Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wedding Gowns & Book Covers and an Interview with Donna Casey

Can you tell a book by its cover? Well, you can certainly tell if the author is serious about being an author, that's for sure. In my opinion, it's very important that a book has an effective, compelling cover. I know there are many authors who also have the talent to create their own covers for both e-books and print and those very talented people amaze me. Unfortunately, I don’t have that sort of artistic talent and technical skill so I knew I needed the services of a pro.

It wasn’t difficult to find talented professionals; there are many talented people able to create wonderful e-book and print covers and researching them and their work -- and finally selecting one -- can seem overwhelming to the newbie indie author. However, I didn’t have to do much gnashing of teeth or hair pulling when I made my selection. In fact it was quite easy. After scanning the websites of half a dozen highly talented artists I hit on one and knew I’d fallen in love.

Did I see fantastic art at all the other sites I visited? Absolutely; the talent was astounding. So what made me stop dead at a particular website and know I’d found my artist?

The best way to explain it is to say it was very similar to the moment I knew I’d found my wedding gown. Almost all of the gowns I'd seen were beautiful. However, when I saw “mine” I was stopped cold: it was the most drop-dead gorgeous gown I had ever seen in my life and, even more importantly, I knew it would be drop-dead gorgeous on me. It was a gown with nearly magical powers to transform me into an absolutely stunning bride.

See, wedding gowns and book covers are about the “fit” as much as the beauty. A book cover, like the perfect once-in-a-lifetime bridal gown, needs to enhance your story as much as the perfect dress enhances a woman’s figure. Pushing the wedding analogy further, the artist you work with has to serve as your sympathetic, unflappable, completely in-control maid of honor – the “go to” person to calm your jitters, help you pull yourself together and get you out the door and up the aisle.

I found all of this in Donna Casey.

I loved her art work immediately and my admiration for her was taken to the next and most special level when we hit if off immediately and I knew I was going to really enjoy collaborating with her to produce my very first book cover. Something between us just “clicked” and I knew Donna was the perfect bride’s maid: sympathetic, unflappable, in-control. And like the best of bride’s maids, she was honest. She wasn’t going to let me go down the aisle if my lipstick was smeared or the train on my dress was not resting perfectly behind me. Her job was to make me look absolutely gorgeous.

So, this would be my advice: do your homework, fall in love with the person’s work, get a feel for their personality, and if all feels good to you – then give them your trust and let them partner with you to make you shine. Remember: they want you to shine because that makes them look wonderful and drives business back to them. If they’re an artistic pro and you’re not, listen to their suggestions and weigh them carefully. That’s why you hired them, remember?

One last thing: don’t abuse your new business partner. Get your act together and have an idea about what you want on your cover. It’s not reasonable to expect a dozen drafts or, if that needs to be, it’s not reasonable to expect not to pay for your artist's extra time. Like you, they’re in the business to make money and so don’t nickel & dime them to death. Expect to pay for making them bat-shit crazy with endless revisions and petulant demands. Treat your artist professionally. 

Authors’ blogs tend to run interviews about authors almost exclusively (which is wonderful!) but I’d like to interview some people who help indie authors publish their books, specifically those who provide cover art and formatting services. So today I’d like to start with my friend Donna.

Let’s learn a little about her world, OK?


MG: Hi Donna, thanks for the interview. Let’s start with your name and business name.

DC: Maureen, thank you for the interview! I’m Donna Casey and my biz name is

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

DC: I grew up just outside Boston, Massachusetts, where I still reside with my husband of 42 years; we have one son, one grandson and a Pomeranian. I've been an artist all my life and have created in all sorts of mediums, but digital imaging is by far, my favorite. No mess to clean up afterwards.
A few years ago, I tried my hand at novel writing and penned an action/thriller called A Grizzly End. After collecting a mountain of rejection letters from literary agencies and publishers, I decided to go the e-book route and published my novel on and for Amazon’s Kindle. Smashwords supplies their authors with a list of artists and editors who offer their services at reasonable prices. I asked to be included in that list because I felt that I had a talent to share with people and Digital Donna was born.

