The ins and outs of WHY and HOW Adriel became an author assistant
I am often asked how and why I became an author assistant. I would LOVE to talk to you about this, if you’re interested in becoming an author assistant. Do not hesitate to email me! While I gave a brief version of how I became an author assistant in my Becoming an Author Assistant series, I wanted to expand up on that more.
2012: A Network. Do not skip this step.
In 2010 I joined Google Plus. I immediately fell in love with the fact that communities were build around interests, rather than how you knew someone. This greatly expanded my network of people I knew. Although I did not begin with the intent of building an author assistant business, this was definitely the beginning. I joined every author/writing/reading community I could find in 2012. The gold mine was a series of communities built by one John Ward. Ward has a knack of putting together people who belong together, even though they’re quite diverse. In this case, he built communities for readers who wanted to beta read, writers who wanted critique, authors who wanted tips on business, readers looking for new books, etc. I joined them all. While some of these communities had thousands of people in them, others were smaller and more intimate. Many of my closest author relationships I have today are due to Ward’s influence on Google Plus. May it R.I.P. Later, I would take what had become my model from Google Plus, and transfer it (as much as possible) to other social networks, joining groups, lists, and communities that were created for authors and readers. I spent ten minutes to an hour every day scrolling through my groups and communities, making sure I was a part of them, and building relationships in them. My focus was never my business while doing this, but rather the people themselves.
2014: Volunteerism. This is often the most difficult step to take.
At the beginning of the summer of 2014, an author in one of Ward’s G+ groups asked if anyone could beta read for her, because she had a feeling some things needed to be fixed in her book. I volunteered. This is where I cannot emphasize enough to never judge a book by its cover. Er, person by their bio. Gina looked at my about section and thought, “This conservative Christian woman wants to read my paranormal murder mystery with curing and sex in it?” She almost turned me down. But she decided to take a chance on me. Little did she know that I love paranormal mysteries very much. I found a couple of issues in her book, made some suggestions, and then asked her when the second book was going to be written. By the end of the summer, we were good friends. We were talking nearly every day, and we both got to know the heart and mind of the other. We discovered that our reading tastes matched up nearly perfectly. And we often noticed something the other would miss. We were a nearly perfect team.
2015: The Grand Plan. Building a side-gig is hard, yo.
By the time Gina and I had finished and pushed publish on her first paranormal mystery, she decided it was time to sit down and have a little chat with me. It went something along the lines of, “Adriel, I would pay good money for someone to do what you did for me. So start charging people. Seriously.” I laughed at her at first. But then she told me that our mutual friend Steve Turnbull was willing to take a chance on me. I began research on how much editors charge. I had read an article written by the continuity editor for the Harry Potter series (the full interview is referenced in this snippet but is now missing) and knew that what I enjoyed doing was more along those lines than copy editing. So, even knowing it would greatly restrict my prospective client pool, I specialized in continuity editing. Not only did Steve enjoy my work, but both he and Gina began to tell other authors about me. I fully admit: I made a lot of mistakes in those first days. I did not have a good contract in place. I often misunderstood what exactly authors were looking for. I hadn’t yet learned the ins and outs of the self-publishing business (which I would come to learn was vastly different than my experiences as a traditionally published author). There are authors that I would love to work for now that I suspect would never hire me again based on that first year and the many hard lessons I learned. But over that year, I worked out a lot of the kinks.
2016: Redirection to Bigger Plans. Ah! Training and Experience make all the difference!
