiming that millions of images of Getty's images were used without permission in, in creating a, as sort of to create the a AI in the first place.

James Blatch: So's the, it is the accusation. Someone, someone believes that basically they fed the Getty Image Library into the AI to use as its, its prompt, its learning?

Stuart Bache: And it might have been, not necessarily they went to Getty or they went to the site that they, you know, it might have, they might have attempted picture search tools, you know, in, in Google and things like that, that maybe it's picked up something. The other thing is, is that it has been noted a few times when an some, an image has been created that you can still see some of the water marks from images.of

Stuart Bache: And this a bit of a giveaway. I think also that there are images that are, you would think maybe on Wiki Commons that you might pick up on there and someone's uploaded it and said, you know, this is free to use, so they might fit, take an images from there. But I never use images from places like Wiki Commons either because you don't know who uploaded it and you don't really know whether it is available. So there's little things like that. I don't know where that's going to go. I think in terms of copyright, it's, so, I, I've spoken to Art directors in trad people who've been working in the industry for a very long time, and I just said, you know, what are you going to do? Are you going to embrace it? Are you going to, you know, because I just know how, how important it's for them not to be sued.

And I have been situations not my own cover where when I worked in Trad, where there was a very well-known actor who had a autobiography and the image and he, he passed away. So this was like a reissue years later. And they, used an image and they'd had an artist illustrate. So they used that image as a basis of the photograph as a basis for an illustration. And it got published and it was part of a series of books that were been republished in like a, a new brand for a new imprint, whether it had been assigned to, it'd been, you know, been published years before. Anyway I can't remember. I I'm fairly certain it was Getty, but Getty said, where did you get that image from? But regardless of the fact that it was an illustration from a Getty image, they'd never bought the original Getty image. And, you know, it was an, it was an illustration, but it was an exact, it was identifiable that image. Yeah. And as far as they're concerned, that is, you still need to have a licence. And they have to pulp every single book. And redo it. Completely redo it. And because

James Blatch: So is the upshot of that is if we use one of these services to create our cover, we are potentially going to fall out of this. And, and how, where does that go in the future? Is there some sort of legal test that can be done? How will you ever know?

Stuart Bache: Well, that's the trouble. And see that's, that's why I'm steering clear personally, I, I've seen lots of people in your community do ab absolutely stunning covers that they've created with scifi Fantasy. Things that look, you know, you would not know the difference necessarily from professional illustrator and some of this work, which is fantastic. But as with the tribe, the, art directors I've spoken to, they have decided to steer clear all now and maybe forever just because they don't know. There is another thing, Amazon are at this moment in time hot on questioning authors, especially self published, whether they can prove one that the cover is theirs, and two, whether the images on the covers have been copyable and they need evidence. I've had to write contracts out for certain, some of them are very big authors, so they're not just some, they've only published one book.

Some of them are publishing entire series and doing really well and I've had to prove that I bought that image for that cover. Now what happens when they start asking about AI generated covers and where are you supposed to say you've got the image from? Because it doesn't have an end person. There's no person at the end saying, well, I, I created that illustration because they, they didn't So I think, you know, and obviously there's the EU AI Act, which I don't know don't think has taken place. Yeah, it's supposed to coming in at the end of last year, but I haven't really heard anything since. But that's basically regulations around AI and how to use ai. You mostly around things like creating content, but it's more about the, the the algorithm and the AI itself rather than what it's creating.

But I could see that, you know, with the, you know, a lot of the laws and regulations are about, you know, ethical practise and being responsible and, you know, placing restrictions around things. So what I don't want to do is create something for someone and then at some point in the near future, or even down the line that they say, you know, so I'm using AI for example, and Amazon and EU regulation, Getty, Windsor lawsuit, whatever it is. And they have to have their cubs pulled or their books or, or what have something banned, you know, you know, cause sometimes have to happen with places like Amazon so I, you know, that's why I'm not touching it. I think also it's, it's really creative and interesting and wonderful. I don't want to sound like a Debbie Downer over it. I, I do really find it interesting and I have spent a huge amount of time learning about it.

