Interview With … Stephanie Johnson from Sweets by Steph / Steph’s Sweet Reads

April 26, 2013 Interview, Spotlight 2

I’m delighted to be playing host to an amazingly talented person at Have Book Will Read today.
My very good friend, Fred, recently had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Johnson, the brains behind Sweets by Steph, and her newly started feature Steph’s Sweet Reads
Read on to find out what dirt Fred managed to get Steph to divulge!

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What started your career as “cookie baker to the indie stars?”  How did you first encounter the indie community, and what was that experience like?

I first encountered the Indie community with Tracey Garvis-Graves’ book On the Island early last year.  I know she was already published at the time, but her book sparked a new passion for reading inside my soul!  Her book was amazing, so much so, that I decided to turn her book into a cookie.  It was my “labor of love” for hers. From there, the floodgates opened up.  I had a friend recommend joining Goodreads.  I had discovered the Mecca of book recommendations!  I found list after list that were all “Indie” related and just started clicking like a mad woman adding book after book to my TBR list.  The next books I read were Slammed and Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover.  FELL.IN.LOVE!  Coincidently, shortly after I finished her books I was contacted to make cookies for her.  (Truth be known, I was fan-girling all over this order!) Word spread like wild fire about the book cookies, and now my email is dinging NON-STOP!  A new found passion for reading, combined with my obsession of cookie designing…WATCH OUT!


Can you tell us about some of your projects (if It’s not breaching cookie maker privacy protocols)?

LOL, no real “cookie” protocols, except when I’m threatened. Just kidding!!  I can keep a secret though … so we won’t talk about “those” orders! Everyone likes a surprise. 🙂  One of the BIGGEST joys that has come out of this whole experience is the shock and awe factor.  If I could be a fly on the wall when my clients (or unsuspecting victims recipients) open that box … PRICELESS!
Right now, I have quite a few “book” orders, a couple of book signing orders, and then in August, I will be making some goodies for the Las Vegas “Flirty & Dirty” book signing.  I have already booked my airfare and hotel for that trip! I am SO excited to not only be creating cookies for the event, but actually attending as well.  This will be my first book signing and I have already told a few of the authors that there will be tackling when we meet!

Do you try to read a book before making cookies about it?  Does that help or hurt?  Do you prefer that customers give you direction, or do you prefer more artistic freedom?

I love being able to read the books before the project, but many times orders are celebratory cookies for their publish date and I don’t have the chance beforehand.  I feel it certainly helps build a deeper connection with the order.  I know that makes me sound certifiably crazy, but all the book lovers out there will understand! 
Obviously when it comes to my orders, 99% of them are custom.  I want my clients to get exactly what they want.  I am always open to suggestions and unless it is impossible, I do what they want.  I think Sweets by Steph has acquired a certain reputation when it comes to design, detail and craftsmanship, so 9 times out of 10, my clients say “Whatever you think, Steph, I trust you”.  That’s a GREAT feeling!


Your cookies are delicious as well as gorgeous.  I’d like to ask a few questions about that:


Are you following a family recipe, one that you developed yourself, or one that’s widely available? 

When I started out I was using a generic recipe I found online.  The dough was bland and the cookies would spread when I baked them.  One day I was rummaging through some old recipes that belonged to my grandma, I found a hand written sugar cookie recipe.  Made it, tweaked it a little bit with flavoring and some other things and came out with a winner!

What ingredients contribute to the delicate taste and substantial but light texture of your cookies?

BUTTER, BUTTER, AND MOOOOOORE BUTTER…and of course all the love I squeeze in too! 🙂

What percentage of your business relates to the indie community now? (Just roughly!)

I would say 80% of my business currently is Indie book related, which is so amazing, all because I was moved by an incredible story.  I get calls and emails daily asking to make cookies for authors because they are getting ready to publish their first novels or they have a book signing and they want to give them away to their fans.  It makes me feel so honored to be a small part of something so important in an author’s career.  I’m still pinching myself to make sure it’s real.


What is your busiest non-book holiday?

My busiest time each year is Christmas.  I completed over 150 dozen last December.

How does this business work with being a busy mom and homemaker?

Well, first and foremost, I am a mom and a wife.  I started this whole cookie thing as a hobby; something fun to do with my boys on holidays.  So much for that idea! LOL  I have been a stay-at-home mom for 5 yrs. now and I love it.  I’m almost scared to see what happens to my business once I have full days to devote all of my hours to cookies while both boys are at school all day! WHEW!  When my husband retired from the military back in 2010 we made a decision to remodel the “nursery” into a “cookie room”.  After he finished that project, he decided he wanted to go back to work.  He was scared of my next “honey-do” list! LOL I get the greatest support from my husband.  Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  My hubby has sacrificed many a nights going to bed alone, waking up at 3:30AM and gently reminding me of what time it is. 

If anyone is interested in ordering, how much lead time do you need?

In general, I ask for at least a two weeks notice, and that’s if I have availability.  The process is not a quick one.  On average, it takes me about 2-3 days to complete an order.  Now, since the book cookies have become such a success, my calendar fills up VERY quickly!  I tell clients to book ASAP.


You recently started up Steph’s Sweet Reads.  Can you tell us about it? How would an author get involved if they’re interested in participating?


I’ve fallen in love with Indie books and have had a chance to make some great friendships along the way with some of the authors and other people from the community. Knowing how much work, time, blood, sweat and tears has gone into their stories, I wanted to come up with a “sweet” way to help market these books any way I could. So I came up with a crazy idea, (which I wasn’t even sure anyone would be interested in); Steph’s Sweet Reads. I pitched the idea to some friends and my hubby, got an “Are you kidding me, this is incredibly brilliant!” response, and with shaky hands, started contacting authors! Currently, I have over 60 AMAZING authors (even a few currently ranked on the New York Time’s Best Seller List … hello?!!) that are excited to participate. 

Here’s how Steph’s Sweet Reads works:

  • First, the authors send me two SIGNED paperbacks! One for me to read, review and keep for myself and the other to give away to one of my fabulous followers.
  • Second, I will then create a dozen book themed cookies, including some of my favorite quotes, character names and maybe one or two “covers”.  The author doesn’t walk away with just a review in hand; they will be sent a book cover cookie as well!
  • If you are an author and interested in being featured, please feel free to contact me!

So, there you have it! The secrets of Sweets by Steph have been laid bare!
What do you think of Steph’s cookies? Aren’t they amazing?
I just love the ones she did for Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. It’s one of my all time favourite books and I love the quotes Steph has used.

2 Responses to “Interview With … Stephanie Johnson from Sweets by Steph / Steph’s Sweet Reads”

  1. seachelles4u

    Stephanie Johnson is an amazing person and has a true gift for cookie artistry! And I can happily say she’s a friend I truly respect for numerous reasons. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting her cookies and have told all my friends about her. Hopefully, she’s gotten a few likes out of it for her Sweets by Steph page on FB. I’m always AMAZED at her talent and have been following what she is doing with her Sweet Reads. She’s also really piqued my interest in Indie authors that I probably would have never come across if it weren’t for her. I’ve read some incredible books through her suggestions and have opened a whole new door to some very gifted artists. Thank you, Steph, for being a friend and broadening my book horizons!

  2. Fred LeBaron

    Congrats and kudos to Steph and to Kelly for transforming my words into a gloriously illustrated extravangza! Bravo to you both, and thanks!

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