The Art of Designing and Writing - A Cover Designer/Artist and Indie Author's Journey AMA

Katie Jenkins
Aug 28, 2018

Website | Blog | Facebook | FB Group | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | LinkedIn 

My given name is Kathryn Jenkins, however, I go by two different names. In the author world I write under the name, K.M. Jenkins, and through my design business, I go by Katie.

I have been writing for several years now and just recently self-published a short story, “A Father’s Protection”. Besides working on getting my writings into print I have come to love the Indie author community. I got more involved in this community back in 2013 when I researched the path of self-publishing my own works.

This love for books, writing and meeting authors of all paths of life inspired my college life. I planned on getting a degree in journalism/mass communication when I attended Briar Cliff University. However, that changed when graphic design caught my attention. I found out how graphic design worked hand in hand with the publishing industry, then decided I wanted to become a cover designer.

Several of my designer friends went into the corporate world, however, I started my own business. I am the proud owner of KJ Magical Designs, LLC. I provide indie and self-published authors services from custom cover designs, pre-made covers, promotional ad services, and plan to add author branding options.

Ask me questions related to cover design, author branding, the indie and self-published world, or any acts of this industry that interests you. I’m an open book and will be happy to take any road your question leads me down.

Thank you,

Katie Jenkins

KJ Magical Designs, LLCK.M. Jenkins -Paranormal Romance & Fantasy Author

   Author Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Free Ebook



To see more check out my portfolio

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For both, covers and stories, what is your creative process like? What are your personal tricks to boost your creativity?
Aug 30, 10:37AM EDT0

I am a visual person with creating images for my covers. There are times I will walk around or snooping online when something captures my attention, and ideas will jump into my head. My favorite thing to do is to go on stock image sites and just browse images by putting random search phrases in the system. Another thing that helps is having fellow designers as friends on Facebook they are always posting new covers or content for author websites. Yes, I get big envy on several and think I wish I made that so I will either make a version of my own or just have fun with ideas inspired by that specific cover. 

With my writing it depends a lot on my state of mood. I have several series planned within my Legendary Heroes saga I am creating. How I came up with my short stories was by this process, writing flash fiction tales of my characters. I needed to get inside their heads better so I could write the in-depth scenes within the novels themselves. It was an experiment that turned out to be a good bonus for those that follow me on my blog or support me through Patreon. I have it set up where flash fiction tales get featured for free on the 1st and 15th of each month on my blog and social media. Then for patron supporters they get exclusive tales on the 10th and 20th of each month. 

For the creative process for my writing I draw from books, movies and people I see day to day. I even take from people I interacted with in my life. It might sound weird but sometimes my best resource is music. I like to sit back and listen to music while I let the story of my world flow through my mind like a movie sort of thing. This way if I have specific points where I have holes that need filled I have them pop up like wild daisies. However, this process has its downfalls, after waiting so long to write Kero's story in the Legacy of the Silver Ryder series I now am forced to rewrite the timeline of the world and the books themselves. It used to center on the gods within the world and now it has settled into a tale featuring the journey a young woman endures to save her kingdom.

If you are interested in finding out more about my writing process, series in the works or getting early access to released publications you can do one or more of the following options: 

  • Sign-up for my monthly newsletter and get my short story "A Father's Protection" FREE.
  • Follow my blog via signing up with your email. (sign-up is on the side bar)
  • Become a Patron Supporter and get awesome rewards.
  • Join my Street Team and help spread the word about my writings.
Aug 30, 12:11PM EDT0
What elements of a novel are usually the ones that are most inspirational to make book covers?
Aug 30, 8:27AM EDT0

It depends on the book itself. There are different ways to represent a book through its cover. Several authors will want to depict a scene that represents the overall book. While authors will want to have a cover that symbolizes the overall emotion of the book. There are so many ways to go about making a cover it can overwhelm many, it takes time to decide on a direction. The number one thing to not do is create a cover that is trying to tell the entire story in one image. This just creates a sense of chaos and turns most readers off, simplicity is the key.

Aug 30, 11:33AM EDT0
What indie authors do you recommend? What makes them so good writers?
Aug 30, 8:14AM EDT0

I have several I can recommend that have influenced myself as a writer and became awesome friends. Several of them I have done design work for and did writing groups with, overall these authors not only provide awesome entertainment but give insights into their writing process and how to become an author themselves on their blogs.

Allison D. Reid -She is a christian fantasy author writing her break out series, The Wind Rider Chronicles. Allison is a technical writer and creates a beautiful world enjoyable to journey within. Her characters are young and the story centers on two young girls journey into the world and how Aviad (their God) influences their choices. Allison symbolizes the christian faith throughout this world without it being obvious this story is how these two girls find their faith and deal with the trials of life as darkness creeps back into the world.