I now have some moral issues around it. Sort of more ethical considerations about when people say I want to cover that is the same style as this artist, I have issue with that personally. It would be like saying, I want to write a horror book. I'm writing a horror book using this ai, and I want it to sound and look like a Stephen King novel. I want it to be exactly the same as a Stephen King novel. Now, there would be an issue there, wouldn't there? And he would have an issue with that because he'd go like, well, write your own book, you know, and write in your own style. But there's little things like that. I think I have a little bit of an issue. I, I'm not an artist, so I, I'm a cover designer. I don't have a style, you know, I don't have a Dutch I know a lot of illustrators who spent decades working on this art who get hired because of that style, because of how something that they've spent so much, so long painting and learning and, you know, from photographers to illustrators and I, I, if I was one of them and someone, you know, and I'm, it's, it's difficult to get work as it is for them.

And if they, someone stuff came along and they saw, saw posters with their style of work everywhere, and I haven't been paid for that, I think I would really, I'd question, I saw someone in the community who said, you know, great, it was great artwork from Mid Journey. And, but they said, oh yeah, i, I, one of my prompters. And they wrote down the names of several just, you know, artists and illustrators that they really wanted to, they really love their style. And I just felt that that is, I just couldn't do that, you know, personally. And I don't know whether that would be an issue for anyone else. I don't think it'll be an issue going forward, because no one really cares about stuff like that. But but in terms of the, I think the real sticking point, it will be the copy of, I think now as I say, I do like ai and it's just, and you know, I am a book of a designer.

I do feel like if this does keep, keep going and there are no issues and itty, you know, the whole lawsuit goes away or, or whatever, or there's no real regulations. I do think that people like myself will struggle to get more work. I think affordable options, you know, almost free in some cases will start to dominate. However, they will be created by authors and clients who don't really know much about what works and what doesn't work. So we might lose work initially, but you are going to still need a professional designer to understand.

James Blatch: Yeah. You realise the premium, the premium of using a, a human is is the sales. Yeah, I mean, it's a bit like you know, if they're learning the, the machines learn from humans and if that goes on and on, in the end, the fewer humans get work. So the machines learn from other machines that have learned from humans in the past. And in the end we get to where Stephen Spielberg had us in artificial intelligence to film where there's only machines left and in the very, very dim distant millennia past where humans, and that's everything they've been based on, but they don't have humans anymore. So if that's the dystopian future we can all look forward to. Sounds like a, sounds like a, a novel.

Maybe one thing that that could that could be used mid journey could be used for is that process you were talking about earlier in creating a rough image of what you think the cover might work like to help the designer know what's in your head. And maybe that's as far as it should go just between the two of you, not published, but used as a tool like that.

Stuart Bache: Yeah. As long as if actually would work really well, I think as long as it's not that the, you're expecting the same illustration start.

James Blatch: Gotta be an idea of the, the

Stuart Bache: an idea. And I think that works. And, and once again, I'm not, you know, I know that's all sound very negative, but I do really like ai. I have, and I think in terms of writing, it can really help people. It's it, it, it that's different because once again, I've been sort of, I know I'm going on for quite a while now, but that scenario that I've really taken interest in and I've joined lots of forums and lots of groups and seen what other people are doing with it. And I've seen people who are trying to write books using it, and they always fail. And the reason that they're fading is because none of them really want to be authors. So they just want to write something and think that they can get, you know, that's how, that's how we can do it.

You know, I'm going to wire book it or go on Amazon or might be your best seller, but they're completely removing the author aspect. Yeah. they're expecting, they think they can even teach it. And everything I've seen so far hasn't really got that away. Maybe one day. I don't think so though, because there are aspects that it just doesn't understand. I can tell it about the, you know, three act story arc, how that works or the hero's template, you know, using the, the idea of how that works and where the beats are in a book. But he column he doesn't do it. He doesn't understand it because that's the human aspect. Yeah. And, and also I think, but what it can do is it can look at what you are doing and it can give you a bit of a, a hint in the right direction.

