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Episode 7 – Exploring AI in Book Cover Design with Stuart Bache


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In this episode, hosts Steph Pajonas and Danica Favorite sit down with Stuart Bache, a seasoned book cover designer, to discuss the transformative role of AI in the publishing industry.

Introduction to Stuart Bache

Stuart Bache is a renowned book cover designer with nearly 20 years of experience. He has worked with big names in traditional publishing like Hodder & Stoughton and HarperCollins, handling covers for authors such as Stephen King and John le Carré. Stuart’s journey took a significant turn when he transitioned to freelance work, focusing primarily on indie authors. His latest role is as the Art Director at Vinci Books, a new independent publisher where AI plays a crucial role in their processes.

The Inevitable Rise of AI in Publishing

Stuart emphasizes that AI is no longer just creeping into the publishing world; it’s a tidal wave that’s here to stay. He explains how AI has become an integral part of his workflow, from using Photoshop’s Generative Fill to automating brief summaries with ChatGPT. These tools not only speed up processes but also enhance the quality of work.

AI as an Assistive Device

One of the most compelling aspects of AI is its potential as an assistive device. Stuart shares a touching example of how he uses AI to create detailed descriptions of book covers for a blind author. This not only makes his work more inclusive but also enriches the client experience.

Learning and Adapting with AI

Stuart is a firm believer in continuous learning and adaptation. He has taught himself coding with the help of OpenAI, creating small apps that streamline his daily tasks. He encourages others to explore AI tools, stressing that the learning curve is manageable and the benefits are immense.

The Role of Craft in AI-Enhanced Creativity

Despite the advancements in AI, Stuart highlights the irreplaceable value of human creativity and craftsmanship. Whether it’s understanding different art styles or knowing how to prompt AI effectively, the human touch remains crucial. This sentiment is echoed by Steph, who points out that storytelling craft is equally important when using AI for writing.

Practical Applications and Ethical Considerations

Stuart also delves into the ethical considerations of using AI-generated images. He explains the importance of understanding the history and legality of images, especially in traditional publishing where the stakes are higher. He reassures that while AI can generate impressive results, human oversight is essential to ensure ethical use.

The Future of AI in Publishing

The conversation concludes with a hopeful outlook on the future of AI in publishing. Stuart believes that AI will augment rather than replace human roles, making creative processes more efficient and enjoyable. He shares his excitement about learning to prompt in Midjourney, a skill that he finds both challenging and rewarding.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways

Stuart’s insights offer a balanced view of AI’s role in publishing, blending caution with enthusiasm. His experiences serve as a testament to the potential of AI to enhance creativity, inclusivity, and efficiency in the industry.

How to Find Stuart Bache

You can connect with Stuart Bache through his website and on Instagram at

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Welcome to Brave New Bookshelf, a podcast that explores the fascinating intersection of AI and authorship. Join hosts, Steph Pajonas and Danica Favorite, as they dive into thought provoking discussions, debunk myths, and highlight the transformative role of AI in the publishing industry.

Steph Pajonas: All right, everybody, welcome to the Brave New Bookshelf podcast. One of these days, I’m actually going to tell you what episode number this is, instead of just saying, hey, welcome, because I can’t keep track of episode numbers.

Once again, I’m Steph Pajonas. I’m CTO and COO of the Future Fiction Academy, where we teach authors how to use AI in every part of their process. And I’m joined by my lovely co host once again. Hi Danica. How’s it going?

Danica Favorite: Good, good. Hi, everyone. I’m Danica Favorite, and I’m the Community Manager at PublishDrive, and we help authors and publishers distribute their books to a worldwide network. And we’ve also got a few cool AI tools [00:01:00] and some soon to be launching. You all missed our chit chat before we got on, but I was telling Steph about some of my testing stuff that we’re doing with it, and it’s kind of fun.

As I’ve always said, I am not very techie. And so I really encourage anyone who is listening or who starts to think they want to listen. Oh, I’m not very techie. Please do listen in because you get me and I don’t really know a lot of tech stuff, which is super awesome because if I can do it, anyone can do it.

So today our guest is Stuart Bache and I am so excited to have him. I got to listen to him speak last year at SPS live in London. And he was talking about using AI, and he’s a cover designer, and I’ll be really honest, up to that point, I was kind of on the fence about cover design and AI and all of that, because I really didn’t know how cover designers felt or how it impacted them.

And for those of you who haven’t seen Stuart’s [00:02:00] work, Stuart’s a very talented artist in his own right. So how does someone like Stuart who has gotten this AI influx, how does he deal with it? And I was really impressed with his answers because, and I can’t remember what he said. I tried to look through my notes to see like the one thing that really stood out to me, but I was just like, wow.

I love how he’s approaching it and I think it’s a really good view of how someone who makes his living off of art is taking a look at AI and art and how that’s impacting us in publishing.

So, Stuart, why don’t you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and we can take it from there.

