(The two of us at Poppy's launch in Dymocks, Adelaide)
At the beginning of the year, I was lucky enough to catch up with debut author, Poppy Nwosu to chat about her (then) upcoming YA book, Making Friends with Alice Dyson (Wakefield Press).
It’s now a whole month since her book launch at Dymocks, Adelaide: I wanted to find out how Poppy’s doing now that the big event is behind her. Have there been any surprises, (or nasty shocks!) along the way? I also wanted to know - if she was going to go through the publishing process again - and I'm sure she will - is there anything she’d do differently?
Well, first of all, congratulations on your fantastic launch. It was a wonderful evening, with YA author Vikki Wakefield mc-ing, a truckload of enthusiastic attendees and all that delicious and gorgeous-looking food. There was even a building evacuation thrown in for good measure.
How was it from your point of view? Were you cool, calm and collected as you sat there facing the audience, or were you quietly freaking out?
Haha, I was definitely feeling a little nervous! Mostly just in the hours (and days and weeks and months) in the lead-up to the launch event, I was definitely freaking out a little.
To be honest, I hadn’t really done a lot of public speaking on that scale before, so I was hoping I could manage it, but in the end I felt like my Q&A went really well. Vikki Wakefield was an amazing host, and I actually managed to relax while we chatted, and even better, and most unexpected for me, was that I actually had heaps and heaps of fun!
It turns out it is really an extraordinary thing to sit in front of a crowd of people who want to hear you talk about your writing, who are interested and excited to hear what you say about your book. That was a pretty cool feeling!
How do book launches work? Did you organise it yourself? Or was it the bookshop or the publisher? What things did you, personally, need to think about and plan in advance?
Well, my publisher handled the eventbrite invitation online, so they handled the numbers for the event, and they put together a poster and an invitation for me.
They suggested a few venues and I did too, my first choice being the Dymocks Store in Rundle Street here in Adelaide, because I go to an awesome YA bookclub there (the YA Circle), and absolutely loved the idea of them, hosting my event. I was so lucky that when I approached them about it, they were keen!
For myself in terms of planning, I organised some fun giveaways (bookmarks, postcards and pins) and I also organised the catering, which was done by a wonderful friend, Nicole from Teacup Kitchen Adelaide. In hindsight it doesn’t seem like I had to do much myself at all, but at the time it all felt like a lot of forward thinking and planning and troubleshooting, and a little overwhelming! Strange now that I think about it!
There are a lot of preparations that go into marketing your book before it hits the shelves, and much of that is up to the author to do. What things do you feel you did well in helping to get the word out there, and what things would you do differently next time?
Great question! I tried my best at marketing my book as much as I could, and it can definitely feel a little strange when you feel like you are talking about yourself to such an extent every day on social media. I focused on blogging and using Instagram daily, as those are platforms that I quite enjoy, and I tried to just act like myself and not be too weird about shoving my new book at everyone on the internet! The best thing I think that I did was that I felt genuinely excited about everything that was happening, so I feel like I didn’t hold back from expressing that excitement, and in the face of that, people were very nice and took an interest in what I was doing.
I think there are so many cool ideas out there for how you can market your book, and I really did try my best to do as much as I could, but at the same time, I think you sort of have to draw a line somewhere because you just can’t do it all either.
Have you had to do any publicity that’s taken you outside your comfort zone?
Haha, all of it? To be honest I’ve never done any publicity stuff before at all, so everything has been new and surreal. Some of it is easier than other parts, but definitely the live speaking (podcast interviews for instance) and public speaking have been the biggest hurdles for me. I am definitely a writer and I really enjoy taking my time to figure out how to best answer questions, so being asked questions on the spot is a very different experience for me, and something that I’m still getting used to. I don’t think I’ve said anything too silly so far though, so that is very nice! Ha!
Honestly though, I do think it is a good thing to be pushed out of your comfort zone and try new challenges, so I have been excited at the opportunities I’ve had to try these new things.
Do you have any other books (YA or otherwise) in the pipeline?
I do! I have a few projects I am working on and that I feel very excited about, and I really hope I will have the opportunity to share them in the near future. At the moment I am concentrating only on YA fiction, as that is what I most love to read myself, so tends to be what I am most drawn to write...but no solid news to share yet!
What are the three nicest or most surprising things you’ve found about being published?
Number one has been that people seem to genuinely like my book! That has been such a lovely and nice thing! To be honest I am a bit of a selfish writer, and I only want to write the books that personally appeal to me, so it has been such a wonderful thing to get feedback that my story also appeals to other people too!
(Also ... what a relief! Ha!)
Another really super nice thing that happened to me recently was a lovely girl who attended my book launch who had already read my book, she was first in line for the signing and told me she loved it, and then told me why she loved it .... and gosh, it was such a very special moment for me. I have been so focused for so long on my story and getting it out into the world, I didn’t really think much about what would happen afterwards, that in a way your book doesn’t really belong to you anymore. It was such an amazing feeling to realise my book had meant something to that lovely young woman I met at my book launch.
And finally, and I am pretty sure every author will choose this as one of the most amazing and nicest moments, but seeing your book in a bookstore is a strange and surreal moment. And potentially also one of the best moments ever!
Any downsides at all?
Haha, well I am sure everything has it’s downsides.
I guess in a way it can be a bit of a shock to go from an incredible book launch and seeing your first novel in a bookstore, which is such a dizzying and exciting experience, only to find yourself the next day back at your actual day job. Ha!
Have there been any practical differences now you’re published? Eg do you have to spend more time marketing than writing? Do you feel you need to keep more up to date with YA lit etc? Do you still have a word count goal in mind each day/each week?
This is an interesting question. In some ways, yes, definitely I spend more time marketing and doing interviews and things like that than I did before, but I am also very selfish about my writing time, which for me is something very precious and very integral to my mood being good each day (no writing achieved on a weekday? Bad mood all day! Sigh). I have worked hard to ensure I still make time to write creatively throughout this crazy busy period of launching a book, but obviously the practicalities of it do change and I feel like I am much busier than I used to be. Which isn’t a bad thing of course, just something I need to be mindful of managing well so I can get everything done that I want to.
In terms of reading and keeping up to date with YA, definitely I have been focused lately on reading books by Australian YA writers (mainly just because I want to anyway cos I love Australian books!) but it is definitely also a concentrated effort that I want to support the Australian YA community in the same way that they have supported me. I have been welcomed into the #LoveOzYA scene so wholly and am so appreciative of all the established Australian authors who have taken the time to help me as a newbie coming into all this.
To answer the last question, I have never been a huge word count goal type of writer, I find it easier to set a time goal each day, as in I must sit on this chair and write for two hours. Sometimes that is hard, sometimes it is easy, but the long as I do my two hours then I feel good all day, whether I made a lot of progress with my work or only a little.
I think it feels healthier for me personally to work that way, because then if I do have a bad day and can’t seem to get any words out, I don’t feel as upset because I still achieved my goal of that day, which was related to hours spent writing instead of words I got down. If that makes sense!
Poppy, thank you for taking part in this and giving me the opportunity to interview you (twice!) for my blog.
Thanks so hugely for having me Sue! I am so glad to be here! :)
If you want to find out more about Poppy, check out her website: