Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Can a Virtual Assistant Help Your Writing Career?

with guest Laurie Tomlinson.

Let’s imagine you’re in the thick of a three-book contract, working on developmental edits for book two, brainstorming how to get out of a plot snag in book three, and thinking of fresh ways to promote book one. It would be nice to have a little help managing all of the details, wouldn’t it?

That’s where virtual assistants come in, also lovingly known as VAs. They’re essentially the elves working behind the scenes to keep track of details so you can focus on what you do best -- the writing. Yes, strange as it may seem, there are some people who actually thrive on keeping track of those details, bless their freakishly organized hearts :)

When the Seekers asked me to write about my experience as a virtual assistant, I developed four essential questions to help you decide if this arrangement would be a good fit for you. Regardless of where you are in the publication process, if you’re a writer with an internet presence, marketing and social media responsibilities, and busy, real-life responsibilities, these questions are for you to ponder.
Does it make sense for me to hire a virtual assistant?

As an author, you should consider yourself a small business owner. Many of my clients are small business owners in a range of fields, but being an author is just as much of a business with an overwhelming number of details to manage. Having a virtual assistant makes sense for you if you have the leeway in your budget to delegate the small but important tasks that otherwise have the tendency to fall through the cracks. 

Consider it investing in your career. The return can be invaluable if you and your virtual assistant devise a plan to increase your marketing and online presence, reach new readers, and continue to connect with the ones you currently have.

You may, like many, have the mentality of those who dream of all the ways housekeepers could make life easier -- except in this case, there’s no pressure to have everything in order before they arrive. If you’ve identified a need that could enable other aspects of your career to thrive, then you’re set. That’s where virtual assistants step in and handle the details according to the level of control and liberty you give them.

What specific ways can a virtual assistant help me?

This depends on what kinds of responsibilities you have, where your strengths/preferences lie, and what your virtual assistant is qualified to handle. If you’re in the middle of a blog tour, for example, a virtual assistant can help you format posts, create graphics, and promote the guest appearances on your social media outlets. If you need help with time management, an extra set of eyes for your deadlines and work commitments could be beneficial. If you’re about to go on the road for a speaking engagement, a VA could create a visual aid (like a PowerPoint presentation) to accompany your talk.

Other duties may include creating content for your social media accounts, researching new avenues for readership and promotion, managing your blog or newsletter, answering basic email inquiries for you. As in every business, you should maintain a level of personal interaction and intimacy with your readers, but there will always be some tasks you’d rather spend less energy on so you can focus on your writing instead. And that’s absolutely okay.

What should I look for in a virtual assistant?

The top trait you should seek in a virtual assistant is trust. Of course, if you don’t know this person, that trust will have to be earned, which is why I recommend discussing a (paid, of course) trial period up front. Can you trust this person to maintain confidentiality? Can you trust this person to work diligently, particularly if you’re operating on an hourly pay structure? Can you trust this person to represent you coherently with good grammar, spelling, and sentence structure?

Virtual assistants come in a variety of shapes and sizes and strengths. They may be college students, freelancers, or stay-at-home moms looking to bring in a little extra income. Aspiring authors are a great resource because this inside exposure to the business of writing can be invaluable to them, as well. But regardless of your potential VA’s story, he or she should be trustworthy, have impeccable attention to detail, possess strengths that fit your needs (graphic design, social media, etc.) and have a personality that meshes well with yours. That last aspect is especially important because, as the characters in your stories often illustrate, good communication is vital. Plus, life is too short to work with people you don’t like.

What are the logistics of having a virtual assistant? How does it actually work?

Before you enter into an agreement with a virtual assistant, it’s important to discuss expectations and be upfront from the very beginning, even if you have a non-confrontational personality. He or she needs to know what kinds of tasks you will assign, how quickly you will expect turnaround on projects, and the best way to communicate with each other throughout the week. My friend Casey Herringshaw, who is also a virtual assistant, recommends asking the virtual assistant to maintain clear records of tasks performed and the amount of time spent on each, so both parties have the knowledge to plan for the future and make any necessary adjustments.