MG: What services do you offer?

DC: I offer e-book covers, full print covers (front, back and spine) and “3D” graphics and web ads to help authors market their books.

MG: What is the best advice you would give to an author?

DC: My best advice would be to keep the cover as simple as possible. Covers that are too busy just become mush when Amazon and other sites reduce them to put on their pages. Also, when in thumbnail size, the title MUST be legible; if the subtitle and author name are also legible at that size; it’s a plus. Thick fonts are best, unless there is good contrast between a thin font and the background image or color.

MG: Can you give any examples of a publishing nightmare?
DC: When I first began doing covers, I tried to make it as affordable as possible for my clients because I understood that independent writers are not rolling in dough. So, I used the smallest file sizes for the images on the covers. They were the least expensive but that meant that the covers were only good for the web, i.e. low resolution. After a few weeks, authors began coming back to get the full covers for print and I would have to go and purchase the high resolution images and create the covers all over again! So now I’ve made it my policy to use the most affordable high resolution images so that when an author comes back for the print version (and many of them do) the front cover is already done. It’s faster, easier and more economical in the long run.

MG: What should authors do to help you?

DC: Well, first of all, I’m a cover artist who uses photographs as opposed to a traditional artist who can paint anything that can be described to them. I can’t offer that kind of detail; I have to take a more generalized approach. So when authors have ideas about what they would like to see on their covers they should search for suitable images and if they find any that they like, they should supply me with the ID numbers so I can go and get them. This serves two purposes:

1.  If I use those images in the creation of their covers, it’s a pretty good bet they will like it and there won’t be a lot of revisions in the image department, thus the cover gets done faster.

2.  When they go hunting for specific images, like a 12-year old girl in a period costume from the 1400’s in Outer Mongolia who’s bending over to pet a three-legged dog, they will see what I’m up against. This is the biggest mistake authors make when dealing with an artist who uses photographs as opposed to a traditional artist.

MG: What do you love most about your career?

DC: I love constructing the cover images. It satisfies my creative urges, plus I “meet” people from all walks of life and from all over the world. I have worked with homemakers, inspirational speakers, physicists, pastors, actors, soldiers, diplomats, teachers, cancer survivors and even a high priced call girl! I have communicated with people from Australia, Panama, Britain, France, Japan, China, Dubai, Nigeria, Zambia, South Korea, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Brazil and many states in the U.S.

MG: Any final impressions about publishing today?

DC: I believe that self-publishing and eReaders like the Kindle are changing the whole landscape of writing. Authors no longer have to submit their work to dozens of literary agencies only to be disappointed when they receive those dreaded rejection letters. Readers are now being exposed to so many excellent writers whose work might never have been available to them. It’s a win-win for writers and readers. One last observation: I absolutely ADORE my Kindle!

Digital Donna can be found at and Facebook.

Enjoy your day!


  1. I've used Donna also, I love her work. I did a Squidoo lens highlighting some of the book covers she's done for me.

    She's working on a cover for #1 in a new series of pulp stories, I'm eager to see what theme she applies as it will carry over to all the Sparrow Swift books. She's easy to work with (I want his eyes to be blue), fast, and affordable.

    I imagine a bridesmaid needs a sense of humor too. Donna has that.

    Don't forget to tip her if she gives extraordinary service ;>}

  2. Thanks for the wonderful information sharing, each of them would like wear gorgeous and amazing dress for their wedding its true while choosing their wedding dresses its an important thing to notice that the design and worth of that dress.

  3. I have worked with Donna on seven book covers and have to say she has captured exactly what I wanted every time! I have a series and she has been able to translate the key element of the books into each cover which helps the ready know which books go together just by looking at the covers. I HIGHLY recommend Donna! Her work is beautiful, affordable and she is wonderful to work with. As long as you give her enough information the first time she can nail the idea you have in your head and put it on 'paper'! Trust me, you won't be disappointed!