Welcome to Debut Diaries – One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of the post-publication year.
This month, Tizzie welcomes Natascha Biebow, author of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons, to join her for afternoon tea.

Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, but launching a debut nonfiction picture book is hard work! Here is a chance for her to put her feet up and share her insights and advice over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats that reflect the mood of the months following life after debut.

March 2019: Chocolate Melt

Because savouring that melted chocolate goo in the middle is simply marvellous!

Publication day conflicted with my son’s tenth birthday, Mother’s Day and National Crayon Day. Needless to say he was a bit put out by all the teasing that The Crayon Man's launch topped it all. I was also conflicted about what to organise to kick off the book’s ta-da! entry into the world: a launch party, the book tour in the US (funded by the SCBWI Book Launch grant that I’d been awarded to promote my book) or celebrating small with family? I quizzed fellow SCBWI gurus: Did it matter if I wasn’t out in schools and bookshops on pub date exactly or even in pub month?

I plumped for creating a buzz online by crawling out from under my rock and reaching out to as many bloggers and influencers as I could find a connection with. I remembered the SCBWI Boot Camp team’s advice to look close to home for your circle of influencers, so these included networks like uni friends, work colleagues and family. I spent around six weeks prior to pub date setting up my two-week US book tour (soooo time-consuming and lots of cold-calling!), creating a press release, educators’ notes, and school presentations, as well as reaching out to ask people to include the book in their social media posts. I was lucky that KidLit TV agreed to launch the book trailer.

April 2019: Meringues

Sweet and slightly stretchy

The book tour and KitLit TV ReadAloud recording

Being on tour for two weeks visiting schools, libraries and bookshops in Washington DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York City felt slightly surreal. Time felt stretchy with all the busy scheduling, but it was also a lot of fun. It was a thrill to meet young readers, to draw with them, and to celebrate with close friends and family in the US. I also stopped by KitLitTV's studio and recorded a read-aloud of the book. You can find some tips on setting up an author tour here.

Book signing
Drawings with School Children

School visit in Virginia, USA

May 2019 to November 2019: Digestives

Steady, go well with a cup of tea, and you know what you're getting

Keeping up the momentum

So, I’d done the book tour, and now I was back in the UK and had to prioritise paid work. How to keep the book selling?

I did a couple of events closer to home, but mainly I kept looking out for opportunities to keep The Crayon Man visible. I like to blog, so I wrote about the book tour, I posted about my writer’s journey, about writing non-fiction, and the creative and research process; I interviewed the illustrator, I posted about making unexpected connections (with the Binney family and with KidLit TV).

In August, I met up with one of Binney’s great-great-granddaughters, who shared her family album and stories about other relatives. After this, I connected with another relative, who is a photographer, and photographs and artefacts started to emerge. They have since been donated to the National Smithsonian Museum of American History archives. 

The KidLit TV Read Aloud went live in September for ‘back to school’, which was great for connecting with parents, teachers and librarians.

November 2019: Crayola Crayon Cake

Rainbow, tasty and just like the book – colourful. Well, we had to make it!

Launch party and MBE
In November, I had the privilege to be invited to Buckingham Palace to receive an MBE from HRH Prince Charles. I decided to be brave and bring a signed copy of the book for him and his family. On Saturday, I received a letter of thanks from him. Wowee, that was some Royal Mail delivery! 

For the launch party, my son and I made the most complicated cake we’ve ever made, inspired by The Icing Artist. I’m full of admiration for cake-makers now. It was a steep learning curve! The party was a fun way to celebrate with friends, family and SCBWI supporters. Lots of creative drawing with crayons! 

Launch party photos

Big Draw at the launch
Looking ahead

THE CRAYON MAN has been honoured as a National Science Teachers Association  best STEM book 2020, best nonfiction biography, and added to several prestigious reading lists; it has garnered several US regional award nominations. I began offering virtual visits and every week, and I try to connect with educators and librarians and their students around the world.  

Authors need to work hard and be creative to publicise their books. It’s busy! In between work, marketing and school visits, I’ve been writing and researching several new books. It’s a tough market, and finding just the right lens for an idea can be tricky. Editors seem to be keen on diverse figures and STEM topics, so that is my focus. However, at the end of the day, the story has to speak to you. Luckily, true stories are everywhere!

So, is being an author fun, cool or tiring? Here that the top three things I wish I’d discovered earlier:

1.     No one cares more than you do about getting the book out there, so you have to be the one to hustle. Your publisher will do some of the work, but they have a million and one tasks and other books to promote.

2.     If you are brave enough to ask for help, people will often say ‘yes’.

3.     Don’t compare yourself to others – I spent a lot of time agonising over what other people were doing and wanting to be as great as them . . . but then I realized something important: your journey is unique to you and you have to dig deep to find the way to market yourself that is right for you and your book, to create the school visit that is YOU, and to write or illustrate the book you are meant to put out into the world. Be kind to yourself!

Perseverance is everything.

On balance, being an author is definitely a COOL job!


Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, mentor, author and coach who loves working with authors and illustrators at all levels to help them shape their stories. She has been awarded an MBE for her services to children's book writers and illustrators as Regional Advisor of SCBWI British Isles. Follow Natascha:

Blogging at The Picture Den

By day, Tizzie Frankish is a mum to two boisterous boys and a part-time university tutor; by night, she's an agented writer who is plagued by her characters. She writes better in her dreams than she does in the cold light of day (thank goodness for edits!) and she’s currently working on a number of Young Fiction stories. Her works are often humorous and more often than not include animals, even if she starts out thinking they won’t.

Twitter: @tizzief

Tizzie's website:

Picture credits

Book cover illustration: Steven Salerno
Author photos: Natascha Biebow
Afternoon tea illustration: Coral Walker

Chocolate melt: Rore on Flickr (with recipe!)
Digestive biscuits: Wikimedia Commons
Meringues: Wikimedia Commons

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