July 20, 2021
Note From Rochelle
Readers, I’ve been blogging here since about 2007. You have been my community and cheerleaders for all that time. I’d love for you to attend my launch event and help me celebrate! It’s an online event—so you can attend from wherever you are. But you do need to register. Check out the event page at Boswell Book Company to register.
Today’s post talks about how to form a debut group to publicize your book. It features the members of my group, New Books for Kids. If you’ve ever wondered how to make marketing your book more fun, check it out!
How to Find and Form a Debut Group
My 12th book–and my debut book for children–releases in a week. When it comes to publicizing a book, I’ve done almost everything. When one of our early books came out, the publisher forgot to put it in the catalog. Oops. I worked my contact list and got a few articles in big publications, but I couldn’t overcome that big mistake. For Write-A-Thon, I spent my whole advance on a publicist who set up a blog tour and ran my campaign. For Mightier Than the Sword, I’ve been fortunate to find a debut group.
What’s that? A debut group brings together several authors who have a debut (first!) book releasing at about the same time. We pool our energy and resources and boost each other’s work. It’s a great relief to have company and help on this journey.
In today’s post, I’ve invited my group members to talk about how we did it–and how you can, too! Enjoy!
How did you find your debut group?
Rochelle: Here’s how I remember it happening. I received an email from Stephanie Wildman, author of Brave in the Water, who’d seen a post from me on the SCBWI boards. We made an effort to start something with the group of people she found—but had little luck. Then, I saw a post from Adria Karlsson on 12×12, a writing program for picture book writers. Adria’s the author of My Sister Daisy. After we chatted, I invited Stephanie and the rest of the people she’d found to be in the group. Adria found more people seeking groups. And before long, we were all meeting on Zoom!
Stephanie (Brave in the Water): Seconding what Rochelle said, though I thought it was a KidLit411 post where I first saw her interest – I honestly don’t remember. I did learn that a lot of these debut groups form from Facebook pages.
Morissa (Dot, Dot, Polka Dot): I think Stephanie and I found each other over on KidLit411.
Adria (My Sister Daisy): I posted on 12×12 asking if anyone knew how to find a debut group or if they knew of any that had openings. Rochelle reached out to me and mentioned she was also on the lookout for one. When we realized we were out of luck for joining the ones already in existence, we decided to create our own.
Benjamin (I Am Odd, I Am New): My agent thought it would be great for me to team up with other authors to help me navigate the path to releasing a book. So she put my dad and me in touch with Adria and then I was part of the group.
Leah (Rat Fair): I connected with Adria through 12×12. We were both a little mystified by the “having a book come out” process, and looking for a debut group to share the experience with.
Alex (Dinner on Domingos) It’s all Adria! She’s amazing. She saw that I had a new book coming out and reached out to me directly on Facebook, through a message. I’m so thankful for her and her ability to be such a wonderful connector.
What advice do you have for finding a debut group?
Katie: Ask! Utilize your communities and group forums to find other people with books coming out the same year as yours. In my experience, many people are looking for groups and are happy to combine resources to put one together.
Ben: Ask your agent if they have any clients that are in a similar place that you are. That’s a great first step.
Leah: Don’t be afraid to ask! There is a wealth of knowledge and a deep writing community out there. If you belong to any professional organizations such as 12×12 or SCBWI those are great places to ask around. If not, take advantage of social media and local writing groups (check your library, local NaNoWriMo chapter, etc.) and see if there are other people in your shoes, or more experienced people who can point you in the right direction.
Adria: I found Rochelle and Leah by asking about groups on 12×12, and Ben through sharing an agent. I think that in the future, I will be able to connect with other authors I know through those groups further ahead of time, but as a debut author I didn’t know to look two years ahead of time! That being said, it worked out this way, too! I guess my advice would be, if you don’t find someone already doing it, you’d be amazed how much knowledge, skill, and energy a debut group has when put together and don’t be afraid to wade into this with equally green companions!
Alex: Professional organizations like KitLit411 and 12×12 offer so many wonderful resources. But I don’t want to underestimate how helpful Twitter can be. There are many new authors looking to make friends and learn from peers, and if you have the time, it can be a powerful resource.
How do you divide up the work?
Stephanie: I credit Adria and Rochelle with the laboring oars getting the group going. We have alternated “captains” for different social media and boost each other’s posts. (Naturally we follow each other, preorder books, post reviews). I did get the group onto SLACK which spares the email inbox and keeps our threads organized.
Leah: We all bring different strengths to the table and have varying comfort levels with social media platforms, graphic design, and other things. We’ve been meeting monthly via zoom and discussing what’s coming up and who will be responsible for what. This has proven to be a wonderful group of kind, motivated people and there is always someone willing to step up and pitch in for whatever tasks appear.
Rochelle: And that’s been wonderful. Because no matter how much we plan, things come up. So having SLACK has really helped. When we have a big question or need help promoting a blog post, we can quickly connect with each other and develop an action plan.
What have the biggest surprises?
Morissa: One surprise for me is how smoothly our working together has gone. We live in three different time zones, have never met in person, our books represent a diversity of subjects and ages, and yet we seem to have some common underlying themes. But a bigger surprise is how fun it has been. There is a vicarious thrill for me each time another one of our books is released. Perhaps because none of us have done this before and because we’re all in it together, we are genuinely appreciative of everyone else’s ideas, suggestions, and knowledge. I know I am.
Stephanie: Morissa said that so well. I am so excited for all of these books.
