market and publish your bookI’ve had some emails from authors about when to use an author personal assistant… and whether it’s even a good idea.

My answer is a resounding YES! It’s a good idea provided you have the means and the workload to support an assistant – which you might already have without even realizing it.

Author assistants provide a crazy amount of services these days, and it doesn’t matter where you’re located. You can find a virtual assistant (VA) who works at a distance, or an in-person assistant if someone lives near you.

For an author, the smartest use of an assistant is to either relieve you of administrative tasks or marketing tasks. Both are things you can learn and handle yourself, but if an author assistant can share the workload to free up your time for more writing… then it could be the best investment you ever make.

What Do Author Assistants Do, Exactly?

I’d never heard of this specialized branch of assistant-ship till recently. And even though I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a virtual assistant for routine administrative tasks, I’ve never taken the plunge.

But an author assistant? Someone who understands the unique needs of writers and authors, who often scare easily when it comes to heavy admin work?

I feel like I can’t raise my hand fast enough!

After scouring different author assistant websites, here’s a list of common services they offer:

  • Website setup and design
  • Social media account setup
  • Blog posting (some will even write your blogs for you)
  • Organizing a blog tour
  • Contest setup and brainstorming for contest ideas; sending out prizes
  • Beta reading and plotting assistance
  • Manuscript formatting
  • Press release distribution
  • Annual calendar creation for events and book releases
  • Bookkeeping and expense tracking
  • Email management
  • Booking ads and other promotional sources
  • Street team creation and management
  • Newsletter distribution
  • Personal errands and tasks

In most cases, an author assistant is also someone who loves to read and is likely already intimate with the book world. They know about the best book blogs. They’ve probably attended a few book-lover conferences or author signings. They might have even done work for some of your favorite authors!

So, much like expanding your platform on Goodreads where you’re directly tied to book lovers, an author assistant brings a higher level of scrutiny and support to the art of book creation.

6 Ways Author Assistants Can Help You Write Your Book Faster

The main reason to get an author assistant is to save time.

By delegating some of your book preparation tasks to an author assistant, you can have more time to do what you do best – write.

The following are some of the best ways an author assistant can help you write your book and get ready for publishing.

1. Do Research

If you’re writing historical fiction, or any kind of non-fiction book, or even trying to figure out your ideal reader demographic… an author assistant can do that research for you.

Often, they’ll charge an hourly fee — typically between $30 and $75. If you can use that time to get quality writing in, it’s possibly worth five times what they charge for research. In other words, well worth the investment.

2. Set up Interviews

If you’re trying to build buzz for your book, it’s a brilliant move to connect with bloggers and industry experts who conduct interviews.

The only problem with setting up interviews is that it can mean a ton of back-and-forth emails trying to schedule a time and prioritize questions.

If an author assistant can take this off your plate, it benefits you in two major ways. One, it frees you up to write more. Two, it saves you from being a slave to your email and feeling like you have to check it regularly.

3. Proofread and Edit Your Book

If you find an author assistant who is well-versed in your genre and skilled at copyediting, then by all means — ask him or her to comb through your book and look for errors.

Even if you’ve hired a professional editor, it’s worth having more pairs of eyes take a look.

4. Format Your Book

If you opt to self-publish, you’ll be tasked with detailed formatting requirements. As a matter of fact, if you submit your manuscript to agents and editors, you’ll have formatting requirements there, too.

Whether you think formatting is mundane work or the stuff goblin dreams are made of, a virtual assistant can save you the headache.

5. Launch Your Website

If you can get your author’s platform up and running before your book comes out, you’ll be that much more ahead of the curve.

And a core part of your platform will be your author’s website.

Depending on the skillset of your author assistant, they may be able to help you with the set up and design of your website. This can be very time-consuming for authors to figure out on their own, and is typically best delegated to someone more familiar with the process.

6. Manage Your Social Media Accounts

Another part of your author’s platform will be your social media accounts. And if your assistant is familiar with social media, you can get their help setting up and maintaining your accounts.

When readers and fans take the time to post on your wall, write reviews, or share comments, the smartest thing you can do as an author is respond with a thoughtful reply or even a simple thank you.

But as your marketing efforts build, so too will your social media follower numbers. It’ll become a challenge to respond to everyone in a timely manner. And even then, that’s time away from writing, not to mention the potential stress you’ll feel from the constant need to respond.

Instead, have an author assistant do it for you. If it’s someone you trust, they can respond using your profile. Or, you can introduce them to your followers as your representative. Either way, your fans will be grateful to be heard.

5 Things a Virtual Assistant Can Do to Help You Get Published

On top of all the time-saving potential an author assistant provides, he or she can also help you advance on the road to publication.

