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Swoon Author Kelly Zekas: Top 10 Things I Learned at My Book Launch Party

Hello swooners! Kelly here. How are you all holding up this winter? I hope you've been able to enjoy some of the wackier weather and are counting the days till spring. I've had a pretty great one myself, leading up to the NYC joint-launch party for These Vicious Masks and Heidi Heilig's debut, The Girl From Everywhere. We met last year as members of The Sweet 16s—a group of 2016 debut authors. It's a wonderful community and Heidi is as incredible as her first book. She and I were discussing launch parties and, realizing our books had very close publication dates and that we both lived in NYC, it made perfect sense to see if the amazing independent children's bookstore, Books of Wonder, would host us for a joint launch party. 

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They did, and Heidi and I were lucky enough to have a wonderful night surrounded by our incredibly supportive friends and family. Approximately 85 people showed up for us, which was overwhelming and touching.

We mingled, hugged, talked about writing and signed copies for two hours. After, I went home and slept for 2 days straight. When I came to, I realized that I learned quite a lot that evening.

1. The Swoon Reads and Macmillan team are amazingly supportive. The hands-down best part of the night was seeing the amazing Macmillan contingent. I couldn't believe it when I saw so many lovely faces, including Jean, Holly, Lauren, Emily, and Sandy (who came all the way from NJ!). It reminded me for the thousandth time how lucky Tarun and I are to be Swoon Reads authors.

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(Jean and Emily!)

2. Photographers are so very worth it. When Heidi and I were planning our party, we took the advice of other Sweet 16ers and hired a photographer. I am so very glad we did. Friends with phones are great, but our wonderful photographer, Patricia Phelps, caught moments that I am so happy to have preserved.

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​(My small meltdown at seeing Holly)

3. Joining a debut author group is the best thing I did last year. Not only did the Sweet 16ers tell us to hire a photographer, they helped us with what to expect, offered suggestions and ideas and enthusiasm. Entering into publishing can be a strange new experience, and as amazing as everyone at Swoon Reads is, Tarun and I tried not to bother them 50 times a day. The 16ers chime in with ideas on swag, promote each others' books, are there for the ups and downs, and are generally just a wonderful community. In fact, other authors from the group showed up to support Heidi and me!

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4. Food. Bubbles. Non-alcoholic drinks. All are helpful in creating convivial fun. The prettier the layout, the better. Also, some lovely soul brought in artisan DONUTS, so you should always be very nice and hope that it will get you donuts. (This is just a general life lesson.)

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5. If your book is about superpowered people, it's probably a good idea to have a prepared answer for what your superpower would be. I'm all too sure I just said "um" for about a minute during the Q&A, when the very obvious question was asked of me.

6. On a similar note, just because you studied acting, does not mean you are an inherently great public speaker. For example: I am not. I went on many tangents and forgot plenty of things I wanted to say. I now know that preparation is KEY and I am absolutely making sure I am more on the ball for my next event. How do I know that I went on tangents and forgot things? Well ... 

7. Get someone to film you speaking. This is important for two reasons. 

A. Your parents can see it—Yay! 

B. You now know every single horrifying thing you did while speaking! I played with a button on my sleeve for the entire 30 minutes that Heidi and I spoke. I also had weird answers. I looked angry at odd times. BUT, at least I know what I want to work on. And it is nice to have a record of the first time I ever spoke publicly about These Vicious Masks.

8. Talking and writing at the same time is extremely difficult. I originally attempted to write lengthy messages in everyone's book, but finally I had to give up. I kept screwing up spellings and writing the wrong words as I tried to talk to everyone while writing. The shorter the better!

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9. Waterproof mascara continues to be this emotional girl's favorite weapon. Everything and everyone makes me cry (happy and sad) so I was very pleased I used my trusty $5 mascara.

10. I have more support than I knew. I have always found my friends to be a lovely, cheerleading group. They're my friends, after all, and are happy when I find success! But the sheer number of people who came and the amount of enthusiasm that was showered on me that night, well... I am an extraordinarily lucky person. 

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Overall, it was a wonderful night and I wouldn't trade a second of it for the world. I have some work to do—public speaking, figuring out my superpower—but I couldn't ask for a better first time talking about These Vicious Masks

Hope you all have a wonderful rest of the winter and are looking out for the exciting April releases, No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista and Love, Lies and Spies Cindy Anstey! I know they're gonna make you super swoony.

Author spotlight

Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

Tarun and Kelly met in a freshman year writing class at NYU and started writing These Vicious Masks a few ...

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