#SCBWICON15 Survival Guide to Being a Debut Author

Olivia Levez

The Debut Debrief was hosted by Candy Gourlay (author of Tall Story and Shine) and Mo O’Hara (My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series) in conversation with Jasmine Richards (author of The Book of Wonders and editor at OUP). 

Here are their survival tips: 

1. Be lovely and engaging to all at your publishers, and remember people’s names. They are more likely to go that extra mile in publicising you. Have ideas and creative angles. Don’t be demanding. Say ‘what can I do to help you?’ Even though there may not be a big marketing budget (unless your advance was significant), publicity can still support you with expertise, contacts and knowledge. 

The suggested amount of school visits is ten or eleven events per fortnight!

2. Get the most out of school visits. Use your SCBWI contacts in linking to schools. Have someone take photographs for your website (backs of students’ heads avoids safeguarding issues) and always tweet after the visit, linking in the school. Offer free visits as part of an author promo, but in return ask for testimonials. Difficult if you have another job, but the suggested amount of school visits is ten or eleven events per fortnight! Ask if your publishers can help with posters, stationery or book drops. 

In Candy Gourlay’s words, ‘be shiny’

3. Watch other authors perform. Get ideas, and in Candy Gourlay’s words, ‘be shiny.’ The children don’t want you to be another teacher. They already have those. You are an author, so what’s your story? Children are interested in your publishing journey, so link in activities to your life story. Include a Q and A session at the end. Be shiny, but also be yourself. Children have an inbuilt fake-o-meter. Send a handwritten thank you card to the head teacher, along the lines of ‘I very much enjoyed my visit to your school. You must be so proud of [insert class]. Let them know if the pupils’ work is going on the website or in a gallery. 

Debrief with Jasmine Richards, Candy Gourlay and Mo O'Hara

4. Make the most of local connections. That means booksellers, local papers, local radio, your children’s schools… 

5. Make your website interactive. Decide who it’s aimed at: children, teachers, librarians, other writers, parents. Include downloadable lesson resources eg. Colouring in sheets/ quizzes, lieracy tips, lesson plans, book lists. However, children rarely look at authors’ websites – so be Youtube savvy! Children nowadays use this as a search engine. Have a video Q and A. Make sure you link in key words and name your book. 

Sign books instore as this means they can’t be sent back!

6. Introduce yourself to bookshops. Phone or email first to let them know you are coming. Get to know individuals who will hand-sell or champion your book. If you’re going to be in the area, tweet about it, linking in the bookseller. Sign books instore as this means they can’t be sent back! 

7. Make the most of your book launch. Have it in a bookstore to build relationships with that bookseller, or choose an inventive venue that links in with themes in your book. (My book is a castaway story, so a book launch on a desert island perhaps..?) Make sure that plenty of photographs are taken, and that you have a friend with a loud voice/ the bookseller to act as an MC and introduce you. By far the best advice on book launches is by Candy Gourlay…     

Olivia's Debut
The Island
Olivia Levez lives in Worcestershire, where she is an English teacher in a large high school. When she is not teaching, she binge writes in her caravan in West Wales. Olivia likes hula-hooping, yoga and real ale, but not at the same time. She lives with her husband, two sons and a little dog named Basil. Olivia’s debut YA book The Island will be published on 3rd March 2016 by Rock the Boat, Oneworld. http://writeforrealw4r.blogspot.co.uk/
Twitter @livilev

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