In today’s ever changing world of publishing, authors can’t just sit back and write their books. They have become marketers, branders, spokespeople, social media experts, publicists, promoters, web designers and sometimes even publishers. Sounds like a serious Type A personality. But does it have to be all or nothing for authors? I sat down with three author assistants who’s job it is is to assist the authors in anyway they can so the author can concentrate on writing their books.
Kim Castillo is a virtual assistant who spends her days trying to give her bestselling clients more time in the day to spend writing and with their families. When she’s not at her computer working on fabulous marketing ideas she’s chasing down one of her three cats, two dogs or bird.
Kati Rodriguez is a virtual assistant by day and a recovering romance book addict and blogger by night. When not assisting, blogging or reading, she spends time ogling the local firemen behind the safety of her aviators at Starbucks. A lover of the color pink, you can always spot her at conferences with a giant pink bag.
Maggie Mae Gallagher is a virtual assistant, writer, Cub Reporter for Beyond Her Book, and Event Manager for RomCon. When she’s not assisting her authors, spending time writing, or being a social media wiz, she can be found wrangling her niece or attending the latest comic con/geek fest.
Why did you become an author’s assistant?
Kim: I actually just kind of fell into it. Eloisa James was a friend and I wanted to help her out. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. Its the most perfect job for me.
Kati: To tell you the truth, I sort of fell into being an author’s assistant thanks to Vicky Dreiling. She had gotten a bit overwhelmed with writing and doing administrative/promotional things so she asked if I would help her out. Vicky was very instrumental in me becoming an author’s assistant. She told author friends about me and it sort of snowballed from there.
Maggie: My journey happened by chance and was not a path I had originally intended. Two years ago, I was at a breakfast with a bunch of authors and happened to be sitting next to Eileen Dreyer. During the course of our conversation, Eileen mentioned she had been looking for an assistant with little luck and if I knew anyone. Fate nudged my hand forward and I tossed my hat into the ring. I built my business part-time for about ten months before I made the leap into being a virtual assistant full-time. I feel so blessed to have meet Eileen because looking back, it’s been such an incredible, exciting journey thus far. I love what I do
What makes you so valuable to authors?
Maggie: The skills I acquired during my tenure as an Office Manager have been supremely useful. Granted I have modified those skill sets. The publishing industry requires an ability to adapt to the ever evolving business model at lightning speeds while maintaining strident attention to details, a fearlessness in approaching new opportunities, well developed networking skills, the ability to anticipate what my clients need by keeping my finger on the pulse of the industry, and organizational abilities that would make Sheldon Cooper proud. I apply all of this to my business in the hope of delivering the highest quality service.
Kim: My flexibility, willingness to please and understanding of marketing and readers.
Kati: Gosh! Do I have to answer this question? I feel like I’m tooting my own horn but here it goes…I think my ability to adapt and learn as the market changes makes me valuable to authors. Whether it’s social media, a new idea for promoting new releases or something an author sees that a fellow author is doing that seems to be working, I try my best to add it to my skill set.
Some of you work for more than one author. Does it ever get confusing?
Kim: Surprisingly no.
Kati: Sometimes it does get confusing but the calendar on my phone, computer and even an old fashioned monthly planner keeps me on track. I even have a large wall calendar above the desk to keep me on track. Sticky notes and color coding are my friends
Maggie: Yes and it’s a constant juggling act but one that I love doing. As an Office Manager, I had three to four hundred client files to stay on top of a daily basis so I understand how to balance my client’s needs while prioritizing duties. A typical day in the life of an assistant can have a range of jobs from shipping books at the post office to creating an ad design to website maintenance to…whatever else my authors need me to do.
Are you all aspiring writers?
Kati: I’ve been writing since I can remember so I guess you would say that I’m still an aspiring writer.
Maggie: As a writer seeking publication, you couldn’t hope for a better internship. I have seen behind the curtain of what it truly takes, not only to be a successful writer, but what it takes to make a career out of writing.
Why do authors need assistants?
Kati: As an author, if you get to the point of dreading the following, you might look into getting an assistant:
- Not getting your word count in for the day because you’re so busy doing non-writing stuff.
- That inbox is looking really scary. (100+ emails, anyone?)
- You hate standing in line for the post office to send out promo.
- Updating your website. (Why are the links not working?)
- New forms of social media keep popping up and it makes you want to cry because do you really need an account?
Those are just a few examples. I’m sure as an author, you can think of a whole lot more. If you ask around, you will be able to find an assistant within your budget. So even if you’re not a New York Times bestselling author, you can still get yourself an assistant.
Maggie: For a number of reasons. First, in this day and age with the sheer scope that social media demands on an author, assistants help carve away some of time they would spend promoting on those outlets so they can accomplish more writing. Second, as another partner to help market, establish blog tours and find reviewers for releases. Third, someone to take care of those pesky little things like website updates, newsletter formatting, and the list of inglorious time sucks on an author’s time could go on and on. Assistants help defray those demands so an author can focus on the most important part of their job, the writing. Assistants are an author’s partner very much like their editor and agent.
Kim: Because no one can run a business alone and once published, that’s exactly what an author is. They are a brand that needs time and cultivation. If an author tried to write, do all their own administration and have a family/life, they wouldn’t have much time for the family/life, in my opinion.
What are some of your duties for the authors?
Maggie: My daily tasks can range across the board. A typical day in the life entails conversing with the publicity department at a client’s publishing house, addressing my email inbox, designing an ad, updating clients calendars, packing book shipments for winners, updating websites, and that’s the first half of the day. I tend to tailor my tasks to what my client needs.
Kim: Social media help, website updating, schedules, contests, graphics, events and pretty much anything else I’m asked to do.
Katie: Duties include: checking emails, running contests, mailing promo/contest prizes, coordinating blog tours, updating websites/social media sites, designing graphics for ads, social media or promo items (bookmarks, buttons, postcards)
What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author assistant?
Kim: Being an author assistant sounds very cool and glamorous to readers (and it is!) but its also a job that takes a certain type of person. You have to be thick skinned and not take constructive criticism personal. Eloisa is an English professor and punctuation sometimes isn’t my strongest skill. I never take it personal when she corrects me, I appreciate it! While you may be brilliant most of the time, you won’t hit every task out of the park every time and you will make mistakes. It’s just part of the job, part of any job. Being an assistant is being the background. Our job is to always make our client look great, we’re there to make everything run as seamlessly as possible.
Kati: Some advice I would give someone who wants to become an author assistant is: be willing to learn, be adaptable and have fun with it. If you are unsure of how to do something, google it. Google and youtube are my go-to sites for things I don’t know how to do. They’ve saved my butt a time or two. You can also ask a fellow VA if they know how.
Maggie: Study the market. I was lucky in that I had been working as an aspiring author and a member of RWA so there were contacts I had already made within the industry which made my transition a whole lot easier. RWA has some of the best information on the business of writing.
Be willing to learn. This is not a nine to five type of job, you have to be willing and able to keep odd hours. And being an author’s assistant is like being on-call 24/7. I love every minute of it and am thrilled by the authors I get to work with.
Thanks to Kim, Kati and Maggie for sharing their expertise with us today. You can contact them here: Kim Castillo, Kati Rodriguez, Maggie Mae Gallagher.
Bottom Line: Is it time for you to get an assistant…I know I’m ready.