During the summer of 2016, Gina once again sat down to have a chat with me. This time she said, “I don’t need you to be my editor. Well, I do. But what I really need is for you to be my assistant.” I cannot thank Gina enough for the summer of 2016. I fully recognize that not everyone who wants to become an author assistant will have an author that’s financially stable enough to be their benefactor while they get training. Gina bought several different courses by well known authors. She invested in conferences and webinars and books and much more. And she shared it all with me. The results? Gina and I both learned the self-publishing business inside and out. We learned the differences between several different types of thinking (surely you’ve heard of the KU vs Wide debate). We hammered out contracts and rates and profitable portions of the business (verses some services that just don’t get paid enough). It was a learning process for both of us. But it was essential in choosing which directions our businesses would go afterwards. While you will most likely not have someone pay for your training, dear new author assistant, this is the most important step. There are numerous free courses. Take them. There are numerous free books. Read them. Then, when you’re making a bit of money, invest a good portion of that back into your business and training. I read at least one business book or take at least one course every single month. I invest about 20% of my earnings back into my business (some of that goes toward things like website maintenance and funds for conference travel, etc.) I am responsible for my own continuing education in this ever-changing world. I am constantly forcing myself to learn new techniques, new systems, new ideologies, and new secrets to publishing. And then, yes, I am proud to affiliate with some of the best of those courses. I have learned that the six months I took to train myself and work out a lot of the beginning kinks with Gina was well worth it. Those months are why I feel comfortable calling myself a professional. Then, toward the end of 2016, I officially opened my doors to more authors beyond my small established circle.
2017: The Year of Growth. Some lessons are painful.
While Gina and I had worked out a lot of kinks, simply by opening my doors to other authors, I learned that there was much more to learn. Once again, I made many mistakes. This time, it wasn’t the editing, but the assisting that needed lots of tweaking. I learned quickly how to vet whether or not I wanted to work with an author. I learned quickly how to apologize when I made a mistake with huge consequences. I learned quickly how to pay even better attention to detail to avoid those mistakes. I learned very quickly what my personal thresholds of time and energy were. In other words, I didn’t have the chance to stop learning because new lessons came every day. I do not regret this year and its growing pains, though I wish I could fix some of the things that happened. The greatest lesson of all this year was learning to have patience with myself and with authors who didn’t really know how to communicate what they wanted (whether or not they really wanted it). As authors told more authors about me and I expanded my client base, I had to learn how to juggle author assistant life vs everything else life. I had to learn just how much time a project would really take. I had to learn how to say no. I had to learn how to say yes. I had to learn a lot more that simply didn’t come in a business book or publishing course. I can promise you this: The first couple years of your author assistant business will not be easy. Stick with it. Once you find your sweet spot, all the trouble and lessons and growing pains will have been worth it. The authors that survived that rough year with me are the ones I’ll gladly work for for the rest of my life. They all rank quite high in my list of Favorite People.
2019: The Year of Expansion: You cannot do everything yourself.
After a couple of years of settling into the business, making mistakes, learning from them, making more mistakes, and learning from them, I finally realized I was at a point that I had to make a crucial decision. See, I had too much work. My reputation had grown exponentially, whether or not I thought I deserved it. I was too busy. So I had to decide on whether I would turn away jobs, cut some older clients out, or hire on help. I decided to hire help as well as severely limit how many new clients I would take on, and what kind of work I would take on. I began by hiring a young lady I’d known for over a decade, Tori Barron. Tori was young and hungry and ready to take on the world. Plus, she wanted to be a career author some day. So I began training her on the business end of the author business. This allowed me to free up time to clear large projects off of my plate and focus more on the work I really loved doing. Shortly after that, I hired on Tori’s mother, Tricia Preston. Tricia had always wanted to be a copy editor and proofreader, but her career had taken other paths. Hiring Tricia on, even just part time to only do copy editing and proofreading, allowed me to no longer turn away some projects from my established clients simply because I had someone on my team that was both great at that task, and had time to work on them. They both made great additions to my business, rounding out what I could offer clients.
While your story will not look exactly like mine, it will have many similar points. You will have to build a network of professionals that you work with. You will have to get training. You will have to make some mistakes in order to grow. You should share what you’ve learned. And, hopefully, you will absolutely love your job. The day that you wake up and say, “I’m living my dream life being an author assistant” is the day that you know you’ve chosen the right career path. This is not a career for those not passionate about books. This is not a career for those who don’t love helping others. This is not a career for those who don’t like hard work. This is not a career for those who don’t know how to eat crow. But if you’re in the sweet spot of that particular venn diagram, then this just might be the career for you. Welcome to the club.
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.