Debut year is often one of the biggest, most memorable years in an author’s career — and it can also be one of the most stressful. I am endlessly grateful to my fellow 2017 debut authors for the support, advice, and experiences they all shared throughout the year. I asked several of them to share lessons they learned and their funny, heartwarming, and/or unforgettable debut memories!
Check them out below for laughs, inspiration, and a dose of encouragement:
Only bring stress ball swag into a bookstore for an event if you’re okay with the bookstore cat stealing said swag.
Kelly Garrett, author of The Last To Die
I posted a meme about supporting authors that said “Tell them they are The Special Sparkly Writer Princess,” so my mom made me a sash that said it and bought me a tiara for my launch party.
Larissa C. Hardesty, author of Kiss Me, Kill You
I will never forget the young man, second row, third seat from the right at Williston Middle. Dude came up after my talk and told me he had never read a character like Emmett Atwater before. I asked what he meant and he shrugged, like it was nothing and everything at the same time, before saying, ‘He’s just like me.’
Scott Reintgen, author of Nyxia
I had a launch event and then another signing where I used to live—both times I was amazed at who showed up. There were certain people I hadn’t seen in years, but they were there to support me and my little book.
Gwen Cole, author of Cold Summer
With Soulmated’s Indian-American heroine, I’d hoped to give South Asian teens a character they could relate to. What I found was that my Indian friends from childhood were the most affected by seeing a character like us. I get choked up imagining what reading an #OwnVoices novel back then would’ve meant to all of us! Of all the special moments, this one will always stand out.
Shaila Patel, author of Soulmated
The coolest thing so far has been when readers (a.k.a. complete strangers) have geeked out over our nerdy humor and swooned over our characters. It’s still hard to believe that someone let us publish a retelling of Pride & Prejudice about Bigfoot hunters and it’s a real book you can pick up at a library or a book store and not just in our heads.
Betsy Aldredge and Carrie DuBois Shaw, authors of SASQUATCH, LOVE, AND OTHER IMAGINARY THINGS
Being a debut can be hard–I was surprised by the extent of my imposter syndrome, even after my book came out. I think that’s why it was especially touching when a teen reader sent me a video of her reacting to my book, and then saying “thank you for existing!” Because at the end of the day, she is exactly who I wrote this book for.
Rosalyn Eves, author of BLOOD ROSE REBELLION
The day my book released, I—of course—went to go find it in my local bookstore. What I didn’t expect to find was an actual teen guy looking at it—!! With no chill whatsoever, I was like, OH HEY I WROTE THAT BOOK! He promptly bought it, and I signed it for him. Fast forward a couple of hours: I tweeted a random thanks to Trey for making my night…and he tweeted back almost immediately saying he’d already read most of the book! I hadn’t even tagged him in the tweet where I mentioned his name, because I had no clue if he used Twitter (turns out he started one just to post a photo of the book!). It was the icing on the cake of a very memorable day.
Kayla Olson, author of THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE
A few weeks before Christmas, a teen reader emailed me to tell me she loved my book and that reading it lifted her spirits as she was treated for a brain tumor. I thanked her and asked if I could send her a bookplate, which I did, along with a whole box of books. It turns out she’s the kind of kid who spends her time giving back to others, including raising money for the hospital where she was treated, so I was glad to be able to give something back to her.
Christina June, author of IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE
When I sold my book, I was under the ridiculous impression things would get easier from there. I’d pump out first drafts made of literal rainbows or some other such nonsense that translated to having my act together as a writer. Except I struggled with doubt, even more than before. The messages I get from readers who found friends in my characters or were left emotional at the end of the book—that’s made all of the stress worth it. Sometimes, I’ll re-read them to remember: This is why I write.
Tracey Neithercott, author of GRAY WOLF ISLAND
I had a lot of trouble getting a blurb for my cover, but at the last minute Mary Pearson (of the ah-maz-ing Remnant Chronicles) agreed to read. And then she live tweeted how much she loved it and how it made her heart pound. The blurb was beautiful. It doesn’t get any better, I thought. Then my publisher sent me to the Romantic Times Convention. I was in so much awe from being there it was all I could do to just show up where I was supposed to be on time. After a morning sitting at a table pitching my book, there was a lunch break with the Macmillan authors. I knew Mary would be there, but what would I say?? Out of nowhere she comes charging across the room and gives me a giant hug and tells me how much she loved my book and she was so glad to meet me in person. All I could think was “SHE’s excited to meet ME?!?!”
Erin Beaty, author of The Traitor’s Kiss
My memorable experience this year was event after event with less sales or less attendance than I expected. I realized that whether I was aware of it or not, I always had expectations, and no matter how “realistic” I thought my expectations were, they rarely were. So I’m learning to enjoy every event for what it is, and to be more aware of my expectations.
Meg Eden, author of Post-High School Reality Quest
The most memorable moment I’ve had as a debut author was at my first book signing. A 16yo girl walked up to me, held up my book, and said, “I AM Riley Collins.” She was even dressed the way Riley would dress! She told me how much the character meant to her, and how much she related to the experience of not always fitting in. I took a picture of the two of us together, and whenever I need a shot of inspiration, I look at the photo and remember why I love to write.
Kes Trester, author of A DANGEROUS YEAR
One of the highlights of the year was when I went to a bookstore to sign stock and it turned out one of the employees had read my book and chosen it as a staff pick. It was cool/surreal to hear someone talk about their favourite parts of the book and even quote it.
Gareth Wronski, author of HOLLY FARB AND THE PRINCESS OF THE GALAXY
The most memorable experience of my debut year was getting reader feedback. A lady I talked to briefly at a signing emailed me later to tell me how much my book had meant to her. She ended with: “thank you for writing this book.” Knowing my words had touched someone’s heart was the most incredible feeling–one that will stay with me forever.
S.F. Henson, author of DEVILS WITHIN
The experience that most stands out for me was my launch party. I didn’t expect much of a turnout – I live in a pretty small town.But friends came from 100 miles away to celebrate with me – and brought cake! We ran out of chairs and the library director said it was the biggest book even the library has ever hosted. Friends – and friends who read – are the best! So are libraries!
Patricia Bailey, author of The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan
In writing The Wishing Heart, I wanted to give young queer girls something I never had growing up, knowing somewhere across the world there is a frightened youth who needs to hear that their love is valid, who will be saved because of a single story. And the most memorable experience of my debut year was that moment I saw my book in physical form and everything finally hit me, all the things I’d been striving towards—because that moment was also a victory for me, for all the times someone told me who I am “was wrong,” the little book in my hand was telling me how RIGHT I am. That’s the best part. Authors don’t just create fantasy, we can create hope. Even for ourselves.
J.C. Welker, author of THE WISHING HEART
My editor called me with the news that my book had debuted on the New York Times bestseller list as I was walking out the door to my first-ever event and signing. I ended up so overwhelmed with nerves that for some reason I started pouring sweat. Like, BUCKETS of sweat. I ran back inside to grab a roll of paper towels, and drove all the way to my event with huge wads of them stuffed beneath my armpits.
Margaret Rogerson, author of An Enchantment of Ravens