What Does an Author Assistant Do, Exactly?

We had such a great response to my assistant Noelle’s last post, I’ve asked her to write again. Noelle has offered to give readers another behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at Elle Casey HQ. I’ve turned over a lot of the day-to-day operations to her so I can focus even more on my writing and my family, so she is uniquely positioned to tell you about all the nitty-gritty details that need to be managed on a daily basis to keep this machine running smoothly. Enjoy! Hugs, Elle

IMG_0227 Hanging out with Noelle at dinner on a Friday night. Because it's not all hard work all the time!

What Does an Author Assistant Do, Exactly? Guest Post by Noelle Gaussens
In my last post, I wrote that Elle hired me to manage and organize the “non-writing tasks” of her job as a self-published novelist. Some readers and aspiring author assistants have contacted me, asking, “What are all those non-writing tasks?” I’m going to take a stab at answering that question for you in this blog post.

Legendary Author Assistants
When I started working for Elle, she gave me a list of tasks to manage, but a lot of the things on that list were abstract concepts to me. It became clear that I first had to learn more about the relationship between an author and her assistant before I could fully appreciate the work I was going to be doing. Of course I went straight to the Internet looking for examples.

My searches introduced me to several dream-teams: self-publishing superstar Barbara Freethy, whose daughter Kristen worked as her assistant for several years before joining the iBooks team; J.A. Huss and her assistant, Jana Aston (who has since gone on to be a New York Times bestselling author in her own right); Nora Roberts and her personal publicist Laura Reeth; Liliana Hart and her enterprising assistant Mel Jolly; Bella Andre and her right-hand woman Melissa Storm; and Marie Force with her team of not one, but SIX, assistants.

Although they have many similar practices, each team does things their own way. Somehow, they make it all look easy, but I knew even in my first meeting with Elle that there was a lot going on behind the scenes to make it all happen. Instead of being intimidated by the complexity involved and the success of these brilliant women partnerships, I decided I would use their work as examples to teach me how to assist Elle on all fronts. These women have become my role models, and I don’t hesitate to reach out to them for advice whenever I get stuck.

Approach to the to-do list
If you’re thinking of jumping into the fray as an author assistant, but aren’t sure you can do all the tasks I list below, or don’t even know what some of them are, don’t be discouraged. Elle certainly didn’t expect me to be able to do all of these things right off the bat, and I learned a lot on the job.

My approach is three-fold:

  1. Elle shows me how she wants me to complete a task. I take detailed notes on each step of the process so I don’t have to ask a second time how to do something and can work independently.
  2. I take the time I need to gain mastery over that task.
  3. I find ways to do it even better, and then implement them after gaining approval from Elle. (Authors tend to be opinionated and used to “their” way of doing things, so it’s important to have a conversation before making changes.)

An advantage to working with Elle is that she is happy to discuss the pros and cons of any new ideas or perspectives I bring to the table. It’s extremely motivating for me, and a win-win for both of us. I know that I have a voice in the process, and because writers often find themselves working in a bubble, having a dedicated team member to bounce ideas off is a huge advantage for Elle.

Overview of Day-to-Day Tasks
In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the work I do for Elle:


  • Plan, organize, implement, and track the success of promotions
  • Plan and implement new release launches
  • Write and send newsletters
  • Post on social media and interact with readers
  • Regularly update product pages on all retailer outlets (Amazon, iBooks, GooglePlay, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive), also Goodreads, BookBub and Author Central on Amazon
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest marketing trends and share discoveries with the team
  • Pitch podcasters, arrange interviews, follow up
  • Contact and interact with bloggers
  • Organize ARC (advance review copy) distributions
  • Organize, implement, and follow up on contests and giveaways


  • Update and maintain (add new books and promotions, maintain printable book lists and publishing schedule, update list of interviews and guest posts)
  • Brainstorm blog ideas for Elle and other guest bloggers


  • Beta-read, edit, and provide feedback for all new booksRead back catalog (40+ books for Elle)
  • Format Scrivener files for mobi (Amazon) and epub (every other retailer) and paperbacks
  • Piracy monitoring, issue DMCA takedown notices

Publisher relations


  • Maintain running to-do list, accessible by all team members
  • Manage street team Facebook page and special promotions for the group
  • Make ad pieces for promotions
  • Remind Elle about upcoming meetings or commitments
  • Plan work-related trips (for example: The London Book Fair or book signing events)

In an effort to make things run as smoothly as possible, I’m in touch with Elle constantly, usually by email but also in person at our weekly meeting. This is not only to keep her up to speed with what I’m working on, but also because it’s important to us both that she retains the final say on projects. Elle continues to make decisions, both big and small, about the direction she wants her writing career to go. She doesn’t always answer my emails immediately because she’s often writing, so it’s up to me to organize my time accordingly. Your author will tell you how often and by what means she wants you to communicate about the business, and this might change as the relationship evolves or special circumstances arise, like vacations.

Fostering a unique relationship
Before I came along, Elle managed her writing career pretty much on her own. Her husband Craig helped with the financial aspects, but Elle was used to having complete and total control over every aspect of her writing and publishing business. In order for us to be able to work together, Elle had to get to a place mentally where she was able to relinquish control over some aspects of her business in exchange for more writing time. This was a trade-off she was ready to make. Your author has to be ready to make that deal and understand what it entails. Also, keep in mind that it might be a gradual process. You and your author will have to learn to trust each other over time.

Our relationship is a balancing act based on that trust. It took time for us to learn how to take full advantage of each others’ strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. In an industry that’s constantly changing, this trust is key. Elle, for her part, is kind, understanding, and indulgent whenever I mess up. Mistakes are bound to happen, but as long as both parties are working diligently and learning from those missteps, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Along the way I discovered that being an author assistant is far from simple or rote, but it can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. If you’re thinking of approaching an author you’ve built a relationship with about working as her assistant, keep in mind that her first concern is trust, followed by your abilities, and your fee. Be sure to address all these points right from the start. If you’re both willing to take a leap of faith, you’re on the road to a wonderful partnership. Trust me!

Click to tweet: An author / assistant relationship is built first and foremost upon mutual trust. http://ctt.ec/4n7AM+

Which professional teams do you admire? Do you have any questions about how Elle and I work together? Please comment below or contact me: noelle@ellecasey.com.

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