THE COVER SELLS THE BOOK!!
I am thrilled to share with you an interview I did with my cover artist. And she is an artist. I found Karen Kalbacher on Fiverr, as FuzzyM, back in 2013 when I wrote my first book, Now Arriving…Sister Station 1. She has become more than an illustrator, I’m proud to consider her a friend as well. I thought it might be interesting for you to discover what goes on during the creation of a book cover. I hope you will enjoy the interview. I’ve included some samples of her work. I’m sure you’ll agree this woman is loaded with talent!
1. I see you are also a children’s writer and ghostwriter (so many talents!). Which do you enjoy more, the writing or the illustrations?
At heart, I’m a writer. I love seeing a plot come together and creating new and interesting characters and worlds. It comes a bit easier for me, so that helps. That doesn’t mean I don’t love being an artist and creating illustrations, I do. The fun is in the challenge. I like taking another person’s idea or world and bringing it to life for them. It also involves a lot of communication with the client and feels more collaborative. I’ve always had a hard time choosing between them and took several English courses before choosing to major in art. Who knows if I made the right choice?
2. For a new client, what services do you offer when creating a book cover, and how much input do you like from the client?
I create covers based on the client’s needs. I can do photo editing, add titles to an existing image, or I can create an entire design from scratch. I normally design in Illustrator to create vector-based graphics. This has the distinct advantage of being easy to resize while maintaining quality and being editable.
When a client is new, I like a lot of communication. We are both feeling one another out. I can’t see inside the client’s head, so I ask a lot of questions about style, colors, feel, and often ask for images of covers in a similar vein to what they want. I want the author to love their cover. It’s important to me that we both love it at the end of the project. It’s a lot easier for us to get into a grove if the client has ideas. Blank canvases are intimidating. I can work a lot faster if the client hands me something. It can be as simple as a list of wants and a color they hate/adore.
3. What is your favorite genre to create covers for and why?
Wow, I specialize in Cozy Mysteries at the moment. I love them because the settings are always new and intriguing. There are often a lot of elements that have to be balanced like red herrings, Easter eggs, and pets. It makes it like a jigsaw puzzle to assemble and balance. That appeals to my artsy side. My second favorite is children’s books. I love bright colors, the characters are kids or animals and they are deceptively simple. I’d love to break out into more fantasy covers. I don’t get to draw unicorns nearly enough for my taste.
4. Give us a glimpse into the process of creating a book cover.
I like to talk to a potential client before we get a gig going. It’s a chance for us to feel each other out and see if we’re a match. So, generally, I will have a short conversation with you about the size of your cover and what your needs are. After that, we set the price based on the amount of work involved. The client will then send me all the pertinent details.
I’ll look at everything sent to me. If there’s a mood board, I will consider what elements are similar in the images the client likes. This could be as simple as colors, shapes, or composition. If there’s no mood board, I will sketch out a thumbnail with the elements the client has requested. This is mainly to see how to balance them on the page and for me to get a feel for the image. Then I’ll sleep on it and let my subconscious work on it. I might also send it to the client if I think it will help them visualize what I’m doing.
After marinating, I’ll take the sketch into Illustrator. I’ll hunt for reference photos to help me create the detailed versions of what I’ve sketched. I tend to start with the backdrop. It’s usually complete so I can move the elements around on it like a stage. I add the main element (body, sleuth, kid, dragon,) and move them around until I like it. Then I detail it. I add bagels to the sleuth’s breakfast plate. I add toys around the dog. I find the light source and shadow everything. I might also add highlights. Finally, I drop the titles on top.
I will send an almost done version to the client to get their input. The client and I normally go back and forth a bit to shape it into their vision. I’m done when the client is happy.
5. What has been your most challenging cover/client to do and why?
Every cover is challenging, that’s why I enjoy doing them. Sometimes you and the client can’t see eye to eye and that’s frustrating for both. I used to ghostwrite for a client. When she asked me to also create the cover, I was excited. But it just didn’t work. We couldn’t get on the same page. I would send what I thought she wanted. She wouldn’t like it. She would try to describe it better. I would try again. We just ended up aggravated. She wasn’t a bad client. She was a good person. She had just chosen the wrong artist for her vision. We weren’t a match. We went on to ghostwrite together for a while after that. I think an artist is like a psychiatrist, you need to shop around for the one that really gets you.
6. Describe for us the perfect client.
Most clients are perfect clients for me. It’s not hard. They need to have a vision even if it is stick figures on a piece of paper. Anything to work with is better than nothing. They need to communicate with me. I’m friendly, I promise! Most importantly, they need to respect me. I will make a zillion changes for a good client. A rude client gets whatever is stated in the deal. They should be enjoying the process. We should have fun together.
7. Life can’t be all about books; what other interest do you have. Did I read something about knitting doll?
Hobbies? Who has time for hobbies? I’m kidding! I love walking. I’m lucky in that I live near a little park and within easy driving distance of a dozen more. I am a knitter! A corner of my living room had a laundry basket overflowing with yarn. I have created doll patterns from scratch and I do a lot of fingerless gloves, scarves, hats, and the occasional baby blanket. I have a podcast called Eh, it’s Something to Do that I record on Wednesdays with Rick Connor. I’m also an avid reader. My apartment is brimming with books and art supplies. It’s a bit chaotic.
8. What is on the horizon for your business?
Right now, I am looking to expand my client base. I would like to expand into pet portraits, do a few more children’s books and possibly start publishing my own line of books. I would like to do more writing gigs for individuals or businesses. I would like to branch out and so a horror story cover or fantasy. On the practical front, I am constantly learning new Illustrator tricks to improve the quality of my work.
9. Give us a few samples of your work.
10. How can you be reached? Share your links below.
Find me on Twitter: @1fuzzymonster
Find me on Instagram: @1fuzzymonster_Karen
Direct link to my portfolio: https://1fuzzymonster.wordpress.com/portfolio/
11. Any final words for us?
Choosing someone to flesh out your vision is an important decision. A good artist/writer will take the time to get to know you. They’ll be enthusiastic about your project. I love my clients. I consider them friends. I look forward to working with them on multiple projects. It’s very rewarding.
Be sure to check out the above sites and see for yourself just how talented Karen is! I know my readers love her covers.