Stuart Bache: Yeah. Great. Hi, I, I’m Stuart Bache. You’ve just heard, I’m a book cover designer. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now. I started in traditional publishing. I worked at Hodder and Stoughton and I was a design manager at Harper Collins. Worked on all sorts of different [00:03:00] things from Stephen King to John le Carré.

I worked on the Hobbit movie titles. That’s where I met my wife, in fact, because she worked for the Tolkien estate. And yeah, so I worked on a bunch of different things. When I went freelance about 15 years ago, I started to work with a few authors indie authors just on one to one.

And I think it was about 2015. So that was, yeah, I was sort of growing and still wasn’t really a thing. And so I was a very small part of my yearly work, my annual work, however, that sort of flipped over. So, suddenly it became my main source of income.

I left my job and I started working with indie authors, almost all the time. And I’ve worked with people like LJ Ross and Simon McCleave and people like that. And I’ve got to know a completely different world. And it’s great because the indie world is very open most of the time.

And you look at things and deal with things in a different way. And, so many products of come [00:04:00] out of nowhere that didn’t exist before to help, tools and things like that to help authors in the process. And and I think AI is it’s creeping in, well, if actually it’s not creeping in more, it’s here, it’s there.

So yeah, that’s me. I still work mostly for indie authors, but I also have a new job now. I’m Art Director at Vinci Books, which is a new independent publisher . So we’ve got traditional publishing people.

So people like Mark Smith, who created Quercus and worked at Bonnier and recently created Wellbeck and which was sold to Headline. He started up Vinci Books with James Blatch and myself. So there’s a lot of Indie aspect. I’m big Indie aspect and actually the way that we’re working is predominantly in the sort of Indie space in terms of marketing and advertising and AI actually takes a big part of that in terms of the processes and speeding things along.

Steph Pajonas: You know what AI is not just creeping in anymore. It’s like a tidal wave. It is like, swept everything away, right? [00:05:00] And now we’re learning how to deal with it, learning how to add it to our processes, so I love the fact that you guys are thinking about it.

So you’re making AI integral part of this new business of yours?

Stuart Bache: It’s really hard not to, in fact . We’re quite a small team and we’re a startup. So, it’s very difficult when you start up in any role that you need to sort of, especially if you’re taking clients or in our case, authors, there’s lots of processes lots of things that you have to go through.

And regardless of whether we wanted to or not, it’s an aspect of the programs and the apps that we already use. They already have these capabilities. You know, I use Photoshop all the time every day. And that has a massive upgrade in the last year in terms of Generative Fill.

And it was one of those things I was unsure of because a lot of the things I’d seen in the pre launch was people doing really silly things with it. And I thought, well, I’m never going to do that. But actually, It’s becoming a part of my process. It speeds up so much. So it’s so clever [00:06:00] on the small scale. It’s very clever.

But yeah, it’s inevitable that it would be part of our business. Automations, that kind of thing. It’s really helpful. Things like when we have someone sign up and how it gets automated through AI we use chat GPT to manage an author’s brief basically so I can get keywords out of it.

Little things like that, which is just really fantastic and super quick.

Danica Favorite: I really love that. And, that lends itself well to the first question that I have is, how are you approaching AI in publishing? And you’ve really answered that in terms of, just seeing it as this inevitable thing. But is there anything that you would want to add to that question or to that answer to the question, I guess?

Stuart Bache: Yeah, I guess I do know that these conversations are happening in the background.

And I believe that’s the wrong direction to go only because you are then stuck with a certain company and they have their own limitations. Whereas I think if you can actually learn different apps, different [00:07:00] companies apps and the different versions of AI. Cause they work differently and in different ways.

And I think if you can get people into to learn different processes, I think you can then adapt better and you can create better. But it’s still very interesting considering that no one’s really talking about it in trad and the people I know in trad who are talking about it are quite negative in terms of designers especially see it in quite a negative way.

And I understand why they feel the way they do. But yeah it is creeping into trad and it will be in trad. It’s inevitable. And, we’re using it on a quite a small scale at the moment to speed processes up.

But I personally find AI fascinating and I have done for a couple of years. As soon as there was an ability to sign up for the OpenAI API. I had no background in coding, no idea about anything to do with coding at all. And this is why I think I is going to change everything, not in the way that people think it’s going to change, but I essentially learned how to code [00:08:00] with Open AI helping me.

Initially before ChatGPT came along, I used Play Ground and it helps you with code and I’d put in code and I don’t know why this isn’t working. And it would say, maybe try this and try that. And before I knew it,I was able to create my own little apps and things like that have been actually incredibly helpful in my day to day.

And I find it fascinating and I think that’s in terms of the big leaps in the world that were in terms of education when people think, Oh my gosh, you know, what’s going to happen? Kids aren’t going to learn. They’ll just put their essays through Chat GPT.