Renee Scattergood - She is a dark speculative fiction author working on her serial series, Shadow Stalker. If you haven't heard of a serial publication, it's taking a book series and breaking it down into like tv episodes in book format. When she finishes, an entire book Renee will then bundle them all together to sell as a bundle. Renee offers the first two books FREE on her website if you sign-up for her mailing list. Her blog has awesome content for her readers and fellow writers. Renee just did a blog series around her writing process and it helps get your own project going. She is working on her first full-length novel series A God's Deception, right now it's supposed tobe a trilogy. I will do the covers for this series and she plans to release these in the Fall of 2019, I believe. 

Joshua Robertson - He is a dark fantasy author that created several series within his Thrice Nine Legends saga. Joshua works alongside his fellow author J.C. Boyd. If you are looking for an author the turns out books right and left Joshua is one to watch. I loved his Kaelandur series that started it all and I plan to work my way through the rest of his books as time allows. 

Ali Cross - She is a sci-fi/fantasy author who dabbles in several age groups of writing. My favorite series of hers is the Desolation Series, she has several other series I haven't gotten to them all yet. Ali is a designer along with being an author and she is very versatile. She is an author worth watching. 

Cheri Schmidt - She is an award winning paranormal romance author with her hit series, Fateful. It is a vampire series that has grown big and now has several series that were created within this world. I am a big fan of the Fateful series and believe it would be an awesome read for any adult or teenager. 

I plan to add an area on my blog featuring a list of fellow indie authors worth following. This way anyone that stops by can check them out, I think I will provide my own reviews of their works as I read them also. 

Aug 30, 11:28AM EDT0
What online courses do you recommend to enhance one’s skills in graphic design?
Aug 30, 12:29AM EDT0

This is a tricky question since my experience doing a degree for any area online was a struggle. I believe you benefit better by being in the actual classroom and being able to work alongside others in building your craft. Not saying this is the only option if you want to do online courses because of family obligations then I would research each program. Then pick the one you believe fits your needs. 

If you are looking for just a way to enhance your craft after finishing your overall courses, then look into finding designers within your target area. There are hundreds of designers that provide live feed tutorials, blog posts, and updates on the design industry. Several designers offer workshops, conferences or group settings to help each other strengthen their craft, just have to research.

Aug 30, 10:01AM EDT0

When you self-published your work, how you get buyers to buy it?

Aug 28, 2:40PM EDT0

It is about marketing once you release your book or in my situation a short story. Since this is my first publication, and it is a short story it holds its own sorts of challenges. I am still in the learning phase with getting out there and building my audience. However, I am not looking at the profit to come in on short stories unless my readers get curious. So instead of focusing on marketing them I am using them to get people to sign-up for my newsletter and get to know characters before I release my first book in the series. Overall, you have to look at what you need for each publication and how to work it to your advantage. Right now I'm not expecting many sales so I am using it to building a reader base.

Aug 28, 2:57PM EDT0

How do you get the inspiration for designs on your work? 

Aug 28, 4:46AM EDT0

It varies I have days where I struggle to find inspiration. The usual process I take is browsing through photos on my stock sites and see what jumps out at me. If this doesn't work, then I will go to groups I am in on Facebook and see what other designers posted. This can give theme ideas, concepts or just an idea of something I want to do myself. 

I have a Facebook group where I showcase my pre-made covers and custom covers first. If I am struggling bad and just can't come up with anything I will ask for suggestions from the members. These members are a mix of fans, authors and designers. This way I'm creating covers they will want and I have a steady flow of designs still going out.

Last edited @ Aug 28, 10:17AM EDT.
Aug 28, 10:16AM EDT0
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of writing?
Aug 27, 1:22PM EDT0

I would say the biggest influence is books themselves. When I was younger in middle school and up, I spent every minute reading books. My chosen genre was fantasy, and I loved any book that had dragons in it. I spent my time among world's other authors created and later decided I wanted to create worlds of my own. 

It was in high school around sophomore year when Tarzinëa took root in my mind. This world has plagued me ever since, now I'm getting down to business writing this world's story. 

With whom influenced me as my journey as a writer began, I would have to say it was these fellow indie authors Allison D. Reid, Renee Scattergood, and Joshua Robertson. I can name several others that impacted my journey and helped me find my voice however I'll stick with these several for now. 

I have a long list of books that inspired my writing but here are a few of the series: Crown of Stars series by Kate Elliott, the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain, the DragonLance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and the Kolmar series by Elizabeth Kerner. These books I grew up on and hope one day to say I created worlds just as good for my readers to enjoy.

