Maria and I found each other at RWA 2014 Atlanta. We met over an iPod Nano. We never talked about writing, only music on her tiny Nano. The tiny toy and its 5000 songs fascinated me. She gave it to me. I’ll have it with me at Disney RWA this year. If you catch me, I’ll show you. It has all my songs now. Imagine?
One day late last year, I noticed “Maria Connor, Author Assistant” in an RWA email. I called to ask if she was the same Maria that gave me the Nano. “Yes,” she said. I asked if she could help me with my work. She was booked, but offered a consult. The consult was terrific. Then early this year, I received an email asking if I was still interested in her services. I immediately said yes, and it’s been fantastic—we work well together.
I asked Maria if she would explain what an Author Assistant does, and how to find one because it’s wonderful.
Here’s Maria: The Author Assistant offers one of the most in-demand support services. Here are suggestions and insights about how assistants work in today’s publishing environment.
What is an Author Assistant?
An Author Assistant, aka virtual assistant or personal assistant, provides support services to writers. They are usually freelance or contract positions. Some assistants work with a single author while others support several authors. Many work remotely, but some work with their clients in person.
What Does an Author Assistant Do?
There is no standard job description yet for the Author Assistant because needs of the author differ. Here’s a partial list of services offered by most assistants:
- Entering contests and sending prizes to winners
- Formatting books
- Coordinating events (eg, Book signings)
- Social Media management
- Designing and formatting newsletters
- Updating/maintaining websites
- Working with reader teams
- Creating teasers and graphics
- Marketing support and assistance
How Can Hiring an Assistant Benefit Authors?
Hiring an experienced, professional assistant provides a number of benefits:
- Plotting, planning, and writing time
- Reducing stress
- Improving organization: filing, phone calls, appointments, etc.
- Coordinates opportunities, programs, events, speaking engagements, conferences
- Professional image enhancement
- Efficient use of your time
- Solidify your brand
- Clarification of goals/priorities
- Pass along promotional opportunities
- Your personal “Cheerleader”
- Enjoy a competitive edge
- Coverage for vacations, holidays and sick time
Do Less and Write More: Hire an assistant and have more time to write which means more published books, more sales and more income. Here’s a little formula—Average writing 600 words an hour, by hiring an assistant for five hours a week you could complete an additional 3,000 words a week. If you write a 12,000-word novella, you could potentially complete an additional story every month. How awesome it that?
How Do I Hire an Author Assistant?
Seek an Author Assistant the same way you would search for an agent, editor or publisher. Use a variety of resources to generate a solid list of potential candidates.
- Ask friends and peers for referrals
- Ask to be introduced to assistants at events and/or conferences
- Attend Author Assistant workshops
- Post a wanted blurb within your organization’s newsletter, etc.
- Online search
- Review referral sites such as Author’s Atlas and Author EMS
- Check out sites for freelancers such as Upwork and Freelancer
Once you have a list of potential Author Assistants, screen and research each candidate. Begin at their website, blogs, social media profiles and LinkedIn profiles. While reviewing these sources, keep these questions and considerations in mind:
- Background? Qualifications?
- Experience in the publishing industry?
- Professional online presence?
- Strength of their writing skills?
- Any reviews and/or recommendations?
- How long have they been in business?
Before an interview prepare a job description or list of duties you need/require. Based on the criteria, develop a list of interview questions.
Once you’ve hired an assistant, be prepared to invest time and energy in discussions relative to your needs and to build a working relationship. I caution my new clients to expect a few bumps in the road until we’ve established trust and rapport. You may have different communication styles, different processes, even different expectations. I suggest delegating one or two tasks to start and then move forward.
In my experience, many authors pursue a career in writing because they are passionate about storytelling. Writing is more than a career, and this affects the working relationship between an author and assistant, making it more intimate and personal. I’m fortunate to have developed several long-term partnerships with smart, talented authors, and I consider it a privilege to be a part of their team.
Maria Connor is the founder and owner of My Author Concierge. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than 15 years. Her roles include freelance writer, journalist, author, editor, designer and photographer. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and specializes in working with self-published romance authors. For more information visit www.myauthorconcierge.com
This is my stuff that I have more time for because of Maria!