Well, actually, you know, there’s a possibility there for people to learn. if you can do a back and forth and say, well, you know, I’ve written this and, teach me why it’s grammatically incorrect and I think that’s brilliant.

In fact, I saw someone on TikTok recently posting about Gen Z children using to learn certain maths and they were using I think it was like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. They were talking to one another from a video, but they just basically deep faked it with AI to talk about a certain way of doing math.

And [00:09:00] that they were watching it and they actually learned better. And I thought that’s a great thing. Isn’t that cool? I think that’s really cool. I would have loved stuff like that as a kid.

Steph Pajonas: They made it entertaining. Right? Yeah, I get it. Because having that back and forth conversation with the AI it helps you understand your mistakes and then possibly learn from them to move forward. This is something that I just actually heard it on a podcast this past week.

The potential for learning is, just huge at this point.

Stuart Bache: Absolutely. You know, obviously there’s elements to it that you have to take a pinch of salt. They’re not always correct, you know, when I’ve been doing coding and I’ve now got to a point where I can actually write my own code, but then I still come unstuck and I ask, and sometimes it repeats itself or it says, Oh, do this. And I might know, I already have done that. And we’ve already spoken about this. And I just talk to it, like it’s an actual colleague sometimes, which is a little bit crazy. But in general, it’s an incredible learning tool. I think that’s where it will really find its niche is in a really incredible learning tool.

Especially for people like me. I learned by experience. So I learn [00:10:00] sitting there with a book or sitting in the class. I can’t really do that. I find it really, really struggling. Maybe I’ve got ADHD or something. I don’t know, but I really struggle with it. But with having something like that, where I can learn by experience and test things out. That’s probably why I’m in the job I’m in. I can sit there and I can play with imagery and try and get it right and make the composition right. And I’ve learned to do what I think is a good cover or what’s right for the genre and what’s right for the market via experience.

Because I wasn’t like this when I first started out and it took all that time to figure out how things work. And I think with something like Chat GPT and other forms of AI, I’ve certainly feel like I’ve learned a huge amount in a very short space of time.

Steph Pajonas: You mentioned the whole traditional publishers adding in AI to their process. And it was just reported in the Hot Sheet by Jane Friedman, like two weeks ago, maybe, or so. I don’t know compared to when this podcast will air, but they mentioned that Penguin Random House has their own version of Chat GPT [00:11:00] in house now. I have a friend who works at PRH. She told me about it like two months ago. They had brought it in. And it’s keeping a lot of their proprietary data in house, which is great. And I think that they’re using it to fine tune models to give them better marketing outputs, better blurbs, all that kind of stuff.

So, each one of these Traditional publishing companies is going to have to move towards AI, even if it’s just baby steps. Even if it’s just adding Chat GPT into their workflows. It’s going to happen. It’s happening everywhere. It is inevitable. Like you said.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, and it is already happening, as you say. And as with a lot of things, the controversy is around misunderstanding and fear. And I think often, there’s massive companies and they’re not just publishers. You know, HarperCollins isn’t just a publisher, it’s part of News Corp. So it’s a vast empire. These are vast empires. And of course they are going to be doing these things because it will speed up processes and of course there might be [00:12:00] things that we wouldn’t like to happen but in general they don’t talk about it because they don’t want people to fear for their jobs and things like that. Actually in the long run I personally don’t think it’s going to have a tremendous effect on those things from my own experience. And from an experience of a designer as well.

There was a point where I was worried and I certainly understand why a lot of my friends are worried or angry. But none of them have used it and none of them are using it.

And what’s interesting is because I’ve been using it, I think I can tell the designers who are using it and those who aren’t and that’s not because their work looks like it’s AI designed, but their processes have changed.

And I think they’re similar to how some of my processes have changed. So I’m picking up on how people are doing things.

Danica Favorite: I love that. You’re like, well, if they’re not using, oh, but I could go on. I think that’s how we all feel once you understand the potential. And it’s really interesting to me. You talk about how your process has changed, but essentially what you’re doing [00:13:00] is still the same thing. You just have a different process for doing it.

And the learning piece is what I was really grabbing onto when you were talking about, well, But I’m learning and all these different things that you’re learning, which is really cool. As I joked around in the beginning about not being techie. I think that, yeah, I’m not very techie, but I can learn. And so, it’s it really is neat to be able to say. I can learn. What can I learn today? And I’m super curious about you learning coding. I’m like, Ooh, I wonder if I could learn that. And,

and the answer is yes, yes, I can.

Stuart Bache: Absolutely.

Steph Pajonas: Yes, you can. Please do. The more we all learn, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Danica Favorite: exactly,

Stuart Bache: exactly,

Danica Favorite: And I think that’s, what’s really valuable about having these conversations is to realize that. Even what you think you can’t do, you can.

And so to me, that’s really exciting. And I wanted to bring it back to where you were talking about your process and how your [00:14:00] process has changed. Because our next question is about what your workflow looks like, but I think it’s kind of that same thing is what does your process with AI look like and I am interested to hear what maybe that looked like before and what that looks like now or how that’s all been integrated because that to me is really fascinating to see the process that we’re all using with our AI.

