This week, the sponsors of the YA Indie Carnival are talking about the people who tell us when our plots gets weak, make our books look intriguing, polish our words, and format our pages... the people we can't live without. Beta readers, book cover designers, editors, and formatting specialists. As any author can tell you, there are many who offer their services, but all are not created equal.
Beta Readers: This person is one of the most important people in the writing process. For me, my beta reader takes time from his hectic schedule to read the unedited versions (without saying one word about all of my typographical errors) of my book-in-progress and provides valuable feedback. I'm absolutely sure my beta reader assumes I'm going to get rid of scenes/characters/ settings when he suggests I do so. Instead, I do exactly the opposite. When he mentions he has a problem, I go to work to make the scene more realistic/haunting/passionate/happier... whatever it takes to change the scene from 'you've got to get it out of there' to 'it's the best scene you've ever written'. If he tells me I will never make the readers like a certain character, I create redeeming situations that suddenly makes it impossible for the readers not to have feelings for that character. If my beta reader doubts my ability to create a fantasy world, I begin building one from the ground up. No detail too small. I don't stop weaving, building, and creating until he finally admits the scene is unforgettable... the hated character is lovable... my fantasy world is believable. I'm truly grateful he does what he does, and he allows me to bounce ideas off him (sometimes in the middle of a boring meeting through the passing of notes ✿◠‿◠).
Book Cover Designers: I know there are probably millions of book cover designers, but for me and in my eyes, there is only one. Claudia Lucia McKinney (Phatpuppy Art). Claudia is talented, amazing, and kind. I've written about her so many times, I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing me gush, but I couldn't be more pleased that I found her, that she's my book cover designer, and that she is my friend. I should also mention that she is wicked fast. Usually, I tell her what I'm looking for or the changes I would like her to make to an existing piece. Before humanly possibly, she has a design back to me, and it is always perfect. As long as I'm an indie author and Claudia is designing covers, she will be my book cover designer.
Editors: This is one of the biggest trial and error aspects of my indie author career. Here's what I've learned. I'm an author who wants to be pushed, challenged, and made to be better. I want my editor to take the gloves off and tell me what I need to do to make my book phenomenal. I may be an anomaly. Also, it is very difficult for some people to give negative feedback. Rather than make an author angry or be confronted with the reality that they are being paid to give negative feedback (when it's warranted), many editors edit the words as they are written instead of envisioning ways for those words to be more powerful. I had a slow start when it came to finding the right editor for me, but I can tell you without a doubt in my mind, I have the perfect editor now. Cassie McCown with gathering leaves. She doesn't let me settle for good enough, and I appreciate that in ways she will never know. When I get a good review or a positive comment about my books, I find myself wanting to share them with Cassie because I know how hard she works to help me get my books ready for publishing. The comment I made about Claudia can be said for Cassie. As long as I'm an indie author and Cassie is editing, she will be my editor.
Formatting Specialist: Well, I'm my formatting specialist. It is not a task I enjoy, but it is one I've come to embrace with the help of Smashwords Style Guide. I'd like to say anyone can format their book and have it ready for iTunes (for an ebook) or CreateSpace (for a paperback book), but it took me lots of work to become mildly proficient at this chore. Eventually, I will turn this responsibility over to someone, but that won't happen until I find another Claudia/Cassie. Until then, I'll keep formatting specialist on my list of job duties.
Now, take a few minutes and see what the other members have to say about the people they enlist to help them.