As writers it’s easy to have an abstract concept of your audience when working at your desk, far removed from the energy and bright perspective of kids. When you’re writing for a certain age of reader, especially middle graders, it can help to observe kids themselves. You can also be inspired by how other middle grade authors approach their audiences. One great way to encounter authors engaging their audiences is by attending book launches.
If you’ve considered attending a book launch but wondered whether it would improve your writing project, it can! This article will outline a variety of book launches including online meet-ups, bookstore or special events, and book tours. Whether a large venue with hundreds of people, a themed gathering, or on-line event, it’s worth getting to know your favorite author in a new way. You will gain insights about their writing process, market trends, and how they approached publication. All of this can inspire your own writing.
If you follow your favorite author on their social media, you’ll likely be invited to participate in their launch activities. I’ve helped with blog tours, Facebook chats, Twitter and Instagram treasure hunts, and have visited several online parties. Authors with a large readership, such as Rick Riordian and William Joyce, have recently hosted cosplay events and Instagram contests. It’s fun to see how people imitate their favorite characters and they make the story their own with artwork or costumes.
Facebook meet-ups often feature surprise appearances or are co-hosted by several authors. You can discover their favorite books and pet peeves, and feel more personally connected when reading their new book.
Authors often talk about their writing processes, and I’ve gained many resources and insights about how to better organize my own writing by listening to their approaches. Some are very organized and others re-write in several edits like adding layers to a cake. When things were slow with my project, just observing the energy and enthusiasm other authors have for the words they love kept me building my own dreams.
Authors often offer practical tips for other writers. Some authors reveal spoilers or behind-the-scenes information such as what inspired a scene or character, which is very helpful with digging more deeply into my own character development process. Since I have ideas for a series, I’ve appreciated practical tips about preparing a “book Bible” or binder with pertinent facts so you don’t get lost in the details between novels.
Author Lorie Langdon did a tour hiding signed name plates with Target all around the U.S. for the release of Olivia Twist, and Mary Weber and Just Commonly Tours hosted a Twitter clue hunt and blog tour for the release of Reclaiming Shilo Snow. By participating, I learned ways to offer creative approaches to generating interest in my novel when it is published.
Bookstore or themed event
If you sign up for newsletters or watch your social media, you may be able to meet a favorite author at your local bookstore. Some who write historical fiction may select a neat location or have period dress. Gabrielle Meyer had her book launch in a historic building and featured a pretty period dress, and she had a table filled with vintage items on display. Another author wrote about the wild west and everyone came in their best hats and boots! Susan Meissner, author of A Bridge Across the Ocean, had a special party on the Queen Mary. Another friend who writes steampunk dresses up for readings in a big hat and goggles and a mix of Victorian and punk clothes. What does this mean for my own approach to authorship? I’m inspired to develop my “ideas” file that would match the location, time, dress, and magical elements in my own novel. I also have gleaned ideas for sponsorship possibilities from participating in helping with friends’ launches.
Recently I attended Shannon Messenger’s tour for Keeper of the Lost Cities book Flashback. Her events have grown so large in our area that host Kepler’s Bookstore, in Menlo Park, California, holds the event in a college auditorium and sells tickets.
We arrived early to get a good seat, and I loved watching the teen and tween girls walking around in capes and sharing all their favorite characters with each other. The enthusiasm level was very high for parents and kids alike in the more than 700-person crowd. Author Tamara Ireland Stone interviewed Messenger on stage and had us all laughing with antics of Messenger’s super characters and her cat that can push the “off” button when it wants attention. And the alicorn…V
Somehow it felt personal even though it was a very large crowd. I also joined up with MG Lunch Break book club friend L.A. Biscay and we enjoyed taking in the atmosphere together and watching moms braiding their girls’ hair with rainbow strands like one of Messenger’s characters. It was a great event for parents, bookish people, and kids all together.
It was great seeing L.A. Biscay there too!
From a craft perspective, Messenger recommended:
· Leaving yourself breadcrumbs so you can pull those in if your publisher adds more books to the series—it will help them seem planned from the beginning.
· Making one big decision then following it. Messenger said she built a crumbling utopia with flaws and injustice in the world. She kept that through the whole series.
· Anticipate multiple versions of your work. She said that the first book we enjoy now was her twentieth version!
· Be open to changing core ideas to improve your narrative. One example was how she initially imagined Sophie, her main character, who’s an elf. In early drafts she wrote Sophie as the only character to have emotions. She decided that would have reduced tension too much, so she changed that element.
The main value as a writer for attending book-themed events is staying current with trends and watching what the kids are drawn to. I’ve found it very inspiring, fun, and a great way to build your network and support others whose writing and worlds you enjoy.
What bookish events have you attended? And what have you learned that inspires your own writing?
Elizabeth Van Tassel writes compelling middle-grade fantasy. She brings her knowledge and expertise in the field of gemology to the page and infuses her love of folklore into modern adventures filled with mystery. A wildfire survivor, Elizabeth also understands both the power of loss and the power of hope. She shares her story of resilience, and provides tools for rebuilding at public speaking events and on her blog. Elizabeth currently resides in the Bay Area with her husband, John, and two sons. She can be found wandering the gardens of Filoli House, haunting her favorite coffee shops, and engaging with other writers.