Stuart Bache: Yeah. In general so one of the things I do is I have a briefing form on my website, which I send to clients and so I use Wix and in Wix you can go into the background and you can have developer tools. And Wix has its own coding, which is sort of based on JavaScript or JSON which is called Velo.

And I taught myself a little bit of that. I managed to integrate Open AI. So chat GPT into my website.

Actually the first thing I did, sorry, slightly off topic. The first thing I did was my wife’s a new author and And her first book came out a couple of years ago, and I was setting her [00:15:00] website up, and I thought, I wonder if I can do this.

So she writes paranormal women’s fiction witchy stuff set in the UK. And in her first book, one of the sort of antagonist characters is a siren. And you go to the River Severn, which is near where I live in Shropshire. And you go and often people give offerings and stuff.

Anyway, I created essentially using Chat GPT. I created a little thing that you could do where you could ask her a question and it would come back and she would talk to you. So I added some background information about her and how she would talk and stuff. And I never really thought about it again.

And then one of the big part of my processes, I’ll send a brief off to a person and I ask for a synopsis and comparisons and character descriptions and scenes and that kind of thing. And sometimes it can be quite a lot of information, and I’ll find myself like going through the flow of lots of books and lots of covers and I’m trying to get through and but I’m stopping constantly to read through everything and trying to get it out.

So anyway, I set it up so it was automated. [00:16:00] So that once you click submit, it essentially runs through a generative script. So it puts a brief so that I still get the whole brief, but then it takes out keywords and comparative titles and genres.

And so it reduces it all down to a few sentences so that I can just read that. And that’s been a really good part of the process for me.

So these are slightly outside of design, I know, but another thing I really wanted to tell you about, which I think is really important to me, is that I have a a blind author David Barford, I think his surname’s Barford.

So I’ll put the image in of the cover of my cover concepts and it will create descriptions of them all so that I can send them to him and so he can read the detail of what the covers show.

And that’s for me has been brilliant. I mean, it’s something I would do anyway, but actually the way that it writes it is so much more intelligent than I would write it. I would talk about colours and things like that, not really thinking about what I’m saying, whereas what it produces is actually much more sort of [00:17:00] fundamental of what is on the page and how it’s laid out and that kind of thing. And he is really appreciative of it.

Anyway, that’s been a new part of my processes is using it for that kind of thing.

But in terms of design the generative fill has become a big part of my day to day life in terms of speeding up processes.

I still design fresh. I still use stock images for the most part. And I’ve always had my own stock images I made years ago and I still reuse those a lot. But in terms of just speeding up that process to create a better paperback cover to help me fill in especially when the format’s changed from a maybe it was five by eight, but they’ve decided to go six by nine instead. And just helping to fill that out a little bit and make it a bit faster.

Cause I love art work and always have loved art work. And I think it’s a part of the job that most designers don’t want to do.

And that’s why sometimes they struggle to get positions in big companies is because they just want to do the fun stuff. I’ve always loved art working and actually, I have a huge amount [00:18:00] of work. So I still have my own clients and I am the art director at Vinci books so I have a huge amount of work there.

And it’s just sped up that whole process completely.

So with my clients, I don’t use AI only because I don’t know how people feel about it. You know, there’s still a lot of controversy around it. So I don’t do it without permission, but at the same time, I don’t always feel comfortable in saying would you be comfortable with me using, you know, I might be able to find a better image of that character and not knowing how they’ll react to that. So, I don’t do it with my clients.

However, a big project of mine is learning how to prompt in Midjourney and I’m talking proper testing. I’m talking thousands of images and I’ve been learning how to write prompts in a specific manner to get exactly what I want.

And I’ve got to that point now, which has been really exciting where I can visualize it in my head and now I can get pretty much what I want within the first couple of tries.

So that’s [00:19:00] been really exciting. I have to admit it’s been really exciting. Because I know it’s coming and I know it’s something I’m going to have to do more frequently. I don’t know where I’m going to be in 10 years time. I don’t know what my job’s going to look like or how the indie world’s going to look or the trad world.

And so I always want to know and be a step ahead. Learning how to prompt it. It seems like magic to me. But what’s great is that I see a lot of authors using Midjourney and similar apps to create covers, and they’re not always very good. And part of that reason is it’s not because the app’s not very good or the AI is not very good.

It’s just that they might not always know what you’re looking for, what works. So, I think one of the reasons why it’s worked so well for me is because when I see an initial image from a prompt come up, I can think, well, that’s not good enough.

So what would make it good enough? And I can see it from a design perspective, the type would need to go there. So I, how do I write this prompt so that I can get the figure where I want them to be or the objects. [00:20:00] And I’ve honestly, I’ve had so much fun and I’ve created some incredible images that you would very much struggle to compare and to see whether it was AI or not.