As far as pay is concerned, before you even consider hiring, evaluate how many hours a day you are spending on the tasks you’d like to delegate to a virtual assistant. Then consider how much money you can comfortably set aside to invest. Knowing this information will make the discussion of compensation as simple as possible. While VAs operate on a variety of pay schedules, my personal favorite is a monthly (or sometimes weekly) structure with a maximum number of hours. This is easier for you, as an employer, to know that you won’t exceed your budget, and it also builds in protection for the virtual assistant to know how much time he or she will need to devote to the tasks you assign. 

On that note, communicating expectations is vital. Any stylistic preferences for a given task should also be expressed as early as possible so the finished product is as close to your vision as it can be. While last-minute opportunities/emergencies are a natural and understandable part of any business, giving reasonable notice for projects, along with providing feasible timetables for completion, shows respect and appreciation for your VA’s time.

I hope this foray into virtual assisting got the wheels turning in your mind and these four questions help you decide whether retaining a VA is the right move for you. With a healthy amount of trust, respect, and communication, your VA can save you time and help your career immensely. Thanks again for hosting me, lovelies of Seekerville!

Do you work with a virtual assistant? In your dream world, what ways could a virtual assistant help you?

Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a passion for intentional living, color-coding, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. When she’s not sending her characters on wild adventures toward their happily-ever-afters, she runs a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business, and enjoys putting her former office manager skills to good use as a virtual assistant. 

She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and a regular contributor at TheWritersAlleyBlog.com. Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary and earned the ACFW Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance).

You can connect with Laurie on Facebook, Twitter @LaurieTomlinson, and her website.

In honor of Laurie's visit, Seekerville is giving away a $20 gift card to get you organized. Staples or Office Depot. Winner's choice. All you have to do is comment today and you are in the drawing. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!


Helen Gray said...

In my dream world I would have someone to do promotion for me.

In my real world I make coffee for Seekerville. It's brewing.

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Helen - That would be so nice to have a team to help with promo, wouldn't it? In the meantime, you make the coffee; I'll make the tea :)

Courtney Phillips said...

A virtual assistant would be an awesome asset. Alas, this unpubbed writer isn't to that point yet.
If I were, I'd use one for graphics. Creativity in writing isn't a problem, but I'm no designer. I'd hire someone to make all those cute pictures to promote my books.

Right now I'm more fit to be a VA than need one. :)

Forget coffee and tea--I'm bringing Dr. Pepper!

Heidi Robbins said...

Wow, I love this post! It is so interesting to learn how VA's can help authors balance their career and life- I appreciate the analogy of a housekeeper. Great advice on the logistics and communication aspects.

Cindy W. said...

Sounds like a virtual assistant an be a published writers best friend. Thank you for sharing Laurie.

I would love to be in the drawing. I love any office supply store. :)

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Kara Isaac said...

In my dream world you would be my real assistant. Hmmm no change that. In my dream world we would both be NYT Bestselling authors and we'd share a real assistant because we'd live in the same city!

But if I have to settle for a VA I want one who can do pretty things with graphics and newsletters. So not my strength!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I like what Kara said, LOL! But then I'd have to start a newsletter...

Oy. Oy. Oy.!!!!

Laurie, this was a great post! Thank you for being with us in Seekerville today and huge, mega congrats on those Genesis wins. That contest (when it was Noble Theme) was a great launch point for me and so many people here. I love it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm back to writing cowboys today, the second book of my Double S Ranch series for Waterbrook... we were hammered with probably 16 inches of snow yesterday, so I'm going to warm myself up by fictionally hanging east of the Cascades in June.

With a hot cowboy who's been wounded by life and the wrong woman.

I'm gonna see what I can do to help him get over her. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

The virtual assistant up here loves food, so I'm leaving a tray of fresh yellow cupcakes with Hershey's perfect chocolate frosting and a plate of caramel filled brownies.

