Every author celebrates and promotes the launch of their debut book in different ways. Some take trips around the world, while others stay closer to home. No matter how you celebrate, the first month after your first book baby is born is almost always a blur of activity, usually including readings and book signings at bookstores and libraries.
It is my extreme pleasure to host debut author and kidlit friend Laura Roettiger today! (Laura has done book reviews for Frog on a Blog, so I’m sure you recognize her name.) She’s here to share her “whirlwind” first month experience with us. If you’re a picture book author with a debut coming up, you might just garner a few ideas from Laura. Read on!
A Debut Author’s View Of The First Month
As a debut author, I spent months planning and preparing for what it would be like when ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON actually made it out into the world. I read about other authors’ experiences and one piece of advice that rose to the top of the pile was to “enjoy the experience and savor the moment.” It’s the same advice I was given before my daughters’ weddings last year. I have taken this advice to heart and would like to add my own two cents: “Take pictures and ask other people to take pictures for you!”
The first few weeks after the official release date, February 19, 2019, which coincided with the full moon, were a bit of a blur. My release date launch party at the Boulder Public Library was well attended by critique partners from both my local groups, my only local relative, and friends I’ve made since I moved here two and a half years ago, including some well-known published authors that I treasure for their support and wisdom. Unfortunately, the weather that day was snowy and several people who had planned to attend didn’t make it. In spite of the weather, it was a magical experience, and my first time sharing the slide show I had created for school visits with photos of me, the inspiration for the book, and ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON, so it could be shared on a big screen. It also allowed me to hear feedback on my slideshow from a trusted source who suggested an addition, which I made the following day.
My second launch party, four days after the book release, was at a lovely bookstore in Denver, Second Star to the Right. If you love books, and especially if you love children’s books, it is a place worth visiting. You will probably want to move in. This time, there were children and their parents whom I didn’t know that came for story time. It was lovely seeing how engaged they were in the story. Also, at this launch, was a wonderful group of writers and illustrators from our local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) chapter, including some big names. One friend brought her children who were older than the usual story time crowd, but they were also a wonderful audience. Side note: if you want to write anything from picture books to YA, you should join SCBWI immediately.
The following week, eight days after the book release, I was featured on a wonderful radio show at KRFC88.9FM in Fort Collins, “Tunes and Tales”, which was an hour with Kristen Olsen, the show’s host, Jonathan Bennett, a musician friend, and me reading ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. The three of us talked about how nature serves as an inspiration for curiosity and creativity. It was a wonderful coalescence of creativity from the aspect of writing and music and how the theme of creativity in my book is so important. The show was aired, but won’t be available until the podcast is up and running, hopefully soon.
A week later, sixteen days after the release, if you’re counting, I left for a ten-day book tour in Chicago, which I set up on my own. I had been a lifelong Chicago resident, and a teacher in the city for ten years before I moved to Colorado, so I had a lot of connections and spent considerable time before the book came out contacting people to put everything in place. The ten days included two bookstore story times and nine school visits. It was a whirlwind, but gratifying in every way imaginable.
A few bookstore highlights:
• Childhood friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in several years, coming to see me and buying signed copies of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON.
• Children I didn’t know listening intently as I read the book. Some of whom coming to the rug with other books in their hands that they immediately abandoned when I started reading.
• Seeing my book on the shelf with the label SCIENCE underneath.
• Seeing my book next to a highly acclaimed 2018 release written by an editor I met at a conference.
• An author I met and have remained friends with from a conference surprising me and afterwards, over coffee she said glowing things about my work.
A few school visit highlights:
• Presenting at the Kindergarten-second grade school where my children attended and sharing my book with over 400 children in one room who were silent except for a few oohs and ahhs over my photography and some welcome comments and interaction during the story. When they were leaving the room, several of the children stopped by to tell me “thank you,” “you did a good job,” “I love your book,” and “I’m proud of you.”
• Returning to the kindergarten classroom where I did my student teaching to find that kindergarten is still a happy place full of love thanks to amazing teachers.
• Seeing former students even though I wasn’t able to go back to the school where I taught for ten years. People who came to see me included a college freshman, and a few other families with children I remember from when they were in kindergarten, but are now taller than I and are in middle school.
• One school had me scheduled for multiple presentations, all of which were well received and it was great to see how different grades interacted with me and with my presentation. There was even a former student of mine there whose family had changed schools when I left. At the end of the last presentation, when I went back to the first class to get my coat, the students had written lovely thank you letters sharing their favorite parts of the book. Some even drew pictures that looked like pages from the book.
And one last, but not least, highlight to share, seeing a family I had lost touch with, including the now fourth grade girl who was part of the inspiration for Aliana. Her family had changed schools and I had a phone number for them that no longer worked. Luckily for me, her mother found me on social media and we connected a week before I left for Chicago. Maria and I arranged to meet in the afternoon before pickup time at school to surprise the girls. It was a huge surprise, emotionally overwhelming at first, but when Valentina recovered from her shock, she pulled my book out of her backpack – yes, she had been carrying it back and forth to school since she got it the day it came out!
If you have any questions for Laura about launching a debut book, please post in the comments, and I’m sure she would be happy to respond.
Laura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.
Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.