After five years in the author assistant business, on occasion, I get an email or two from a hopeful assistant looking to pick my brain about this wonderful job and what an average day looks like when you work with authors. Recently I was contacted by Kirsten Nicholas, a student with a few questions which she’s allowed me to publish here on the blog. I hope this will be helpful for all you hopeful assistants out there and for those of you who are curious about this crazy thing I call a job!
Kirsten: How did you discover this niche market? Do you see the position growing in the next 5 years?
I completely fell into my job as an author assistant! From a young age I knew I’d love to work with books, but after a class assignment where we were told to research our dream job and work out a budget, I was quickly discouraged to find the only job I could think of (librarian) averaged a low salary one that would likely need to be supplemented by another income to pay for even a modest life.
Years passed and I happened to be browsing my Twitter feed while driving home for the holidays when I saw a tweet by one of my favorite authors mentioning she was looking to hire an assistant. I took the risk and tweeted her back asking if the assistant could be virtual. The rest is history.
As for the market, I do see a growing need for authors to have assistants. As more and more authors pick up self-publishing, the need for an extra set of hands to manage the business of being an author becomes increasingly necessary. It’s my goal to work to find ways to help authors as the industry grows and evolves.
Kirsten: How did you find authors in need of your services, since it is not something well known?
I started out working with very few authors, building up my skill set and creating this website to become a resource for authors along with growing my social media channels. By being diligent in my work and networking, I was about to connect with Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer which lead to a guest post of mine on the author assistant subject being posted on his widely popular site in October of 2013. With that new exposure, word of mouth from my current clients, and my other marketing efforts (social media, my mailing list, the website, other guest posts and interviews) I was able to build up a regular demand of customers. I have always enjoyed talking about my work and helping authors in need learn that they have options to beat the overwhelmingness of being an author in this day and age. Being able to help others learn about author assistants, even if they do not become my clients, is a privilege.
Kirsten: What does your day to day look like being an author’s assistant?
Every day is different! Though I do try to stick to a schedule. In 2015, my schedule looked something like this. Right now it looks something like this:
- 7:30am – Wake up and play my story games, check email, and pet the kittens.
- 8:00am – Get ready for the day and acquire breakfast.
- 8:30am – Schedule personal social media using Buffer.
- 9:00am – Start paid client work.
- 3:00pm – Work on business related tasks (this website, going through emails, course work, other business initiatives).
- 5:00pm or 6:00pm or 7:00pm – Eat dinner then either take a break watching a Korean drama with the roommate or heading back in for work. I’m trying to do this less as too much work isn’t healthy!
- 10:00pm or 11:00pm – Get ready for bed and hopefully be asleep by midnight, but with two kittens who knows! 🙂
Kirsten: What advice do you give to people who want to enter this type of career?
Gosh, there are lots of things! I guess it really depends on where the person is on their journey. But some tips:
- Be kind to yourself. As tempting as it is to never say no to a client, setting boundaries and knowing your limits are important. If you work yourself to illness you won’t be any good to your authors or your own business.
- Work with authors you get along with well. The author/assistant relationship is a partnership so it’s important you both enjoy one another’s company even if you work virtually!
- Keep good records! As an author assistant, you are starting your own business and will need to have records of your hours and financial information. Taxes can be difficult as a self-employed person, so don’t make it any more difficult by not keeping track of your expenses!
Kirsten: What are some aspects of the position that you dislike?
I really love my job, but like any job there are downsides. As an author assistant, you will start off self-employed which means taxes can be higher and you don’t have a company that will give you insurance, vacation, holidays, or sick days. There is a lot of freedom that comes from working for yourself, but that also means you have more responsibilities!
Kirsten: What are some aspects of the position that you like?
Pretty much everything, haha! I’ve always loved reading and ever since I discovered the authors behind the pages it’s been a dream to work with such amazing people. Being able not only to work around the publishing industry but being able to help people each day is an incredible feeling. I have always felt my purpose here on Earth is to help others and spread goodness in the world, so being able to do that in my job AND being around authors/books, well that’s a dream come true.
Kirsten: What type of education background in needed for a position like this?
Honestly, traditional education doesn’t really apply here. In this field you need practical skills you won’t typically find in a classroom. It may help if you have a marketing and/or business degree when it comes to keeping your business in order, but when it comes to working with authors knowing how to upload books to the digital retailers, knowing your way around websites and social media, being able to come up with creative ideas to share your author’s books with readers is of more important than having a degree. Hopefully, we’ll see more online education for hopeful assistants pop up as the industry grows.
Kirsten: What are some of your favorite authors you have worked or are working with?
Gosh, I don’t know if I can pick just one! I love working with my authors and each one is different from the next. Generally, the clients I look for are those who understand that publishing is a business and to succeed as an author will require time and money. In this industry, there are no overnight successes, only those who have put great effort into their craft and seen it through even when times were tough. That goes for assistants just as much as the authors we serve!
I hope this interview has been informative for you all! If you have any questions about being an author assistant or hiring one, check out my author assistants resources page here. If you don’t find an answer for your question there please leave it in the comments and I’ll see if I can help!