Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tips for an Awesome Book Debut by Tina Cho and Epic Eighteen Friends

My picture book debut year of 2018 is over, but some of the Epic Eighteen authors and I would like to share our tips with you to help with your debut. It's never too late to start thinking about all the bookish things that need to be done like as soon as you sign the contract or even before, get your author photos taken. Your publisher/agent will ask for one.

"Stay organized! Keep a month-by-month master list of tasks to complete before release day. Every time you hear a tip about book promotion, include the tip in your list so you keep track of all the great ideas swirling around. And don't worry if you can't get to all the ideas by release date--your book promotion efforts will continue after that magical date as well!"
~Melissa Stoller of Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush

"Relax. Take time to enjoy this experience that very few people get to have. Not doing every single thing to promote your book won't make or break your book."
~Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow of Mommy's Khimar

"My top tip is to join a group like Epic Eighteen. For all the obvious reasons. And if you can't find one, create one yourself."
~Christy Mihaly of Hey, Hey, Hay!

Book Promotion
"Don't rely on your publicity department to contact book bloggers--You need to do it yourself 6 months before publication."
~Jeanette Bradley of Love, Mama

"Keep a list of all your guest blog post urls that you've been featured in. Write blog posts ahead of time and keep them in a folder so you don't keep repeating the same things in your posts."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Ask your network to suggest your book for purchase at their public libraries. Library purchases often result in multiple book sales."
~Margaret Chiu Greanias of Maximillian Villainous

"Change all your bios in SCBWI, your website, Twitter, etc... to reflect that you have a NEW BOOK!"
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Build a relationship with the local indie bookseller before the book comes out. It really makes a difference. The bookseller has been so helpful, and I think it is because they already knew me as a client way before my book came out.

Set up a GoodReads profile and an Amazon profile.You'll want to copy/paste your US Amazon profile into the other country Amazons (, etc...) because it does not automatically transfer your profiles over, even if your login info remains the same.

Book bloggers and book review chains help build up your book's visibility."
~Viviane Elbee of Teach Your Giraffe to Ski

"Wait till your reviews come out before you order postcards so that you can include the reviews on your postcards. On the back of your bookmark, thank people for buying your book and list other ways they can be helpful such as telling their library about the book, telling friends and family and writing a positive online review."
~Kate Narita of 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

"Collect book swag (even swag pictures) that YOU like and might make for your own."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Don't overdo it with swag. The return on investment probably isn't there."
~Hannah Holt of The Diamond and the Boy

Book Signing
"Take Post-It Notes for people to write the spelling of their names and what they'd like written in the autograph.

Decide on refreshments, a craft, and decorations that emphasize the theme or colors of your book."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"If you have a relationship with a local elementary school, send home fliers in school folders the week of your launch party. You might be surprised by who shows up to see you read.

Unless you are a celebrity, bookstore readings tend to be sparsely attended (unless they have a regular storytime). It's probably not worth your time to drive an hour to read to one person. Only do these if you are more interested in building a relationship with the bookseller than selling books on that day. A chain store will likely forget you by the next day, but for a smaller shop, you could build meaningful relationships. Hopefully you'll have more books and more events down the road. Build for the future!"
~Hannah Holt of The Diamond and the Man

Tina signing with her special Sharpie pen

School Visits
"Try a school might actually love it!!"
~Shanda McCloskey of Doll-E 1.0

"During my debut year, I learned that every school handles visits a little bit differently. Be flexible whenever possible."
~Brenda Maier of The Little Red Fort

"During readings at schools or bookstores etc., figure out a way to make your story interactive. This could be having the kids repeat a refrain or listen for a particular word. It could be singing. It could be asking questions as you go along, or showing illustrations and asking kids about it. AND--practice with a friendly crowd before you do your debut reading. I took my ARC to a first grade classroom (where the teacher is a friend) and read it to them and responded to their constructive critique (there was a portion that needed a little explanation for young readers)."
~Christy Mihaly of Hey, Hey, Hay!

"Make your presentation in Google slides, that way you can log into any computer, and it's there. You don't have to worry about carrying your computer or projector or cords."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Make a teacher's guide for your book and have it downloadable on your website. Bonus if you have a craft!"
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

Rice from Heaven craft

After the Debut
"Keep a folder on your computer to collect photos of your book in various places and with other people.

Focus on the children, not the gatekeepers, not how many stars or no stars your book received. If you made a difference in the life of a child (or adult), you achieved your purpose."
~Tina Cho 

Letters from students and a teacher in New York regarding my book


I hope these tips are helpful to you. Remember, even though your book's birthday or year is up, you still need to promote your book. In the coming weeks I'm doing some author Skypes for World Read-aloud Day and doing an author visit at my school.

What can you start doing for your book's release? Have fun! Be creative!


  1. Great ground-up of advice from debt authors, Tina. Very concrete and doable actions for debut folks. I hope to be one someday.

  2. This was perfectly timed, Tina! My debut MG historical fiction, “The Heart Changer” releases April 26th, so I’m sequestered for a week in Charleston to create a timeline for my book launch. Such great ideas. . . I’m bookmarking them for the future. Thanks so much!

    1. Glad it was helpful, Jarm. I'll start reading your arc this wkend.

  3. Great list! I hope to be able to use this in the future!

  4. Thanks, Tina, for such a great list of advice.

  5. Hi Tina & the others in Epic Eighteen!
    So glad you all enjoyed fabulous launches.
    These tips are golden.
    Since you asked -
    a book launcher may also should remember to thank the illustrator, editor(s) & publisher (marketing, publicity) if possible, in a way unique to you/your book; begin blogging well in advance of the launch about topics helpful to others & not so much about your book; prepare for how to quickly respond to email generated from your book ; make sure all your calendars are coordinated as you being to accept event dates.

    And, especially keep pinching yourself & reminding yourself of what is said here by
    Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, author of Mommy's Khimar.

    1. Thanks for chiming in with your advice, Jan!

  6. I have a question for the debuts! You guys have great advice--but how did you get snail mail from the classes?? Do y'all set up PO Boxes?

    1. Mine came from the publisher. But I think others might have set up a PO Box.

  7. Fantastic advice! You all are truly Epic! Thank you!

  8. Wonderful tips, Tina! Launching a new book into the world is such an exciting and exhausting proposition. Always great to note what worked really well and what can be improved upon. :)

  9. Wow. This is chock full of great advice. I am definitely printing this out for future reference. Thanks to each poster for the helpful tips.

  10. Thank you all for the great tips. I'm thankful to have them in hand now for a spring 2020 debut launch. I'll be much better prepared. Time to get to work..

  11. Great tips. The list of books published by Epic Eighteen is impressive!

  12. Yes, there are some awesome books from this group. Thanks, Claire!

  13. Thank you to everyone for sharing all this wonderful advice!

  14. Great tips, Tina! Thanks to you and the Epic 18s!

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