Leah: I had no idea what to expect, so it’s difficult to say what I’ve found surprising, but I was thinking recently about how different my book release would have been without this group and I was kind of bowled over by the overwhelming amount of support that has come from this group of people who were strangers to me a few months ago.
What are the challenges?
Ben: Being in different time zones is challenging for meetings. Also not being familiar with certain aspects of social media proves to be challenging.
Katie: Time! Trying to work full time, raise two kids, maintain a marriage, and find time to write has all been extremely challenging. Being involved in the debut group has added another layer to that but it has also helped me get more organized and purposeful in how I prioritize each day.
Leah: Once school was out for the summer and my home schedule basically vanished I’ve had a harder time keeping track of my debut group tasks. I don’t feel like there have been any challenges specific to working with this group or any of its members. More that I need to make this a part of my official workday in order to make sure I’m pulling my weight.
Adria: Same as Katie – time! It’s another set of people who I very much want to prioritize and finding time for everything can be challenging. I think that what I’m discovering, though, is that we’re all in the same boat. And even if we each individually drop the ball sometimes, the others are there to scoop it up. In the end, we’re supporting and boosting each other and our books – as much as we can do is always going to be icing on the cake of other more mandatory obligations.
Alex: Same as everyone else. I’m struggling with time right now and sometimes, it’s just hard to prioritize. Everyone has been doing such a good job of keeping things afloat that I’m hoping I can do more heavy lifting in the fall.
What tips would you have for other writers?
Ben: If you love what you’re doing keep doing it and find people that’ll inspire you to keep going.
Katie: Find your community! They will sustain you through the tough times and cheer you on through the good ones. And the resources… so many resources that everyone is willing to share!
Leah: I second what Katie said about finding your community. Also, making a dedicated time in your day or your to-do list not just for the act of writing, but for the administrative tasks, whether they be researching comp titles or managing debut group responsibilities can be really helpful.
Adria: I third Katie and Leah—find your community! And also, don’t forget to write. It’s hard in this whirlwind moment of publication to focus on writing as well but having a group to share this moment with has helped me feel less overwhelmed by it all.
Rochelle: I’ve found our debut group to be a wonderful community—and that’s important as we navigate this new territory. It’s great to be able to ask each other questions about the writing and publishing process. Whether you start a debut group or another kind of writing group, ask others how they did it! We saved so much time and angst by getting ideas and tips from other groups.
Alex: Besides the wonderful advice of finding community, I would say keep reading books in your genre and keep on writing. It’s such a subjective business, so finding an agent who loves your stories and will champion your work can take SO MUCH TIME. Believe in your stories and you’ll find someone who feels the same.
There you have it—tips on finding and working with a debut group from my marvelous debut group, New Books for Kids. And remember: you don’t have to be a debut author to form a group. Join with authors of a similar genre or theme and support each other with your launch!
For more tips on finding a debut group, see Stephanie Wildman’s “How I Found My Debut Group” on Tara Lazar’s Blog: https://taralazar.com/2021/05/12/how-i-found-my-debut-group/
To learn more about our work, you can find us online at:
About the Authors
Adria Karlsson is a writer and a parent with a history of teaching people, training cats and dogs, and tutoring kids with dyslexia. When she isn’t writing, Adria can often be found reading with a cat on her lap, attempting to replicate pastries from a certain British baking show, or zipping around town with a pile of children in the family cargo bike. My Sister Daisy is her debut picture book.
Alexandra Katona is a writer and a communications consultant for the specialty coffee industry. Dinner on Domingos is her debut picture book. When she’s not writing, you can find her on an outdoor adventure, swimming in the ocean, or cooking for her family. She lives with her husband, son, and dogs in Southern California, and believes in the connective power of food.
Benjamin Giroux, author of the children’s book I Am Odd, I Am New, has been featured on many websites, in the Huffington Post, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. He was named Poet Laureate of Plattsburgh, New York, and has also been the face of the National Autism Association’s antibullying campaign. His poem has been translated in over 20 different languages.
Katie Munday Williams is a Public Health Nurse, Lactation Consultant, and Author. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and two children where they enjoy digging for sand crabs and attempting to bring the entire beach home with them in their pants. Poet, Pilgrim, Rebel: The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Published Poet is her debut picture book.
Leah Rose Kessler spent much of her childhood up a tree with a stack of books. These days, when she’s not reading or writing, she’s an on-again, off-again elementary school teacher and a lifelong biologist. Her debut book is Rat Fair. She lives in Michigan with two humans and two cats, and has a soft spot for scurrying creatures of all shapes and sizes.
Morissa Rubin is a graphic designer who thinks polka dots, paisleys and plaid are better together. She received her BFA from RISD and her MS from MIT’s Visible Language Workshop. Morissa lives in Sacramento where she teaches typography and other design courses at UC Davis and Sac State. Her debut board book is Dot, Dot, Polka Dot.
Stephanie Wildman wrote many books and articles in her former life as a law professor. Brave in the Water (translated into Spanish by Cecilia Populus-Eudave as Valiente en el Agua and illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar marks her debut writing for children. She is a grandmother, mother, spouse, friend, good listener, and she is able to sit “criss-cross applesauce,” thanks to her yoga practice.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced publishing strategist, and the author of 12 books, including Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing. She’s the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports children and teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories.
NOTE: The books links lead to the Write Now! Coach bookstore on Bookshop.com. Write Now! Coach receives a small percentage of your purchase, which helps to support this blog.