Kidlit authors Julia Nobel (Novel Nineteens) and Joy McCullough (Electric Eighteens) talk to us about how you can take advantage of author debut groups to introduce the year’s hottest new fiction to your middle-grade readers.
Author debut groups are a great way for librarians and teachers to get an early preview of books coming out for kids. They also help educators get to know their authors more personally. “I think debut groups can really help the children’s book market in general,” says Julia Nobel. Nobel founded the Novel Nineteens for middle-grade and young adult authors debuting in 2019. “Some books that might be overlooked get more exposure because there are a lot of other authors talking about them.” Nobel, whose first novel for middle graders, THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE appears next year, says that some debut groups concentrate on marketing. Others are focused on mutual support. They all share a mission to introduce their books to new readers.
Joy McCullough is a member of the Electric Eighteens whose debut verse novel BLOOD WATER PAINT published this year. McCullough says debut groups are a place for authors “to ask questions, vent frustrations, and remember that whatever we’re going through, someone else is probably going through the exact same thing.”
“Writing can be a fairly solitary experience,” McCullough says. “When going through the publishing experience for the first time, that solitude is paired with heaps of anxiety and uncertainty and the unpredictable, uncontrollable nature of the publishing business. Having a group of people who are all on similar journeys and timelines can be incredibly comforting and encouraging. There are no expectations to promote each other’s books, though that happens organically as we form relationships with each other and read each other’s books. But the primary purpose, as I see it, is as a support group.”
For Librarians and Teachers: School Visits, Giveaways, and Personal Author Connections
Debut groups offer a wealth of information for teachers and librarians looking for new fiction to share with young readers. The groups’ websites provide summaries of the novels, author bios and social media links. There are also opportunities for giveaways and promotions. This year, Nobel added a feature to the Novel 19s website specifically for teachers and librarians.
Nobel says the feature includes “an author locator for those of us who do school visits, and a list of comparative titles (in case you’re looking for a new book that’s similar to Harry Potter). It also features a document that organizes books thematically. So, for example, if you’re looking a book with LGBTQIA+ characters, you will find a list of titles to explore.”
Use the Hashtag: #Novel19s
Librarians and teachers can also plug in the debut group’s hashtag to keep up with other resources, contests, and giveaways.
“We are really encouraging our authors use the hashtag when they are doing giveaways,” Nobel says. “That way, people can easily find them. Type the phrase #Novel19s into the Twitter search bar. You’ll find authors who are doing book giveaways, pre-order thank you gifts, newsletter goodies, and lots more. You’ll also be able to find new authors you want to connect with. A lot of us love interacting with educators on social media!”
McCullough agrees. “New authors are a great opportunity for schools and libraries to get in on school and Skype visits with an author at the ground floor. It’s important for authors to be paid for these visits. But at the same time, brand new authors are often charging lower rates. And some may not be charging at all as they get their feet under them with school visits. As for things like teacher guides and mailing lists, authors are super eager to connect with teachers and librarians. Author newsletters are a great source of insider info. You’ll find information on the process of publishing, extra content, and a way to connect with authors. A teacher or librarian who reaches out to a debut group asking for swag, teacher guides, etc., is likely to get lots of response!”
Big Trends in Middle Grade
I asked McCullough and Nobel if they were seeing any themes or trends in middle grade books debuting in their respective years.
“Contemporary is king in 2019! The majority of MG books in our group are set in our current time and place,” Nobel says. “Although a handful of those have a twist of magic thrown in. There are only a few fantasy novels, but they really are exceptional. Family dynamics are a common theme in every genre. So is dealing with loss. I’m excited by the number of different ways authors are approaching both those themes. With subjects including the war on drugs, baking competitions, secret societies, and living with nuns, no two books are alike, that’s for sure!
McCullough adds, “It’s been strange for me to debut as a young adult author, since I wrote a ton of middle grade before I got my debut. As a Pitchwars mentor, I’ve always worked with middle grade authors. I really feel like I am a middle grade author! Some middle-grade stand-outs [from 2018], from what I’ve read so far, include PEASPROUT CHEN: FUTURE LEGEND OF SKATE & SWORD by Henry Lien, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC by Amanda Rawson Hill, PS I MISS YOU by Jen Petro-Roy, THE UNICORN QUEST by Kamilla Benko, and LOVE SUGAR MAGIC by Anna Meriano. A few I’m super excited to read include EVERLASTING NORA by Marie Miranda Cruz, MEET YASMIN by Saadia Faruqui, FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang, THE HOTEL BETWEEN by Sean Easley.
A Community for Writers
Debut groups also offer a huge learning opportunity for writers. McCullough says, “It’s been fascinating to see the very wide a range of experiences in the publishing journey. It’s really helpful to have fellow travelers on the journey. It’s also incredibly important to keep your eyes on your own suitcase.” Nobel concurs. She says she’s amazed how many authors genuinely want to support each other. “There are a lot of people taking time out from their extremely busy schedules to work on the website, host Twitter chats, and create documents. Or to simply be there to answer questions and offer support. So far it’s been really great!”
Visit the Electric Eighteens at www.Electriceighteens.com and the Novel Nineteens at www.Novelnineteens.com.
Julia Nobel is a middle grade author from Victoria, Canada. Her childhood obsession with The Babysitters Club turned into a lifelong passion for reading and writing children’s literature. She offers writing master classes and courses for writers in all genres. Nobel was also a Pitch Wars Mentor in 2017. Her 4-year-old daughter likes to help her write by unplugging her computer and pressing the escape key. Her debut middle grade novel, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, will be published by Sourcebooks Jaberwocky in Spring 2019.
Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Blood Water Paint is her debut novel.