I like to tell Alyssa that we’re an old married couple. She always laughs but it’s true. Both our friendship and professional relationship take balance. Alyssa is very structured and organized. That is the environment she thrives in and, truthfully, I am anything but. But we are both creative people on our own, together, we can be amazing. However, that takes balance. There’s that word again. If one of us takes over, it doesn’t work. And it has taken us three years to find what works best for us so I thought it would be fun to break down how our cover design relationship came about.
Early 2016 I started letting people see my writing. I’m shy by nature and had been writing for years with only my husband knowing. Alyssa was the first person I shared that with and by spring I was writing a contemporary romance titled “Stand” that Alyssa and her sister-in-law, Stacy, were reading chapter by chapter as I was writing it.
Knowing that I needed encouragement, Alyssa threw together a quick ebook cover and it still covers the book today. I had absolutely no idea what went into a cover and probably still don’t, but this cover was what I needed to make it all feel real. We have both come a long way since that cover, but it is still one of my favorites. I continue to use the image as part of my overall branding because it just makes me happy. Alyssa is actually a big part of why I finally had the courage to try my hand at publishing and I love her dearly for it.
When I transitioned to full length romantic suspense novels I knew that I wanted to jump in with both feet. I wanted a licensed image for the cover. That was both a big and costly leap and has been worth it. Alyssa is always part of the process when it comes to purchasing an image. She makes sure that I buy something that can be used for our purposes. This is not usually the case with the author/ designer relationship, but we’re besties and this is what works for us.
I remember when she was designing the cover for Dead and Buried, I messaged her and asked if she could please put the San Diego city skyline in the background but super light and almost unnoticeable. She laughed and said “Ok.” She also managed to give me exactly what I wanted even though I made absolutely no sense.
She called me over to come look at the paperback wrap—she lives across the street from my parents so it was a 4 second walk—and I remember she asked me what I thought I wanted for the back. So far, we had been leaving the back plain on my books but we both secretly love little details on the back of covers. (If you haven’t checked out her work with Kendall Ryan, totally do. Those paperbacks are amazing! And duh, it’s going to be a good book too) I sat down next to her and I was like, “I kind of want the blurb to look like it was torn out of a newspaper.” The main character writes for the local paper so I thought it would be cool and she went, “Yay! Me too!”
With that book, everything just clicked into place. But still, Alyssa was doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.
I remember I was looking for teaser images. At this point, Alyssa really encouraged me to have my own voice and my own opinions in the work we do together. I stumbled upon the cover image for Tell Me a Story. It was so creepy and I loved it. I immediately bought it and emailed it to her. She knew I had an idea for straight romantic suspense, books that were darker and not romcom. It was a big move from what I had been previously writing, but as always, Alyssa stood with me.
One of the things that sets us apart from other partnerships is the fact that we’re not afraid to challenge each other. The title of book 4 was originally, “Kiss Me, Goodnite.” I liked that it was a creative spin on the main character’s name, Claire Goodnite, but Alyssa knew it wouldn’t sell as well if it wasn’t titled, “Kiss me Goodnight.” We went back and forth for a few days and finally I told her if a mutual friend of ours, who is a best selling author and amazing with marketing, said to do it her way we would and I would never question it. So that’s what we did. Our friend laughed and then sided with Alyssa.
The first 3 books in the series were a true collaboration between us. I send her an image, usually a front and back, and ask her to make it creepier. Alyssa takes that and works her magic. Book 4 was an exception. That month, I had to have what turned out to be a non-cancerous lump removed from my right breast. When my mammogram came back abnormal, my professional life basically stopped, or would have if Alyssa hadn’t had my back. That cover is all her and her caring for me when I needed it and I love it. It makes it all the more special and another one of my favorites. She’s my ride or die and I couldn’t have done it without her. Thank God I don’t have to try.
Recently, I sent her pretty maternity and sonogram images and asked her to “Creep them up a bit.” She still laughs and tells me that “I’m scary” and then she works her magic. While we are a special case, it should be true when working with any designer or artist.
Remember when I said it’s about balance? It is. I like to think we’re an old married couple in the way that we work together but with that comes putting an effort into the partnership. We both try very hard to make sure the other doesn’t feel taken for granted. Yes, we are besties but we also treat each other professionally and with kindness as well. And on the rare occasion when we don’t, we’re both quick to apologize and sort it out. Possibly after my mom tells me to be nice. After all, we’re a family now. She even tells my husband, Sean, that we’re going to be like the Notebook couple and die an hour apart. Not Sean and I, Alyssa and I. Sean just laughs and says, “Probably.”
While we all know, not everyone is going to work as closely as we do, and that’s ok. You won’t be disappointed if you find the person you work well with and then keep them. Listen to each other. Don’t get stuck in your own head and not be willing to collaborate because when you let go a little, you might be surprised at what you get—magic.
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