About this Course

This workshop will give you a comprehensive look at best practices for launching your book and your careerYou'll actually be working on your plan throughout the course, with the goal of being ready to begin when the course is through. 

In this course, you will:

  • Get an overview of the "Year 1" process.
  • Find out what components you'll need: headshots, website, budget and more.
  • Understand what your publisher will--and won't--do for you.
  • Learn all about the financial: setting a budget, negotiating payments for visits, and more.
  • Talk about promoting in person: which conferences/festivals/visits are worth doing?
  • Think about author branding, working with publicists and creating your online and social media presence.
  • Explore school visits, educator guides, and conferences. How can they help you?
  • Find your community: networking and friendships--how can you help each other?
  • Complete your plan and evaluate your next steps.

Take this course if: 

  • You are soon to debut your first book. Congratulations! Here's how you find out what to do next.
  • You have recently debuted. There's still so much to be done, and this course will tell you how.
  • You are debuting within the next 2 years. Perfect! This course will give you a head start.



The course is divided up into 8 sessions, each with a different topic. For each session, workshop leader Jess Rinker will:

  • Address details of the topics through interviews with publishing professionals.
  • Give you topic-related assignments.
  • Share specific resources.
  • Manage a forum for questions on the topic.

Here are the session topics and dates:

Session 1: Getting Started with Your Debut Year

  • Overview of Year 1 Process
  • Author responsibilities
  • What you'll need (headshots, website, budget, etc)
  • Dealing with Impostor Syndrome

Session 2: Timelines

  • Year 1 timeline
  • Milestones
  • Expectations: you vs. your publisher
  • What to do if you fall behind schedule
  • When to talk about book 2

Session 3: Giving Value to the Book Creator

  • How do you find out what your publisher will do for you?
  • What can you do for free?
  • How do you set your pricing?
  • What conferences/festivals/visits are "worth" it?
  • Who and where to find support
  • How do you negotiate payment? Report payment? Dispute payment?

Session 4: The Art of the Learning Curve

  • Is there a connection between financial disorganization and self-worth?
  • How important are advanced copies and promotion language in the book contract?
  • Why do publisher marketing responsibilities vary so greatly between publishers?
  • What should I ask my publisher to do? What should I ask my agent to do?

Session 5: Author Branding and Promotion

  • How do you build an online presence?
  • Is author branding necessary?
  • Are you in control of your branding or is your publisher?
  • How do you handle self-promotion online and in person?
  • How do publicists work?
  • What's worth investing in? Swag? Signings? School visits? Social media?

Session 6: Getting to Know Teachers: School Visits, Educator Guides, and Conferences

  • Are school visits important?
  • What do you need to know when planning a school visit?
  • How important are contracts with the school?
  • What else can you do to meet teachers and librarians?
  • What resources do you have for building teacher guides?

Session 7: The Importance of Community

  • How do you find community in the children's book industry?
  • What is the difference between networking and friendship?
  • What organizations are most beneficial? Why?
  • How do you give back to your community once you are published?

Session 8: Where Do We Go From Here?

  • Questions you still have
  • What our new community has built
  • Evaluating your plan and steps of action

Course Snapshot

  • Course Structure

    60 - 90 min sessions

  • Course Frequency

    New materials on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month

  • Executable Debut Plan

    Monthly assignments to reach your goal of a successful debut plan

  • Videos

    Pre-recorded interviews with 10 publishing professionals

  • Discussions

    Thinkific forum open for questions

  • Resources

    Downloadable resources (worksheets, glossary of terms, etc)

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Getting Started with Your Debut Year with Jess Rinker

    • Welcome Letter

    • Before We Begin....

    • Welcome and Introduction Video by Jess Rinker

    • Industry Terms

    • Jane Friedman's Key Book Publishing Paths

    • Marketing Tips for Debut Authors

    • To The Forum!

  • 2

    Timelines with Jess Rinker Interviewing Alex Villasante and Nicole Valentine

    • In This Lesson...

    • Interview with Alex Villasante and Nicole Valentine

    • 3 Things Your Traditional Publisher Is Unlikely to Do

    • What Do Big Five Publishers Do for Their Authors

    • Content, Consistency, Community from Deb Gonzales

    • Creating a Timeline

  • 3

    Remembering Why We Do This with Jess Rinker Interviewing Pablo Cartaya

    • In This Lesson...

    • Interview with Pablo Cartaya

    • Writing and Impostor Syndrome

    • Some Wonderful Reading on KidLit

    • Personal Philosophy

  • 4

    The Art of the Learning Curve with Jess Rinker Interviewing Heather Demetrios and Linda Epstein

    • In This Lesson...

    • Interview with Linda Epstein

    • Interview with Heather Demetrios

    • How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying

    • Plotting Your Writing Business

    • Get Down to Business

  • 5

    Author Branding and Promotion with Jess Rinker Interviewing Kwame Mbalia

    • In This Lesson...

    • Interview with Kwame Mbalia

    • How to Find and Work With a Book Publicist

    • How Can Authors Promote their Books

    • Branding and Promotion

  • 6

    Reaching the Gatekeepers with Jess Rinker Interviewing Debbie Gonzales

    • In This Lesson...

    • Interview with Debbie Gonzales

    • Wallstreet Journal-gatekeepers

    • Rock Star Retort

    • How to Use Simple Story Structure to Create Compelling Content

    • Bonus freebie! Pinterest Tutorial from Deb Gonzales

    • Reaching Gatekeepers and Developing School Visits

  • 7

    The Importance of Community with Jess Rinker Interviewing Traci Sorell and Daria Peoples-Riley

    • In This Lesson...

