How to Become a Bestselling Author: The inside scoop from a personal assistant to the romance writing all-stars.
Kim Castillo is personal assistant to New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author Eloisa James. It’s fitting that these two ladies work together since they are both fabulous and amazing.
Kim has worked with many talented bestselling authors over the years, so if there is anyone who knows the inside of this biz, it’s Kim!
What is it like working for Eloisa James?
Bliss! Imagine meeting your idol, then finding out that they are even more fabulous than you thought and then getting to work with them every day. That’s what it’s like.
Eloisa is just so incredible. Don’t get me wrong, she is tough and a perfectionist, but she’s also the most amazing teacher and is open to hearing everything. I go to her with any idea I have no matter how big or small. We toss it back and forth and then decide together if we want to go forward. Lots of times she’s all for it but she has shot me down a few times. Like this graphic I made for The Ugly Duchess, it was rolling around in my head for weeks. Finally I put it together, sent it to her and asked for her thoughts. She loved it and posted it to her Facebook page and that thing went wild! It was shared online tens of thousands of times, it was crazy. When she doesn’t love an idea, she tells you in the best way. She never makes you feel bad at all. She gives the best constructive criticism.
We have a great time chatting on the phone and brainstorming ideas. I can’t go into detail but there is an aspect of her upcoming novel, Four Nights With the Duke, I can’t wait to see. It came out of nowhere during one of our talks and she just flew with it. Readers are going to love it!
Together we do everything we can to make Eloisa’s books the best they can possibly be and to make her releases as successful as possible. She lets me feel very much a part of her magic. When she won the RITA for Seduced by a Pirate, I felt . . . there aren’t enough words to describe the feeling, but it was pretty amazing! We celebrate her successes wildly and when things don’t go as well as we plan, we go over it bit by bit. We try to pinpoint what could have been done better, what should have been done and even what shouldn’t have been done.
To sum it up, working with Eloisa is very satisfying. She allows my creativity to soar. If anyone had ever told me I would be this happy in a job, I never would have believed them.
What can a personal assistant do for an author in terms of helping to build his/her career?
Have initiative. People always ask me to help them become an assistant, they want to do what I do. It’s not that easy. There isn’t a formula to this. You have to have great instincts and be in tune with your author. I don’t care where Eloisa is in the world, I know if she’s not feeling well or is having a very rough time. I know her and I know what she needs. Most importantly, I take care of what she needs.
For myself, I can’t make a decision to save my life. Honestly, anyone who’s gone out to dinner with me can attest to this. But when it comes to Eloisa James Inc., I make decisions in an instant without hesitation. Going along with that you also have to be accountable. You have to say “yes, I made that call” or “crap! I missed that”. With Eloisa, I have the luxury of knowing she isn’t going to rail at me.
More specifically, learn social media. Pay attention to the trends of the moment. Your author will get the most benefit of being in on a trend from the beginning, not the end. I get a lot of my inspiration from current celebrities. Taylor Swift has given me more than one brilliant idea.
Do everything you can for your author so she has time to write and focus on the stories she needs to tell.
For the authors who can’t afford a personal assistant – what are some key things that every author should do to promote her/his books?
Social media. You don’t have to do it all. There are so many! Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Do what you enjoy, but do it well. Be genuine and converse with your readers. Trust me on this, readers will know in a second if you’re not being yourself or if you’ve hired someone to do your social media. Don’t talk at them, talk to them. No matter what platform you’re on you need to treat it as if you’re with a group of friends having coffee and fun.
Treat your booksellers kindly! When Borders and Waldenbooks closed, it was the independent bookstores that stepped up. They are on social media, they have author events and they believe in you so much that they are hand selling your books. If you are traditionally published, send them bookmarks or other swag to share with their customers. Get to know them and ask them what you can do to help them do their job. It is up to us to support these small businesses. They truly love what they do and that deserves our help.
Given your experience working with so many authors over the years what are some of the stand-out qualities that many successful authors have in common?
Kindness. The most successful authors I know are just plain kind and supportive. They give back, they don’t take success for granted. Look at the workshop line up for any writing conference. You will see some of the biggest names imaginable sharing what they’ve learned. Karma, baby! You get what you put out there.
Self-awareness. A good author knows their writing process, how long it takes them to write a book, etc. They also surround themselves with good people who are supportive and accent them.
Where is the first place you go when you want to look for a new author or something new to read?
Eloisa! She reads at an incredible speed and shares what she really loves. This past spring she completely glommed Abby Green and Kresley Cole. We love to talk books but I can’t keep up with her at all. She’s got bionic eyes or something.
It is every author’s dream to be a huge success and at the top of all the bestseller lists. As an author, you need to drive yourself towards that in the best way possible for you. Most of you are perfectionists and the thought of handing off something to someone else makes you break out into hives. Get over that! Everyone can use help even if it’s just asking your teenager to teach you how to use “the Facebook”.
For the authors who feel that they can’t afford help, think again. When I started out, I charged $11 an hour and was available for any amount of hours. If you only needed two hours a month, that was fine with me. Look around, I’m sure you can find something in your budget.
One of the best pieces of advice I got when I started out was from Jeanne Adams. She helped me create a mission statement. I encourage all of you to do that. Put your goals on paper, print it out and tape it above your desk. Keep focused on those goals.
CHALLENGE: Let’s work on that together today. Share one of your writing goals and how you plan to achieve it.
Connect with Kim Castillo on facebook. You can see some of Kim’s wonderful marketing ideas on Eloisa James’s facebook page.
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