Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Rebecca King talks to Françoise Price about some of the things she's learnt since she was published.

It’s strange to think that it’s been a whole year since my debut was published! But having the chance to look back on the last 12 months, I’m realising how much has been packed into that whirlwind of a year.


So, if you’re reading this and you’re still working towards publication, keep going! Because your debut author year makes any rejection along the way, along with all the hours spent writing and refining your work, worth it.


For me, the moment of seeing Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never in shops for the first time was as exciting as I had always hoped. I spotted it first in my local Sainsbury’s, then in Waterstones, and then in some of my favourite indie bookshops. Then, when I flew back to my home in Slovakia, I spotted it on the shelves in Bratislava, and it was a fabulously surreal moment.


There really is nothing quite like seeing what was once just an idea in your head transformed into a book on the shelves of your local bookshop. While I had always hoped for that moment, I hadn’t expected all the other pinch-me moments that came as part of that debut whirlwind.


There were the reviews from early readers, fellow writers, and authors I deeply admire offering blurbs for the book. There was the moment I attended my publisher’s summer party surrounded by authors whose books I had pored over. Or the moment I first heard the incredible Aysha Kala narrating the audiobook. Or when I held my first bookshop event, or school visit.


One perk reserved exclusively for children’s authors is the buzz of seeing children genuinely excited to read your story, and then enjoying it enough to reach out, or write a review. I’m sure it’s fantastic having adult readers enjoy your books, but there’s nothing quite like signing a book for a child and then them turning to their parent with genuine disbelief that they’d met a ‘real life author’. And then another dream came true: I had readers send in photos of themselves dressed as characters for World Book Day! It’s both selfishly exciting, but also a real privilege to be able to connect with young readers like that.


However, I’ve learnt two big lessons this year that I think, from chatting with other authors, are quite universal lessons.


The first is that every author’s whirlwind truly does look completely different. I’ve been incredibly fortunate this year to have had so much support from my publisher, readers, bookshops, schools and more. Ember Shadows was a debut of the month for Love Reading 4 Kids, it was part of a Toppsta giveaway, I was part of an author panel event, I was invited to hold bookshop visits. Just last week, I had a parent all the way over in Australia tell me Ember Shadows is their son’s favourite book and he even dressed as Hans (a magical clock hand) for Book Week! As a child who dressed as her favourite book characters, this one was a big deal for me!


And yet, I know that not every author is as lucky as I’ve been. Likewise, other authors have rooftop launch parties and are busy signing thousands of copies until their hands cramp. The point is that measuring success against others is always wrong, but there’s no worse place to do it than in the author world. There simply isn’t any comparison to be made because the whirlwinds are all so different. That’s why it’s important to celebrate every single pinch-me moment, whether it’s big, small or anywhere in-between. (Also, take pictures! I wish I had taken more photos of the events to look back on.)


There are school visits to organise, events to run; I work with the wonderful team at Hachette on publicity and marketing, I post on social media… It’s no longer solely a writing game

But along with all the excitement, there’s a lot to learn, which is where the second lesson comes in. Prior to being published, we’re so focused on the writing that we pour everything into character and plot and making sure our stories are word perfect (or as close as we can get!).


Now, I’m responsible for more than writing and editing. There are school visits to organise, events to run; I work with the wonderful team at Hachette on publicity and marketing, I post on social media… It’s no longer solely a writing game. For me, I’ve loved the transition and it’s a change I’ve really enjoyed.


Still, it’s an important lesson to learn. Once you’re published, you need to continue championing your work everywhere you can. There’s no room for being shy or not wanting to put yourself out there. You need to keep promoting your book, while making sure the creative cogs are turning and working on the next idea. Balancing these new responsibilities with writing can be a challenge, especially if you have a lot of other commitments to balance as well. But it needs to be that – a balance. Make sure to spend time doing what you love and enjoy, working on new stories whenever you can.

My second book, Ember Shadows and the Lost Desert of Time, was published last month, and my third has just gone to copyedits. While I’ve got school visits and events booked up until the end of the year, it’s also time to dive into a new idea, build a fresh story and return to focusing on character and plot. I enjoyed every moment of the whirlwind, and now I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

*Header image: Ell Rose & Tita Berredo;
all other images courtesy of Rebecca King


Rebecca King was born in Wolverhampton, but spent her childhood in Cheshire. She studied Journalism at the University of Portsmouth, and has worked as a reporter and a primary school teacher, including three years teaching in China. She now lives in Bratislava, Slovakia, with her partner and her Chinese rescue dog, Mushu.


Françoise Price is Deputy Editor for Words & Pictures. She writes picture books and middle grade stories and has been shortlisted and won second prize in the SCBWI Slushpile Challenge. She is published in Aquila magazine. Find her on Twitter. You can also contact her at


Anne Boyere
is one of Words & Pictures' Feature Editors and runs the #SCBWIchat Twitter chat about books for all ages @SCBWI_BI. You can find her on Twitter.

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