    • Interview with Traci Sorell

    • Interview with Daria Peoples-Riley

    • FB Groups for Authors

    • Networking vs Relationships

    • Find Your Communities

  • 8

    Where Do We Go From Here? Live with Jess Rinker

    • LIVE Zoom Meeting with Jess Rinker & Chris Tebbetts 4-22-20

    • In Conclusion



Jessica Rinker

Jess Rinker is the author of Gloria Takes a Stand, a picture book biography of Gloria Steinem, and the forthcoming, Send a Girl: The Brenda Berkman Story, due out in 2021, both are published by Bloomsbury. Jessica’s middle grade novel debut duology, The Dare Sisters, will be published in Fall 2020 and 2021 by Imprint/Macmillan. Jess has a BA in Social Welfare and received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In addition to writing, Jess also teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and works as a freelance developmental editor and writing coach.

Special Guests

Special Guest

Alexandra Villasante

Alex Villasante has always loved telling stories–though not always with words. She has a BFA in Painting and an MA in Combined Media (that’s art school speak for making work out of anything). Born in New Jersey to immigrant parents, Alex has the privilegio of dreaming in both English and Spanish. When she’s not writing, painting or chasing chickens around the yard, Alexandra plans conferences and fundraisers for non-profits. She lives with her family in the semi-wilds of Pennsylvania. You can find Alexandra on Twitter and Instagram at @magpiewrites.

Special Guest

Traci Sorell

Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction books as well as poems for children. Her debut nonfiction picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, features the universal value of gratitude through a panorama of modern-day Cherokee cultural practices and experiences across the four seasons. Illustrated by Frané Lessac and published by Charlesbridge Publishing, the book received the 2019 Sibert Honor Medal and the 2019 Orbus Pictus Honor Award. It also received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness and The Horn Book. Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma where her tribe is located. For more about Traci and her other forthcoming works, www.tracisorell.com.

Special Guest

Kwame Mbalia

Kwame is a husband, father, writer, and pharmaceutical metrologist in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (October 15, 2019) is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he enjoys impromptu dance sessions and Cheezits.

Special Guests

Special Guest

Nicole Valentine

Nicole Valentine (www.nicolevalentinebooks.com) is an author of middle grade fiction. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. As the former chief technology officer at Figment.com and Space.com, Nicole loves science and as a writer enjoys pondering the times when science falls short of explanation and magic has room to sneak in. She’s the founder of steaMG.org, The Middle-Grade Sci-fi Authors Alliance. When not engaged in fictional world-building, Nicole can often be found with a hawk on her arm. A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity (Lerner, 2019) is her debut novel. She lives in Pennsylvania with her human family, two giant dogs named Merlin and Arthur, and two small cats named Tink and Pickwick.

Special Guest

Linda Epstein

Linda Epstein is a senior agent at Emerald City Literary Agency, in their east coast office. She represents picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and select children’s non-fiction. She likes stories for children and young adults that deal with issues of identity, history, sexual politics, feminism, and culture. Some of her other interests include art, food, and the environment. She likes romcoms and monsters, too. Linda looks for the offbeat, quirky, and left of center, with bonus points given if you keep your sense of humor about it all. She is deeply committed to representing projects that give voice to work by and about all kinds of marginalized people and stories. Linda has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School and writes stories for kids and teens. Find her on Twitter @LindaEpstein.

Special Guest

Heather Demetrios

When she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband and rescue mutt in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Her other novels include Exquisite Captive, the first in a fantasy series, I’ll Meet You There, and the multiplatform serial novel, The Lexie Project. She is the founder of Live Your What, a project dedicated to creating writing opportunities for underserved youth. A self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, Heather’s never met a kissing scene she didn’t like—but always knows a way to make it better.

Special Guests

Special Guest

Pablo Cartaya

Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author whose books have been reviewed by The New York Times, featured in The Washington Post, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal, as well as been among the Best Books of the Year for Amazon, Chicago Public Library, NYPL, and several state award lists. He Is the author of the critically acclaimed middle grade novels The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (a 2018 Pura Belpre Honor Book) and Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish. His next novel, Each Tiny Spark, will debut on the new Kokila Penguin/Random House Imprint, which focuses on publishing diverse books for children and young adults. He teaches at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA program in Writing and visits schools and colleges around the country. Pablo is proudly bilingual en español y ingles. @phcartaya

Special Guest

Debbie Gonzales

Debbie Gonzales is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, a podcaster (The Debcast), and past SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. Deb currently devotes her time to writing middle grade novels, crafting teacher guides and various other freelance projects. She’s the author of six transitional readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge, and the non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb serves as a member of the Michigan Reading Association board and earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more about Deb and her many projects by accessing her websites at www.debbiegonzales.com and www.guidesbydeb.com.

Special Guest

Daria Peoples-Riley

Daria’s first job was at nine years old in the children’s section of her hometown library in Paso Robles, California. She worked a little, but she mostly read picture books. Daria loved basketball, drawing, and painting. Her dad gave her art lessons in their garage on Rose Lane, and Daria’s mom rescued her first self-portrait from the kitchen trash can, and had it professionally framed the next day. Today, it hangs in her parents’ living room as a reminder that our life’s purpose almost always introduces itself to us as a child. Daria earned a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara, where she found herself shelving books in the library once again and reading the writings of many notable authors. After earning a Masters in Education and 10 years of teaching, Daria became a full-time author and illustrator. Daria lives in Las Vegas with her family. Daria’s debut picture book "This Is It" was published with Greenwillow/HarperCollins (February 2018) and "I Got Next" (July 2019). Daria is also the illustrator of "Gloria Takes a Stand" by Jessica M. Rinker, a picture book biography about the life and work of Gloria Steinem (Bloomsbury, March 2019).