Food is essential to good writing and chocolate is essential to food!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Lauri.

What a kick to have you in Seekerville. And a TWO time Genesis winner.

Tell us what's going on in your writing world.

Tina Radcliffe said...

This is like my biggest dream.

And as I learn to stop micromanaging, the reality of a VA becomes clearer and clearer. I know I am only inches away from being able to trust someone with my control freak tasks.

Social media updates
Finding images for posts
Press Releases
Maintaining editorial calendars
Kick in the butt

Soon. Very soon.

I am discovering that working 9 hours a day and writing leaves little time for these things and it's time...it's time...

Tina Radcliffe said...

So how do you handle financial things.

You bill weekly?

What about if you need to expense something for your client?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ah, diet Dr. Pepper, Courtney. But I am now off soda. Drinking Zero Water. Lemonade flavor. Very good for you.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Laurie, are you attending RWA or ACFW this year?

Allow me to micromanage and ask:

Do you belong to any VA organizations?

Do you have literature on what you do?

How many clients can one VA handle at a time?

Tina Radcliffe said...

More questions.

How does the whole family member working as a VA usually pan out?

Janet Evanovich has her daughter as her VA. I know several authors who do this with family members.

For me, not a good fit. Except my 24 hour on call IT guy. Hubs. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Laurie! And welcome to Seekerville! A VA sounds WONDERFUL!

Would you please tell us a bit about how the $$ are handled? A VA is a contractor being paid for service rendered, not an "employee," so no employment taxes / social security to be paid by the author nor end of year earnings documentation has to be submitted by the author to the VA? What would be included in a signed contract and should there be any standard "legalese" or disclaimers or legal review of it before entering into one?


Jackie said...

Hi Laurie,

I'm sitting here with a cup of tea enjoying your post.

VA, what a great idea. I'd love to have somebody help who understands computers/internet better than I do. It's amazing how much time I can waste trying to get things just right. I love that you and Casey keep track of how much time she spends on each task.

Congrats on being a two time Genesis winner.
I love Office Depot. Some of my friends love Lowes, but not me. I enjoy looking at the different color pens, paper, and folders. Please add me to the drawing. Thanks.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Can you say, POST IT NOTES, Jackie? I could buy my weight in them and with the left over money, add Foray highlighters.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love that we're having cupcakes and brownies for breakfast. This sort of makes my Samoa week complete and it's only Tuesday.

Pass the coffee pot please.

Tina Radcliffe said...

How many of you use your family members as VAs. Raise your hands.

Do you pay them in dollars, treats, or chocolate?

Cara Lynn James said...

Laurie, what helpful information. A VA is right up there with cleaning lady. I definitely need both!

Tina Radcliffe said...

You and me both, Cara. Now to learn to unwrap my tight fisted, white knuckled hands from everything and accept some help.


Mary Hicks said...

Hmm, very interesting—I'm no where near having a VA, but it would be lovely to have someone help with marketing, graphics and all that computer 'stuff'.

Definitely a goal to aspire to! :-)

Audra Harders said...

I've just added another line item to my budget. Promotion and social media are things I just don't have time for.

You mean there are peeps out there who actually enjoy doing that?? Wow.

Thanks Laurie! Excellent post!

Marianne Barkman said...

I'd work for books...but the only I think I'd do okay with would be the mailings. I love both Staples and Office Depot.
Great post, Laurie

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I use my daughter Beth. She's also helps with editing now, and she's good at what she does.

I pay her and I feed her and I love her kids. Win/win/win.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think I'll call Beth a Gal Friday though.

I like that better than virtual assistant.

Cindy Regnier said...

Laurie - you've enlightened me. I've never heard of a VA. Thanks for visiting us at Seekerville and for the great information. Anybody need a virtual assistant - maybe I will take up that career!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Courtney - I'll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell anyone. I make most of my post graphics (including the one above) on my phone!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Heidi and Cindy - Thanks for saying hello! :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Kara - I think our dream worlds look an awful lot alike -- especially the same city part :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Thank you so much, Seekers, for hosting me!!

