I have the most gloriously overqualified assistant ever. Two years ago, another author friend, Christine Nolfi, heard I was looking for someone to help me manage the increasingly overwhelming demands of my self-publishing career. She gave me her sister's name. Tricia was in graduate school at the time, and had a small consulting business. She took me on as a client for an agreed-upon a monthly fee, strictly to manage my email newsletter and help me keep up with that task. This arrangement worked for a while but as my books grew, so did my need for someone to help to stay on top of promotions, connect with readers, create engaging social media content, run contests and giveaways, submit my books to reviewers and contests, network with other writers, and on and on.
Tricia graduated, went back to work full time and decided to cut back on clients, but didn't drop me (because I begged and pleaded?) “Working for you is fun!” she said, to my astonishment. Personally, I find many of the things she does for me, like writing tweets and researching new marketing ideas, soul-killing. For her, it’s a creative outlet. I'm thrilled to have Dr. Nolfi, college professor by day, to be my right-hand superwoman by night.
I invited her to share on the blog some of the thoughts and insights she's gained in the last few years. These are thoughts on how the author-assistant relationship can be productive…and fun!
You’re probably thinking, “You have a full-time job and still kept the author assistant job?” I get that a lot. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s interesting work. I am a social media junkie and a bookaholic who loves to organize things. It’s serendipity that this gig landed on my lap! The next question I often get is, “So, exactly what do you do?” Honestly, that has evolved over time. This is a snapshot of the typical things I will take care of in any given week:
- Develop posts for social media
- Distribute prizes to fans who won contents
- Create copy for a newsletter
- Research new marketing ideas
- Submit a book for an award
- Develop a social graphic to promote a new book or a sale
- Interact with other authors on joint promotions
Working with Toby is a great way for me to do things I love with a fantastic and interesting woman who happens to be a great writer! So, when she asked me to put together this guest blog on what makes our relationship work, these are the things that came to mind:
Figure Out Who Does What. This may sound simple, but some authors are ‘hands-off’ with promotions and marketing while others actually enjoy certain aspects of the work. Come to an agreement early on about the scope of work the assistant is responsible for and where the author will contribute.
Be Honest and Realistic About ‘Life.’ What this means is that sometimes life gets in the way and both authors and their assistants may have difficulty following through on certain tasks. Talk about those times and be realistic about what work can be produced, whether it’s a WIP that may be delayed or a contest that may run later than planned.
Support Each Other. Both the author and assistant bring something to the table. An author may find interesting articles on book marketing or creative promotions and the assistant may find resources on managing projects or personal wellness. Sharing what you know makes the author-assistant team stronger.
Don’t Take It All Too Seriously. Just as an author may have ‘writer’s block,’ the assistant will have struggles too. You both may think that a different approach to a series or a creative way to get new readers is great, and then find out it’s like nailing Jell-O to a tree. Not to fret! Just keep plugging away, chalk up the bad ideas to experience, and move on…and maybe have a good laugh.
The Toby-Tricia Team is a fun adventure and we both are always learning from each other and discovering new ways to promote and advance the Toby Neal ‘brand.’ Yes, I have my ‘real’ job as a professor and I’m a single mom of a rambunctious teenager; but it’s important to make time for this other job. For me, it’s worth it to find room for creative work while helping a fabulous woman along the way.
A fabulous woman I hope to meet in person some day.
Did I forget to mention that she lives in Hawaii and I'm in New Jersey? Yes—we make it work!
Tricia’s the best. So glad she’s on Toby’s team. Someday, it could be something I’ll need: an assistant.
Thanks so much for sticking with me, Tricia, I couldn’t do it without you!
Great advice. I love the creativity of marketing but it is a black hole. I spend more time on that than on writing. Not a great balance. Working on the solution. Thanks Toby/Tricia.
Lynda, yes, it is a balance and authors should be focusing on what they do best — which is producing great stories! There are more tools available that make it more manageable, which is good. Good luck with your writing!