Tasks Authors Can Outsource to a Virtual Assistant
Publishing a book is a bucket-list item for many people. Lots plan to do it “one day” but never manage. It’s understandable. A novel is a big project, often requiring months or years of effort. And those who persevere soon realise that the work is far from finished on launch day. Yes, traditional publishers manage a lot of the practical tasks for some writers – proofreading, printing, gathering reviews, distribution – but that still leaves the authors to write blogs, tour bookstores, handle social media and set up newsletters. Self-published authors, meanwhile, have even more to do!
The process can be overwhelming, but it’s okay at the beginning. Mastering the basics is vital if you want to gain some publishing street smarts and see your career thrive. You will learn about ISBNs, ebook conversion and metadata. You’ll also work with freelance editors, proofreaders and cover designers. After all, nobody is good at everything. As you become more proficient, you will even incorporate more advanced strategies into the way you work to keep your royalties growing; things like paid advertising, affiliate links and audio distribution.
What many authors discover, however, is that their revenue plateaus at a certain stage. Reaching beyond a six-figure income, for example, often requires more work than one person can handle. Limited by the same 24 hours as everyone else, even the most productive authors find that the only way to grow further or maintain a booming income without burning out is to outsource to a Virtual Assistant (VA). Handing over some tasks to someone who doesn’t know your books or brand can be scary if you like control, but it’s necessary if you want to keep growing or find a better work-life balance. The challenge, of course, and the topic of today’s blog post, is figuring out which jobs you can delegate. Thankfully, here you will find lots of ideas.
Create and Update Story Bibles
A common frustration authors face with VAs is that their new employee doesn’t understand their books. They can learn, though, and even produce something useful in the process. How? Ask them to create story bibles. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, story bibles are reference guides for your books that you can use when writing sequels to check that you aren’t including inconsistencies in your plots. Details they capture include character descriptions and backstories as well as chapter summaries, timescales and maps.
Your story bibles can be constructed as Word or Excel documents – whichever you prefer. Yes, it can take a while and can feel like wasting money in the moment, but the result is worth it. You get a reference guide that helps you to write sequels without having to re-read previous instalments. At the same time, your VA learns about your books, characters and worlds, knowledge they can later draw on to write pitches, interact with your readers or proofread your manuscripts.
After you’ve educated your VA on your books, you need to give them context on how they fit in their commercial environment. A good way to do this while also keeping them productive is to have them perform keyword research. They can use marketing tools like Publisher Rocket, Google Trends or the Amazon search bar to find out what keyworks are working well for books in your genre. Plus, they can scour Amazon’s and the wide retailers’ genre charts to see what is selling in your chosen categories. Doing so, they can create list of the types of keywords that sell your books, which will give them a sense of how you target readers while also giving you a readymade list of keywords you can use for your ads or in your book metadata.
Launching and promoting books often entails two prominent strategies that work for most authors; generating reviews for social proof and running discounts to lure new readers. They are so effective, in fact, that many companies have emerged to help publishers carry out these tasks more often. NetGalley and Reedsy Discovery, for example, expose books to databases of reviewers, whereas BookBub and Freebooksy target readers who hunt for free or discounted ebooks. Companies like the first two generates social proof for your titles while the latter two drive traffic for rapid sales, hurtling your books into the charts.
All of these companies, however, share a catch that stops overworked authors from using them more often; they have application forms that take time to complete. However, this is prime VA territory. Provide your assistant with a vague template and some agency to adapt your answers where necessary and they can regularly apply for these promotions for you, helping you to run bigger launches and keep your backlist selling.
Manage Social Media
One “quick post” on social media can easily turn into a long scrolling session. But giving it all up isn’t possible, not if you want to keep your followers engaged. Handing over the reins to your VA, though, can provide a valuable respite. To begin with, you share with them your social media calendar and have them brainstorm content ideas. Perhaps get them to produce the graphics, too. These days, it isn’t difficult. Tools like BookBrush and Canva work almost as well as Photoshop, and can be mastered in a few hours.
Once your VA understands your brand voice and graphic style, you can let them loose on all of your social media channels. This can be done either by making them an administrator or by giving them direct access to your accounts. Yes, it requires trust, and they will make mistakes, but you can step in to keep things running smoothly while they’re finding their feet.
Email newsletters are arguably the most powerful marketing weapons in author inventories. Subscribers are often highly engaged and can be reached at a fraction of the cost that would be required on social media. Powerful authors with 100,000 subscribers can command thousands of pre-orders by sending emails. Thus, it’s easy to comprehend why you might be reluctant to give another person access to your cherished MailChimp, MailerLite or ConvertKit account.
Offer your VA limited access, however, and they could save you a lot of time. For a start, they can see your email schedule and organise newsletter swaps on your behalf to save you from trawling social media. Offer them more training and they could also format your emails, include graphics and hyperlink buttons. At the very advanced end, they could even write your newsletters, freeing up your time so that you can focus on writing books and responding personally to incoming messages from readers.
Manage PR Appearances
Once your VA has captured your voice and knows how you appeal to readers that buy and enjoy your books, they can handle your PR activities. Providing they have access to your calendar, you can have them build a list of bloggers, journalists, podcasters, YouTubers and other influencers whose audiences might enjoy your work. Over time, they can build relationships for you, gaining you lucrative guest blogging spots or media appearances. With all of this going on in the background, you can spend your time writing, safe in the knowledge that they are representing your brand and helping to grow your network.
As the long-time CEO of your author business, you will definitely know how to run most parts of it better than your new employee, especially with they start working with you. However, it shouldn’t stay that way forever. To get the best out of them, you need to give them value – strengths in areas where you are weak – and stop micromanaging their every move. That’s the only way to free up your own time.
Once they have mastered their core responsibilities, you can nurture their growth by asking them to accomplish a goal that you haven’t already achieved. For example, you could ask them to find out how to hit the USA Today bestseller list or dominate Pinterest, then report back with their findings. If you are confident that they can manage this new initiative, or at least a part of it, once they have reported back then you should give them the opportunity to do so. Improving their sense of self-worth will benefit your business in unexpected ways and keep them working for you for longer.
Hiring a good VA and giving them responsibilities requires trust and training. Succeeding will give you an edge as an author, allowing you to dedicate more time to the work that really matters while they handle day-to-day operations that eat into your writing. It can be difficult to give up control but doing so will boost your job satisfaction, business revenue and overall quality of life.
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