Tara West

YA paranormal/fantasy and New Adult author

Confessions of a Cover Artist – Karri Klawiter

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Some folks have asked me why I host a column where I basically promote my competition. First off, I know that as an artist, I can learn a lot from other artists by admiring their covers. Second, I think artists, like authors, should support one another. Third, I don’t see other artists as competition, especially as my primary focus has to be writing and I am not taking on new cover clients.

When I put the call out on Kindleboards, author Melanie Ray recommended Karri for a Confessions interview. I was absolutely stunned by Karri’s portfolio. I love Karri’s composition and her warm and vivid tones. I could tell that she has a photography background just by looking at her covers. My favorite cover would have to be Primal. Look at the warm tones on the woman’s skin in contrast to the gruesome hand. Each of her covers is unique and has a at least one element that ‘pops’, which is crucial for getting readers to take notice. Look at the rose in LA Caveman or the unique composition in Coke with a Twist. So without further ado, please welcome Karri, and don’t forget to leave comments. Artists, like authors, LOVE when we praise their work.  

Why do you design cover art? How did you first get started?

I have had my hands in digital art as a hobby for over 15 yrs, and have been selling my photography and fine art on the web for about the past 5. I remember when I started that, I was following an author online. She would post a chapter at time, and then finally got picked up by a small publisher. I believe this was before the self publishing took off. She was all excited and blogging about it. The book that was being published was my absolute favorite of hers, so I was excited for her too. Then she posted the cover. My first thought when I saw it was “man, I could do better” I kept my mouth shut because I knew she had a friend make it, and of course I bought the paperback version. But that started the little spark in the back of my brain. I’d like to make a book cover, just once.

Life happened, and a few years went by. I had been a stay at home mom for the past several years, including caring for my ill mother. Both of my children started school and my husband and I decided I needed a job; we need just a slight boost in income. I spent over a year off and trying to find a job and taking care of the family. I finally found one, it wasn’t much, but they were willing to work around my mother and kids, and at the last minute, it fell through. So in a moment of what felt like desperation, I started hitting the freelance websites looking for any small tidbit of work. I started noticing eBook and print book covers in other artist’s portfolios, which reignited that spark in the back of my brain. I want to make a book cover, just once, to say I did. I then discovered the job boards on Deviant Art. So I thought, what the heck, and posted a thread there offering a free eBook cover.

The first person to respond to me, introduced himself, said he wasn’t in the market for a cover right now, but asked if he could post a link to my offer on this mysterious message boards called the “Kindleboards.”

And so it began. I did a few free ones to start building up a portfolio, discovered I actually have a niche for it, and it’s grown from there. I don’t think I have ever properly thanked the man who brought me to the Kindleboards, you know who you are. Thank you! This has been a Godsend for me and my family! And I LOVE doing it!

What have you learned along the way?

I’ve learned communication and patience goes a long way. Just because the majority of my clients are authors, doesn’t mean they can describe exactly how they see their cover turning out. It might take a few tries, but we’ll get there.

What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?

What? I’m not allowed to make mistakes anymore! No one sent me that memo! To be honest, I’m still learning as I go.

List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

  • Typography. Is it readable? Does it suite the Genre?
  • Balance and Composition. Is the overall image balanced? Is it too cluttered? Too blank?
  • Professionalism. Does it look professional? Or does it look like you slapped a title over a stock image?
  • Originality. Will it stand out amongst the thousands of other covers in its genre? The story inside is an original creation of the author’s mind, does the cover match that same feel?
  • This one pertains to eBooks, since that’s mostly in what I deal with. THUMBNAIL. It’s got to look good in thumbnail size!

What are common mistakes that indie authors make when designing their own covers?

*Looks around making sure there are no indie authors with pitchforks ready to attack*

Using unedited stock art, I see that a lot. They find an image they like, then slap a title on it and call it good. Even if you don’t have a lot of editing skills or tools, tweak it at least a little bit to make it more your own.

What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?

That varies with the client, what they want done, communication back and forth, and what other work I have going. The longest it has ever taken me on one cover was 2 weeks, but that was under extenuating circumstances. Typically 1-2 days, up to a week, depending on revisions.

What software do you use to create covers? Where do you go for images?

Mostly I use Adobe Photoshop CS5. If I’m hand drawing the cover, I might use Illustrator or (coughs) WinPC Sign, but even with vector drawings I’ve become comfortable using Photoshop.

As for the images I use, that varies greatly. Sometimes I’m lucky, and the author sends me the images they want used. Either of their own or ones they purchased. I try to use free stock as much as possible, though that is not always possible. Deviantart.com is an excellent resource, as long as you make SURE of licensing and commercial use. I use Dreamstime.org, Wikimedia Commons, and several other places through out the web.

And a lot of the time, I take the pictures myself. I’ll let you in on a little secret.  There are covers with my hand, lingerie, legs, photo albums, knives, cupcakes, etc on them. Sometimes it’s just easier to take your own picture than search the web for the right angle!

Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?

Well for starters, I’d like to know what they see on their cover. I need a description of the characters if they want them on the cover, at least a summary of the story line and genre. Sometimes I’m told exactly what they want, other times, they have no clue and I wind up reading a portion or all of the story until I “see” the image.

If you suddenly lost your skilz, who would you hire to design your cover art?

Oh a tough one! If I suddenly lost my skills, I think I’d recommend Dara England.

If you’d like to see more of Karri’s AMAZING work, vist her website: http://www.artbykarri.com

If you’d like Karri to design your next cover, contact her here:  kklawiter@gmail.com

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Author: tarawestauthor

A former Texas high school teacher, Tara enjoyed coaching her writing team and even the hectic deadlines that came with running the school publications. After taking a break to raise her baby girl, Tara now works from home as a cover artist. In her spare time, Tara loves to read, exercise and spend time with her family and friends. She contributes the cover art for her own novels and has designed covers for over 500 other books. She’d love for you to visit her at www.tarawest.com where you can check out her Whispers series and sample her artwork.

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Cover Artist – Karri Klawiter

  1. Pingback: I Was Interviewed! « Through My Eyes – Art by Karri

  2. I can really recommend Karri. She’s a dream to work with, and will come up with a stunning first draft from the most obscure “I’m not really sure what I want but…” brief. She’s just repackaged a Western for my alter ego Tyler Brentmore, and I’m looking forward to working with her across my other genres.

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