When I decided to self-publish my ground-breaking chic lit masterpiece, She Likes It Rough, I contacted cover design goddess Lex Valentine of Winterheart Design. I commissioned my cover and explained through email, in excruciating detail, just what I wanted. A pretty do-able cover, I figured, made of inexpensive photographic images. In less than twenty-four hours, she emailed me back a cover that – horror of horrors! – was EXACTLY what I’d described. But it didn’t make my heart sing. It was the cover I’d asked for, but not the cover I’d dreamt of. I hadn’t requested the illustrated cover I’d been imagining for months because I figured that my vibrant, wild ideas would be impossible. And who was I, mere unpublished writer, to reach for such heights off mad fancy? So I asked for what I thought I could get, what I thought I deserved. And I got it. But some survival instinct in me bucked at my willingness to sell myself short without even trying. I deep down wanted an illustration that would convey the sexy and off-kilter humor of a story about urban scaredy-cat Lisa Flyte trying to find her backbone by teaming up with aloof adrenaline junkie Jack Hawkins. They go on white-knuckle adventures out in the wild in order to make her brave. But what happens in the wild doesn’t stay in the wild, at least not for Lisa, who starts to fall for Jack. Will what she learns on her escapades give her the courage to go after him? Come to think of it, would I have the guts to pursue what I most desperately wanted? I had to bite the bullet and go for my dream cover. I commissioned a new cover from Lex, and this time I told her my ideas. We both scoured available images for days, but we found nothing that would satisfy me.
Then she told me about Annicka.
Lex’s daughter, digital artist Annicka Rietveld, code name Brosephiine, has a lot of her artwork posted on deviantart.com if I wanted to check it out and see whether I liked her style. If I did, she would put me in touch with Annicka and we would see what we could work out. I loved Annicka’s illustrations and her style. Her women were sexy, flirty, and kick-ass. Here is what we worked out:
The vivid illustration pulsated with sass and humor beyond my most daring imaginings. The details of the artwork blew me away. The lining of the shoe? Wonderful! I’d told Annicka that Lisa Flyte, the heroine of my story, has brown eyes with blue-green flecks. And sure enough, her eyes are brown with blue–green flecks! And the combo of the cover’s colors – sky blue contrasting with deep brown, accented with red and a little green – it just pops! Once the illustration was magnificently complete, I sent the artwork and all the cover info to Lex so she could design the cover. Here is what she sent back:
You know, they say writing can be a very isolated profession. But putting this book together was anything but an act perpetrated in solitary confinement. I had the chance to work with two incredibly gifted and professional artists, who brought both my book, and me, to a higher level. I needed to not only believe that I was a writer, but I needed to be a writer. Putting this gorgeous cover on my book made me feel just and powerful, like Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) putting on the Iron Man suit. Suddenly, I was a professional writer. I could feel it. My professional connections with Annicka Rietveld and Lex Valentine have been integral building blocks as I construct my life as an author. And the beat goes on. I have commissioned Annicka to do some artwork for my website that I’m building and Lex to do advertising bling for me. Creating my first novel has galvanized me to plow into a career in independent publishing. And with the majestic She Likes It Rough as my flagship, full speed ahead!