Two years ago next month, Charlesbridge contacted my agent, Erin Murphy, with an offer to publish my middle grade novel FLYING THE DRAGON. That same month, an agency-mate named Jeannie Mobley also had an offer for her middle grade novel that would eventually be called KATERINA’S WISH. Jeannie put out an email on the email loop that she wanted to start a blog with other debut authors to chronicle the path from offer to publication. I immediately volunteered, and it was one of the best decisions I made as a pre-published author. After 23 months of camaraderie in good times, not-so-good times, and times in between, I can hardly believe that this is my farewell post for Emu’s Debuts.
Before I say good-bye, I thought I ‘d leave you with 4 things I’ve learned since I started this journey:
1. Your book’s release date means nothing.
What I mean by this is that your book will begin its public life well before its release date. FLYING THE DRAGON’S very first review was from an elementary school reader named Erik on This Kid Reviews Books, whose review first appeared over three months before the book’s publication date. The first professional reviews also came in before the release date, one from Kirkus and one from Publisher’s Weekly. Ready or not, here they come.
2. Book Bloggers Rock
These people spend their free time reading books and crafting reviews, all because they love books. But they are also very busy people, so contact them early if you’d like them to review your book. About six months before my book’s release, I started by Googling reviews of books that are similar to mine, contemporary middle grade realistic multicultural fiction (try saying THAT five times real fast). Read these bloggers’ guidelines, because they all differ. It felt a bit like a throwback to my agent-querying days where I had to research which books these agents represented and decide whether or not my manuscript fit their tastes. I narrowed it down to about 30 review blogs, and started querying their interest in reviewing FLYING THE DRAGON. Like agents, book bloggers appreciate knowing that you’re contacting them for a reason, like, “I enjoyed your review of Mitali Perkins’ BAMBOO PEOPLE. Since you mention in your review policy that you enjoy reading multicultural fiction, I wondered if you’d be interested in seeing an advanced review copy of my upcoming middle grade novel FLYING THE DRAGON.”
That kind of thing. Some thanked me for contacting them but were up to their eyeballs in books, while most of them said yes–and to send along the ARC. I contacted my publisher every time I’d gathered 5-10 names and addresses, and they sent the ARCs on their merry way. I then posted the reviews and interviews on my website.
3. You may be called upon to act like an author before your book comes out.
And if you are, you may ask yourself if you should be acting like an author yet. The answer: Yes! You are an author; it’s okay to act like one. When fellow Emu and teacher Michelle Ray asked me to be on a panel at her school’s literacy night, I jumped at the chance, and I’m glad I did.
For that very first appearance as an author, being on a panel was ideal. I wasn’t in the spotlight all by my lonesome, and that served as a good warm-up for future events, like the Gaithersburg Book Festival when I had to speak after NYT best-selling authors like Michael Buckley and Tom Angleberger. But I survived, and actually had fun.
4. Your book’s release date means everything.
Yes, you’ll have had reviews come out and ARCs will be out in the world. But when the Big Day comes, celebrate it, because your debut book launch only comes once.
Granted, my launch was postponed by 2 ½ months due to a freak power outage (bad) and a summer in Italy (good—no, buonissimo!), but I wasn’t going to let a silly tri-state power outage deter me—no! I rescheduled my book launch party, and was so glad I did. I celebrated with crafts…
and loved ones.
I did a short talk, an even shorter reading, and then thanked everyone for coming. I told my guests that the day felt a bit like my wedding day, in that people from many chapters of my life were gathered together under the same roof to celebrate the start of something special. There were writer friends and friends from high school, teachers I worked with 20 years ago, and teachers and librarians with whom I work alongside now. There were family members, young and old(er), friends of my children and soccer moms and dads. There were new friends I met for the first time and students who go to the school where I teach. I could not believe my luck, and would have pinched myself if it weren’t for the fact that my hands were busy signing books and hugging people.
In Italy, where my husband grew up and where we used to live, arrivederci doesn’t mean good-bye; it literally means, “Until we see each other again.” Although I’m leaving Emu’s Debuts, I will be checking in and cheering all of the new Emu’s steps along this path, big and small.
So thanks to all of you—Emus past, present and future, as well as the followers of Emus Debuts—those who post comments, and those who don’t but still stop by every once in awhile. It has been a privilege to chronicle this journey with you, and I wish you all the best.