You know, I, I created a, a, an app called Word Flow. It was just a bit of something fun I wants to try. But I actually found it helped with emails and things like that and I actually thought that he would work. I've had a, you know, some beat people testing it for a while, but had a lot going on at home. My son had an operation and stuff. So it's, it's all just been a bit like, I've just kind of pushed it to the side. But you know what, what that does really nicely is, and it just looks at bits, you know, so it looks at what you've written, it looks at your synopsis and it say, you say, right, I've got to a bit, I'm a bit stuck. I've got a bit of writer's block or whatever it is, and you just say, suggest something to me. And you can go through the suggestions until you find something that fits and then you just move on and you are still writing. It's just there as an aid. It's like pro writing aid or nothing. There are lots of other apps, you know, obviously pseudo right. And shortly ai all of those do pretty much that I mean a all long form manner.

James Blatch: Can I ask a question te are they all different engines behind them, or is pseudo right using the same engine that chat g p t uses and so on? Or?

Stuart Bache: So chatt, G B T is different. It's that is now an API by the way, now. So I can actually use that in things if I wanted to create apps using chat, chat, G p T it's yeah, it is different in the sense that G P T is is aimed at trying to create con conversation. So you are learning and it's learning, but you are also going back and forth. The others SDO Wright, I don't know exactly which one it uses. So, but it probably uses da Vinci da Vinci three which is the main one that I use or have used. That's the most advanced one that they have at the moment. And the more most expensive one to use, however, you can actually train it and create your own.

So you can use Chachi you can use Da Vinci for example, and train it. And I've, I've done things like that as well. So you create your own engine essentially that runs based on the correct way. So it stops it from being too crazy. So sometimes you can, it'd be absolutely fine and you are writing away and it's absolutely fine. And then it'll just come out with some code randomly it's pulled from somewhere that has nothing to do with anything. But you can actually train the engines and create your own engine and use that and go forward. So, suda write than that. And distinguish suda write, is that it's aiming more towards helping you try and find new words or to make a sentence and a bit more, like, have a different emotion to it or a different tone.

I personally don't find things like that very helpful because I, I mean, well, I feel like I've been talking phrases and this is probably gone in all sorts of different directions, but, you know, I was almost published in my early twenties then the recession hit and I not only lost my job, but I lost my contract and I ended up becoming a freelance designer and I put all of my effort into that because I was homeless and I and then I became a book of a designer. I became a known book of a designer, and I've only gone that direction, but I can write, I have been writing for years. I have, I come up with a million ideas a week and I dropped them all down. I just don't have time, you know, as I said earlier, I work from eight 30 to 12.

I don't have my child from the rest of the day. Do some work on the evening. I don't have time to even read sometimes. So but you know, I was, I even had I was taught in my twenties professionally through the St. Mitchell was my tutor before she was known. She was my tutor. So I, I had got, I do know how about writing, that's why I took a great interest in something like that would help me create a first draft faster. And, you know, if I had time to use it, then it would, but but yeah, anyway, I find a great interest in I have. I I, and I think that's the thing about writing is the human element in this understanding what works, as with anything, any area that you are working in, it's understanding how writing works not just for you, but you know, from the, from the beginning to the end. That it's not just linear. That there are so many aspects that you need to have. And and, and nothing backs where AI can help, but it can't compete, if you know what I mean.

James Blatch: It's the es the essence of, of a novel. Yeah. Is the author's, author's writing, I mean, I've played with it a bit as well. I'm like, you, I'm sort of fascinated in it. Probably not to the same degree that you are, but I like playing with it and you know, I'm a little bit stuck with, with with plotting my, my Whip, but the times I've used it a bit to say, well, what would you do for this novel here? I want, I wanted to start in London and end up in East Germany and then Moscow and, and give an outline and it comes up with, you know, A very, very rough John LeCarre style plot. That's two things. One is pretty simple and obvious, and secondly not mine. And that's, that's, they're the two reasons I wouldn't use it or even use it as a prompt.

