Books Books Books

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Martian

I recently read The Martian by Andy Weir.  I have to admit these days unless I'm absolutely enthralled with a book it takes me a few days to finish it because I'm usually writing my own books during the day.  It took me 2 days to read The Martian.  LOVED IT!  And, while it is detail heavy, it is written in such a way that I still sailed through the technical details that are brillantly written for the regular person to understand and enjoy.


I recommend....



http://amzn.to/1LPuWIM

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Webpage difficulties

If you're trying to find my webpage, my provider has deleted it, saying my domain was not renewed.  Problem being I paid for the Domain for 5 years in 2012.  Which by my count, means I should have it until 2017.  Irritating to say the very least.  And just when I had my webpage updated (It's lovely even though you can't see it) and I have a fourth book to tout.

Frustration is my middle name today.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ask the Assistant: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Information




So you’ve decided to hire an assistant, but you’re nervous about handing them the keys to your castle. Don’t worry! I’ve got some tips to help you protect yourself.

Please note, I am not an attorney and this post should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

1. SET UP A CONTRACT

Once you find your new assistant, you might consider asking them to sign a brief contract, which includes a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement and defined guidelines about invoices and billing.

If you hire through a 3rd party like odesk or elance, you should review their standard agreement that comes as part of any hiring relationship.

2. DISCUSS YOUR BUDGET

Estimates - When you first start working with someone, you don’t want to be surprised by a giant bill. If you are delegating tasks that you don’t have the skills or knowledge to complete on your own, you might not have much of an idea of how long they will take. Especially if that is the case, you should ask for an estimate of how long the project will take.

Hourly Budget - One of the things I highly recommend when it comes to starting with an assistant is that you set an hourly budget. Tell the assistant that you would like them to work on X, Y, and Z tasks, but please don’t spend more than 5 hours total.  Let the assistant know that when they hit the 5-hour cap, you would like to receive an update. At that point, you can decide if you want them to continue working on the projects or if you want to pause their efforts until the next billing cycle.

Initial Investment - Keep in mind that starting with an assistant is an investment for both of you. It will take them slightly longer in the beginning to complete your projects because they are getting to know you, setting up notes and procedures, and learning how to do tasks in the manner you prefer. The longer you work with someone, the more valuable should become.

3. PAY INVOICES SAFELY

In my previous article, How to Find and Vet Assistants, I recommended that you ask to see a sample invoice. Hopefully, this invoice will be broken down by line item so if you are asking your assistant to work on a wide variety of tasks, you can see how much time each task requires and make decisions about which outsourced items give you the biggest return on your investment.

Ask if the assistant can invoice you via PayPal or a similar 3rd party, or ask to mail a paper check. I think this usually goes without saying, but do not share your credit card information.


4. OVERSEE COMMUNICATION

If you ask the assistant to start communicating with others on your behalf, ask to be carbon copied on all correspondence during the beginning of the relationship. This will give you a chance to stay up to date on everything. An assistant can save you tons of time if you will allow them to communicate with:

·      Schools, Libraries, And Booksellers
·      Your Publicity Team & Publisher
·      Bloggers/Reviewers
·      Other Freelancers You Use

5. USE LASTPASS TO SHARE PASSWORDS

You don’t have to share passwords with your assistant. However, if you choose not to share any passwords or allow them access to any accounts, you will be seriously limiting the amount of things your assistant can help you with.  This is where establishing trust comes in.

If you feel twitchy about emailing your passwords or you’re worried about having to change all of your passwords if you decide to terminate a relationship with an assistant, I recommend you use LastPass. You can open an account with LastPass and share your passwords with others without them ever seeing the text of your passwords.  It works like the “keychain” on a browser (EX: Would you like Safari to remember this password for you?), but it allows you to share the passwords with others. Your assistant will also have to have a LastPass account for this to work.

BONUS TIP: You can make someone an “admin” of your Facebook page without having to share your Facebook password.  Instructions here: https://www.facebook.com/help/187316341316631

HOW AND WHAT TO START DELEGATING

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have questions. Check out my post next month about exactly which items are the easiest to delegate.


Mel Jolly, founder of Author Rx and Author’s Atlas, has been “Keeping Authors Out of the Loony Bin Since 2009.” Mel started out as a Library Assistant in Young Adult Services where she specialized in outreach to at risk teens at juvenile detention centers and inner-city schools. Melissa has always had a true passion for connecting readers (and non-readers) to books and now enjoys channeling that energy into teaching all authors the tips and tricks she’s learned about how to thrive in the publishing industry through workshops and the Author’s Atlas blog. To follow along with Mel's tips to help you Get Organized in 2015, sign up for the Author's Atlas newsletter at http://www.authorsatlas.com/.

Mel Jolly

Manager
Author Rx
www.authorrx.com
(828) 308-2925



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ask the Assistant: How to Find and Vet Assistants



Let’s jump straight into the next stage of finding your new assistant!

