On 3rd September 2020, Superheroes Don't Get Scared, written by me and illustrated by Clare Elsom, joined the other 599 books being published that day. It's a strange time to be launching my debut picture book, but I've tried to make the best of it.
I thought I'd share a few of the favourite things I've done in my debut year. Maybe they'll be of use to someone!
Attending the SCBWI Debut Bootcamp.
This was during the blissful pre-Covid January, when we could meet up and socialise with lots of wonderful writers and learn the tricks of the trade. I attended this 7 months before my publication date, which gave me plenty of time to act on the advice while it was still fresh in my mind. Hopefully SCBWI will be able to run this event next year, whether in-person or virtually. And if they do, and you have a debut book coming out, I would HIGHLY recommend it!
I love chatting to other bookish people and learning about what they're doing. I've formed great friendships this way, and you need these friendships to keep you sane during the rollercoaster that is a writing career! In the last few months I've also been hugely moved by the generosity of these friends, who have supported Superheroes Don't Get Scared and provided me with so many wonderful opportunities and celebrations. I hope I get to repay the favour one day.
Creating an author website
You need an online presence (even more so since the pandemic). I am very fortunate that my husband is a web developer, so I am able to leave all the technical stuff to him. However, there are lots of sites that make it easy for anyone to do. I made my website an early priority once I'd received my publication contract. I wanted to have a fully-functioning website with relevant content by the time people actually wanted to visit it! It's never too early to start working on this.
Creating book-related resources
I've always loved doing crafts and science activities with my children, so I had a lot of fun creating activities related to Superheroes Don't Get Scared. Once you start to think creatively about your book, it's amazing all the different things you can come up with. This not only helps create relevant content for your website, but it means that you'll have done a lot of the legwork when it comes to planning author visit activities.
Creating a picture book trailer
I really wanted to create a trailer for Superheroes Don't Get Scared. I'm not an illustrator and I don't have any particular animation skills or software, however I was able to produce a fairly decent trailer using Power Point and iMovie, together with a royalty free music track that I purchased (you can see it here). I think that trailers are even more important at the moment (particularly if you're publishing with a smaller publisher), and they can actually be a lot of fun to make!
Creating author videos
This was a big leap for me. I've never been comfortable in front of the camera. However, now that we're under varying degrees of lockdown, author videos are a great way to reach out to your potential audience. Plus, YouTube is the search engine of choice for many children, so you really do need to have a presence on there. Recording videos can actually be a really positive thing. One of my author videos on Facebook has been viewed over 500 times! There's no way I'd ever have been able to speak to that many people in person! Create a video area with decent lighting (and a tidy background!) and record a few videos to get comfortable with seeing yourself on screen and hearing your voice. You'll be surprised at how quickly you master it!
Saying 'yes' to opportunities
I am quite a shy person and have spent most of my life avoiding any form of public speaking. However, in the weeks surrounding the publication of Superheroes Don't Get Scared I have been interviewed by a journalist for a local paper, appeared live on BBC Radio Kent to speak about the book, and recorded numerous author videos. Each time, my gut instinct was to shout "No way!", but instead I've said "Yes" and it's been fantastic! It probably helps that my book is all about facing your fears (I feel I have to embrace that message!), but I'm also well aware that I'll never get this opportunity to promote this book again, so I absolutely have to make the most of it. I'm now looking forward to my very first school visit next week (if Covid doesn't scupper those plans!)
Making a lockdown book launch special
You may not be able to have a party or a bookshop launch event, but this is still a HUGELY special day and you deserve to celebrate it. My children and I dressed up like superheroes and baked superhero cookies, but I hadn't planned much else for the day. However, I was saved by my friends and publisher, who inundated me with deliveries of publication flowers, gifts and even afternoon tea through the post!
And then in the evening my wonderful SCBWI writing group had a virtual launch party and I discovered they'd ALL bought copies of the book! It was a wonderful debut launch day!
It's been a whirlwind of a week, and it's been such a lot of fun! My biggest takeaway has been just how amazing all of my friends and family are - they really have been my biggest cheerleaders and I will be forever grateful.
You can find out more about Superheroes Don't Get Scared...Or Do They? on Ups!de Down Books' website, and you can order a copy online at The Book Depository, Blackwell's and Books etc. It is listed on Amazon, Waterstones and Hive.co.uk but is currently sold out. Alternatively, please do support your local independent book shops by asking if they can order a copy for you.