Answering this question can be difficult, because every author has different needs, and all assistants have different skills, offerings and requirements. To make it even more complicated, many authors aren't even sure what their specific needs are! They don't know what they don't know.
So, every relationship between an author and their virtual assistant (VA) will be different. I have never worked with any two of my clients in the exact same way, and I wouldn't want to - the flexibility of my job is one of the things I love about it most.
Your virtual assistant can help with as much or as little as you're both comfortable with. Some authors need full-time help, and others only need someone for a few hours each week.
The way you work with your VA depends on your budget and needs, and how they can assist with something you either lack skills in or lack the time to do yourself. For example, many authors don't enjoy social media and aren't good at using it, but know it's an important marketing tool, so they pay an expert to do it for them.
A VA saves you time and makes you more money. The purpose of a virtual assistant, in short, is to help you sell more books and focus on writing, while they focus on aspects of 'running your business'. This allows your author career to grow, with far less stress on you.
I've created a list of some of the most common tasks I assist authors and small publishers with through my business, so you can see what you might ask your VA (or VAA) to do.
1. Social Media
The clients I assist with social media usually fall into one of these four categories: they're not tech-savvy, not social-media literate, dislike using social media, or just don't have time to be running social media accounts.
If you fit into any of the above, it's probably worth hiring a VA who specialises in social media marketing. They will not only take the task off your hands, but do it with their expertise and skill, so you know they'll do a great job.
There are several aspects of social media I help with:
Research phase: determining whether you need a social media presence, where you need a social media presence, creating a content plan, and setting up accounts
Content creation: creating and scheduling the posts for your accounts (images, captions, hashtags, etc)
Engagement: helping to build engagement and your following by connecting with other accounts, liking and commenting, searching through hashtags, researching trends, etc.
Ads: researching and implementing paid ads (such as Facebook Ads) to promote your books, boost your engagement, get you more newsletter signups, etc.
You might need help with all of the above, or only one or two aspects. Some authors, for example, like to have someone create their content and post, but like doing their own engagement. Others may be the opposite!
Regardless of why you want a social media VA and what you want them to help with, an expert can give your social media purpose and get you closer to your goals, while taking a lot of stress off your hands.
2. Blogging & Newsletters
Newsletter marketing is one of the most popular marketing strategies for authors. Your newsletter is a space for you to speak directly with your audience, and you have full control of the medium (unlike social media, which has more restrictions and algorithms).
Anyone can build a newsletter through services like MailerLite, but it does take time and strong computer literacy. You have to send regular newsletters, know how to write them, design them, schedule them, keep your open rate high, and build your mailing list. Read my blog post on author newsletters for more.
A VA can help you with all of the above, whether they're just providing a content plan and ideas, or taking over the entire process. You would be surprised how many authors have their content ghostwritten!
Blogging, similarly, is a great way to engage your audience. Blogs are hosted on your website and can consist of almost anything. This is why blogging can be difficult - there's so much you can write about, and many authors get lost. Read my blog post on author websites for more.
When it comes to blogging and newsletters, a VA can:
Research the audience
Grow the readership
There are many levels of editing, from manuscript assessments and proofreading, to in-depth developmental and line edits. Editing is a big job, so most editors don't also offer VA services.
However, some VAs with exceptional skills in English, strong knowledge of narrative, knowledge of industry trends, etc. will offer some editing types to their clients. I do!
Other author VAs may not be interested or skilled in in-depth editing, but since they should have a strong knowledge of the book industry, they might offer manuscript assessments. This means they will give feedback on your overall story and the book's marketability, rather than the writing itself (though many assessments will include notes on your writing too).
VAs can also be writing coaches!
There are several levels of editing, and it's important that you know the difference before hiring an editor. Read my blog post What are the types of editors? for more.
4. Media/Press & Influencers
An author VA who specialises in media will help you create a media kit for your book, research possible publications/journalists who may be interested in reviewing or interviewing you, write press releases, and help you pitch/query.
Although any VA should be able to help you find media outlets and influencers, you want someone who knows how to get your book to the right sources for your genre and target audience. It's helpful if your chosen VA already has their own list of bloggers, journalists and influencers. However, you should expect to pay more for this. They may have spent years researching and curating their list, which is a huge value to you!
Most of my connections, for example, are young adult readers with small-medium 'Bookstagram' accounts, because I spend a lot of time in that space. So, while this makes me a great source for YA authors, authors with other target audiences might find more value in a different VA.
Still, as they say, all publicity is good publicity. If you can't budget for a VA with experience and connections in your genre, it's still better to hire one you can trust to do great research, or DIY, than not attempt to do any press at all.
5. Market research
A virtual assistant who knows how to do market research, and keeps up to date on industry trends, is one of the best tools you can have in your author business. They can help you find out who your audience is, how to reach them, and ultimately, how to get them to buy and read your book.
For more, read the following on my blog:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my work is different with every client, and is never the same week-to-week. This means a lot of the work I do is unique or ad hoc.
Here are some examples of other tasks I've helped with:
Creating spreadsheets/data entry
If you would like to discuss my virtual author assistant services, email me!