Congratulations! You’re Published …
When I was pregnant with my first child (bear with, this will be about writing eventually, I promise) I attended a series of pre-natal classes with my OH and five other expectant and enthusiastic couples. We learned a lot (sometimes too much) about labour and the birth, but it was only after we’d all had our babies that we realised we had no idea at all about what to do next. We’d all been so focused on having the babies that we’d forgotten to ask what we do with them after. There’s a reason debut novels are often referred to as ‘book babies’. Many writers spend a loooong time waiting for the moment when they can hold their precious newborn paperback in their hands, coo over it, stare lovingly at it for hours and share its adorable cover on Facebook. But then comes the responsibility of caring for it, which new writers are not always prepared for. So let me share, and apologies if this is TIA… Plenty of writers never get to thinking about the ‘what next’ stage – even the thought of publishing is fantasy enough, why tempt fate with facts. So if you’re like I was, just suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine you’ve got a deal. You might still believe that writing is a solitary pursuit (of course that is what draws many creatives to the blank page. It’s an introvert’s dream job – quiet, personal, yours). Except that’s not actually the case. Certainly not for a children’s writer anyway. Don’t shoot the messenger, but I’m about to screw this concept up and chuck it in the bin like a bad first draft. Assuming you publish more or less traditionally (in that you have an editor, possibly an agent, readers and someone who cares about sales other than you) your book does not belong to you anymore. Publication isn’t going to be quiet and it’s about as personal as giving birth in front of an audience. You will have responsibilities to others, which might at first seem anathema compared to your vision of being an author, when you began your first draft in a closed room, late at night with a glass of wine. It’s Optional Though … Right? I recently attended a SCBWI event where a delegate asked the literary agent, who was presenting, if school events were really necessary. The anticipation in the room was palpable, the hope, the longing to hear the words that would let them off the hook of basically being asked to become a children’s entertainer. The words didn’t come. The answer: Well yes, you really do. Unless you have a good reason, health or location for example, school visits are crucial and will be expected by your publisher. So get that head out of the sand and… Get ready! So here’s the reality of what’s (hopefully) coming at you once you’re published:
Other writers, writing books
And for all these potentially new experiences you can start preparing now – it’s never too early. Social Media No, you don’t have to have a social platform. But get one anyway. It helps – it really does. It helps your agent and publisher see that you’re serious about promoting yourself and your (their) product. It shows you can communicate effectively with the public and it gives them a sense of your personality. It also brings you closer to a community, which can be a lifesaver (or simply a lovely way to check out those adorable book baby covers)
- Sort yourself out with a Twitter profile and follow some writers. Do what they do
- Get an Instagram page and share other people’s adorable book baby covers. Share pics of your town, or your dog, or your artwork, or … you get the idea
- Do Facebook (I don’t really get Facebook. It’s not my preferred platform, but having an author page is a good idea)
The earlier in your career you start, the more confident you’ll be when it comes to sharing your book with the world. Public events Most publishers require you to carry out an agreed number of hours of promotion and most will ask, before offering you a contract, how you feel about public events. It’s necessary, it’s nerve-wracking but it can be fun if you’re well prepared. You might be asked to library events, festivals, book signings, book clubs, book tours, and the biggie of course, school events. So how can you be ready?
- If you can, find an author who is doing an event near you and ask if you can tag along
- Go to literature festivals, go to signings and get an idea of what goes on. What is the audience like, what questions do they ask, what does the author do/say/read?
- Read this brilliant guide from The Society of Authors : https://www.societyofauthors.org/SOA/MediaLibrary/SOAWebsite/Guides/A-Guide-for-Authors-Visiting-Schools-and-Libraries.pdf
Reviews I read a quote on Insta today that said you can turn yourself into the shiniest, greenest, crunchiest apple there is, some people will still not like apples. It’s easy to read aspirational stuff on social. It’s pretty much impossible to actually internalise it. But it’s true – no matter what you do, someone will not like your writing/story/protagonist/the fact that your character has the same name as the neighbour’s dog that barks all day and all night. You will have crap reviews – the WTF 1 star to the 3 star meh, even the 4 star ‘I adore this book, it’s amazing’ Grr. Again, get prepared – look at reviews of other people’s writing that you love. The best book you’ve ever read, this year’s Costa winner, and then look yourself in the mirror and with your best lie, tell yourself you’ll never read reviews. (You will, but if I may give one piece of advice – try your best to avoid Goodreads.) And Finally – Other People’s Writing Comparison is the fourth horseman of the apocalypse. Other people will write brilliant books. And they will get picked as Waterstones Book of the Month, get a Carnegie nomination, have a higher Amazon ranking than you, be face out in your local Indie, be featured in the Guardian Summer Review or picked up for TV and if you let it the weight of all this elsewhere attention, it will crush you. I can’t tell you how to prepare for this other than to know that it’ll happen. And it stings. But, if you can take advice where I struggle to, it’s utterly irrelevant to you and your journey. And let’s not forget where I started with all this… Congratulations! You’re published. Because if you’re comparing your book to someone else’s … you’ve got a book. And what could be better than that?
Emma Read is the author of Middle Grade debut, Milton the Mighty – shortlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award, published by Chicken House in 2019. The sequel will be out in spring 2020. She is a mentor with WriteMentor Sparks and runs creative writing workshops for children in KS2.
You can also come along to Emma’s Writing Weekend in Bath on 30th and 31st May.
Or sign up to her new Lower Middle Grade 6 week, online course – places will be first come, first served, and you will be notified in the newsletter when they go on sale. [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]