Four Things All Debuts Should Do

I am a month away from my release (!) and I was thinking recently about different pieces of advice I’ve gleaned over the last year that might be helpful for a debuting author. Below are four things I think all debuting authors should do.

  1. Ask to see your marketing plan!

I fundamentally believe that a writer should worry about writing, and trust their publisher to worry about the publishing. But coming from background where I’ve made my own chapbooks, and then worked closely with a small publisher on a different book of poems, I’m used to being in the know regarding how my work will be marketed and publicized.

That said, I didn’t know what I was allowed to ask for or what information I was supposed to have throughout the process of working with a bigger publisher. Luckily, my editor offered a lot of information without my needing to ask, and I also reminded myself of a saying I first heard from my agent Joan: the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

And following that advice, I know I asked (still ask!) a lot of silly questions, but I think I also ask some good questions that have led to my having a better sense of what my publisher would be doing for me in terms of promotion and what I would need to do myself. Seeing my marketing plan helped me gain comfort in what was happening behind the scenes, and also I came to the table with ideas that would complement the work that my publisher was already doing in getting my book publicized.

  1. Establish what your “reviews” plan is going to be

I had to learn the hard way that I don’t need to read every review I’m tagged in and that establishing a routine for how I would deal with feedback once the book was reviewed would be critical to my well-being.

Since my ARCs were sent to librarians, booksellers, and bloggers seven months before my release date, a lot of folks began writing reviews while I was still working on revisions. And at first, I wanted to read every review and see what WHOLE REAL READERS were thinking and feeling about the novel. But I quickly realized that I was letting too many voices into my head while I was still working on revisions.

I have a writer friend who established an Official Reviews Reader: a friend to read the reviews on their behalf and highlight anything that the writer might wish to know. I know some writers who silence their Twitter mentions and asked their editor not to send them any reviews. In my case, I don’t check online reader review anymore but I still have my editor send me all trade reviews. This works for me! And I think it’s important to consider what works for you.

  1. Find your tribe

Writing is lonely, and you need to find a tribe! Join a debut group, read the work of the other writers in your debut year, attend readings, engage with writers whose work you enjoy, or whose work you’re excited about and begin fostering an online relationship.

Although your friends and family will try to understand the pressure and anxiety and anticipation that comes along with putting your book into the world, other authors debuting with you are basically your comrades-in-arms. They are in the revision trenches, the reviews blues, and the cover reveal highs.

Having writer friends in the same debut year also makes future conferences and literary festivals more enjoyable when you have other authors you can band together with.

  1. Figure out how you’re going to celebrate!

You wrote a book, it’s going out into the world. And as writers I think we quickly learn to appreciate every win: signing with an agent, selling the book, turning in revisions, seeing your cover, etc., and I think it’s equally important to take a moment before the release to celebrate that you made a tangible thing that will be out in the world forever, and ever, and ever.

Hope this helps!


ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland.  The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018) is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.


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5 responses to “Four Things All Debuts Should Do

  1. This is such great advice — and timely. I should be asking about my marketing plan today, so thank you for the nudge!

    And I cannot wait to get the call from my local indie that my pre-ordered copy of POET X has arrived. I will be doing my own celebration as a reader on that day!


  2. Great thinking. Cannot wait to read your debut!


  3. Thanks for this helpful advice, Elizabeth. And congrats!


  4. Christina Uss

    This really is excellent advice all the way around – going to share it with all other debut folks I know right now. Here’s to an excellent celebration in ONE MONTH – Yay!


  5. Wonderful advice. Love the idea of having an “Official Reviews Reader”. Counting down the days!


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