Author PAs, proof & beta readers, convention volunteers etc., heroes who help keep this industry alive

As an author and former publisher, I meet a lot of people. And many of them are business associates. They provide me with services for editing, proofing, cover designs etc. and I pay them, usually with money, although forms of bartering services do exist. Now this post is completely unrelated to my rant about people using us for freebies or exposure. Quite the contrary. This is an ode to the unsung heroes of our industry, people without whom we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

In this novel, our two main characters look after Frank, a young child with cerebral palsy. Affected by the same disability, this book caught Tracy's attention

In this novel, our two main characters look after Frank, a young child with cerebral palsy. Affected by the same disability, this book caught Tracy’s attention

They’re all readers, book aficionados, reading several books a week. They all have day jobs of some sort and volunteer their time to authors and publishers, investing their free time and vacations. I could name dozens of such people, from Randy Gresham and his DJ:ing (plus much more) at GRL to Jor Barrie, who proofreads for my publisher to Petronella Ford who loads all the USB sticks with our author/publisher content for the UK Meet. Just three amazing individuals, heroes really, to represent hundreds if not thousands more.

One of these heroes that I work with, and who tirelessly helps me, posting my banners and my name in dozens of online groups for contests every day, and who is pimping my books to readers, is Tracy Willoughby.

You’ve met her a couple of months ago on this blog when I interviewed her about her life. Tracy isn’t just a reader, she’s also an author PA, spending several hours per day helping almost a dozen authors with various tasks.

I’ve heard of personal assistants, I had one myself at one time when I was a director at a large industrial firm, and I’m familiar with virtual assistants, but I was unfamiliar with the exact tasks an “author PA” did, so I asked Tracy to enlighten me:

Basically a PA does whatever the author needs.  In my case I pimp their work which means putting it in different Facebook book promotion groups.  I also keep track and remind them of takeovers.  For those reading this and don’t know, takeovers are when an author gets on a Facebook page and talks about themselves and their books. They can be a lot of fun. For the author I PA for I help post links in her takeovers.  Also she knows she can message me and ask me to do whatever she needs. I try to come up with ideas to get her sales up. I keep a folder with her and other authors with everything i may need to help them. Every PA is different and does things differently.
Tracy works for free. She doesn’t charge a dime. When I asked her about it, she first claims that she isn’t – and I quote – “good enough”. Mind you, there are those out there who charge up to $50 an hour. I’d have to sell 25 books/hr just to pay her. Needless to say, I wouldn’t. Not that she isn’t worth it. I can’t afford to. Tracy certainly is “good enough”, mind you, a combination of low self-esteem and a slight disability, not to mention Internet trolls have gotten to Tracy and made her feel badly about herself and her calling.

Tracy’s recommendation of Spanish Bay in one of her many online groups on Facebook. I couldn’t do this, and so I’m grateful for her (and others) who help us spread the word about our books.


Nothing is more valuable to me than a reader who thinks my books are “da shit”, who reviews my work and tells their friends about it. Tracy, who also suffers from cerebral palsy, took my book Spanish Bay, with a CP character to heart, and she pushes for that book every chance she gets. And I know for a fact that word of mouth beats any paid advertising. I’ve seen it happen often enough.

Asked about her motivations and how much time she helps her authors, Tracy had this to say:
Some days more than others, usually a few hours a day, but I really don’t keep track.  It all depends how many authors I PA for. Right now, I just have the one with a bunch I help on the side.  At one point I had three authors I PA’d for, plus I also helped others on the side. I just do stuff as needed. I’ve been known to be up at 11 pm pimping for authors or attending takeovers. I once spent a whole day on an author event helping out when said author couldn’t make it. An author event is where an author will host a bunch of takeovers for different authors.  
On a side note I love being a PA for authors. Actually I love helping authors in general. Getting a thank you publicly or in private or like one time when I got an acknowledgment in a book is way better then getting paid.
That final sentence says it all!
As an author, father & consultant (to name three of my hats), I have so many things to do. Just today I translated a document for a client, proofed one of my own books for several hours, worked on reviews (getting and writing) and now I’m writing this post, that’s not even mentioning cooking or the tech support for my aging dad. When I’m interacting on Facebook or other social media, I will share a book trailer, or share a snippet of where I’m at in the book process. But to pimp my own books? No, that’s not who I am.
People like Tracy (and all her unnamed sisters and brothers out there, including Petronella, Jor and Randy) are our unsung heroes, the ones who make sure we find the time to write, or as Tracy told me on the phone the other day:
“I’m so grateful for all the books you guys write. Without you, there wouldn’t be books for us to read!”
Who am I to argue with such a profound statement? I try to do right by people. I pay invoices on time, I try to help my amazing publisher if I can, I try to help fellow authors if I can. With fans and people who work for free that is not so easy. So we send them books, signed of course, we thank them when we meet them in person, with e.g. chocolates. But as Tracy says, helping us authors is a hobby for many readers, and for her,
[…] a thank you or when they get a new fan/reader because of my efforts, that makes feel like a part of something. If you believe in an author why wouldn’t you help if you could.
Hans M Hirschi
So, today, I would like to use this post to say thank you, to all of you who volunteer your time for authors, publishers and conventions, in whatever role. You’re the true heroes of the indie publishing industry. Thank you for reading, and for helping us do what we do best: pen down the stories that come to our minds.
Thank you!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.
Hans M Hirschi
author at times

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