Connections - Guest Post by Laura Segal Stegman, Author of Summer of L.U.C.K. and Ready or Not
If I had to come up with a word – other than perseverance – to describe the most important tool in my middle grade writer’s kit, it’s “connections.” Not someone who “only got the job because of connections…” I mean "connections" defined as building relationships with other writers in my genre. Those connections have been essential during my journey as a traditionally published middle grade author with an anything-but-traditional path to publication.
First of all, it took almost twenty years from when I began to write Summer of L.U.C.K., my debut middle grade novel, to when it was first published in 2020. Although I'd already developed excellent business writing skills in my profession as a public relations consultant, my fiction writing abilities were nonexistent. After working with an amazing development editor, my abilities took a giant leap when I learned to make connections in the middle grade writing community, mostly through social media. These included other writers in my genre with whom I engaged and got to know as critique partners, Beta readers, fellow query-ers, fellow cheerleaders, and simply listening ears and reading eyes.
Despite the decades it took to make Summer of L.U.C.K. good enough to attract a publisher, its sequel, Ready or Not, took less than sixteen months to write. The Chambered Nautilus, the third and final in the L.U.C.K. trilogy, took only twelve. The progress I’ve made is due in large part to everything I learned (and am still learning) about writing and publishing middle grade kidlit from my connections.
When I secured a three-book publishing contract, beginning with Summer of L.U.C.K., the connections I made by joining a 2020 Middle Grade/YA Debuts Facebook group opened doors in ways I never expected, from advice about dealing with agents and editors to news of promotional opportunities, such as interviews and other publicity, including the chance to be featured in a TikTok/BookTok influencer’s video. No, I didn’t become an internet sensation, but it was fun anyway.
Like so many of us, my post-debut publication road wasn’t smooth. Less than a year after Summer of L.U.C.K. was published and several months before Ready or Not was set to follow, my publisher closed its doors, leaving L.U.C.K. and the two sequels out in the cold. At that low point, my connections provided moral support. It's amazing how much it helps when you hear, "That [or something like it] happened to me too,” especially from more than one person.
With a lot of luck, I was signed by a new publisher, which reissued L.U.C.K. last year, published Ready or Not in August of this year, and will issue The Chambered Nautlius next year. That’s the good news. The not-as-good news is that I knew much of the marketing and promotion would fall on my shoulders. But I turned that lemon into lemonade by reaching out to my connections and starting the Mighty Middle Grade Authors, a co-marketing group of middle grade writers, which has opened more doors than I ever could have imagined.
I'm no social media expert, but if you’re wondering how I found middle grade writers and published authors with whom to follow and engage, I used hashtags like #MiddleGrade, #Kidlit, and #MGLit as a jumping off point on Twitter and Instagram. #WritingCommunity, #BookTwitter, #AuthorsCommunity, and #WritersCommunity are others, although they’re very general. On Facebook, I searched Groups for “middlegrade” or “middle grade” or “kidlit.” I also started following authors of middle grade books that I liked, and checked who they followed.
Once I began making connections through social media, it was easier to make more. And while social media has changed dramatically over the last few years, there remains a strong writers community on every social platform, be it X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Slack, Discord, BlueSky, or Threads. I found the platforms and the hashtags that worked for me to establish my connections. So can you.
A final note… It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that you’ll need to tread carefully and learn all you can about people before establishing connections, ESPECIALLY agreeing to in-person meetups. Avoid anyone who wants you to pay for reviews, interviews, basic writing information, or the information you can find with a Google search. The internet is filled with free resources. Keep your eye on sites like Writer Beware and top-quality publishing sites like Jane Friedman's and Janice Hardy's.
Connection-making takes a lot of time but consider it an investment in yourself. It's been worth it for me, and I hope my experience helps others.
Daniel Reichert Photography
Laura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based publicity consultant and author whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., and its sequel, Ready or Not (both Five-Star Readers' Favorite Award winners), are available wherever books are sold. The Chambered Nautilus, third in Young Dragons Press’ L.U.C.K. trilogy, follows in 2024. L.A. Parent Magazine lauded Summer of L.U.C.K. as a "good read," and middle grade/young adult author Frank Morelli praised Ready or Not as “filled with magic, time travel, and a healthy dose of courage from its deeply authentic cast of characters.” Laura’s PR Tips for Authors workshop, a step-by-step guide to building a digital author media kit, has been presented by SCBWI, The Writing Barn, and elsewhere. Non-fiction writing credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York. Her feature stories and guest posts have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, and School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox, among others. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in Drama, Laura serves as a judge for kidlit writer competitions and shares her author journey in visits to schools and libraries. www.LauraStegman.com