Meet Karen Kalbacher

Karen and I started working together on my very first book, 9 years ago, and it has been a joy to work with her from day one. I found Karen on Fiverr.com under the name of fuzzym and fell in love with her colorful, eye catching covers. It didn’t take long for the two of us to get a feeling of how we work and we soon had the first cover ready for the Citrus Beach Series. Karen listened to what I wanted to accomplish, gently steered me in the right direction when I was total wrong and before long we had more covers ready to show off my mysteries. Now, when I need a new cover, I simple give her a few guides and let her work her magic. And every time, I never have a moment of hesitation or worry if the cover is going to work.

Be sure to visit Karen’s Fiverr account to see her work and rates at  https://www.fiverr.com/fuzzym and you can see more of her portfolio at https://1fuzzymonster.wordpress.com/portfolio/

Let’s find out a bit more about Karen and her work process...

What 3 questions do you ask a writer before you start their cover?

It’s different for each author because some come to me with a complete idea of what they want, and others come with a blank slate. I generally ask about the size first because that informs the shape of the images I am creating. I would also ask if they had a style they love. It’s smart to come to me with a few covers that caught your eye. That helps me get an idea of your aesthetic. The third thing I ask about is the genre. Mystery has a different look from Kidlit or ChickLit. I will match that style, so audiences recognize the genre from the cover.

I see you also write children’s books. How did you get started?

I like the whimsy of books for children. The themes are wholesome and fun. They lend themselves to more fantastical settings and the characters can be animals which I love. I write a little bit of everything, but children’s books are where you get to have fun.

What is your favorite genre to create covers for?

Cozy Mystery. The covers always tell a story. I like to add a zillion little details to the covers and they are a creative collaboration with the author. The colors tend to be brighter than a mystery novel and the art is slightly more sophisticated than the kidlit covers. They have a nice balance to them.

What trends do you see with covers, especially in the Cozy Mystery Genre?

There are a few trends. The covers either have a domestic scene like a bakery or a boutique with a clue to the murder on the cover, or an elegant landscape or your main character off to one side with a scene from the book playing out behind them. I’m not going to bore you with talk about fonts, but they tend to have the author’s name centered on the bottom. The Titles vary but as a rule tend to use a brush stroke style with a sans serif underneath it. White is popular for titles and a heavy drop shadow doesn’t hurt. Cats or pets on the cover almost as if the pet were the protagonist is hot right now.

What, in your opinion, are the essential elements of a good cover?

Clean, legible fonts are the backbone of any cover. The cover picture elements should overlap to create depth. If everything has a space around it, the image appears flat. Composition for me normally follows the idea of the golden triangle. That’s a fancy way of saying I move things around until it feels right. It should also follow the rules of the genre it is in. Mystery novels do not look like romance covers for a reason and that reason is marketing.

 Describe your working space

I live in a one-bedroom, so my living room is my office. I have two workspaces. There’s an HP-all-in-one on a corner desk when I am feeling professional but for the most part I sit on my sofa, put my laptop on a pillow with a picture of a cheetah on it and work while I listen to podcasts. Sitting crisscross applesauce is the key to good art.

On a typical day, how much time do you spend working on a cover?

When I begin work on a cover, it goes in stages. So, the first day it maybe an hour or two for some concept sketches. I will draw out three to four thumbnails for new clients. Once the client had a layout they like, I can spend 3-6 hours on a cover backdrop. I will check in periodically with the client to make sure we are on the same page. Each project is its own beast but covers can take anywhere from 3 hours to 18 hours depending on construction, complexity of the image, and changes. I would say on average about 6 hours.

I hope this gave you some insight about cover designs. I can’t wait to see what Karen (fuzzym) comes up next for me!

Victoria LK Williams

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