People still joke about, you know, 10 fingers on one hand and all that kind of stuff, but it’s not the case anymore. Well, you sometimes get a few couple of things that you can easily tweak yourself, but on the whole, the process has been really exciting and I can totally see in the near future having people who can write prompts in art departments in traditional publishing.

In terms of the cost alone, Shutterstock for a company like HarperCollins would be a minimum of 3, 000 a year, a minimum and that’s just for a basic license. But sometimes I want to have an extended or a specific license.

That’s for Shutterstock is in terms of stock imagery, that’s not very expensive. But I can see there’ll be people who, you know, once you’ve created an image that you own that image, that’s yours, that’s specifically yours. And that character, you’re [00:21:00] not going to see that same figure on 10 or 20 or maybe several hundred other covers because there are limited to how many running men there are.

Steph Pajonas: Well, I wanted to touch on the fact that you’re using AI as an assistive device. So you’ve been using it to help you summarize stuff that you get. You’re using GPT Vision or whatever to look at images and describe them.

I think that’s all fantastic. I really love AI as an assistive device. I feel like it is very helpful to people, especially, if you’re hard of sight, hard of hearing, or you’re suffering from an autoimmune disorder or something that’s sapping your energy, AI can give you back some of the freedom that you want.

And then maybe if you don’t know if your clients are okay, with AI, what you could do is put a checkbox on your, on your form when they come and they sign up and they’re filling out their information, you could say, I’m familiar with AI and I could use AI for your cover.

But if you object, then just let me know. Just check this box. [00:22:00] That way people would be able to make that decision.

I feel like a lot of people are seeing the cool things that they can get, out of AI and think, Ooh, I actually like that a lot, or I would really love that for my cover.

So, you should just try it.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, I probably should. . It’s just, in the last two years, I’ve been part of forums and communities and and I found that sometimes being stuck in the middle is the worst. Because I understand the fears and I think that’s helpful. And I understand why people are so like, Oh, I just want to use it. And I want to be able to see what I can do with it. And I like my job and I like designing. I don’t want it to do all of everything I want that I do, but at the same time, I’m really interested in it. And it’s actually helped my processes.

So sometimes I’ve been in conversations where people are very pro and then when I’ve said, Oh yeah, but some of my designer friends aren’t happy. And then I felt a bit attacked because, they think I’m being anti AI. I’m like, no, no, no, no, no, no. I’m just being cautious.

A big part of my caution is because of my [00:23:00] job. So, having worked in traditional publishing, a massive part of that design process is figuring out the images that you’re using and knowing the what’s the word I’m looking for knowing the history of the image.

For example, I did a book cover that had a castle that’s from the UK in it. And it was this image was sent to me by the author saying, I have permission to use this image. They said, I have permission. I’ve taken this photo. This is my photo, but they didn’t realize. And I did reach out to Chirk castle, which is actually not very far from me. And. They said, no, you can’t use it because some buildings have copyright attached. Things like the London Eye for a long time, you couldn’t have that in book covers because there was a certain length of time that the company who built it had the rights only to use that image and you had to pay them.

So, there’s little things like that, that you just wouldn’t realize. And and having worked in traditional publishing, we were pushed into us because there’s more expense there as well. It’s unlike a POD where, you [00:24:00] know, if you find that you can’t use that cover for one reason or another, mostly they’re printed one here and there, and there might be some still left around in the background somewhere. But on the whole, once you change that cover, that book has a new cover.

But in traditional publishing, you’re probably going to print 500 to 1000. Straight away. And if you find that you can’t use an image for one reason or another you’ve got to pulp, you’ve got to Sometimes they pulp the whole lot. Because it’s cheaper than it is to just take the paperback cover off and glue a new one on. They’ll just pulp everything. And all of that, all of that paper, all of that manpower and time.

So it was mid journey and I was looking at all the images and I was like, wow, this is incredible.

And I wasn’t sure about how they learned how to do it, how the process works. I didn’t know if it was stolen images. I didn’t know if it was just grabbing bits of images and putting them together and creating that. I didn’t have that experience that knowledge. Over time, when you learn about it and you understand the process of how it works.

I’ve got a llama based system I’ve been sort of [00:25:00] teaching it with my emails and stuff. So it gets to know how I write my emails so that one day at some point it can help me write emails and reply to people and that little thing like that, maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but it’s just, I find it fun, but I understand the process of how it works. It doesn’t just copy what you’re adding. It’s learning, constantly learning.

And I mentioned in my presentation last year that, I really had this fear about it and I had no idea. And that, and when I learned how the images are created, and it’s actually learning in the same way as any person would learn, but maybe in a much faster way and in with a huge amount more information anyway…

Danica Favorite: I’m really glad that you put that in there and put that explanation in there because I think a lot of people don’t understand and I know Steph and I have our own metaphors for describing how the AI comes up with text and comes up with, if we say write a story, how it comes up with the story.

