The two most common excuses given by authors as to why they do not hire an assistant is expense (“I can’t afford an assistant”) and not knowing what tasks to delegate. The third most common excuse is lack of entitlement (“I’m not published yet” or “I only have a few books out”).
Other reasons authors may be reluctant to hire an assistant include concerns about reliability and confidentiality, past negative experiences and the potential for mistakes that could damage income/reputation. They may also lack management or business experience and be uncomfortable in a supervisory role.
Let’s address the three most common reasons authors are reluctant to hire an assistant.
I can’t afford an assistant.
Publishing high-quality books that will sell and attract readers costs money. As you develop your business plan and budget, consider building in funds for an author assistant. Some assistants are willing to accept project work (such as putting out a monthly newsletter), will work with you on an as-needed basis, allow you to commit to just a couple of hours per month or offer discounts if you purchase blocks of time.
Here’s an interesting fact: Many assistants offer a wide variety of skills such as proofreading, ebook formatting, website maintenance and graphic design. While prices for these services vary, you could save money by hiring a (qualified) assistant instead of a cover artist or website developer.
For new authors, especially, working with an experienced assistant can save you costly mistakes and prevent embarrassing actions that reflect poorly on your professionalism. If you are new to publishing, consider hiring an assistant to mentor or coach you. Some assistants offer consulting services, which provide authors with resources and how-to knowledge.
I’m not published yet/only have a few books out.
The most effective strategy for establishing your author career is to write more books. Both traditionally and self-published authors hold accountability for non-writing related tasks, such as accounting, marketing, advertising and engaging with readers. While full-time writers have 40-60 hours per week to dedicated to all career-related tasks, many authors work full or part-time “day jobs.” Add in family obligations, health issues, commute time, college classes, travel, etc., and you see how the time available to actually write quickly dwindles.
Delegating one or two labor-intensive, non-writing tasks to an assistant can free up more time to write. More writing equals more books. More books equal more sales. The key to making this type of investment pay-off is to carefully evaluate how much time you are applying to non-writing related tasks and what tasks you can afford to hire out. Using the 80/20 rule is one method to identify decisions that will lead to more effective management of your resources: time, energy, creativity, and money. According to this adage, 20 percent of your activities generate 80 percent of your income. They key is to minimize how much time you spend on activities that don’t generate income and focus instead where the pay-off is greatest.
I don’t know what to do with an assistant.
Many authors, particularly self-published authors, are control freaks and perfectionists. That’s one reason many choose to self-publish in the first place. However, these traits can inhibit your career growth and undermine goal achievement. The reluctance to delegate tasks to an assistant is often rooted in fear, distrust and uncertainty. Will the assistant perform the task correctly? Will the assistant meet deadlines? Is the assistant really as skilled as s/he claims?
There are strategies to overcome these concerns (see the section Getting Started with an Author Assistant), but the first step in overcoming this objection is educating yourself about author assistants. Learn how other authors and assistants work together. Ask what kinds of tasks your peers delegate to their support staff. Attend workshops given by author assistants to become acquainted with the attitude, personality and conduct of these professionals. Lastly, realize that developing an working partnership with an assistant is just like any other relationship; it takes time to build trust, rapport and empathy.
Do you have questions about working with an author assistant? Contact My Author Concierge for information, tips and advice.
This content is excerpted from DO LESS. WRITE MORE.: The Author’s Guide to Finding, Hiring and Keeping an Excellent Author Assistant.Copies are available from most online vendors: