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  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Ten Tips for Debut Authors by Agent Rachel Orr and Author Cathy Carr and Lost Kites and Other Treasures Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have author Cathy Carr and her agent Rachel Orr here to share their tips for debut authors to celebrate the release of Cathy’s new MG contemporary Lost Kites and Other Treasures. It sounds like a fantastic story that really nails the complexities of family dynamics and is a real page-turner. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads: 

Cathy Carr’s Lost Kites and Other Treasures is a moving and heartfelt middle-grade novel about mental illness, the transformative power of art, and the ever-changing complications and joys of family life.

Twelve-year-old Franny Petroski never lets anyone know how often she thinks of the charismatic, troubled mom who left her years ago—any more than she talks about the unaccountable things Mom did while she was still in the picture. Life with Nana is safe and secure, and Franny’s innovative art projects fill in any lonesome times.

But when Nana has an accident and Franny’s estranged uncle comes home to help out for a while, some long-guarded family secrets come to light. Franny has to use all of her courage, as well as all of her creativity, to come to terms with the discoveries she makes about her mother—and herself.


Ten Tips for Debut Authors

First off, who are Cathy Carr and Rachel Orr?

Cathy is the author. She was born in western Nebraska and grew up in Wisconsin. Since high school, she has lived in four different US states, plus overseas, and worked a variety of jobs, from burger flipping to technical writing. Wherever she goes, her observations of the natural world give her inspiration. Her first book, 365 Days to Alaska, was called “a wonderful debut novel about compassion, belonging, and finding your way home” by Lynne Kelly, author of Song for a Whale. 365 Days to Alaska was a Junior Library Guild selection and chosen for Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. Carr now lives in the New Jersey suburbs with her family and two scrappy cats.

Rachel is the agent. Prior to joining Prospect Agency in 2007, she worked as an editor at HarperCollins Children's Books. Because of her editorial background, Rachel continues to do a lot of hands-on work with her clients before sending their projects out on submission. As a literary agent, Rachel loves working with clients who come from diverse backgrounds and have fresh perspectives to offer readers.

Cathy’s literary debut, 365 Days to Alaska, left her with some firm ideas about what fledgling writers needed to know about their literary debuts. Rachel also had plenty of ideas to share based on her experience working with debut creators. So, without further ado, let’s get cracking with their 10 Tips for Literary Debuts.

#1: Get ready for all the feels!


You've fulfilled a hard-won dream, a major life goal. Your first book is coming out. It’s on your publisher’s list, you’ve finally seen your name in places like Publishers Marketplace and Publisher’s Weekly. Kind of like getting into Studio 54 back in the 1970s. Or maybe even a backstage pass for a Beyoncé concert. You can barely believe this has happened. But now that it has, be prepared for uncertainty, anxiety, anger, a fair dash of envy (more on that later), and even some ennui. These are all normal feelings to have. You can't control having them--but you can control how to respond to them.


Well, Cathy, I don’t really know much about either Studio 54 or Beyoncé, but I do know that many creators (especially debuts) tend to get the Pub Day Blues. They wake up that morning, expecting the day to be dramatically different from every other day before it, and yet. . . they still have to put on clothes and maybe pack lunches and (God forbid!) go into the office if they have a day job. Just like everyone else who has never even written a book! But it’s important to make it a point to celebrate, too. (More on that later!)

#2: Find communities.


Debut groups, which are full of first-time authors who band together to support each other, can be super helpful to a new author. There are also communities like kidlit411.com and the many different groups SCBWI creates and promotes. Look around and see what’s there. Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow authors if they know of any supportive groups open to new members.

There are also your friends from your writing workshops, your old friends from college, that high-school alumni group you joined on Facebook—all of these communities can be helpful and supportive when your book comes out. Don’t discount your non-writer friends. Many of them will be thrilled that you are publishing a book, and happy to support you.

Writers, this is no time to give in to our inner introverts, the ones that help us stay focused when we’re doing the actual writing. Get out there and get involved. Be kind to other people in the writing community. Not just writers and readers. Librarians, teachers, agents, and editors: they’re part of our world too. Offer suggestions and support. Boost their social media posts. You might be pleasantly surprised at how many of them are willing to do the same for you. And you may also be surprised at how many of your fellow authors will remember a year or two later—to the letter—the people who gave them reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, and the people who forgot or were too busy to get that done.


Yes, exactly! And don’t forget about your agency family, either. At Prospect, we work hard to create and nurture a sense of community among our clients, and I know many other agencies do as well. I believe that you’ve been in touch with several other Prospect writers, Cathy, and that you frequently promote each other’s work on social media. Many other Prospect clients have already started pulling together a promotional group for their 2025 releases that will involve sharing cover reveals, book birthdays, reviews, and good news. That’s really smart (and really thinking ahead, too. I don’t know what I’m making for dinner tomorrow, let alone what I’ll be doing in 2025!).


Mike Ciccotello was the first person who told me we were “agency family,” because we were both at Prospect Agency. I had never heard of that concept, and it was such a relief to know that more experienced writers had my back. When you have that attitude of community in your literary agency, it’s the ultimate cozy feeling.

#3: Be thoughtful about your social media presence.


Most publishers now expect you to have an active social media presence. (Some even require it. You might find it in your contract.) So figure out now which platforms you're most comfortable with, and start establishing a coherent presence on the ones you prefer. Get in the habit of posting frequently. It’s also the moment to get your website ready for prime time. Your website doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It’s more important for it to be coherent, well organized, and up to date. It’s very easy to let a website get “dusty,” as the publicists say. But try not to bite off more than you can chew. It's easy to imagine you can send a monthly newsletter or blog frequently, but my experience is not many people keep that up long term.


I totally concur! As you said, it’s important to pick the platform that works the best for you. But, also, just remember that there is no substitute for writing a good book. That should always remain your top priority.

#4: Get organized.


Early on, make a list of everything you need to get done and when it needs to be finished. Make sure deadlines for interviews and articles all go on your calendar. Don't be late with your promised responses or ask for extensions. Update your website and order your swag. It may seem overwhelming, but just remember that you eat an elephant bite by bite. Also remember that time and effort you spend on book promotion is time spent on your literary career.


Yes, book promotion is an important investment, and shows that you’re taking yourself seriously as an author. After all, once you’ve written a good book, you want people to know about it. So carve out the time in your schedule to make that happen, and give yourself permission to take those necessary steps to further your career. It’s not wasting time; it’s time well spent.

#5: Guard your time and money. Think about what’s really going to move the needle.


Getting a book advance is exciting. Perhaps, like me, you spent years submitting to literary magazines that paid in copies. Now all of a sudden there’s money from a publishing house deposited in your bank account. Now that it’s there, let’s not be in a rush to spend it all at once. (Sorry for sounding like your parents, or your tax accountant.)

If ordering thematic stuffed animals and book-cover cookies for your swag completes your happiness, go for it. I once made an entire no-sew fleece blanket for a book giveaway, so I get it. But—be realistic about what's really going to move the needle in terms of sales and publicity. It worries me when I see authors ordering expensive swag like key chains or mugs, knowing that most folks will toss them straight into a drawer or the recycling bin. The simple old standards of bookmarks, postcards, and stickers are often the best. This isn’t just my opinion. Many of my librarian friends confirm that these simple items are the kids’ favorites. With that in mind, my personal rule is that all my swag should fit into a standard #10 envelope and mail with a Forever stamp.

There are other things people try that are often rarely worth the time and money. I’ve known some authors who have sent their swag postcards to every independent bookstore in the United States. Again, if this gives you joy and a sense of control, go ahead—but most bookstores rely on trade reviews to decide which books to stock. Your postcards might not make much of a difference, and the time and money they require may be better spent elsewhere. Like working on your next book.

I’d also like to mention professional publicists. You’re going to be hearing from some of them. I got several unsolicited emails. One guy actually got my home phone number and called more than once. I admired his enterprise, although he didn’t get the title of my book right. Some of these publicists will promise amazing things. Let me be clear: publicists can be great. I have one I consult occasionally. She gives me advice on the stuff I should be doing to publicize my book and how to establish an appropriate, professional online presence. I feel as if she’s worth every penny. But if I was going to pay for a publicity package of $10,000 or $15,000 (and, yes, I know of writers who have done this) I would want to know exactly what I was likely to gain in exchange for that money. To be clear, at most of the usual royalty rates you’d need to sell around 5,000 books to make $10,000 back. That’s a lot of books.

Okay, so what does seem to make a difference? School visits! If you can develop a good school visit, and get out there regularly, they can move the needle in terms of sales. And the money you charge for those visits will come in handy too.


You can always feel free to ask your agent for publicity and marketing advice as well.  We can help you to decipher publishing marketing plans and offer wisdom as to how you might best promote your book. While we might not have all the answers, we can always do some asking around to find out. As your agent, we’re invested in helping you to build your career—and we’re always on your side.

#6: Vent away about the book business—but it might be better to vent to family and friends instead of the Internet.


There's plenty to complain about in the publishing landscape today, from major chains dropping MG hardbacks to a lack of publicity from publishers to professionals who ghost us. However. . . please do consider seriously whether it's wise to complain about your advance, your publisher's publicity department, or your literary agency on social media for everyone to see. Remember that everyone at your agency and publishing house knows how to use the Internet, and they'll see your tossed-off complaints, and may take them really personally.


Exactly, Cathy! And just remember that your agent is a safe person to vent to (unless you’re venting about your agent, of course. Then, vent to your cat). Agents can also help you to discern whether you have a legitimate complaint (and what to do about it, if so) or if your frustration is something that is, unfortunately, commonplace in the publishing industry. (And maybe, in that case, there’s not much you can do about it. But, hey—don’t you feel better now that you’ve vented?)

#7: A thick skin can be useful.


Lately I’m grateful for my years in publishing when I sent out short stories to literary magazines. My record for rejections was 72 for one story. Why am I grateful for those years of repeated failure? Because they gave me the hide of a rhino.

You are going to reach out to a lot of people who decline to review your book on their popular Youtube channel or website. Most of them won't even bother to respond to your email. You are going to get negative reviews, some of which are stupid, and others of which really hurt. (It's hard to know which are worse.) People are going to say petty, unnecessary things to you about your book. I know someone who let me know she didn’t like the cover of Lost Kites and Other Treasures and Franny as a blonde was all wrong. So get ready for stuff like that. It’ll happen.


It’s definitely natural to feel the sting of rejection—but it also shows that you take pride in your work. It’s kind of like being nervous before a recital. If you didn’t get the pre-performance jitters it would mean that you didn’t care—which, of course, is not a good thing. But it’s also important to keep in mind that criticism is subjective (so, so subjective). Some professional reviewers seem to be more in the business of flaunting their own writing skills than giving useful feedback. Try the best you can to dismiss those hurtful jabs. However, if you’re getting the same criticism from several different sources, then you may want to start paying attention to those remarks. It might be good feedback that you could consider implementing in your next work.

#8: Get ready for visits from the green-eyed monster.


I'm talking about envy. It's one of the most common emotions for debut authors to feel, and not the prettiest one. Perhaps, as with so many other things, it's best to just accept its presence and move on.

As an author, you will always know people whose books have more reviews than yours on Goodreads, whose book gets four starred reviews while your book is having trouble scraping up any reviews at all, who get chosen for an interview in Horn Book or Publishers Weekly. This will not seem fair to you. Period. Just please understand that public envy is an ugly look. (I've had friends who dismissed envious social media posts as natural, but I've never seen anyone who really admired one or thought better of someone for posting it.) This is what your friends and family are for.


Yes, the hard truth about publishing (and life in general, really) is that there is always going to be someone who gets more recognition than you. But my advice would be to make your envy work for you, rather than against you. Use it as the fuel to help you focus on your own individual goals and keep your eye on the milestones you can control (finishing that next novel draft!) rather than the things you can’t (winning the Newbery). You’ll never be able to achieve that second goal without finishing that first.   


I love the idea of turning that envy into rocket fuel.

#9: Be yourself. Unleash your inner anchovy pizza.


When Lost Kites and Other Treasures came out, I posted a photograph of myself on social media that I honestly find embarrassing. I have a look of utter joy on my face, I'm holding Lost Kites up over my head, and my coat pockets are bulging in a weird way because my mittens are stuffed in them. I almost didn't post the picture¾but people loved it! So don't be afraid to express your real self¾your love of anchovy pizza, your extensive knowledge of top 40 hits, the picture of you when you were eight in awful eyeglasses with your hair flipped up on one side. Dance like no one's watching.


Have you been watching me dance, Cathy? Darn it! I thought no one had seen my killer Flashdance moves. Seriously though, genuineness is a highly likable trait, and one that kids (who are truly your main audience, lest we forget) especially value. Just think of the popularity of the BeReal app with teens. And they can spot a phony a mile away, which is why it’s all the more important to be yourself. (Speaking of, I’ve got to get back to my split leaps now. Where are my leg warmers?)

#10: Enjoy your debut!


It's so easy to forget this. So add it to your calendar. I'm serious about that. You've achieved a magnificent accomplishment, probably something you worked toward for years. Plan a great day for yourself. Treat yourself to some flowers, some good food, a long walk, or whatever you would enjoy the most. You did it!


You did do it. It’s a hard-won dream—and it’s certainly something to celebrate. You may just have to be intentional about it—just like you did this year when Lost Kites and Other Treasures came out, didn’t you?

CC: I did. We had pizza, wine, and Italian pastry—all on one fabulous weeknight. And I hope everyone with a book coming out this year has a debut day that gives them that much joy.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Cathy and Rachel. You can find Cathy at:

www.cathycarrwrites.com, Facebook at cathycarrwrites, and Twitter and Instagram @cathycarrwrites 

You can find Rachel at: https://www.prospectagency.com/ and Twitter @rachelprospect

Giveaway Details

Cathy is generously offering a hardback of Lost Kites and Other Treasures for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 6th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Cathy on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is international.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Friday, April 1st I’m participating in the Honey Bunny Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Trish Lundy and a giveaway of her YA thriller The One That Got Away With Murder and my IWSG post

Monday, April 8th I have an agent spotlight interview with Paula Weiman and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 15th I have a review and giveaway of Finally Heard by Kelly Yang

Tuesday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rain Drop on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 22nd I have an agent spotlight interview with Hillary Fazzari and a query critique giveaway

I hope to see you on Friday!





Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice tips for new authors!

Computer Tutor said...

Great tips there. Not a single one I don't agree with, though, how tough is it to develop thick skin???

Greg Pattridge said...

Such a beneficial interview to read and reflect! Both author and agent gave thoughtful answers. Great advice throughout. I've added the book to my future review list.

Danielle H. said...

This post is a treasure of writing and marketing advice. Thank you! I shared this post on tumblr and Twitter. I follow Natalie on Twitter and the author on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of this book!

Sharalyn said...

Thank you for these great tips! I followed you Natalie on Twitter and reposted this contest on Twitter as well. Would love to get Cathy's new book.

Sharalyn said...

Sharalyn email: sharalynwrites@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

This was a great post. I'm going to share it with several debut authors. Thank you!

Shanti Thirumalai said...

I met both Cathy Carr and Rachel Orr at RUCCL last year. So happy for Cathy! Congratulations!
It's nice to run into lovely old friends.
I'd like to have a copy, will get one!
Thank you, Natalie for this interview. I'm working on thickening my hide. Like an elephant!

Angie Quantrell said...

What a great interview! Lots of good stuff here! Congratulations, Cathy! Thanks to both of you.

I followed Cathy on Twitter and Instagram @AngieQuantrell

angelecolline at yahoo dot com

traveler said...

A very interesting and helpful interview. The book sounds captivating. I am an e-mail subscriber. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Liz A. said...

Very good advice.

Anneliese Schultz said...

I always get so much from the weave of writer and agent thoughts. And love the idea here of 'agency family.'
Thank you!

Jennifer Lane said...

Great wisdom to debut authors! I like the bit about release day jitters meaning that you care--they're normal. And I've experienced release day blues as well.

Mary Preston said...

I enjoyed the post thank you.


Ilona Bray said...

Truly inspiring interview, thanks! And is it okay to envy the adorable red shoes?

Rhett Trull said...

Great interview and this book looks awesome. Congratulations to Cathy. I follow you and Cathy on Twitter and am tweeting this blog post. I hope I win the book! rhettreep (at) yahoo.com

Melissa Miles said...

I loved this interview and would love a copy of this beautiful book. Thanks for the opportunity!

Sandra Cox said...

Great interview. The book sounds emotional and powerful.
'Lo Natalie.

Sandra Cox said...

The book sounds emotional and powerful.
'Lo Natalie:)

Rosi said...

I loved 365 Days to Alaska. this book sounds terrific. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for a very rich interview. There is a lot of great information to glean from this one. Thanks for a chance to win a copy of Lost Kites and Other Treasures. I tweeted your link. https://twitter.com/rosihollinbeck/status/1773145412624413152

Maria Antonia said...

Good interview! I loved the back-and-forth. Getting ready for my own debut picture book, I'm trying to toughen up my skin!

Katrina Dehart said...

Thank you for sharing

Kate Larkindale said...

Great interview with some fantastic tips for new authors! Thanks for sharing.

Nancy P said...

Such an adorable cover. Following you on Twitter & Goodreads. Positive.ideas.4youATgmail

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Janet Alcorn said...

Great interview! Congrats to Kathy on her new release!