These words always run through my head, "this world sucks, crack open a book," or "why live in reality when I can create one for myself."

Aug 27, 5:33PM EDT0
How do you deal with emotional impact on yourself as you are writing a story?
Aug 27, 1:09PM EDT0

I am not sure how to answer this question to be honest. When I write a story, I delve so deep into my character's mindset I forget myself. If it comes to an emotional issue, I felt the effects just as my character experiences it. I guess if it comes down to it let the emotion run its course or drink wine :).

Aug 27, 5:38PM EDT0
How do you think online design resources have influenced the graphic design being produced today?
Aug 27, 8:54AM EDT0

It influences it a lot, there is a vast amount of resources out there for designers now. You can find free sites where you can get stock images, vector images, or even textures to create new pieces of art. 

There are millions of sites to help further your craft, share with your community and find inspiration. You can use social media to meet potential clients, fellow designers or even just showcase things that interest you. It has changed over the years a lot and it makes it fun to see what everyone can create. However, as everything does, it will always have its own drawbacks.

Aug 27, 5:56PM EDT0
Professionally speaking, what are your thoughts on specialisation vs generalisation?
Aug 27, 8:30AM EDT0

There are benefits for both. In the world of cover design it doesn't hurt to specialize in a specific genre or niche. It helps you gain a following and helps you master your craft. I like to say I specialize in the genre and sub-genres of fantasy. 

However, some designers want to reach a bigger audience than generalizing your work is good. It broadens your spectrum and shows you are versatile. I have stuck myself in the genre of fantasy for several years and just now am forcing myself out to get more versatile myself. The best way to find your exact place within the industry is to try, how else will you find your limitations.

Aug 27, 6:05PM EDT0
How would you like to see your design business evolving in the future?
Aug 27, 5:54AM EDT0

I would like to have a steady client work flow and create a community around the authors that use our services. I'm an author myself and the indie community is awesome. I would like to give them back just as much as they gave me. 

Aug 27, 6:09PM EDT0
Do you have any advice for an author trying to find an editor and a publisher?
Aug 26, 10:24PM EDT0

Research the editor and make sure they fit the genre you are writing. Read any testimonials the editor has on their website or see if you can find other authors they have worked with, especially look into their process. Another big thing to look at is if they are easy to work with and punctual. If they were late with deadlines or didn't handle specific situations good you will want to know. 

I don't have experience looking for a publisher myself. When I started my journey, I had my mind up to self-publish from day one. I would suggest joining Facebook groups for advice on finding a publisher. One thing I do no is if they ask for money they are a vanity press not a publisher. A publisher pays you for your manuscript not the other way around and do thorough research to make sure they will put effort into growing you as an author. You want a publisher that will put effort into your brand not just use you for your book then throw you away if it doesn't sell like they hoped it would. 

Aug 27, 5:49PM EDT0

Do you feel there's a different state of mood or mind when you need to write or when you need to design? Do you find different ways of inspiration or mood for each of them? 

Aug 26, 12:59PM EDT0

This is a tough question... I would say no and yes. It is up in the air; I have days where I wake up and just have ideas for covers bombarding my mind. Then I have days where my characters are screaming for attention, they can be worse than kids. 

The way I have solved having both worlds fighting for attention is my schedule. I set specific days aside for designing and writing. Right now I have it where Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday I sit down and write. The other days Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays are for designing projects. Saturday is my freebie day to run around and live life to the fullest. The purpose of this schedule was to help maintain the madness because without its structure I wouldn't accomplish anything.

Aug 27, 6:16PM EDT1
Do you think that, as a designer, you should include in your portfolio all the works that you have done, or do you need to curate them?
Aug 25, 3:04PM EDT0

It is always good practice to provide as many samples of your work in your portfolio. If you don't have that many to start off with then yes, use all your works as you complete them. As time goes on and you have several options to select from then you can be more selective with what you share in your portfolio. I have several covers from when I first started out as a designer on my portfolio still, to feature how I have matured in my experience.

Aug 25, 11:27PM EDT0
What do you love most about being a graphic designer?
Aug 25, 6:25AM EDT0

I'm a person who gets bored easy and the nice thing about the graphic design industry it is always changing. This career choice is one you always have to learn in with updates to software, trend changes or how advance technology has become. Just keeping a computer that works with each software upgrade can be tricky let alone expensive. 

I remember back in 2013 when I took my first graphic design course, I never used a Mac before. I was a PC user till that day, and I felt like a complete idiot because I didn't even know where to go to find the software to open it up. I was like a decade behind the others in the class but with hard work and determination I almost have the Mac mastered.

