Becoming an Author Assistant Part One: Making the Decision
This is part one of a three part series on becoming an author assistant by Adriel Wiggins, virtual assistant and continuity editor.
So you love reading and want to read more free books and get paid to do so! Or maybe you just really love a particular author and want to help them grow their business. Or perhaps you have found that your skills in editing, marketing, design, or organization are highly valued. Whichever factors brought you here, you’ve decided to become an author assistant. So…now what do you do?
1. Find your skillset
Different authors need different skills from their assistants. And each assistant has a particular skillset that they work best within. Some assistants only do ONE type of work, due to their skillset. Before you begin pounding the streets to market yourself, figure out what it is that you do best. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. One of the most valuable things in an assistant is the ability for the author assistant to say, “I think someone else can do that particular task for you better than I can.” As I became an author assistant, I quickly learned that I much rather play in large-data management (yes, spreadsheets) than in photo editing software. This made certain projects like survey result tabulation and AMS keyword search much more marketable for me. What do you love to do best?
2. Educate yourself
If you don’t have a deep skillset already, that’s ok! Build one. Most author assistants work doing administrative tasks, book marketing, graphic design, social media account administration, writing newsletters, and communicating on behalf of their authors. You can learn how to do all of these things. Invest in yourself and your business by buying books on organization, marketing (especially those targeted toward authors), graphic design and photo editing, social media best use practices, writing, and entrepreneurs. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks for authors and entrepreneurs. Take classes at your local library or community college. Invest in online courses* by top authors who give detailed breakdowns of how to run an author business (these courses are usually marketed toward indie authors, but are invaluable resources for author assistants). You can begin with free resources, but bookmark paid ones to look up later on. I spend about an hour a week investing in the learning process for my business (after spending the first four months doing nothing but taking classes and reading books and listening to podcasts).
3. Build your business
Once you’ve decided to market yourself as an author assistant, begin thinking of your business like a book launch. In order for a book launch to be successful, there needs to be several key factors all working together: a professional website, a professional newsletter or mailing system, a coordinated social media and advertising campaign, and a solid network of people to spread the marketing campaign. In a book launch, each of those can have a thousand moving pieces; it’s no different when building a business. Part Two focuses much more on the step-by-step process of building an author assistant business from scratch.
4. Build a network
When Google+ first opened Communities, I joined dozens of author communities. That opened up opportunities for me to beta read for authors, which eventually led to several of those authors hiring me as an editor and then an assistant. All of my social media accounts have at least one list or group or community dedicated to just authors. I’m part of dozens of groups of authors discussing their work or looking for assistants or promoting their books or doing boxed sets or newsletter swaps. While I’m in many of those groups for the purpose of representing an author or two that I work for, I use all of those groups as a basis to build relationships with authors, other author assistants, and other book related vendors. Even if some of them never hire me, they can recommend me to their friends, or reinforce a positive reputation about me. I’m also part of an author assistant group that is nothing but author assistants helping each other with our businesses. When one closed her business, she gave all of her authors a list of assistants from that group; it’s how Sara and I met. You never know where your next customer will come from. I also use these groups to find vendors for authors. I maintain a list of editors (of various types), copy writers, cover artists, cover models, formatters, publishers, distributors, marketers, and promotions representatives. Even though I can do many of the tasks these people do, I sometimes find myself too busy to perform a particular task, or these vendors are much better at a particular aspect than I am. Building my network of vendors allows me to recommend the best person for a job when an author asks for a recommendation.
5. Build a solid reputation
What do you want your business to be known for? Everyone has a reputation, whether good or bad. The book business community is much smaller than you might think it is. Do you want everyone in the community to see you as professional? Competent? Kind? Efficient? Artistic? If so, then focus on those traits and habits which build that reputation steadily. It should go without saying, and yet it must be said: If you want customers to continue to work with you, and if you want to build your client base, then you must be a professional. Even if you work off of your phone while waiting for your kids in the car-rider line (which I, and more than a couple assistants I know do), you can be professional. It’s not about your fancy office set up; it’s about how you treat people and how you do your work. You can see what things authors consider to be signs that you’re a professional in Sara’s series “Working With An Author Assistant.”
6. Be patient
Be patient with yourself and with your customers. Every job has a learning curve. And every person makes mistakes. The more you work as an author assistant, the more mistakes you’ll make, but the more you’ll learn. Just try not to make the same mistake twice. Many of your author clients will be learning right along with you, so you may find that they need to change some things on you. That’s ok. The more you learn, the easier it will be.
Check out Part Two of this series for info on building an author assistant business and Part Three for Q & A where I answer common author assistant questions. Or, check out Part One of Sara’s Working With an Author Assistant series.
*Note: the set of courses linked to above is an excellent source of information from a long-time professional author. The link IS an affiliate link, so your signing up DOES help me. However, if you use coupon code ADRIELWIGGINS, it’ll give you a 20% discount.
Continuity Editor & Virtual Assistant
Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, fur mom, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.