EVENTS Virtual Book Launch Boot Camp 2024



Two days, three drill sergeants and lots of writers eager to make their publishing debut a resounding success - Alex Atkinson reports from the Virtual Book Launch Boot Camp 2024. 



SCBWI’s Book Launch Boot Camp has been getting debut authors in shape for publication since 2016. I’ve heard great things and after seven years of hard labour (okay, some of it was fun and I made loads of lovely writer friends along the way), I finally have my own book to launch.


I was lucky enough to find a brilliant agent and fulfil my dream of working with the perfect publisher for my spooky debut, Spooksmiths Investigate: The Cinderman. But cue mad panic about school visits, websites, search engine optimisation, social media and creating a brand. A rabbit in the headlights, I needed fellow writers who’d lived it and thrived. I needed Candy Gourlay, Sara Grant, and Mo O’Hara.


2024’s Boot Campers were a mixture of illustrators and writers working on a whole range of projects from picture books through to YA and everything in between. Attendees were from all over the UK as well as Canada and the USA. Some were being traditionally published and some self-published. Everyone was very welcoming and keen to learn.




Day One


Planning For Publication


Sara Grant talked us through the importance of discovering what works for you and not comparing yourself to others before getting down to the nitty gritty of creating a brand, pitching your book and creating spreadsheets of quotes and contacts. We even covered the best places to buy bookmarks and postcards. Warning! Avoid glossy postcards, they’re tricky to write on.




Freelance publicist, Nina Douglas was up next alongside Frances Sleigh, Head of Children’s Sales at Bloomsbury. A whole range of topics were discussed from explaining the difference between Marketing and PR and digging into the role of the sales team, to highlighting the fact that sometimes you’re better off with a smaller deal and outperforming than having a bigger deal and not earning out. Publishing is a long game and building your audience and finding your people is key. Top tips for authors were to be reliable and friendly and to set clear boundaries about what you will and won’t do.


The How And Why Of Digital Opportunity


Our final class of the day was with Candy Gourlay. We discussed fostering a good working relationship with your publisher and how to create content to enthuse sales and appeal to teachers, booksellers, and librarians. Creating a press kit and an engaging online presence was highly encouraged, as was learning about search engine optimisation. As a technical novice, Candy’s insight into maximising my visibility online, social media, and creating ongoing traction for current and backlist titles was invaluable.



Day Two


School Visits


Boot Camp alumnae shared their experiences via a video, before Mo O’Hara took us through School Visits. Mo covered everything from creating great content and engaging your child audience to adding value for teachers and clearly defining your author offering. Free visits were suggested to trial new workshops as well as attending other author events for inspiration. Mo’s advice was practical and thorough, even detailing how to pack our ‘author bags’ and how to break our talks into sections so we can adjust the timings.


Events Panel and Q&A


Then Jenny Hawke, Librarian and CILIP National Youth Libraries Group Chair, and Fleur Sinclair, Sevenoaks Bookshop and President of the Booksellers Association, talked about their experiences of what makes a great event and do’s and don’ts.


The day finished with an ‘ask us anything’ Q&A led by Sara, Candy, and Mo.


A vast amount of information was very generously shared and this round-up doesn’t come close to doing it justice. If you get the chance to attend next year’s camp, it is great value for money and I would highly recommend it. Not only are we all now better prepared, but we’ve broadened our author network, and are ready to cheer one another on.


A big thank you to Sara, Candy, and Mo for leading the camp, to Natascha Biebow for manning the chat and answering our questions, to the alumnae who contributed to the brilliant video, and to the amazing guest speakers Nina Douglas, Frances Sleigh, Jenny Hawke, and Fleur Sinclair. What a weekend!





Alex Atkinson loves scary books filled with oddball characters. She blames her idyllic North Yorkshire childhood spent playing murder-in-the-dark and listening to her dad’s blood-curdling bedtime stories. She lives in a village in Hertfordshire with her husband, kids and dogs, but dreams of abandoned buildings, ghosts, and zombies. Spooksmiths Investigate: The Cinderman is her MG debut with Usborne out 10/10/24. You can find her on X @alatkinson and Instagram @alexatkinsonstories.


*Header illustration: Ell Rose

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