Ruth - The ACFW and the Genesis contest have been so good for me. They helped me land my agent and get my book in front of some dream editors :) Also, a big YES to hot, wounded cowboys!

Tina - I'm working on my third book while waiting to hear news about my first two on submission. I heard from my agent that my second is out in the world, but it had been with a few editor requests late last year. Lots of prayers for the right fit at the right time!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Tina - You're an ideal fit for a VA as an "employer/client" because you know exactly what your VA would do. No time wasted! Hope you can make it happen soon :)

Love your questions! I usually handle everything via PayPal monthly and keep track of any expenses. I would never spend money unless approved/estimated and communicated first. Some clients like a flat rate and others like itemized invoices, so it just depends!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Tina - I love the idea of a family member as a VA as long as expectations are discussed! No one you can trust better than someone you know better than you know yourself :) I actually do some work for my dad and absolutely love that I get to see the ins and outs of what he does on a daily basis.

And boy do I wish I had an on-call IT guy for a husband. My website crashed last week and lost all of my data since September! Luckily I found a host with 24-7 chat assistance. I wonder if they know what they've gotten themselves into! ;)

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Laurie! Thanks for the interesting post. What writer couldn't use a VA? Social media is so not my forte since most everything takes me forever to figure out.

Huge congrats on the Genesis wins! You wear a lot of hats. How do you manage all that? The word intentional jumps out as a possible answer.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I'm drooling over the cupcakes and brownies. Decided on one of each and consider that a show of willpower!


Laurie Tomlinson said...

Glynna - I have to admit I am the worst person with financial jargon, but I'll do my best. If you have any kind of accountant or CPA friends, I always recommend asking them in case it depends on what state you live in as the employer. But a VA is an independent contractor, and I believe the magic number is $600 a year. If you plan to pay/make more than that as a VA, the employer will need to fill out a 1099-Misc and the VA will need to fill out a W-9 form.

Good advice for anyone who doesn't have taxes automatically taken out (authors!), I always allocate about 30% of my "paychecks" in a separate bank account, and if my deductions even out, then any extra money left over is my "tax return" haha!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Janet - Thank you! Happy to be here! My secrets are: 1) a big, color-coded planner with columns for daily to-do lists that help me keep track of my week, 2) making sure that whatever I'm doing has my best effort and attention (easier said than done with a three-year-old running around hehe), and 3) making sure my family remembers that they're number one by communicating when I'm going to be busier than other times. I have a very supportive family :)

Speaking of this, I think I'm caught up on questions! Our poor Captcha is getting suspicious that I'm a robot :)

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Laurie, and congrats on those Genesis wins! Thank you so much for your detailed post, and thanks, Tina, for asking the questions rolling around in my mind.

I used to live in that fog that believed that those best-selling authors did everything themselves...until I read a blog post by Tricia Goyer that explained she has a VA for social media, etc., and a mother's helper. My eyes were opened, and I started to dream of my own VA...my daughter! My oldest is 15 and quite savvy with graphics. I'm prepping her to do some things for me, and yes, she's willing and eager. It seems like a great way for her to earn some money and some skills, rather than ringing up frozen dinners at Wal-Mart.

Vickie McDonough said...

Great advice, Laurie! It's nice to know I've got someone locally to call on when I get to the point I need help. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Laurie, thanks for this insightful and informative post! It would be so cool to have my own virtual assistant--definitely on my writerly wish list!!! This post is bookmark-worthy for when the time comes to seriously look into hiring a virtual assistant!

Jill Weatherholt said...

This is such an informative post, Laurie. I agree, trust would be number one in my book.
I would love a VA to help me with the technical difficulties I encounter from time to time...oh, and to provide unlimited Starbucks.
I loved your photo with the lipstick stained coffee mug. :)

Carla Laureano said...

