Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's OK to judge a book by its cover! - interview with cover artist Dawne Dominique

Over the past few months I've featured several of my fellow writers from Secret Cravings Publishing, so there's a good chance you've already seen one of Dawne Dominique's arresting, intriguing covers. Her craft is direct result of passionate experimentation and self-education.

MJN: You have designed countless covers for several publishers. Do you keep track of every project?  Do you sometimes bump into a cover on Amazon and say, "Hm... this looks familiar?"  Do you ever feel the urge to go back and revise one of your covers?

DD: I keep a Master List for two publishers. I’m sent cover art forms for the rest. I’m also a folder freak with my computer. *chuckles* Being a paralegal in my ‘other’ life, I’m an organized fanatic. I have to be, so that extends to my cover artist business as well. Every publisher I work with is different in the way they release, in the timing of their releases, the amount of books being released, and/or the formats they’re releasing (eBook or print).  It’s my Indie authors that keep me on my toes.  You know the saying—when it rains, it pours?  I keep a spread sheet for those authors.  Turnaround time is less than a week. I don’t sleep a lot. 

Of course, I’ve seen some covers out there that look a little like mine.  Creative minds can be similar in technique.  Thankfully, I haven’t run into a situation wherein one of covers has been copied (literally). I take what an author has given in me in terms of how they want their cover to look (descriptions, scenery, genre, etc.) and I go from there. It’s inevitable that some creative minds think alike. Hopefully, not identical.

With respect to going back and wanting to revise a cover I’ve done...sometimes. And it’s usually only with my own book covers. I would be a cover artist’s worse nightmare. I’m never satisfied. Even after it’s published, I find something I want to change.

MJN: You were voted best cover artist by Preditors & Editors several times, but last time the competition got very tight.  In a way, it's a popularity contest.  Enough people have to show up and vote for you.  How do you develop an internal protective mechanism to keep your emotions in check when the temperature rises?

DD: I don’t believe it’s a popularity contest.  It’s recognition of cover artist talent.  I’ve never been one who gives emphasis on ‘popularity’.  Even as a teenager, I had created my own crowd. Renee Barrett, the other cover artist in contention for first place with me, is an unbelievably talented cover artist, and an absolute wonderful person through and through. In fact, she emailed me on Facebook and congratulated me on the win. I admire her talent so much.  And vice-versa.  That’s professionalism. This business is competitive, true, but I’ve never been one to get upset or pout. Life is too short for such silliness. I will say that I’ve worked with a few authors that I won’t work with again, but I can count them on one hand...minus a few fingers. I’ve been doing this for many years. As an author myself, I’ve had to grow thick skin.  Patience is virtue to being a good cover artist. I grew up with a mentally challenged little brother, and I have him to thank for the abundance of patience I have today.

For me, recognition for all my hard work is nice to receive. Just being nominated for any award is a thrill, but without the authors I’ve worked with none of that would be possible, so any award or recognition is for them too. It’s their books. I’m merely taking their words and depicting art.

MJN: With technology making graphic art so easy to create and edit, you have to stay on top of the latest advancements.  All cover artists I've worked with tell me that so much of it is self-taught yet you keep having to exercise your muscle to stay competitive.  New editions of PhotoShop make it so easy for new artists to emerge, so the established ones have to stay one step ahead.

DD: I’m a self-taught photoshop artist. I began experimenting with digital art in the early to mid-2000 with an easy-peasy program called Serif. In fact, I still use an advanced Serif program for print formats, along with photoshop. I always say technology is great...if it works. Throughout the years, I’ve upgraded programs several times, but I still use the same photoshop that I’ve used for the last five years.  Graphic art has come a long way since its inception. For me, it’s all about having my own style. I use what works best for me.

MJN: Is there a graphic novel series that you like and derive inspiration from? I have a feeling that you are a fan of the Sandman series.

DD: The Sandman series covers are amazing artwork. The horror/darkness aspects to them draw me in. My personal favorite of Neil’s is a book called The Ocean at the End of the Lane. That cover is haunting, simplistic and definitely eye-catching. That’s what I strive to do with my own cover artwork. I’m also partial to The Watchmen series.

MJN: For an author, one of the benefits of working with a smaller press is having a say in the cover design. I imagine that on occasion an author gets a little frantic because he/she doesn't know how to communicate his/her thoughts to the cover artist.  What advice would you give to an author working with a cover artist that would make the creative process less stressful and more productive to both of them?  You gave me excellent advice: keep things simple and don't go crazy with too many characters and props on the cover.

DD: A lot of the covers I create are character specific. I can never, ever get a character to be as an author has imagined. Yes, the author has envisioned their characters in a hundred different ways. They’ve given birth to them, so to speak. I get it. I’m an author myself. But my scope of models is based on stock photography sites.  I’ve had more than a few authors request a different model than the one I’ve chosen (sometimes two or three) because “they don’t like their look.” In retrospect, it doesn’t matter how an author has imagined their character(s).  If that particular model fits the character descriptions in the book, then I’ve done my job. Every reader is going to imagine the character(s) as they see fit.  A cover is merely a guideline.  The best advice is exactly what I told you:  Keep things simple. Two characters maximum (except for ménage, but I prefer using just the main character on those), and a background that quirks curiosity in readers and makes them look closer. If there’s too much going on the front, the eye doesn’t know where to look first.  We artists call that a ‘busy’ cover. It’s the simplistic, striking artwork that renders second looks, and those second looks can usually generate a sale.


  1. I love Dawne's covers. I'm the proud owner of the Truth Teller cover that in a word is, spectacular! I swear your are a physic, Dawne! You have nailed my characters just so perfectly. Scarily perfect! :)

    Great interview!

  2. Aw, thanks, Kurt. I watched you give birth to that baby, so that's probably why. ((hugs))