Most authors, myself included, need some help sooner or later. It might be with cover-art, or marketing, sales tracking, formatting, the list goes on and on. Some of these things you may not understand well, some you may lack the talent for, some may just take too much time, and some you just simply hate doing. To accomplish these things you may end up hiring one person or several. Eventually you reach a point of doing more maintenance than you do creation. That’s when you start thinking about an assistant.
I can’t speak for other authors but my main goal in hiring an assistant was to get as many things off my desk as I could. I simply needed more time to write. Obviously there are some things that an assistant won’t be able to do for you, interviews, personalized fan mail, etc. But when dividing the work pie I suggest doing so with the measurement of time-saved as the main factor.
So in order of time needed to accomplish let’s make a list.
Marketing. Nothing can eat up time faster. Researching the best ads, forecasting the return-on-investment, tracking their sales, and keeping everything on schedule. Changing the prices and then changing them back. Watching for price reductions and unexpected sale spikes. Keeping up on changes to Facebook or Bookbub. All of this eats up a tremendous amount of not just time but energy. You can exhaust yourself thinking about these things and that’s time better spent creating the next story. I’d much rather lay awake at night thinking about what trouble my characters can get into than whether or not my Facebook ad is running okay. Bill takes that off my plate. He does the research and makes suggestions, I approve or disapprove, we agree on the best schedule, I give him a budget and off he goes. The time saved is huge.
Maintenance. When you have books on every platform you spend a certain amount of time keeping an eye on them. Some of the distributors will change things, such as pricing, without notice. (I’m looking at you Google!) WordPress will lock-up or stop taking comments. The affiliate links may suddenly go somewhere else. Spam may find a way into your website. The list goes on and on. Daily checks can eat up hours but they have to be done. Catching problems early is crucial. There’s also the chance of missing a good review or a question from a fan. Having an assistant makes sure that nothing goes unnoticed and if there is a problem it gets fixed quickly.
Sales tracking. I mentioned this before but it’s important. I use to track sales by writing them down every night at 9pm. I had plans of spreadsheets, charts and graphs, and all kinds of other stuff. But by the time you’re done visiting every website, every night, seven days a week, you don’t feel like doing much more. Then one day you lose the notebook. Now Bill does this for me, with the fancy charts and graphs I once aspired to. A half hour a night adds up to serious time lost.
Doing all of these things requires access, in the form of passwords, and a certain degree of trust. Bill and I literally have an ocean between us but we’ve managed to overcome the initial “fear of the unknown” period. This is something he’s going to explore in his next post.
Next time around I’ll add to the list I started here, but for now stand-by for Bill. I think he’s out mountain climbing or something.