I mean, I need it to be my book because otherwise there's no point in me writing it. And that's sort of where I have a problem with, with ai. But I think the small bits, the, the emotional change to a scene or stuck in a certain area and getting those prompts and just like having a chat with somebody, which is, guess what Chat g p t is is is potentially useful. I mean, I have to say chat, G P D I, I've asked it what to tell me about the author James Blat a couple of times out on both occasions. It's told me that James Blat is the co-author of LJ Ross's series, I think confused with her husband's name. And I don't know, both times Chap gps come back quite quite, you know, definite that James Blatch's co-authored this bestselling series with author LJ Ross. Where on earth does that come from? Wood?

Stuart Bache: He also

James Blatch: Think I flew in the Gulf War as an RF pilot and

Stuart Bache: I released, that's incredible.

James Blatch: I released Final Flight in 2016, which was an instant bestseller. I mean, all news to me, all this stuff. So, wow.

Stuart Bache: But see that's the thing I did, how the most recent release has come with new rules essentially saying that because because of those things. So if you're going to use it for, I know that people have to diagnose how they're feeling, you know, about, you know, maybe it's an illness or something. But there, there was a really good TikTok I saw of Dr who put in a patient's, you know, symptoms and it came up with, I think it fits. And he said 90% of it, he was so confident, 90% of it was correct. But it said that one of the things was this, it was this, this extra element that, and also where the hell has it got that from? And when I looked into it more, essentially what it had done is they looked for, it, found things in its database and its that they had learned for that was similar or being written by similar people, similar doctors in similar areas, and just sort of wedged it in, you know, and, and assume that's where, you know, you just can't, you can't accept it as the as a, as a, as a tool like Google for example.

But when they come to a point where people are going to start using something that's very similar to chat G P T or I mean they've been using it for Bing for, for Microsoft. And I know Google would be doing something similar. I think, you know, that when they start to integrate them more, when it's actually using, you know, live real data today, you know and actually finding things for you. I think that will help if, you know, Google have already got a a programme that will read real blogs and will know with pretty much my accuracy, whether it's been created by ai and then it will, and then it will put it down the list. And

James Blatch: So we will have this going on as well. By the way, if you're thinking about getting a book,

well let's finish with chat GT's version of who you are. So tell me about the cover designer Stuart Bass. Do you want to hear this or not?

Stuart Bache: Yeah, I do. Yeah,

James Blatch: It's, it's pretty good. Stuart Bache is a well-known cover designer specialised in creating book covers for authors of publishers over 20 years experience. Lemme skip to the go part. Bees is known for his minimalist and striking designs, which often use bold typography and simple imagery to convey the essence of a book overall. Stuart Bache is a highly respected and talented cover designer in the publishing industry. His design to help many authors to attract readers and stand out in a crowded market

Stuart Bache: Mean that's

James Blatch: What the robots think of you.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, well, I mean, it's because we're friends, you know, I don't know how much, how, how how friendly they're going to be after I've just told everyone not to use vr. But you know, I think that might be because I always say thank you to Alexa after it's done something for me. I think that might what

James Blatch: I'll tell you what, when the robot revolution, when the killer humans, when Bendo and the rest of the robots turn on us, you are going to be

Stuart Bache: Sitting

James Blatch: In the machines would

James Blatch: Be nice to robots. Well if you could take one thing from this interview, it's be nice to robots because you never know where they're going to turn. Look at that. We're coming up to an hour. We probably didn't get to some of the areas we wanted to talk about, but it's been a brilliant discussion and I'm pleased it did Centre Uncover Design, which is probably the best narrat for you and I to have a chat with on in this forum. And as always, Stuart, brilliant stuff. Thank you so much indeed for coming on.

Stuart Bache: It's been a pleasure.

Speaker 6: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a write

James Blatch: So that's Stuart talking about that covers brilliant to have Stuart on the show. Love chatting to him. He will be at Self-Publishing Show Live and people can kinda have a chat with him in person. He's very approachable.

Mark Dawson: He, he will also be at 20 books as well and he's going also staying in our hotel James,

James Blatch: Is he?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Ah,

James Blatch: Yeah. Excellent. Okay. So yes, I'll probably need to probably need to book that hotel then.