Aug 25, 11:34PM EDT0
Do you think it's important for an author to create a certain signature when it comes to the style of his/her book covers?
Aug 24, 7:38PM EDT0

If you are writing a series, yes. You want your reader to look at your books and realize from sight alone that they are connected. This can be shown by using the same models, similar backgrounds, same title font or color schemes. 

For those authors that write stand-a-lone books but want to brand their books under a specific genre or theme it will need a consistency. This being said if you are an author that writes only romance books and out of the blue throw a horror book on your site you will confuse your readers. If an author branches out into other genres most of the time they will write under a pen name. 

Overall, it isn't about creating a specific signature for your book covers. It is more about branding yourself as an author. Your books will have to fit the audience and direction you wish to market too. 

Aug 25, 11:52PM EDT0
Loved your cover of The Rocking Chair. Do you have a particular process to choose the fonts for each of your covers?
Aug 24, 10:51AM EDT0

When selecting a font for a cover I start off browsing my current fonts available on my computer. I have downloaded several hundred, so I have a large assortment. My process is selecting only three fonts I believe will bring out the cover itself. I will create a sample of the final cover with the three selections and pass it onto the author for approval.

If I don't come across a font in my library, I then begin the online search. This can take from an hour to four, it varies depending on the exact effect the font needs to have on the cover itself. The biggest thing to do when selecting a font is to research the genre the cover falls within and the authors target audience. If you select a font that doesn't fit the genre itself, you will end up destroying the cover and turning every potential reader off. 

Thank you, I would have to say The Rocking Chair cover is one of my top favorites. It was among the first I experimented with different paint settings in Photoshop. 

Aug 24, 11:57PM EDT0
How do you usually you deliver the final product of your designs? What formats are the best?
Aug 24, 6:58AM EDT0

The file format varies depending on the project itself and what medium you will produce it in. 

  • Ebook - JPG is the file format needed when uploading it to any distributor like createspace, kdp, draft2digital or smashwords. In the final file always get it in 300 dpi, high resolution. This way if you don't purchase the full paperback wrap you can add it later. When you share it on your website, blog or social media you want it in 150 dpi to make the image smaller and easier to upload. If you do a larger file size, you risk slowing down the page speed for loading. 
  • Paperback/Print Covers - You need a high resolution print ready PDF file to upload to your distributor. The image has to be in 300 dpi, some illustrators set it for 450 dpi but this can create a file too large to upload to the distributor's server. I make a practice of doing a JPG file also this way the author can have a smaller file to share online or in their newsletters.
  • Social Media/Website Content - These are always 150 dpi in JPG format. If you are doing items like a kindle 3D cover, you can do PNG files. Put nothing higher than 150 dpi online because it causes delays and loading issues. 
  • Print Content - Get these in a print ready PDF or JPG file. It depends on your printer you are going through. 

For delivering any project to my client, I will either send it over in messenger or by email. If the file is too large, I will upload it to my and send a share link to the author for them to download it. 

Aug 24, 11:46PM EDT0
What can you tell about the giveaway you are having until August 31st?
Aug 23, 3:32AM EDT0

The giveaway I am running through KJ Magical Designs is for one lucky author to receive a free Ebook Package. Winner will receive all items included in our Ebook Package. In addition, the winner will get the Standard Promo Package included with this prize. The winning author can use these items whenever they see fit, they do not have an expiration date. To claim the prize, the author will have to sign a service contract. Author will have to select an available date within our calendar to begin the project.

What the Winner will receive:

Ebook Package - 

  • Ebook Cover – full res JPG
  • Up to 10 revisions
  • Up to 3 stock photos, standard licensing included, additional $10 each
  • 3D e-reader mockup

Standard Promo Package:

  • 1 ad graphic
  • 1 3D cover
  • Facebook Banner
Aug 25, 9:38PM EDT0
What are some of the self-publishing trends authors should keep an eye on the near future and why?
Aug 22, 4:04AM EDT0

A big trend to follow would be Amazon itself since they are always changing things that affect authors. Amazon has been changing the publishing industry for years and changing the way people shop. Kindle Unlimited is a big topic that keeps coming up and will for a long time. 

It is always a good thing to watch what the big publishers are putting out to the public. This can show what is on the rise or decline for traditional authors and indie authors. 

Another thing to watch is marketing trends to see what is changing in the industry. This can range from what works for promoting your brand and what will help immensely when you go to release your books. Research successful/top authors and find out their process for releasing their new books, what goes into them. This way you can find out what works and what doesn't so you're not wasting your money. 

Aug 27, 6:30PM EDT0
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