7.3.3 THE DEBUT YEAR: ALEXANDRA SHEPPARD
Your debut year is a time like no other. They’re the culmination of years of hard work; a lifelong dream realised and the chance to celebrate your book baby being out in the world. Unfortunately, that can also mean sleepless nights, anxiety and a tonne of promotional work.
If you’re approaching your debut year, then you have so much to look forward to: seeing your book on sale for the first time and engaging with readers are hugely rewarding moments.
Equally, it can become overwhelming and stressful if not properly managed. Many authors feel that they need to do everything they can to promote their books. Many of us want to! But this approach can lead to burnout before your book is even on the shelf.
The most important thing is, to be honest about yourself and your needs. If writing is your second job (as is the case for many of us) then be realistic about how much you can do. If the thought of public speaking brings you out in a rash, don’t accept invites to talk at school assemblies. If you can’t stand social media, don’t plan a daily Instagram campaign. A debut year is busy enough without making extra work for yourself.
I have fond memories of my debut year, but that isn’t the case for many authors. Here are my tips on how to manage this incredible time so it’s productive, exciting and FUN!
- Let your agent know if you’re feeling anxious about anything in particular. You can also tell your publisher what promotional activities you are comfortable doing and those you’d rather steer clear of. You don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.
- Prioritise rest. Try to see weekends as your time to relax and reboot, not more hours to spend in front of your computer screen designing social media graphics.
- Get a head-start on book two, if you haven’t already. Having a project to work on will stop you from constantly refreshing Goodreads. Hopefully.
- Find other debuts in your year and join a private group. I found mine to be an essential space for venting, celebrating and sharing useful information. Support each other any way you can.
- Mark the launch day somehow. Whether it’s a party or Zoom panel, allow your friends and peers to celebrate your hard work.
- Make sure you have an online presence with links to your book, short bios and high res images of yourself (a basic website is ideal). This is invaluable for press contacts.
- For more advice on writing as a career, and to join a community of kidlit writers, check out Write Mentor’s Community Learning Hub.
- Compare your book campaign/advance/Amazon ranking against other authors. It’s so easy to do but remember: comparison is the thief of joy. Nip that in the bud right away.
- Feel like you need to take every promotional opportunity that comes your way. It’s easy to overburden yourself and end up burnt out. It’s fine to be selective.
- Look at Goodreads. Although they are hugely valuable for readers, there’s really no need for authors to read reviews of their books. That two-star review will keep you up at night.
- Do a pre-order campaign unless you want to. They’re a lot of time and effort, and the impact on sales is negligible.
- Ditto social media promotion. If Instagram isn’t your thing, just steer your efforts elsewhere.
- Feel embarrassed about promoting yourself on social media or anywhere else. Chances are, you’re not shouting about it enough.
Alexandra Sheppard is an author and freelance social media strategist. Her debut novel OH MY GODS is published by Scholastic and has been featured in The Guardian, Buzzfeed and Refinery29. She lives in London and tweets at @alexsheppard.