Great post, Laurie! Having worked AS a virtual assistant briefly in the past as well as having used one, may I add it's a great idea to pick someone who complements your skills? It's always nice to be able to say, "I don't know how to do this, so here...you go now." LOL

Thanks for the insight!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Meghan - Yes, that would be great experience for her to prepare for adulthood and pretty much any career. Organization, responsibility, attention to detail. Excellent idea!

Vickie - So good to see a familiar face :)

Myra & Jill - Thank you! I like the idea of unlimited caffeine, too. Don't they make IVs for that? hehe

Jaime Wright said...

Someone told me once about this AMAZING planner and it's helped organize my writing world. Only wish it came with the VA ;)

Jeanne T said...

Laurie, what a fascinating post! What I'm trying to figure out is how you wife, mother, write Genesis-winning entries and VA? You are amazing!

I loved this post. I'd love to have a VA, but it's not really an option right now. And realistically, I don't have enough for a VA, to make it practical. I'm so glad you shared this, because if/when I come to the point where I can consider hiring someone, I'll have a better idea of the whole mindset.

Thanks so much!

Ashley Mays said...

Great post, Laurie! I'd never really thought about VAs before, but it's definitely something I'd like to investigate further. :-)

I'm curious--is there anywhere online or elsewhere writers can go to find reputable VAs? Also, how could a person market himself or herself as a potential VA?

As a full-time assistant in the corporate world, I think I'd be interested in eventually assisting another author with admin tasks. It could be a fun change of pace for me!

DebH said...

Great post. So NOT ready for a VA, but after reading how so many people need graphics help, mayhap I could find a niche to do graphics stuff for peeps. Now THAT I know how to do... graphics, that is, not finding a niche and exploiting it. *sigh* this is why us proverbial artists starve, clueless on how to find folks to serve as our patrons

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Jaime - Monster planners are the best substitute for a VA. Is that the same thing as calling my dishwasher and washing machine my cleaning ladies and my crockpot my cook?

Jeanne - Thanks for coming to visit us here! <3

Ashley M. - That's a fantastic question! Having "real-world" admin experience is the best preparation for VA life.

I know in our small little ACFW bubble, word of mouth is the best way to go because we all *get* each other. But on a broad spectrum, there are sites like Media Bistro, ODesk, VirtualAssistants.com, and even Facebook groups. Not sure how vetted the people who advertise there are, but it might be worth a try!

Missy Tippens said...

Laurie, I have a dream of hiring someone someday! You've encouraged me to shoot for doing that. I have a friend who has hired a VA, with a maximum time spent each week. I like the idea of that. Since I'm a control freak, this would be a big deal to trust this person. Thanks for shedding light on the possibilities!

Debby Giusti said...

Laurie, you've provided food for thought today, along with all the yummy goodies floating about.

I could use a VA for contest entries. Never have enough time for those "extra" tasks. Don't know if I'd want anyone handling FB for me, unless it were book announcements or such. I truly love interacting with "Friends" on social media. Now Twitter is another beast! LOL!

Also mailings...why do they take so much time? A VA would certainly help there.

I'm giving it thought. My daughter, Mary, has helped me at a few RWA Conferences. She takes pics and ensures I'm remembering to post on FB. Would love to give her more jobs...but she's a busy lady with a full-time job. I need to talk to her though, in light of your lovely post.

So glad you could be with us today.

Debby Giusti said...

Laurie, could you share how you create graphics on your phone? Would love some tips!

Thank you so much!!!

I stopped at Fresh Market this morning for food. Hubby likes to eat. So do I! LOL!

I've placed cold cuts, cheeses and a lovely assortment of fresh bakes breads on the buffet bar for lunch. Chips and pickles are there as well. Enjoy!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Missy - It doesn't hurt to try! Sounds like a good arrangement that would help you.

Debby - That's why I think most fan interaction should be handled by the author, but VAs can help with the more getting-down-to-business things.

