What is Assisted Self Publishing?

by Jan King

Assisted self publishing has all the advantages of self publishing with one big difference – a much lower learning curve for the author.

Assisted self publishing means you have a team of experienced freelance professionals who know and execute on various elements of the publishing process led by a book coach and a virtual author’s assistant.

There are several steps to get you started on the assisted self publishing journey:
1. Consider whether you have the time and talent to write your own book. None of us are taught in school how to write a book versus writing papers, reports or articles – it is much different process. If written communications just isn’t your strength then consider using a ghostwriter might be the best use of your time and energy.

2. If you’ve written your own book and you feel you have done as much as you can with your book manuscript (draft) considering hiring a competent and experienced book coach to read your book and make recommendations to enhance marketability and talk through the best way to publish based on your goals for the book. It is even better to start working with a book coach before you begin or early in your writing.

3 If you haven’t decided how to publish your book yet, click here for a comparison of the various methods and discuss the benefits and downsides for your particular book and goals with your book coach.
If you have decided to self publish, then consider assisted self publishing.

4. Find a qualified Virtual Author’s Assistant (or get a recommendation from your book coach) by going to the industry directory of trained and certified VAAs at
www.AuthorsAssistants.com. Call or email and interview several to make sure the chemistry will be good between you. For what services you can expect and what to ask if you interview potential candidates, read this page.

Let me offer an analogy which I hope will help you see the advantages of self publishing…with help. The analogy isn’t perfect but it might help you see the type of assistance you might want and what each professional does in the publishing process.

Imagine you are an artist who has been asked to do a sculpture for a gallery exhibition for eventual sale. The first step in the process would be to decide what you will sculpt.

You might hire a consultant or coach (in our parallel story for authors, a book coach) who had worked with special collectors to help make the decision of what to sculpt – a cow or a horse? The coach, having helped make this decision for sculptors before advises that a horse would be more marketable. You might also want help in deciding on final size, what materials would be best (in this case, bronze), and what the horse should be depicted doing (eating grass, running, standing with head up).

Next comes the actual sculpting process where the artist buys the clay to create the horse. As the artist is sculpting, the coach is called in regularly to critique the work and make suggestions that would enhance the beauty and transformational quality of the piece. The artist would make the changes suggested (or not). Much like a sculptor, an author takes the raw material (the writing) and works and works on it -deleting pieces, adding pieces, honing each section over and over.

Once the artist does everything he or she wants to do (and that could be over months or even years), the artist might go to a sculpting instructor for more specific changes in the tiniest details that make a big difference in the feeling of the final work (the parallel for authors would be an editor). Again the artist could take the suggestions and use them, or not.

Finally, the artist would decide the piece is finished (like when an author finishes a manuscript). But, of course, the piece isn’t really finished (any more than a WORD doc is a finished book).

The clay piece is taken and used to caste a mold into which molten bronze would be poured (the author parallel is an book interior designer who lays out the interior of the book in a special software which can be used by printers and inserts illustrations, page numbers and things like the title and copyright pages).

The individuals who make the molds have much experience and it is a highly skilled part of the process. Without it, the artist’s work could not be finished and sold.

Once the bronze cools and the mold is broken to reveal the bronze sculpture, the work still is not finished. There is usually a patina painted on the bronze to color it and make it shine so it will be even more desirable for collectors (our parallel here is the book cover designer).

Just as in the book business, there are a number of things the artist has to be sure are done for the piece to be ready for exhibiting and ultimate sale. The artist generally has someone who does all the things to make that happen (the author parallel is the virtual author’s assistant). This is someone who has done this work before for many other artists. There is a certification process the assistant is responsible for that documents the size of the piece and the weight. The assistant has a number of other tasks including researching the subject and finding photos for the sculptor to model the piece on. The assistant might also coordinate the timing between molding, pouring, cooling, attaching a base and preparing the piece to be delivered to where it will be displayed. The assistant might also get photos taken of the final sculpture for inclusion in a gallery catalog.

Other professionals a self-publishing author will want to collaborate with (and this is where our analogy ends) is an indexer and a proofreader, a copywriter (to write the author bio, website copy and marketing pieces) and a web designer.

Think about being an artist. If you didn’t know the steps in the process to create a sculpture would you just forget about it or would you find professionals in the field who could help you do the things you don’t have expertise, time or energy to do?

Assisted self publishing gives you these advantages:
No agenda other than your success
No overhead of a POD publisher (that you pay for)
Keep all your own intellectual property
Keep all your profits from book sales
Get world-class work from your professional team (many of whom also freelance for the major publishers)
Enjoy the process

Every big-time author has an author’s assistant – someone the author can call on to do the amazing number of tasks that surround the successful completion, publishing and marketing of a book. But first-time authors are lucky – they can have author’s assistants, too – virtually.

A new author can pay for just the time and expertise needed, without having to create a staff, making a virtual author’s assistant an important part of an author’s success. Here are the four biggest reasons the VAA is an essential member of the author’s success team:

1. There is just too much work for one person. Most new and aspiring authors have day jobs as professionals, solopreneurs or employees. Few authors have the luxury of working on writing, publishing and marketing their books full time. Some of the work to be done is deadline-oriented and is more than one part-time person can handle.

2. An author’s assistant has special expertise. Look for someone with training and experience in doing what you need done – from preparing a manuscript, to doing a competitive analysis, to coordinating the self publishing process to running a virtual book tour or coordinating a live book signing event. Author’s assistants can do all this and much more. They understand the industry, the technology and have already established resources and connections.

3. The cost is greater when you do it yourself without help. There is a high learning curve for anyone who has never made the publishing journey. Whether the author is paid $70 an hour or $270 an hour as a coach, therapist, attorney or entrepreneur, the author’s assistant is a tremendous value at a much lower per-hour cost. With an author’s assistant the author has the freedom to concentrate on those things only the author can do, especially writing the best book he or she can. Expect to pay from $30 to $60 an hour (and it goes higher with greater expertise) for a qualified virtual assistant.

4. The synergy of the collaborative effort. There is nothing that inspires work like someone waiting for it. An author’s assistant is there to help you take each step so precious little time goes by between your writing and preparation for publishing and marketing. If you set the date, the author’s assistant will be there with support and encouragement to help you make it happen.

If you haven’t worked virtually before, talk to someone who has. Most people who start are hooked. One of the keys to success to have clarity about the tasks you want to have done and the payment arrangements – and then to memorialize these in a contract. Another key is to find someone with demonstrated training and experience since the first-time author may be in the dark about what the tasks actually are.

Take it from the established successful authors, don’t go it alone. Get the support you need and you will be well on your way to publishing success.

Read about the 40 (+) critical tasks your virtual author’s assistant can do for you.

Enjoy this Self Publishing Video Webinar – 2 Slides Per Page is also available as a PDF next.
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