Ask nearly any author what they need most, and the response will be a resounding, "more time!" With social media, blog management, writers' groups, articles, marketing, promotion, and a multitude of other possibly enjoyable, but inevitably time-consuming tasks writers are required to tackle today, seems we're always running to catch up. Short of being Wonder Woman, it seems pretty much impossible. Ever thought about a writer's assistant?
Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth James, writer's assistant to award-winning author Mary Buckham. Although she's not in the market for new clients, she agreed to visit for an interview and chat a bit about being an author's assistant. Elizabeth is the first of two writer's assistants I've invited to my blog this month. Hopefully, this interview will offer a bit of insight and get you thinking about what an assistant could do for you. Enjoy, and please feel free to ask questions via comments.
1. Tell me about your journey to becoming a writers’ assistant. What were some of your first steps toward making this career choice a reality?
My background is in marketing and it is still my main focus. Mary Buckham is the only author that I work with. When I first met Mary we discovered that we shared a number of common interests and shared a belief in the importance of engaging with your audience, for Mary, readers. Mary gets the value of genuine engagement and is smart and committed. It was an easy transition to work her needs into my client schedule.
2. How have changes in the industry affected you and your work?
Indie-publishing has been frequently described as "the Wild West" in its current state. Authors need more than ever to drive their own marketing and audience development efforts. Social media is very fluid and requires a sharp eye to spot trends. At the same time, the tools to manage it all are evolving just as rapidly.
3. In terms of social media platforms, I’ve come to prefer my blogs, Twitter, and Pinterest, so I use a number of tools to stay organized and active. What are some of the best social media, marketing, and publicity tips you’ve come across for authors? Which social media platform do you generally spend the most time on, and which platforms do you prefer?
Facebook currently has the best conversion to sale rates for any of the social media platforms so you should build on that platform. That doesn't mean ignoring other platforms. You should use the others to enhance and reinforce the main focus. That said, the whole environment can and will change and authors will need to adjust. It never ends. I recommend authors begin with whatever platform feels most comfortable then try the others. If you’re not at ease chatting in 140 words you won’t excel at it, same with posting photos or showing up and engaging on Facebook.
4. What are some things you know now about working as a writers’ assistant that you wish someone had told you at the very beginning?
Everyone has an image of authors writing in a sort of calm, idealized environment, where they have time and freedom to focus on the work. The reality is far different, especially now that the indie-pub scene is so wide open. The business end of things is in a constant state of change. What worked last month may have already changed. You need to be VERY flexible and willing to adapt to rapid change. It also helps enormously if you have an aptitude for social media and engagement. Gone are the days of writing in isolation or even in taking a year or more to craft one book.
5. Along that same line, what are some of your favorite resources for writers’ assistants? Courses? Websites? Blogs?
I learn a lot from the content marketing community. They have a focus on growing audience that parallels book publishing. Copy Blogger is one of my favorites. Writer's Digest is the other outstanding resource. Their sole purpose is to help writers in all aspects of writing, including audience outreach and the business of writing. The more I am conversant in these aspects of the business, the more I can be of help to Mary.
6. Obviously, you stay extremely busy. How do you handle your many roles in terms of time and resource management?
I use a task management and scheduling ap to keep everything together, and I live on my calendar. The most important things to get right are, lots of clear, ongoing communication and doing effective planning, with frequent reviewing.
You are more than welcome. Thanks for your willingness to share.