7 Questions With Book Cover Designer Kelley From Sleepy Fox Studio
Kelley is an author and designer and owner of Sleepy Fox Studio. Over the last six years, she’s worked with hundreds of authors across genres to help them present the best book packaging possible. She forms lasting client relationships and strives for not only a beautiful finished product, but offering great customer service, too. In her spare time, she plays video games and D&D, chills on the foggy Northern California beaches where she lives, and hangs with her wife, teenager, and their slew of pets.
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What mistakes do authors make when approaching you and what advice do you have for them in that sense?
One of the most frequent mistakes I see is authors approaching their covers as anything other than their biggest piece of marketing material. Often times, they have a very specific image in mind—like a direct scene from the book—and get so bogged down in details trying to match that mental image that they’re losing sight of who and what a cover is intended for: the readers.
Your cover should convey a sense of professionalism, genre, setting, and mood. Trust your designer to do their job. If they let you know that something really isn’t working, or that nudging that model .0025 inches to the left isn’t going to make or break your cover, believe them!
Are there cover design trends depending on genre? Do shed a light for authors to knock on your door fully prepared
YES x1,000! Trends come and go. (Remember when every young adult book had a dramatic-looking girl in a flowy dress? I do…) I always advise my authors—especially new ones—to do some research into titles similar to theirs. (If their response is, “My book is unique and there is NOTHING else like it” then that’s going to be a different problem altogether…)
Also important to keep in mind that what works for traditionally published books is NOT going to necessarily work on indie books. They’re two very different beasts. Indie covers rely much more heavily on tropes to sell. Trad books can afford to take more chances and put out something “unique” and off-genre.
Look at things like fonts, colors, styles (illustration versus photo-manipulation versus vector-style art…), title treatments, and more. When you see a cover with sharp greens, crisp fonts, with a pop of neon, chances are you’re looking at a sci-fi cover and a reader is going to (ideally) know that the second they scroll by it.
What types of design do you offer and how can an author benefit from your skills?
I’m constantly trying to level up across multiple genres so that I can offer a variety of cover styles. I can do the more basic contemporary covers that often are just a photo or two, cleaned up to look high-quality and professional, with some kick-ass typography that’ll really nail the genre. I can do DAZ renders and head-swaps and digital painting, which allow me to tackle more complex character designs and highly customized illustrations. I work a lot with vector art, seen most on chick-lit or cozy covers.
I also try to offer a selection of pricing tiers so that clients with those “easier” covers aren’t having to dish out the same kind of money as those covers that take me days to finish. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I really try to reach out to authors within the community because I want their books to do well and be considered more mainstream than just a tiny sub-genre that gets overlooked.
Like a lot of designers, I also have a “premade” cover store on my website! Premades are a fantastic way to get a high-quality cover at a fraction of the price. Members of my Facebook group get first-dibs before I post them anywhere else for sale, as well as access to a 10% off coupon.
Why should an author choose you over a “cheaper” alternative?
Cheaper very rarely equates “a good deal” when it comes to cover design. I wince when I see authors recommending $10 designs on Fivver, which is breeding ground for scammers and thieves. (Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve helped authors who were previously ripped off by Fivver “designers,” and how many artist friends have had their work stolen by those same “designers.”)
Pretty also doesn’t always equate good sales if the artist you’re hiring isn’t hitting the right tropes to reach the right readers. You also want a designer who knows the ins and outs of copyright and licensing of the images and fonts their using. A LOT of newer designers don’t, and that’s legally dangerous for both designers and their authors.
Lastly, I’m an author myself, too, so I think I’m in a unique position where I get how sentimental a cover can be to an author. I try to walk the line between making sure they get something that fits their vision while also nailing those tropes to ensure good sales.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”… but we all do. What are some attributes of an attractive cover?
Publishing is so competitive, especially in the indie market. Instead of perusing a bookstore, a majority of readers are now scrolling through pages and pages of books from online retailers. Your cover has about two seconds to catch their attention—and it has to do it from a thumbnail size! That’s HARD!
– Eye-catching. Whether that “pop” is achieved with fantastic contrast, a pop of color, rocking typography, or on-key genre tropes, this is super important.
– Legible text. Contrary to some beliefs, you don’t need to read every single word on the cover at thumbnail view. However if you click that link and your title is hard to make out even at a larger size, this is a problem. Your text is PART OF YOUR ARTWORK and should be just as masterfully done as the art itself.
– Genre tropes. Yes, I’m gonna say this again. Those colors, font choices, and styles are going to play a huge role in getting the right readers to click your link. And these things need to be apparent even from a thumbnail view.
What dictates the price of book cover design?
There are so many factors in this. I’d love to say it’s driven entirely by the market, but that isn’t always the case. There are a lot of newbie designers who are still in the early stages of learning their craft who try to come out the gates charging what those with established businesses are.
Commonly, what I see amongst my fellow designers is when our schedules start getting really booked up, it’s time to bump up the prices because our services are in demand. For me, as I get better, I also spend more time on each cover because more and more goes into it. (Rendering 3D models in DAZ, researching tropes for genres and comp titles, digital painting, etc.) That means less projects I can take on per month and my prices need to reflect that so I can afford to live!
Do you also recommend the authors you have worked with on social media or your website?
I DO! I’m proud of my authors. They work their tails off! I encourage my clients to post in my design group when they have a cover to share off or a release date, and to post their links. I’ve seen some of my authors end up reading each other’s work and becoming friends, which is always a good feeling for me!
Check out Kelley York’s awesome designs on Sleepy Fox Studio
Get a 10% discount on Facebook where she posts cover reveals, sales, premades and more!
Are you in the Writing Industry?
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
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Read the full blurb here.