If you’re an indie writer, these days you’re often dealing with people you’ve never met and probably never will – cover designers, interior designers, manuscript assessors, editors. I have never met the woman did the cover and the interior for my escapist novel, MagnifiCat; she lives in the US. I have never met Marty Norman, the US artist who did the wonderful drawing the cover uses.
I have never met Paul Salvette, the kindly e book designer of B B Books, who lives in Thailand. And so it goes on. These days we choose off the web, and hope our choice will turn out to be a good one. What can we do to make this process a little less of a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey affair?
Well, word of mouth is still the best way of choosing an expert for your book. If you know someone who used so-and-so and thought so-and-so was great, then you’ve gone a long way towards finding someone who’ll do a good job for you.
The next thing to do, if it’s an editor you’re looking for, is to look at this person’s website. If there are testimonials, read them carefully — very carefully. If the person happens to have another website, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to your search, read that, too. If they’ve written any books, have a look at them. At least read the back covers and avail yourself of the free Look Inside extract that Amazon provides. What kind of themes does this specialist you’re considering espouse? What kind of world view has s/he? Many people, in spite of their technical expertise, in spite of your friend’s good experience with them, will not be the right fit for your manuscript.
In my opinion, this is particularly important in the case of novelists starting out. They tend to have a less secure grip on the structure of their work and are more likely to need assistance in the early drafts. But the right assistance in these cases is assistance that bears in mind what the writer, not the editor, would like to convey. So read up on everything you can about an expert before committing yourself. That way, you’ll both be in tandem when you’re working on your book.
To sum up: when looking for an expert in one of the many fields of book pre-production, after the usual areas of competence have been investigated, make sure you choose someone simpatico, with a compatible take on the world. Bear it in mind as you’re searching, particularly if it’s an editor you’re after. Even if they have wonderful skills in their particular field, it can be more important than you think, especially when you’re starting out.