For graphics I like to take my own pictures (to avoid copyright issues) and use an app called Rhonna Designs to make them pretty. They have lots of cute fonts and backgrounds!

Helping myself to a turkey sandwich with salt/vinegar chips and a pickle. Crunch!

Connie Queen said...

This is one of those posts I'll tuck away for future use. First, I need to write good books. Then later, I can have a virtual assistant.

Winning in the Genesis is awesome. I've always been afraid to enter that one. Maybe I should dip my big toe into the grand puba of contests.

Mary Connealy said...

What popped into my head is my newsletter.

I am so miserable at that newsletter and I consider it a big failing.

Because a newsletter seems like a great promotion tool and I don't use it well.

A virtual assistant could do that for me.

Mary Connealy said...

Usually I organize my life like I organize my books.

Pure Seat of the Pants.

Which is risky.

But how can I give orders if I don't know what I'm doing myself?

And how could a virtual assistant do mailings for me if I have to sign the books. (which I like to do)

:( Thinking

Tina Radcliffe said...

You make the graphics on your PHONE??? What kind of phone and what app???

Tina Radcliffe said...

Debby!!!! Contest entering. Perfect use of a VA!!!!! Thank you!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Seriously, Mary! Mailings. Huge waste of my tiny window of spare time. A VA could do my Amazon Prime orders for me too!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

And welcome to Seekerville Ashley Mays! And great to see Carla!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Do itemized vs flat rate. How does that work. Charging by the hour vs. charging by the project???

Pam Hillman said...

Hmmm, what would I use a VA for???

Scheduling blog tours
Following up with hosts/hostesses
Preparing posts and pictures
Social Media promotion and advertising
Website updates
Newsletter maintenance

And that's just off the top of my head.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Fat fingers. Tiny phone. Shd read... soooo .. Not do. Lol.

Amy C said...

What an interesting post. Glad you are here today on Seekerville, Laurie! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Yay, Laurie! Loved this post!

I could use a virtual assistant, but not all the time.

Pam Hillman said...

Tina, I've tried family members, but so far it hasn't worked out too well.

They end up going to college, starting new jobs, etc.

And, it's according to their strengths: my DIL and DS2 would be good for scheduling social media promotions.

My oldest was between jobs last spring and helped me package a pile of books for a blog tour. I signed and stuck the bookmarks in. He packaged and then made the drive to the PO and shipped them for me. It was wonderful.

But, like I said, they've all gotten jobs (PTL!) or are in college (and the college kid also has a job), so my VA assistance is on the back burner right now.

I've got them on retainer to clean up the office and file things, brainstorm and clean out my spam folders on my website when they get time though. :)

Sally said...

I dream of having someone help with the social media aspects I'm not good at... like Twitter. Maybe Google+ where I never show up.

I'm loving what everyone else is saying too! Like Tina says, letting the micromanagement go is the first step. I'd love help with newsletters, mailing books to winners, scheduling/handling blog tours, press releases, marketing, email organization. I get buried there too easily.

When I've thought about hiring a VA, I've always thought it would be best to find someone already in the writing world, like yourself. That way the VA really understand where you're coming from and can, perhaps, add to your ideas and needs with their own. I'd love that.

What's the minimum that it would be okay to book a VA for? I don't have a lot of funds right now, but is an hour a week too little? Or maybe four hours a month? How would you handle a request like that?

Love how my mind is churning. :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Connie - Yes, please enter the Genesis contest! Such good feedback. So many good reasons to do so!

Mary - You know, every author has some area in which they could use a dramatic rescue :) Mailings are good for a VA who lives close by. I've gotten a signed giveaway book from you before and love that you do that! (The former book publicist in me LOVES that you have the best promo materials, too!)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

**Tina - I have an iPhone and an app called Rhonna Designs :)

Itemized more refers to breaking down every expense (each time increment + what I'm doing during that time or each expense to be reimbursed). Some arrangements just involve the flat rate and don't get into the details, though in those situations, no extra expenses are involved.

