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

My debut middle-grade historical novel Zinc was launched in November 2022 and a whirlwind did indeed commence, but it subsided when the schools broke up for the summer and my classroom talks were put on pause. 

Sue doing an activity about codes in a school

I suppose the main thing that I’ve learned about is self-promotion, which necessitated going from being what I’d call an inhibitionist to an exhibitionist saying ‘look at my book!’ as frequently as possible, when appropriate. Thank you to Martin West and Roy Johnson at Troika Books for moral support and practical help. A true partnership.


From braving social media for the first time, to standing in front of groups of school children or older adults (Zinc also appeals to the World War II generation because of its subject matter), I’ve learned how to put myself and my book/back-story ‘out there’. I was advised by an amazing author, Keren David, to get instruction about how to start and maintain a social media profile so here’s a shout out to Phil (PJ) Norman who I booked for some sessions.


Before I knew it, he had me recording myself giving one-minute intros to the novel and then to each character in turn, and told me how to strategically post them interspersed with still images. He advised that I used Instagram and Twitter and the difference I found was that Insta feels like a warmer space as many of my real life friends post everything from what they had for lunch to family pics, as well as authors posting a striking image.


Seeing myself on video necessitated that I go from an ‘oh my god is my nose really that big?’ position to a ‘whatever, just get on with it!’ attitude, but the videos did take a bit of scripting and rehearsing. I didn’t spend an age on them, which probably shows, but I will be much more comfortable if I have to do it again. Interestingly, they have got the most ‘likes’ out of all that I have posted.


PJ also gave me advice about when and what to post: I wanted him to be prescriptive because I have been working full-time all year and didn’t want to spend time deciding and agonising. I really didn’t have a strong point of view as I definitely needed the instruction, although he was very sensitive about discussing the options. I found Twitter (X) to be the main space that writers and historians use and although a bit more intimidating, I could sometimes ‘post’, ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘re-tweet’, though the number of likes I got in return was at times demoralisingly low. X is such a crowded forum.


I had to learn the skills for giving talks in schools and to adults. Because the novel is about World War II and the extraordinary achievements of my father, a Bletchley Park code-breaker, and his brother, a Special Operations secret agent, it has cross-over appeal. As I work for a charity for older adults I made the most of that and gave as many in-person and online talks as possible. It took quite a while to create a PowerPoint and presentation that would appeal to both groups, but I found that years 6 and 7 responded very positively and so did older people.


The person who organised school talks in my local bookshop, Pickled Pepper Books, helped me, sending me an example of an excellent PowerPoint that I could learn from. Making friends with staff in a children’s bookshop is an essential support for the process and booksellers have been wonderfully helpful, so thank you in particular to The Children’s Bookshop in Muswell Hill, London — they not only hosted my launch but were unstintingly supportive.


Sue signing copies of Zinc

I approached schools mostly myself. My local secondary school librarian was fantastically enthusiastic, and I feel I’ve improved my delivery a lot. I’ve also learned that talks do not necessarily translate into immediate sales — persuading people that this is the novel they should spend their money and time on, when I’ve explained the story already, isn’t as linear as I thought it would be. I liken it to the lengthier book reviews that I read in the papers, which do not result in my rushing out to buy the book because I’ve learned all about it.


I have also found the opposite at times, for instance one woman attended a talk I gave on Zoom, bought the book and loved it and asked if I could present to her book group in Sweden!


With school events, it’s essential that they promote the talk to parents in advance so that the children come ready to make a purchase.


To get feedback from readers I asked to go to the Year 7 lunchtime book clubs at my local secondaries (thanks to Laura Davenport at Alexandra Park School, and Robyn Sasto at JCoss. The children were impressively sophisticated in their responses and wonderfully positive and encouraging. I also piloted the manuscript of the sequel Cobalt with them, which luckily I had largely written before my whirlwind year began, and the two schools also gave me really helpful feedback and a couple of tweaks to make.


Alexandra Park School book club

I should mention that I’ve also had to get used to the media promoting me. I was lucky enough to obtain two quite personal feature articles, as the novel is about my family, which felt very exposing at first, but I realised how important it was for getting the message to a wider audience. And the satisfaction of walking into libraries in my two local boroughs, seeing the book on the shelf and hearing that it is borrowed regularly, is tremendous. Barnet libraries were also extremely supportive and booked me for a Zoom talk. All in all it’s been a huge learning curve for me and, though demanding at times, I’ve had an awful lot of fun. I am getting excited about the next whirlwind as Cobalt is due to be published in 2024.

*Header image: Ell Rose & Tita Berredo;
all other images courtesy of Sue Klauber



Sue Klauber is an experienced fundraiser and former media educator. She has produced films made by refugee children from Colombia, Kurdistan, Kosova, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Armenia and Romania, worked as a fundraiser in arts and social care charities and is now the Trusts and Foundation Lead for a charity where she raises grants across areas the of residential care, community centres, physical disability and Holocaust survivors’ services.

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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