Seriously. Authors and author assistants can have a profoundly symbiotic relationship. On your end, you provide them with work and income. That’s always a good thing.

But they can help you get published, simply by making the tedious and impossible… doable. An author assistant could take on the following tasks:

1. Research Publishers and Agents

We talked before about author assistants researching your book. But what about having them do the humdrum, sometimes stressful work of figuring out which agents or editors you should approach?

Author assistants can comb through websites to find details on what work an agent or author is currently accepting. They can figure out formatting requirements and contact information.

They can even look for comments on the pages and social media accounts of other authors regarding why certain agents and editors are great to work with… and why others are not.

2. Seek Out and Interview Book Cover Designers

A good book cover can make or break your book. But finding the right designer from a field of… well, thousands… can be something of a headache. (Or a downright pain in the neck for months on end.)

But with an author assistant, you can have someone else do the work of not only finding the good ones, but also interviewing them to find out their rates, approach, and requirements.

3. Check Your Facts and Sources

Before submitting to an agent or editor, and certainly before publication, it’s a smart idea to have another set of eyes go through your notes and fact-check.

This is especially true if you’re writing about a time period different from one you’ve lived through, if you’re citing other writers or experts, or if you reference popular songs, movies, or brands in your book.

4. Get Legal Permission

Along with fact-checking your writing and sources, an author assistant can do the tedious work of getting legal permissions to use certain quotes and names.

In a lot of cases, getting legal permission requires several exchanges over email or telephone. Again, it becomes a time-saving advantage for you to have an author assistant.

5. Apply for Business Licenses and ISBN Numbers

These are necessary but potentially mind-numbing tasks, at least if you’re an author and your mind would rather be building worlds and birthing characters.

There’s a lot of paperwork involved in getting a business license or setting up your ISBN (International Standard Book Number). An author assistant can be a lifesaver here — not to mention someone who keeps the ball rolling when tasks come up that you’d really rather not handle.

How an Author Assistant Can Help Market Your Book

Marketing yourself as an author is supremely important. It’s the number one thing you can do to get your book noticed and establish yourself as a noteworthy author.

Once your book is published, an author assistant can help you market your book in a variety of ways, such as:

  1. Set up a virtual book tour. This is a great technique for getting your book promoted to an online audience… but can be time consuming to put together.
  2. Manage book listings on different electronic publishing platforms like Kindle, Smashwords, and Nook if you self-publish.
  3. Oversee social media promotion tasks, like publicizing when and where you’ll be signing copies of your book.
  4. Set up book signings in stores and at conferences.
  5. Schedule speaking engagements and book readings for you.
  6. Coordinate your online appearances, from guest blog posts, to podcast appearances, to putting together webinars and teleseminars.
  7. Direct the creation of book trailers, playlists that promote your book, and other media content.
  8. Take on the task of press release distribution.
  9. Schedule emails to your list and manage subscriber feedback.
  10. Manage your author website, especially if you have a shopping cart set up for your book sales. Your author assistant can sort through comments, post new content, and make sure all your pages are functioning.
  11. Spread goodwill for you as an author by delivering compliments and feedback to other authors when you read and enjoy their books.
  12. Secure testimonials from your readers. This includes sending out advanced copies of your book to your key market (yet another thing an author assistant can research for you) and then following up to request feedback and testimonials.

How to Find and Hire an Author Assistant

Now that you know everything an author assistant can help you with, you’re probably wondering where you can find one of these amazing people!

To start with, a simple internet search for the keyword “author assistant” can bring up a lot of options. You could also add the genre you write in to your search, but I noticed in my own research that many author assistants help authors across genres.

Once you find someone you’re interested in, investigate a bit and see if that person is also on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check to see whether they have updated content within their accounts.

Many author assistant websites I came across had not been updated for a few years. You want someone who’s on the ball and up with the times, so keep an eye out for current topics and information.

Be sure to ask for referrals from any author assistant you consider hiring, and take the time to contact each referral and ask as many questions as possible. After all, any author assistant you hire will get to know your book-writing business intimately… so make sure it’s someone you’re completely comfortable with.

Pricing will vary significantly, especially depending on whether you choose a freelancer or an outsourcing company. Most pricing options include a set number of hours per week for a set fee, such as $200 to $350 for 10 hours a month.

Consider This Question with Longevity in Mind

I get that it’s hard to digest the thought of hiring somebody before you even start making money.

But here’s the thing… if that person gets you to the finish line, isn’t it worth the investment in making this dream career of yours a reality?

One approach is to think about the things that hold you back from where you’d like to be as an author. If those things include research, paperwork, getting organized, and staying on top of email, then the small investment you’d make in an author assistant will pay off in spades once your author career is up and thriving.

To your outsourcing success,

mindy mchorse, author and copywriter