But I love having it from an art perspective as well, because [00:26:00] like it’s really important for people to understand that none of these tools are going and directly copying from any particular source. We always talk about making sure sources are ethical and things are ethically sourced.

I think that some of these AI sources that people are questioning often are more ethical than a lot of the sites that people are buying their stock photos from. So, think it’s a really good point to bring up.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, I mean there are lots of stock image sites I just won’t touch because I just don’t know where the images are from. And that is someone trying to hoodwink you into buying something you’re aren’t supposed to buy. It’s completely different, but I do understand why some of my designer friends, they thought like I did, and they maybe haven’t had the time or the want to actually look into it and, or maybe feel like what I’ve just said is an excuse. So no, that’s not real. That’s just what people say to make themselves feel better. But it’s the truth.

Danica Favorite: Yeah, I’m really glad that you brought that up [00:27:00] because, to me, hearing that, particularly from someone who is more in the art world, because I’m not an artist, I don’t know all of the art things, it’s really good to have that perspective from someone who does know, and when people do want to find that education, it is there.

And so thank you for, again, for bringing that up.

Steph Pajonas: I’m going to interject and say that I really love the fact that you pointed out that craft is really important to your business as a designer, like understanding different art styles, different photography styles, like understanding composition how things are supposed to be laid out on a page, on a book cover, these sorts of things.

This is what I try to hammer home a lot with people who want to write with AI, who want to use it because your storytelling craft is extremely important when using AI because you need to know how to ask for the things that you want out of the AI. If you can’t articulate the fact that you’re [00:28:00] looking for a three act outline and that you want the dark moment at the end or any of these things that come with the craft of storytelling, that it becomes very difficult to use the AI and you’re just going to get very generic stuff out of it.

And I think the same thing goes for a lot of the AI image tools. Like if you just ask for a cat standing on a sidewalk, you’re going to get something fairly generic, but if you’re going to ask for a cat on a sidewalk in the style of an oil painting and you’re able to articulate the different kinds of styles or imagery that you want, that you get a much more detailed and exciting response out of the AI.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, absolutely. That’s right. It’s like anything. It’s like learning how to code, I could just do the basic and just that is what it’s telling me to do and what I’ve learned in a book and put something together that’s really basic.

The AI actually helped me push past that and learn more and test things. And I learned how to use specific language [00:29:00] to create the things I needed.

And, in working with indie authors now for so many years the ones who are always doing well and the ones who are always trying different things, who are learning new things. I know it can be difficult and not everyone wants to do marketing and stuff like that, but in terms of AI imagery and Chat GPT and similar things you can get a bit better at that kind of thing.

I completely understand that not everyone’s going to be able to create an advert that is going to be good enough. And you can now create something that is half decent, if not, if not decent as an image and some good text.

One of the things I did for one of my wife’s ads was I went through her five star reviews on Amazon and I copied them all and put them into Chat GPT. And I said, basically create some ad copy for me using the positive things that people have said about the book. And that came out with some really great stuff.

If you’re just going to sit there and say, make me this, and you’re going to be like, it’s not very good, is it? And I hear that all the time. I tried that the other day and it wasn’t very [00:30:00] good. You can tell it’s not really good at that kind of thing. I was like, well, it’s basically, you’re not very good at writing what you want, you know?

Steph Pajonas: I know. It’s like, well, maybe your prompting skills need a little work.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, Yeah.

Steph Pajonas: I try to nicely, but, you


Stuart Bache: Well, maybe just spend a bit more time than five minutes trying something.

What I find really interesting is not many people know about it. So in, in our corner of the world, you know, in our little niche, it’s important and we know about it and we talk about it all the time. On the whole, no one really talks about it day to day, you know, talk to parents at schools and they know about AI, but I don’t really know anything about AI. They don’t know. They could probably say Chat GPT because it’s become part of our everyday, but they wouldn’t know anything about it and they probably never used it.

And, that’s also where some fears can spring from is the lack of knowledge, but I find it really interesting that it does get people so scared in our industry because saying that it’s going to take over everything, because if it [00:31:00] was, it probably would have already, if it was as good as everyone says it is, you know, I try to be on the ball as much as possible when new tech comes out, I love tech.

I find it really interesting and really exciting. And that’s why I like to be a part of it all because I know it will be here very shortly in the form that you would imagine it to be. You know, the things like the Humane pin and the rabbit R1 or whatever which is the little device.

All of those things are coming and people are trying them and they might not work right now, but they are trying to get at something and they’re going to become the iPhone…

Do you know what it would be like is like the Kindle. And then and the iPad. So I remember because I worked in traditional publishing when the Kindle first came out. Sorry, it’s probably just nothing to do with anything, but I was working in the office and you’d have to sign out to try it out. And I remember people going, No one’s going to use that. And I remember it being quite a slow sell, but then iPads came out and everyone loved the iPad and people started [00:32:00] reading books on the iPad because they had iPhones already, but the glare was too much for them. So what did they do? They started buying Kindles. Because they realized I like reading on the screen.