Mark Dawson: We should probably book it. may know still we yeah, I think he's he's coming out for the first time to conference in the States, so that'll be a good chance to get say hi to him. I know he is offering to look at covers and, and do kind of analysis for free as well, which is definitely an opportunity would seize with both hands of, you know, if I were, if I were you, not you, you generally the audience, you because yeah, he's Steve's a big part of my business, you know, he is. I think it is fair to say I would like to listens, fair to say it's true. I, I was looking for another designer and I found Stuart and asked him to do my books and he very kindly did, did an amazing job. I immediately saw sales increase and since then he's, you know, he's built a very significant and well known and respected brand in the indie space. I think as you mentioned in the podcast, he's moving from books covered to Stuart based design, which I think is a very good idea. Yeah. because everyone really refers to him as Stuart rather than Books Cupboard. So I think that that was pretty smart. So yeah, Stu stu's great. No hesitation at all in recommending him completely.

James Blatch: Yeah, definitely. And in terms of ai, so we talked about Mid Journey, which is sort of image version of chat G P t if you like which I've been playing with this week and I sent some images to you immediately becomes completely addictive when you get onto Mid Journey. So it's done through a Discord server and you send prompts and, and depending on how you describe what you want the AI to imagine, it comes out with these images. And, and they're, we slightly weird and I don't know whether it's a legal thing cause obviously we've talked about the legal ramifications and there is an ongoing court case, I don't know where that is at the moment. There are legal issues with it as to where the original IP is, you know, if the machines learnt from someone, but it for some reason doesn't do actual representation.

If you ask for an RF Volcom, which is a particular type of aircraft, it doesn't do an exact vul, it does comes up with a kind of science-y fiction version of one. And the same with people I think. Although I did ask for Lucy SKO asked me to put in Idris Elber looking annoyed in a suit. And actually that was really good and a really strong likeness of him. But yeah, it's, it's fascinating to play with it. What do you think of the legal stuff, mark? So obviously there's this argument at the moment that the machines learn from actual artists and so therefore we should, if it's recognisable as as an artist style, they should have some of the copyright or you shouldn't be able to use it without a permission.

Mark Dawson: I think it is learn is the in operative word there, what, what that actually means. I, I I suspect it's more, there's more kind of a, it's more copying than learning. I think there's, that's what I'd be worried about. If it, you know, we, we mentioned this before, if you had someone like, like a a a human artist, it would be expected and normal for them to be influenced by the art that surrounds them and that, that the artist that, that

James Blatch: They like, everything's derivative.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, everything is at some form. But I think with, with ai, my gut feeling is that it's, it's doing, it's slightly more copying than learning. So I would be quite nervous. I wouldn't personally use an AI cover at the moment. I think that's a bit of a hostage to fortune. I wouldn't be a tool surprised if you found the retailers forbade that how they would be able to determine what was and what wasn't generated by a AI is a different question. But I I would be a little bit nervous about that at least until not just this case. I think it's going to, there there'll be quite a lot of case law that's generated probably quite quickly at least by legal standards that we'll give you a bit, a better idea of what is permissible and what isn't. But I would stay away from it.

I mean, it's fun to play with. I I've done the same thing as you and I've messed around a little bit and it is, it is cool. And I've seen some, I think there is a, there's a kind of a, there's a mid journey iteration that is beyond the ones that we've used and I've seen someone on Twitter with some images are very, very, very realistic and it's not just a box they're being used, it's just the software or the AI is better. And there's a famous one with, as two famous as I saw last week, there was someone generated images of what he said was an earthquake in San Francisco. And it looked really realistic, but it could be like a news report. And then the other one that's most famous and, and quite relevant given what happened yesterday was Trump being taken into custody in Manhattan. And there's a scuffle and it looks apart, but it looks like he's got three legs, which is a yes. It's a bit weird. It does, if you

James Blatch: Look at hands says very often, more than five fingers.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Hands are better digits on. It's, it's accelerating really fast and how good it is. And I've seen somewhere even those kinds of the hands are better. And it's the eyes, the kind of the the uncanny, uncanny valley, you know, the kind of the eyes not look quite right. And that was saying, you know, I saw the Aber show not that long ago, and I think the eyes, they don't quite get the eyes right. But the, it won't be long. It really, sorry, this pace of change right now is just ridiculous. It's a bit of an arms race. Yeah. And you probably saw a lot of kind of top AI scientists people and including people like Musk suggesting that there's a six month pause because at the moment they don't quite know what they're doing. And it's possible that they, the change could accelerate so fast that it goes beyond what they're able to contain. And

