I had the pleasure of meeting Casey at the NE-SCBWI conference as she was preparing for the release of her debut picture book, Iver & Ellsworth (Ripple Grove Press, 2018). Since then I’ve been to her launch and watched the buzz of her picture book grow. We are thrilled to have Casey join us to share the lessons she learned as she introduced her debut book to the world.
As exhilarating as it was to celebrate, I found the process of planning and anticipating these events to be a little daunting! For those of you who are looking forward to, or are in the midst of, planning your debut launch, I share some lessons learned.
- Leaned on my debut group. My group, Epic 18 (epiceighteen.weebly.com), was an invaluable source of crowd-sourced ideas and advice from others who were in the same boat. We shared swag vendor recs, menu choices, craft activities, and fretted over whether to splurge on custom cookies (I did). Most importantly, we cheered each other on.
- Opted for a smaller scale party. At first I envisioned doing something at a local restaurant whose funky atrium would’ve made a memorable book signing area. But the logistics of this were quickly overwhelming and required a level of time, attention, and budget I did not have. So I approached a local indie bookstore that was planning to open shortly before my book launch. They enthusiastically agreed to host a launch event. The cross-promotion was wonderful, and because I wasn’t doing a food event, there were actually very few things to plan. Plus, what better décor than copious amounts of books?
- Found a perfect pen. I signed an early copy of my book to a friend and realized with horror that the Sharpie I was using bled through the page. I swapped that copy for a fresh one (signed in trusted ballpoint pen) and used the Sharpied copy to test out a bunch of pens at my local stationery store. (Pen of choice was Le Pen.) Tip: buy multiple!
- Hired a photographer. The photographer was actually a gift from a dear friend who couldn’t make it to the event. And truth be told, I don’t know that I would’ve spent the money on hiring one. But the pictures she took were incredible and I’ve been able to use many of them for book promotion, social media posts and headshot requests. She also came early to take some group family photos, which I’m so grateful to have. If you have any photographer connections, it’s worth considering.
- Remembered to breathe.
- Written down my prepared thoughts. My nerves took over when it came time to greet my captive audience. I’m quite sure I forgot to thank someone important … (though I’m also sure no one but me cared).
- Had extra copies of my book in my trunk. Unbelievably, the bookstore sold all its copies of Iver & Ellsworth. My friend and fellow picture book author Josh Funk wisely told me that I should always have a stash of extra copies in my car. You never know when you’ll need them and emergency book sales are good!
- Booked more downtime afterward. All that adrenaline, excitement, anticipation, talking, smiling, signing, and celebrating was exhausting! The day after the launch I was useless. Do me a favor and set aside more than 20 minutes for a nap.
Don’t forget your book, your story, your day will also be special and significant to others who get to be a part of it. Whatever the format, whatever the size, mark this moment in time and celebrate together. HAVE FUN. You only get one debut!