This is so much easier. I’ve got 100 books on here, but I actually want to read them better. And I know that’s what we noticed anyway. When I worked in trad that suddenly this uptick people were reading on my iPads and then no, no, it’s too glary and then started buying the Kindle.

And I think that’s the same with AI in all sorts of different ways. You’d be like, Oh, I’m not sure how that’s useful to me. And before you know it, there will be something that comes out which will, in the more commercial world, that will just change everything. And people will be like, no, no, this is what I need.

And before, you know, it will just be part of our lives and no one will be worried anymore because there’s that quote that goes around where people say, oh, I’m not worried about losing my job because, most of my clients don’t know what to ask for in terms of design. And so how are they going to write a prompt?

And that’s true. I do think there is a [00:33:00] potential for certain companies who are profit led, who will just think, yeah, I’ll just get rid of my art team and we’ll just have someone in there doing the prompts, but they’ll struggle. They’ll really struggle because the amount of work that’s required to do certain things is just, you still need the people. You still need people who are designers and writers and editors and to understand the processes. I see it as being augmentation rather than just doing the job for me.

Danica Favorite: I really liked that metaphor about the Kindle because I think that is exactly what we’re looking at here. I can’t even remember, my cell phone here. So I do have the Google pixel and they were talking in their example about the license plate.

And when I travel, I take a picture of my passport, have it on my phone in case I lose my passport. And what I’ve realized is I don’t have to do that in the sense that it’s already on my phone. So now, like the other day I was somewhere and our admin needed my passport for some work documentation.

And I’m [00:34:00] like, Oh yeah, here, one second. And pulled it right up on my phone. Even though I’d done this like three years ago. I could just do that quick search and get my passport and it was so convenient. And so I think it is, but I can remember years ago saying, I don’t need a smartphone. I just need to make a call.

And now I don’t know what I’d do without my phone. So it is fun that we see how these things evolve and how they move.

So our final question for today is tell us about your favorite tool. Like what is your favorite thing? And if you’ve got a couple, that’s okay. But what are you really using and finding the most useful for you ?

Stuart Bache: I’ve mentioned generative fill. I’ve got the just downloaded the new beta Photoshop today. So I haven’t used it yet, but I know that things like Generative Fill have got a bit better, but certainly is has made processes much faster for me. I would say learning to prompt in Midjourney is probably the most exciting aspect.

Has been fascinating to me. I think about it [00:35:00] all the time, but for me it’s like, alchemy the prompt aspect, because you can write what you want and you won’t get what you want. But if you write it in a certain way and you write it in certain parts, you can get what you want.

And I really enjoy that. That’s been the thing I love the most, I think at the moment.

Steph Pajonas: I also love prompting a Midjourney and I think about it all the time. Sometimes I’ll see a style or something that I really like and I’ll think, Ooh, that would be really cool if I did it with, with this or that. And then, you know, two, three hours later, I’m like, Oh my God, where did my day go? When it’s a mid journey is where it went.

Yeah, exactly went

Stuart Bache: Yeah, Yeah, it’s very exciting. In fact, my daughter loves it too. She’ll often come up to me over night time and if she can’t sleep, for example, she’ll wander in and say, Daddy, can we play that game your phone? And I’m like, which game is that darling? And it’s like the one with the images.

And she loves Minnie Mouse, but she also loves [00:36:00] scary stuff. So she’ll often ask things like can I see Minnie Mouse as a werewolf? Can I see Minnie Mouse as a skeleton or whatever, or a zombie? And so I’ve got a lot of images of Minnie Mouse in various monster forms but she loves it. It’s great actually to show her stuff like that because she finds it fascinating. She’s really excited by

And in fact, actually we did something last year where it was during the summer holidays and I got a big notebook and we did a story together. She made it up and she drew the characters.

And I wasn’t doing anything myself. I was just trying to lead us through the story process . And then afterwards I took photographs of the images and put them through Midjourney to create a little, you know, sort of more children’s, you know, as if it would, what it would look like as a book.

And she loved that. She loved seeing what her images, you know, stuff’s more special to me, obviously, because she drew it herself, but it was another thing that we could do that she just found really fun to see how her own images turned into these children book kind of versions. And yeah, it’s fun. It’s [00:37:00] fun. If anything, it’s fun. So,

Danica Favorite: I think that’s the part that is really good to also always mention is that it is fun and some of the fun of it is just playing, and as grown ups, I don’t think we get to play as much and AI is giving us all these fun tools that just let us play. And it’s so cool to me that you’re incorporating your daughter and allowing her to play with you.

What a neat father daughter bond that is and something I would have never thought of and yet here we are, which is really, really wonderful and special.

