We at the Middle Grade Mafia love having authors stopping by to share things they have learned. Today, we have a guest post by author Laurel Gale. If you haven’t checked out her books, you must! Take it away, Laurel…

No Longer A Debut: What I’ve Learned So Far.

With the release of my second book, Monster, Human, Other, I am officially no longer a debut author. It’s not a stunning revelation – I couldn’t stay a new author forever – but it’s taking some adjustment on my part. The strangest thing is the feeling that people now expect me to know what I’m doing – and that I kind of do. Here are some of the things I’ve learned on my journey from debut author to sophomore author.

Don’t be shy.

Easier said than done, right?

I have no problem with public speaking. I think it’s because everything’s already been arranged. People are expecting me to speak, and I’ve prepared. That’s when I really shine. My first school visit went great, and that was with an auditorium full of about 300 kids.

When I’m trying to introduce myself in a more casual setting, on the other hand, my shyness can take over. When my first book came out, I had to be pushed (almost literally) into talking to people about my book. For years, I’d seen my writing as a private activity, almost a secret. Talking casually about it was unthinkable. With my second book, I’m a lot more comfortable with the whole idea.

If you’re shy – and I think a lot of writers are – rehearse a short elevator pitch for your book. Actually, this is a good idea for any author. If you’re nervous, try to channel that energy into excitement. People want to hear about your book! You wrote a book!

Having readers rocks.

I’ll admit I was a little nervous about letting strangers read my book. I’m shy, remember? What I’ve learned, though, is that having readers rocks.

Reading a nice review is wonderful – some of them even make me tear up a little – but the best part is when readers take the time to contact me directly. I’ve gotten some emails and Facebook messages from readers, and I cherish all of them. (If you want to reach out to an author but are worried you’ll be a nuisance, please stop worrying and reach out!)

Kids in particular are the best. They’re so enthusiastic when they like something. I got into writing for children because I loved the sense of wonder and adventure in these novels, but having the most amazing fans in the world is another reason to write middle grade.

You have to love it.

If you don’t love reading and writing, being an author isn’t the job for you. You need passion not only to finish a manuscript but also to edit it again and again until you practically have it memorized. You need to love reading to become a contributing member of the book community.

I’ve always loved reading and writing, but for a while, I was so focused on getting published that I think I forget to focus on the joy of it all, too. Now that I’ve had a little breathing time, I remember. I’m happiest when I’m writing a manuscript I love or getting lost in a good book. And although I’m thrilled to be published, I’d want to keep reading and writing even if I’d never gotten a book deal. I think that’s the way it has to be.

That’s it, at least for now. I may not be a debut anymore, but I’m still learning.