**Sally - I think 4 hours a month isn't bad at all. It depends on the VA, obviously. Some might find it easier to manage fewer clients with a larger volume of work for them, and some might love the supplement to their existing workload.

Debby Giusti said...

Laurie, thanks so much for the info on Rhonna Designs! I'll check out the app!

You mentioned Mary's good promo materials...do tell, what do you think works best?

What promo would you suggest for a large conference goody room giveaway? I'm referring to the RWA Conference specifically.

Chill N said...

Laurie you have helped me figure out what my goal as a writer is -- TO HAVE A VA!

How wonderful it would be to have a VA handle setting up a platform, scheduling, newsletter, social media, etc. -- leaving me free to write and to be in touch with readers.

Thank you for a dynamite post filled with info (as well as your answers in the comments). And congratulations on your two Genesis awards.

Oh my gosh I love office supplies. Pretty please enter me in the drawing?

Nancy C

Becky Dempsey said...

I didn't know there virtual assistants! Interesting concept.

Vince said...

Hi Laurie:

It’s a beautiful day in Tulsa! And one of our own has joined with three Seekers in the “Homestead Brides” collection: Kathleen Y'Barbo! That’s a beautiful thing as well.

Here’s my question: do you provide any marketing counsel? For example: guidance on which social media efforts are cost effective and which are largely unproductive?

An author with many books, each of which can act to sell all the other books, may find a blog tour highly profitable while a new author, with just one book, may find the same tour largely unprofitable. I believe the need to do the right things is just as great as the need to acquire help in doing them.


Wilani Wahl said...

This sounds like someone I could use eventually. I had never heard of a virtual assistant. Thanks for letting us know about this.

Julie Lessman said...

WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, LAURIE ... GREAT BLOG!! I think it's the first of its kind on Seekerville, or THE BEST of its kind IF there were any others since I can't remember them!

I gotta tell you -- like Helen, having a VA has been a dream of mine from the get-go. I always figured that a VA would be the first thing I would invest in after I hit the author jackpot, inching out liposuction and plastic surgery by a nose. ;)

I actually have hired three different VAs at various times over the years, and I have to say -- they were wonderful, tempting me to expand my dream to the mega-dream of keeping a VA on retainer someday. Hey, you gotta have a dream, right??

Quick question: How many authors does a VA generally work for at one time or do they just stick with one main client or two?


Michelle said...

I am a virtual assistant and I adore my job!I manage blogs, create graphics, come up with fun promotions, and book interviews. I just put together my first blog tour and I am quite pleased with the results so I am hoping to put more together. Great article!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

**Debbie - I could be getting some of this wrong, but it seems like Mary always has the practical promo materials that people actually need! Rubber jar openers and nail files are two I can think of. So, what do people actually need at a conference that they'll be inclined to pick up? Gum/mints, hand sanitizer, and chocolates are a few examples I can think of off the top of my head!

**Nancy - Is that how you'll feel like you've finally made it? hehe! Thanks for commenting!

**Vince - So good to "see" you here! It's been too long! I do help with marketing/PR consulting for my VA clients, but I'm afraid that might be a unique situation because it was my full-time job for 7 years!

**Wilani - Thanks for commenting!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Oh, Julie! You're so hilarious! Happy to be here today :) And I'm really glad you've had great experiences with VAs in the past. As far as client load, it definitely depends on the VA. Some might find it easier to manage fewer clients that have a larger quantity of work for them, and some might love having a lot of little projects to keep them on their toes.

Michelle - Yay for a successful blog tour! Glad you can attest that there really are people in this world (besides me) who love taking care of these kinds of details :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Laurie, WElcome to Seekerville and thanks for the very informative post. I LOVED it and LOVE virtual assistants. I love any assistance I can get actually. There is a lot about this writing business.

Thanks for all the information. Good points to look for in an assistant.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hand sanitizer!!!!

Ruthy laughs out loud at that one, because it's a great idea, Laurie!!!!

