An Author’s VA (virtual assistant) is your dedicated editorial and administrative specialist who helps you get the tasks and projects done that are keeping you from maximum success in your writing and publishing endeavors. For example, let’s say, as a life coach, you want to write, produce and send out a free newsletter to your client list every month. But the month goes by and flies into the next month before you realize that you missed yet another month’s mailing and most likely some new clients/sales for your business. Now think about this scenario: you hire an Author’s VA, and she does that newsletter for you, seamlessly, without you worrying about it, every month. At the end of the quarter, you discover your sales/client base has increased by 20%. At an average rate of $35-$45 an hour, your VA has more than paid for herself.
What if you want to finally write and publish that book? Your Author’s VA can help you by researching potential markets, editing your material, coaching you through the traditional or self-publishing process, writing and editing your query letters and book proposals, and writing and placing press releases in the media about your book, upcoming tours and workshops.
Your Author’s VA can organize and coordinate your workshops and speaking engagements that are part of your book marketing. She can also do customized mailings for you.
In addition, a VA can offer you as an author the same services he offers other client audiences: financial management and bookkeeping, correspondence and email management, scheduling, travel arrangements, and more. It really depends on what the VA specializes in and what you need.
Do you want to add an Internet radio talk show to your marketing plan? Your Author’s VA can get that done for you! Your VA can coordinate daily the correspondence and scheduling that must go on behind the scenes to ensure that guests are booked for available slots, that potential guests’ books are sent to you for review, and that any questions guests have are answered promptly. In addition, your Author’s VA works with you, the host of the show, to find additional ways to market the show so as to ensure a steady flow of guests on the show.
An Author’s VA is not a publicist, however. A publicist specializes in advertising the author’s books to target audiences, whereas a VA coordinates all those details between you and the publicist. In fact, both you and the publicist can each have a VA helping them coordinate and manage all the administrative details and projects that go along with them doing their core work, be that writing a children’s book or publicizing one.
There are some other things you should not expect from your Author’s VA. For example, do not expect a VA to define your vision and mission statement for your writing and publishing career. Do not expect a VA to write your book for you, unless you are hiring that VA for ghostwriting services (which are significantly more expensive than VA services). Do not expect a VA to be your assistant, agent, publicist and editor all in one role. Although some VA’s might offer publicity, editing, etc. as one or more of their VA specialties, you can’t expect one person to do three very different specialized jobs for you, unless you and your VA are very clear that these are the expectations and they are written out in a contract that you both have signed. Do not expect a VA to read your mind. One of the key parts of the VA-client relationship is communication. So you have to show up for meetings just as the VA does in order for both of you to make sure that you are communicating about the work and the expectations around the work.
A VA is paid hourly usually, unless his client retains him for a basic number of hours per month and, in that case, he will be paid a flat monthly retainer rate (usually discounted off of the VA’s hourly rate). Any hours over that contracted amount, he bills at the end of the quarter to his client. A VA can also charge a flat rate by the project or service. It really depends on what works best for the client and the VA based on the work that needs to be done.
For example, as a Virtual Program Director for several clients’ Internet radio shows, I charge for my services on an hourly basis, $40/hour. I keep track of my time in quarter-hour increments and bill each client weekly.
When hiring an Author’s VA, make sure that you and she can work well together, that your work personalities and mindsets blend well together. The best way to find that out is to ask for a half-hour free consultation where you can tell the VA what you need and ask her how she would go about accomplishing those tasks or managing those projects, be they on an ongoing basis or one time.
Also, make sure that the VA specializes in the particular services that you need. Some of the questions you can ask include: How long have you been a VA? Why are you a VA? What do you love most about your work as a VA? Who are some of the clients you have helped or currently work for? Can I have their names for references and testimonials?
I have found it helpful for my new clients to do a “trial” period of one or two months. We sign a contract for this time period that says I will provide these services at this hourly or project rate for this amount of time. I have found that after that contracted trial period is complete, both the client and I know whether we want to make this a “permanent” ongoing working relationship.
Sue Kern is a writer, editor, teacher, author’s VA, and the founder and owner of The Writer’s Cottage, your home for Professional Writing, Editing, Publishing Coaching, Author Virtual Assistance (VA), and Language and Writing Training. At The Writer’s Cottage, you can get help with writing, editing, and publishing your articles, books, sales, grant and book proposals, business and marketing communications, research reports, technical documentation, academic papers, newsletters, e-zines, online seminars, and more!
Sue has an M.A. in English Linguistics and 30 years of experience. She lives an independent and eclectic life doing what she loves: writing and editing, teaching, helping other writers publish and market their works, and encouraging new writers to find their unique writer’s voices and live their own lives of incredible passion and joy! Her work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Secret Place, Special Living, Back2College.com, and many corporate and non-profit publications. She writes about learning English, spirituality, women’s issues, business and marketing communications, chronic illness, caregiving, patient education, reading disabilities, and the practice of writing and publishing. Sue can coach you through the process of publishing your books and articles and provides author VA services. She teaches writing to business people, writers who want to improve their skills and new writers. She teaches English (reading, writing, and speaking) to speakers of other languages. Sue is also available for ghostwriting projects, seminars and speaking engagements.
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