James Blatch: They won't, they won't, they won't get a pause. No one will agree well, well they can try

Mark Dawson: Gov. The government would, they've asked governments to basically tell them to stop. Well,

James Blatch: Well our speakeasy is illegal. Backet ai No, it's

Mark Dawson: Engines. There is an argument. There is is outta the box now. And I did another thing, this is, I'm going off all over the place today, but I, I another really interesting story I I read was a programmer asked chat g b t to write code to instal it on his instal itself on his computer. And it did that. But when he looked at the code, it ac it included the ability for it to go beyond their computer and basically to go, to go beyond beyond that. It's, you know, it's probably

James Blatch: Isaac Moff was right. , they're all going to, robots are going to

Mark Dawson: Kill us. Wait, I mean it's, it's been a trippe for sci-fi for rages been obviously, you know, Skynet and all that. But yeah, it's, it's that was quite interesting and people are going like, yeah, it's not really, it's not really self-aware, but what if it is, you know?

James Blatch: Yeah. What it's, what if it is, it is well we should, we should chat out to Memorial's law that the man whose name was Moore Yes. Died actually a couple of weeks ago and he was the guy who said, you know, how quickly things double in power and reducing size and convenience. Yes, that's right. Yeah. yeah, I mean I think, I think probably the next move is at the moment, you know, chat GPTs used by a lot of people and you and I had struggled to get onto it. I think it was yesterday he sent me that. Yeah. I've noticed it as well. Mid journeys used by fewer people cause it's bit more fiddly to get in and use. But what's going to happen in the next few months, I think, I think Bing already the not much use Microsoft browser has AI built into it. That's what's going to going to happen. That's

Mark Dawson: Chat GBTs in Bing and Google.

James Blatch: Google, whichever engine is, Google's

Mark Dawson: Got Bard, they're still,

James Blatch: Yeah. So, so we're going to have, the AI is going to become, you know, you, you are far up Photoshop and there'll be AI elements in there. That's, that's what's going to happen in the next six months, I think.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, well it'll

James Blatch: Just become, it'll be rolled out in commonplace and and yeah, it, it has the potential to be transformative for so many different industries. But coding, I would've thought number one, I mean we talked, we joked on a, a call the other day. We have a talking to lots of lawyers at the moment for various reasons, good reasons. And someone was joking on the call, you know, they're, they're charging now while they can before chat. G t takes their their jobs. But it's not so much of a joke to think that it's rudimentary at the moment, but in five years time, which is a long time in AI development, yeah. You can have specific contracts drawn up and maybe just a quick hundred quid to one lawyer to overlook it, but, oh God, I don't know. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: It's, but they'll never be able to get the soul of a story, will they? Hopefully.

Mark Dawson: Well I don't know. Yeah. Who knows. It's interesting, interesting times and writing like matter build up a nest egg wouldn't matter of it anymore. I can I can retire happily and into my bunker whilst the whilst chat g p d fires nos and wipes out. Anyway, anyway, enough of that. People are panicking as it is.

James Blatch: Yes. That's not be alarmist. Okay, look, thank you very much. Good discussion, mark. Oh, thank you very much indeed Stuart for our interview this week and to the team who produced this show every week. And thank you very much indeed for listening. Do give us a rating here and there as the lady says at the end which would be fantastic to give visibility to this podcast, we think one of the leading podcasts in, in indie world. And don't forget, you can join us live and in person. You can get your photograph with Mark or me, or both of us if you like, or John Dyer even at London 20th, 21st of June this year at the Self-Publishing Show Live Europe's biggest gathering of indie authors. You'd be crazy to miss out on that. Self-Publishing live. That's it. All that remains for me to say. It is goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: And goodbye from me.

James Blatch: Goodbye, goodbye.

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