Stuart Bache: My daughter’s very creative and it’s one of those things that I really love to foster in her as that side of things is as a person who grew up as a creative people don’t know how to talk to creative people and how to foster that sort of imagination aspect. It’s always still very grounded and yeah, that’s good, but I don’t know what it is or what is that, whatever.

And with my daughter and with my son, we make a point of just enjoying the [00:38:00] process, the making. It doesn’t matter what she does, what she makes, as long as she’s using her imagination and, that the AI aspect has been fun too, because that would probably be part of her life.

And think, using her brain to come up with something else, something more fantastical that we can then put through and see what we can create in Midjourney.

And that’s really fun.

Danica Favorite: Yeah, yeah, and it’s wonderful, I think, too, because so many of the fears of authors and artists and just people in general when they talk about their fear of AI is that It’s taking away our creativity, but just like you’re saying here in, and to go back to what you said earlier, it’s really augmenting. It’s augmenting our creativity and it’s giving us one more tool with which we can be creative.

And I love that because I find it so encouraging.

Stuart Bache: it’s the those people, they’re the same people who told us that computer games were bad for us. Because my parents didn’t understand computer games, they just thought it was a waste of time. And for me, I love role playing games, RPGs. And I could play [00:39:00] forever on those sorts of games.

I don’t anymore because I can’t because I don’t have time but I do when I can and and Baldur’s Gate is brilliant when I can actually play it. But I found them fascinating. I loved playing along and It was like reading to me, and these people are like, it’s not creative.

You know, they’re not creative people. How would they understand what it’s like to be creative what a creative mind does? I think what’s great about our generation is we all grew up with great cartoons and lot more sort of creativity and, but we weren’t always allowed to do it. And as adults, we’ve given ourselves permission to do those things, to play computer games, to read what we want , watch programs that we want, fantastical things. My mum used to call Star Trek funny faces. Are you watching that thing with the funny faces again? I was like, it’s a Klingon crying out loud. It’s not a funny face. You know, this is Star Trek. It’s brilliant.

Anyway I love that we can watch all sorts of things that all sorts of characters with all sorts of people. And [00:40:00] that’s what, for me, that’s what AI is. AI is augmenting the people who are creative the most. That’s the people who are using it the most, people who are seeing past the standard and the sort of the stream, the flow of how everyone else just goes down that same flow.

And it’s augmenting you and allowing you to do new things and experiment. And that’s what life should be really is, is a bit of fun. And, Make things a little bit easier for yourself and to learn new things and learn new things about yourself and to do new things.

I wanted to write in my entire life. I’ve started and stopped. I even had a publishing deal at one point. And I might not ever write, but sometimes I think, gosh, I might actually be able to now. I might actually have the time by using something like AI to help me to do that now. Which I never thought I would be able to. But maybe one day and maybe with the help of AI, I’ll be able to do it.

Steph Pajonas: Maybe so. Maybe so. I’m so glad you came here today to talk to us about all this awesome stuff because I love to talk craft, especially [00:41:00] with people, so it’s really cool to hear your process and what you’re doing and how you’ve let AI into your world and the new and different things that you’re using it for.

I was wondering if you could tell us how people can find you online.

Stuart Bache: Yeah, I’m not really on social media anymore, but my website is That’s my website and you can contact me through there as well. And I am on Instagram but they’re really the only two places I’m at these days.

Steph Pajonas: Perfect. Perfect. We’ll put the links in our show notes as well for people so that they can just come and click and they can find you that way . I’m so glad you could come today and we’re going to sign off here, but I want people to come and check us out at bravenewbookshelf. com so that they can see all the show notes. They can get the links. They can find Stuart that way. And we also have our full transcript at the end of every blog post. So if you heard something that you were interested in, you can just scroll down and find it that way.

Danica, do you have anything else you want to add [00:42:00] before we head out?

Danica Favorite: I think we ended on such a perfect note. Just that hope that the AI is going to give us with our creativity. And even someone like Stuart, who’s maybe going to finally get the chance to do something he’s always dreamed of as well. So I love it. I’m so glad you came here today. And again, just thank you so much for being here.

It really was a great show. I’m very grateful to you.

Stuart Bache: No, thank you very much for asking me. I’ve had a great time. And as I say, I’m sorry if I’ve waffled on, but I just find it really fascinating and exciting.

Danica Favorite: Oh no.

All of your waffling on was perfect. It really took us in a new direction, and I think that’s what I love about having a looser format because we really do get to explore those bunny trails, and I find they always take us to the best places. So thank you and thank you for being willing to do that.

Stuart Bache: No problem. Thank you.

Steph Pajonas: I agree. Thank you everybody for listening today. Come and check us out again at bravenewbookshelf. com and we will see you all next time. Bye everybody.

Danica Favorite: Bye..

[00:43:00] Thanks for joining us on the Brave New Bookshelf. Be sure to like and subscribe to us on YouTube and your favorite podcast app. You can also visit us at BraveNewBookshelf. com, sign up for our newsletter, and get all the show notes.

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