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Writing Crime

Is it time to hire a writer’s assistant?
By Tonya D Price
Posted on 10/4/2021 10:08 PM

I was 27 years old when I became a Director of Technical Services at Hewlett-Packard’s Medical Accounting Division. Armed with a fresh MBA out of Cornell’s Johnson School, I took to heart the parting advice I received from my advisor: “Knowing when to delegate will make or break your career.” I find this advice even more true for a writing entrepreneur because you are a one-person show. You can’t do everything yourself, so success will only come if you get help at a cost you can afford.

Delegating essential tasks takes courage and wisdom. Courage because you have to let go of crucial tasks, and that is not easy. You are trusting someone else to take the same care of your business and career as you do, knowing they will never be as invested or as good at what made you successful. Knowing your strengths, but more importantly, your weaknesses, are crucial to breaking through to the next level in increasing your book sales, whether you publish your books yourself or license your rights to a traditional publisher.

The difference between writing entrepreneurs who struggle to become known, and those who breakthrough, is understanding when to delegate tasks to someone whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses. Find an assistant who has mastered tasks you don’t like or keep you from your writing, and you have a formula for success.

How can a writer assistant help you?

The more you publish through book sales, workshops, conference appearances, online classes, webinars, etc., the more money you earn since your writing brings in the revenue that makes these activities possible. Here are some tasks that a writer assistant can do for you that provide you with more writing time.

  1. Marketing: Pre/post-launch tasks, promotional tasks for new releases, advertising campaign management, social media posts, statistical analysis, repurposing social media information, blog posts, and articles.
  2. Book promotion tasks: including giveaways, website updates, newsletter production, and mailings
  3. Responding to agents, editors, interviewers, podcasters, requests. These might include providing an author bio or testimonial requests.
  4. Research on new marketing strategies. Your writer assistant is doing work for other writers too. They should be up on book marketing techniques and the publishing industry trends.

Don’t jump off the cliff, leap over the chasm!

In a 1990 groundbreaking marketing book (since revised), “Crossing the Chasm,” Geoffrey A. Moore describes how an entrepreneur creates a product that initially succeeds in a market but eventually stalls if they fail to keep current with new technology.

Writers face their chasm but in a slightly different way. You initially have success while you are working alone. Sales are low, but your book is selling, and you live on the fumes that someone out there who is not related to you is buying, reading, and recommending your book to other readers. However, there comes a time when sales stagnate or decline, and you need a new approach. You need to raise awareness among a larger group of people that your books exist and that these readers would enjoy them if they only knew about them. The gap between your current sales and your potential growth in sales represents the chasm for writers.

The problem is you are a writer, and writers already have the writing, book production, marketing, and promotion to do regardless of who is publishing the book. How do you find time for these activities and write more books?

These tasks can feel overwhelming, but I view this stage as a sign you are succeeding! Many writers focus on the work they think they “should” be doing. They have progressed in their business knowledge to understand how the different business components fit together and envision how to take their sales to the next level – if only they had the time to accomplish everything required to take advantage of new opportunities. A writer assistant allows an author to tackle their ambitious new goals while reducing the stress of doing everything themselves.

One of the best things a writer assistant can do is to help you decide which of these tasks will have the most impact on your book sales and which ones they can do for you, allowing you to write your next book.

Tips on finding a good writer assistant

You can find professional writer assistants on work-for-hire sites and job boards. Here are few places to check out (remember you want a writer assistant, not a virtual assistant with no publishing expertise): 

•'s job board





• Ask writers who are using a writer assistant where they found them and if their assistant is taking on new clients

You will find reliable and qualified applicants on these sites. Many assistants live abroad and are classified as “independent contractors,” not as consultants by the IRS. You are not required to file a W2 or 1099 form for them as you would for a U.S. assistant. Often these “foreign” writer assistants are Americans living abroad. Most assistants you will find will have excellent English. All should have worked in the publishing industry. Due to the different cost of living allowances, they typically charge less than those in the U.S. They also are in a different time zone so that someone can be checking email for a more extended period than your 8–12-hour day.

A couple of warnings before you commit.

First, never delegate writing tasks to an assistant. You are a writer. Your voice is unique, and that is what will make you different and builds your brand. Never delegate the writing of your books and short stories to anyone else. I recommend you write your social media posts yourself for the same reason. Let your writer assistant use the posts you created to repurpose the information on other platforms.

Second, never delegate control over your money to your writer assistant. Oprah Winfrey is famous for saying, “Never let anyone else have access to your bank account information.” This warning goes for agents as well as writer assistants.

The hiring process 

  1. Select three potential writer assistants that you believe would be a good fit for your needs. Pay them for an hour of their time. List a couple of tasks you would like your writer assistant to do that you know how to do, and they claim they can do. 
  2. Ask all three candidates separately to do the same task(s) and rate their performance.
  3. If you find two candidates you like, keep the names of both. If you think they are both equally qualified, consider giving them a small paid project, so you have a backup if your primary assistant isn’t available for a critical task.
  4.  Consider personality too when choosing between two equally qualified candidates.

How much should I budget for a writer assistant?

The idea of hiring a writer assistant is intimidating. One of the first questions many writers have is how many hours would this person work for me and a reasonable budget for such work?

You don’t need to hire a writer assistant for forty hours a week. You can hire them for individual projects. You can also have them work on ongoing projects like daily social media posts, which might take them an hour or two a week. Others do work for you when you need it, not doing anything for a month or months at a time, like updating your website with a new book announcement.

Expect to pay by the hour. The cost will depend on the writer assistant’s experience, expertise, and skill needed to do the project. For example, SEO campaign design would be more expensive than text updates to your website. Most writer assistants will work for as many hours as you need. Writer assistants are flexible, undertaking projects that last an hour on a one-time basis or one to two hours a week or a month. Writers with larger budgets and establish an ongoing, regular schedule.

If you find an outstanding writer assistant, my advice is to tip them and give them all your work. A writer assistant with a large client base with high ratings and numerous marketing, editing, and production experience may charge as much as $50 an hour, while someone just starting and looking to build their client list may charge as little as $5 an hour. If you are short on funds, give the low-priced writer assistant a small job and see how it goes. Remember, a good writer assistant becomes a valuable member of your writing team.

How do you know if you are ready for a writer assistant?

Determine how many words an hour you write. How much time are you spending on marketing your book? At $15 an hour, how much would you pay to have an assistant do one task a week that could make you money and allow you to get an extra hour of writing time? (Or 52 hours of extra writing time a year!)

Given the low cost, a writer assistant can be your key to crossing the chasm to higher sales and increased book productivity. As your success and sales revenue increase, you can afford to delegate more tasks and write even more books!

Our members benefit from your comments and questions. Please share your experience working with a writing assistant in the comments below.

Thanks! Tonya

Tonya D. Price is a multi-genre published short story writer and the author of the non-fiction series, Business Books for Writers. Her thriller short story, "Payback," in the Fiction River anthology, Hard Choices, was selected for inclusion in The American Best Mystery Stories of 2019. She holds an MBA from Cornell University in Marketing and Finance. You can follow Tonya at Business Books for Writers and Tonya D. Price or on Twitter: @BusBooks4Writer.

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