PREP WORK

Before tackling these steps, you should have your:

·      Financial budget
·      List of tasks to outsource
·      General idea of how much time per month you expect to outsource

These items were covered in my November post, Is it Time to Hire Help?

FINDING NAMES

This part might seem daunting, but I’m promise it’s not difficult!

Referrals - Ask your author friends if they work with an assistant or if they know of someone else that does. Personal recommendations are a great place to start.

Check the Loops – If you are on any author loops or discussion groups, run a search for “author’s assistant.” Chances are someone else has already asked for recommendations. If nothing comes up in your search, be the first to ask.

ResourcesAuthor’s Atlas is a free review and ratings site for all the freelancers an author might need and has a significant database of assistants. AuthorEMS also has an extensive listing of freelancers.


VETTING

Once you start collecting names and referrals, visit each assistant’s website. Here are the items I recommend you look for on their site:

Testimonials - This will give you an idea, not only of the assistant’s experience in the field, but also of other authors you can contact to make sure they were happy with the freelancer’s work.

Services  - Most freelancers are going to have a detailed list of their services on their website. Just make sure that the majority of the items you are hoping to outsource are on the list. Most assistants are flexible in what they do, so if something is missing from the list, make a note to ask about that particular item in your inquiry email.

Copy – One thing I always check when vetting someone is their website copy and blog. I’m looking for writing skill level and attention to detail because both of those items are important to me.

RATES

Rates of assistants are going to vary widely based on experience and skill set. On average, you can expect to pay $25 - $40/hour. There will be outliers, of course, and a new assistant might not charge as much as someone who’s been working in the industry for years. Some assistants also offer a bulk discount if you’re going to contract them for a set number of hours per month. The assistant may or may not include their rates on their website.


INQUIRY EMAIL

At this point, you should have a handful of names that you would like to contact. If you have one or two favorites, contact them first. In your email, I recommend you include:

Introduction – Include the usual items: who you are, what you write, and where you are in you career. Every assistant is going to have unofficial areas and genres of expertise, so sharing that info with them upfront helps them to determine if they are a good fit for you. 

Referral – If someone recommended that freelancer to you, be sure to mention it. First of all, it’s so nice to hear that a client likes your work! Secondly, it’s also a reverse referral. If one of my authors recommends someone to me as a potential client, it makes that person stand out in my inbox.

Tasks – Give the assistant a brief description of what you’re hoping to outsource. Don’t worry about going into a ton of details; a simple list (social media, managing my inbox, setting up speaking events, mailing review copies) is sufficient. Make sure to specify if you’re looking to hire someone for ongoing help or if you just need to hire for one project that will have a definitive end. If you’re especially nervous about hiring someone, a small one-time project is a great place to start.
  
Budget – Let them know how many hours/month you think these tasks will take. If you have a solid budget that you can’t afford to go over, mention that. (EX: I would like to start with a budget of $250/month.)

Timeline – Let them know if you’re looking to start working with someone immediately or if you can be flexible on start date.

RESPONSE

Many assistants are busy. They might not be able to take you on right away or at all.  However, if they aren’t able to work with you at all, ask if they have any referrals. I am part of a several freelancer groups and it’s common for someone to send out a “Who is taking on new clients?” email. Even if I can’t work with an author, I do want to make sure they find a happy home!


INTERVIEWS

If you get a favorable response from an assistant, set up a time to chat via Skype or on the phone. Or, if you’re uncomfortable with calls, continue exchanging emails.

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

Turnaround Time – How long does it typically take them to start working on a project? Is it a few days or over a week?

Invoicing and Payment – How often do they invoice and what forms of payment do they accept?  Ask to see a sample invoice.

Communication – Let them know how you prefer to communicate (email, text, phone). Ask about their response time to emails and whether or not you have to schedule calls.

Responsibilities – Talk about what you hope to accomplish and ask for feedback.

Team – Some assistants have assistants of their own that do some of the work. Ask if that’s the case and find out who will be your primary point of contact.


PROTECTING YOURSELF

Check back next month for my post about how to protect yourself, in which I’ll cover how to safely start delegating tasks, ways to protect your personal information, and tips for building a trusting relationship with your new assistant.



 Mel Jolly, founder of Author Rx and Author’s Atlas  http://authorrx.com/about/  has been “Keeping Authors Out of the Loony Bin Since 2009.” Mel started out as a Library Assistant in Young Adult Services where she specialized in outreach to at risk teens at juvenile detention centers and inner-city schools. Melissa has always had a true passion for connecting readers (and non-readers) to books and now enjoys channeling that energy into teaching all authors the tips and tricks she’s learned about how to thrive in the publishing industry through workshops and the Author’s Atlas blog. To follow along with Mel's tips to help you Get Organized in 2015, sign up for the Author's Atlas newsletter at http://www.authorsatlas.com