Saturday, August 24, 2013

Being an Author's Assistant

As some may know, I'm a (part-time) author's assistant so I get a lot of questions about what I do and how I got the job. I wasn't sure if my experiences were the norm, so I thought I'd ask a few authors & assistants about their relationships. I asked them the three questions I get asked most often. 

I'm Lisa Greer's assistant and my answers will look like this. Lisa Greer is a gothic romance author who also writes bonnet and sweet romances under the name Lorraine James. I'm not just sucking up when I say she's a pleasure to work with!

Joanne Levy is Lisa McMann's assistant. Joanne is an assistant for several other authors, as well as the author of Small Medium at LargeLisa McMann is the author of lots of amazing YA books (including Cryer's Cross, The Unwanteds, and the Wake trilogy) as well as one of the nicest people I've ever met.

Rachel Harris is the (YA & adult romance) author of My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, A Tale of Two Centuries, and Taste the Heat. She's also hilarious and super sweet. Her assistant is Ashley Bodette.

Sarah M. Anderson is an award-winning author who writes "contemporary westerns with a kick!" Her current release is Bringing Home the Bachelor. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go. Her assistant is Melissa Hermann Jolly of AuthorRX.

Here are their answers.

1) Is the assistant a virtual or IRL (in real life) position?

Mine is completely virtual. We've never met IRL.

I’ve been working for her for a while and I although I do know Lisa personally, I do all work for her virtually.

Virtual. We chat via email, Facebook chat, and Google chat 

My assistant is virtual. We've never met!

2) What does the assistant do for the author? 

I do very random, occasional things. I've created and ordered bookmarks, created and maintained a sales-tracking spreadsheet, formatted and published serials. I am an admin on her facebook pages, but I never "pretend" to be her. I do a few hours of work for her per month.

I help her organize fan mail, liaise with people for some of her touring schedule (what doesn’t come from her publisher) arrange travel etc.. I also handle her newsletters and some stuff on Facebook for her as well as other little tasks as required.

So much already, and it's only been a couple weeks. She helps with the promotion of any sales and releases, contacts bloggers and review sites. She is an admin on my FB author page & street team pages and helps conversation as well as promotion. She searches for events and conferences, and will be assisting in setting up engagements, as well as general marketing and branding. 

Ashley's career interest lies in the editorial side, so we really focus here (a huge help with my schedule now). She helps me brainstorms plot points, character arcs, and performs research. Most recently she read through my edit letter and made comments throughout, and she reads through each day's changes. Edits can be so stressful, but with her encouragement and fabulous brain, it's been such a fun experience this go around.

I hired Melissa to do stuff that I won't do myself. Melissa is in

charge of booking speaking events and signings for me. I do not like cold-calling/emailing bookstores and libraries for signings. I always meant to do it, but it got put off and put off until the time passed. So what happens a lot is that I'd meet someone at a networking event and get their information--make that contact--but I'd never follow up on it. I now send all that information to Melissa and she takes care of that for me--handles the legwork, sends me *very* helpful reminders and itineraries and basically takes the worry about it off my shoulders.

3) How did you get the job / how did you find/hire your assistant?

Someone on twitter retweeted her tweet about looking for an assistant and I emailed her. I'd never done it before, but I'd been worming my way into the publishing industry. We talked back in forth via email and came to an agreement.

It was a while back that I started for Lisa, so I can’t remember exactly how it evolved, but it was probably something like her saying “OMG, I’m overwhelmed.” And I said something like, “I can help you. I’ve been thinking of doing this stuff for a side business.” We were friends before this came about, so it grew from that. 

Lisa was my first client (and my only client while I had a day job) but since May of this year, I’ve expanded out and have several clients now. They come to me, mostly via word of mouth from other authors. I don’t do a lot of advertising—mostly just Twitter.

Around the end of July I looked at my calendar and saw that I had six books to write and edit as well as six books releasing in the next year. Along with homeschooling my girls, things were piling up and I needed help, so I turned to my fabulous street team. I was amazed by the fabulous response and ended up with an awesome street team director through the search as well, but quickly one candidate rose to the top. She is AMAZEBALLS!!

I tweeted that I wanted to hire an assistant and got several replies. I talked with people and decided to go with Melissa Jolly of Author RX. I'm naturally a cheap person and Melissa was comfortable with the discussion being limited to a modest set amount. Some assistants didn't seem interested in a small fry such as myself, but Melissa still treats me like a rock star! She gets a lot done in a very little time and isn't bothered that there are some months where there's not much to do.

4) Any other comments?

I love doing it—I’m an author so I know how crazy busy it can get, but I’m also really organized and good with spreadsheets and technology. I love doing this kind of thing, so it’s a perfect job for me to go along with my own writing.

It was hard to convince my husband that I needed as assistant because I'm a smart woman and I could, in theory, do all those things myself. He didn't see the value in it at first, but he's been impressed with the bookings Melissa has helped me get. He knows me and has realized that I wouldn't be able to do those on my own. For me, the benefit of not having to do things I abhor outweighs the modest cost. If authors can find someone who can work within their budgets to handle the things they hate, well, that's a win-win!

So there you have it. I hope this has helped provide a little insight into the world of author's assistants. As you can see, the tasks and hiring methods vary quite a bit.

I'd like to thank every one who answered my questions for this post, as well as everyone who retweeted me when I was looking for authors to interview. <3



  1. Thanks so much for this, Sarah! Since I've only been at this in a sort of full-time capacity since May, I'm still learning from others, and it's great to see these different perspectives. It's a broad field, and one that's growing, so I think we'll see more and more people joining our ranks.

  2. Thanks to Sarah Nicolas for posting this and Sarah M. Anderson for talking about our author/assistant relationship! I know how busy this industry can be, so I really appreciate the time that went into this post. Thanks again!

  3. Thank you Sarah Nicolas for posting this! And Rachel Harris, you are fabulous to work with! You are always so kind when sharing about me and what I do as your assistant! :) Thank you both for taking the time to get this post up!

  4. This is great! I've always been curious what being an assistant to an author entailed. Thanks so much for providing the info and thanks to everyone that participated!

  5. So interesting! Is it sad that I never knew this job position existed? But now that I think of it, it is so helpful and important. Thank you for this! You are clearing up one misunderstanding at a time :)