You're right, it makes no sense to use a promo that looks just like everyone else's promo or that gets tossed.

Great ideas!

Sandy Smith said...

This is very interesting. If I were to have a VA I would benefit most from website help and anything involving graphics. Please enter me for an Office Depot gift card.

Mary Connealy said...

Laurie I already feel sorry for my virtual assistant. My knee jerk need to apologize for everything is kicking in before I've even figured out what I'd ask her to do.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh good grief, I need one of these! Then again, I could also use a part time nanny and a full time housekeeper. 😊 good stuff, Laurie!

Tina Radcliffe said...

This has been exceedingly helpful, Laurie. Thanks for being so transparent about how it all works and how to gauge how it should work.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And you know. We get our books from our publisher months ahead of release. If you had a VA you could sign them all and mail them to the VA with your promo stuff and let her do individual mailings. OOH! I LIKE THIS MORE AND MORE!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Or send her the books and then send her PAM HILLMAN and JULIE LESSMAN bookplates.

Janet Dean said...

Laurie, I love that you use a color coded planner! Hey any planner. We could communicate, I'm sure.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet, you have a new picture. Love it.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Michelle!

Carolyne Aarsen said...

So caring and considerate of you to help your cowboy out!!!

Carolyne Aarsen said...

I bit the bullet a number of years ago and got a housekeeper coming to my house a couple of days a month. Then I started buying more convenience foods which, for this one-time back-to-the-lander and baker and cooker of everything we eat, was quite a leap already. Now I'm working my way up to virtual assistant and this article has got me thinking. I like Tina Radcliffe's list and will most probably scam some items off it!! Some day!!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

You bet! I have loved being here!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Mary - Hahaha! Don't feel sorry!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Amy, I like being optimistic and saying I have cleaning ladies named Dishwasher and Vacuum and a cook named Crockpot :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Tina, I love the way you think! Smart!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Janet, I will always own up to the name of Planner Nerd. I love peeking into people's organizational systems!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Carolyne - I have a feeling a lot of people are taking "notes to self" for the future! :)

Dawn Crandall said...

Wow, I totally would have loved to have a VA for the blog tours I've put together for my two released last year--as a debut author in 2014, plus Whitaker House releasing the three books every 3-4 months, plus having my first baby right before everything exploded into awesomeness... Well, yeah.... it would have been great. Doing it all myself AND while being a full time mommy to an infant-now-on-the-go-baby has been quite the adventure!

Michelle said...

Thank you! I didn't realize how cozy it is here :)

Michelle said...

Thanks! My husband has a computer business (websites, repair, graphic design, you name he does it ) and I am always in "bookland" so adding author assisting to the mix works out great.

I think many authors may shy away from having someone to help because of the price. Some are pricey! Our graphics can be as little as 10 dollars. Promoting books should be fun not stressful!

Tina Radcliffe said...

hehehe...great minds, Carolyne.

ohiohomeschool said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ohiohomeschool said...

What a great article. I appreciated your what to look for in a VA. Right now my son is as good as it gets for me.
Thank you

Deanna Stevens said...

Since I'm a reader I would enjoy being the VA :) I enjoyed reading about having or not having a VA.. I'm learning more & more all the hard work that goes along with the writing.. Very interesting!
please enter me :)

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Wow, what a cool post! I've always thought that being a VA would be kinda fun. :)

If I had one, they would most likely spend most of their time telling me to sit down, stop getting distracted, and write. LOL

Edwina said...

This is the best idea I've heard in a long time. If I had a VA, I could keep her/him busy for at least 4 hours a day, 5 days a week!
Thanks for the info!

Deanne said...

I have never heard of a VA before. Thank you for the enlightening article. I found it very interesting and helpful.

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Becky, Deana, Edwina, Deanne - Thanks so much for reading :)

Anna - Right? I need someone to hover over me and slap my wrist when I am procrastinating instead of writing. Sign me up!

Janet Kerr said...

Another pair of hands would be great. First time I hear about a virtual assistant.