March 1, 2020: School Author Visits- One Writer's Perspective
This week was my fifth School Author Visit of the school year, with two more already scheduled for the next two months. Maybe not that many. But if you consider that I have been doing six to eight school author visits every year since my first book was published in 2008, that adds up to a lot of school visits.
While I in no way consider myself an expert, I would say I am experienced in school visits. Add to that the fact that I am also a 26-year elementary school classroom teacher who has scheduled and hosted visits from other authors for my own school, I certainly am versed in many of the issues involved in school author visits.
School Author Visits are also a hot topic of conversation among writer’s groups. On-line discussion boards are loaded with questions and advice; writer’s publications are filled with informational articles on School Visits; and blogs abound that promise to help writers get school visits scheduled.
While there are no right/wrong answers because there are so many individual cases and circumstances, sometimes it is helpful to hear how others handle some of the big question related to School Author Visits.
A couple of the big issues that surface over and over seem to be:
- How Can I Get An Author Visit Scheduled?
This seems to be a great example of which came first. I know many authors want to get school visits scheduled in order to market their books. Get yourself in front of your proposed audience and get them excited about reading your books. A perfectly valid approach. This requires that you get out and market yourself to schools, media specialists, and teachers. You are presenting, reading, and sharing with students and teachers who have not yet read your books. That means you need to put on your marketing hat and get ready to sell yourself and your books!
A second approach to this is to get teachers using your books in their classrooms, and then they will reach out to you to come and talk with their students. This is how my School Author Visits come to be scheduled. A more organic, natural progression, but one that takes more time. Time to develop strong Teacher’s Guides to support the use of my books in the classroom; time to get these materials into teachers’ hands; time to present at educational conferences; time for teachers to network and share my books and materials with each other. But once this does start to happen, the momentum builds. My first book is now on the recommended reading list for several Florida school districts, and my second one, a 2018 Award winner, was recently featured in an article in a National Magazine for Teachers of Social Studies. Schools and teachers contact me, which means the marketing I must do is minimal.
- To Charge or Not To Charge?
This can become a very emotional issue. I have seen on-line discussions turn from passionate to aggressive over this issue. This is an issue that an author needs to make for themselves. Personally, I do not change for my School Author Visits for several reasons.
1) I know that most schools do not have budgets that allow for this kind of thing. Teachers are struggling to find funds to purchase books, so an author visit fee might not be in the budget. While some schools have paid me an honorarium, it is not expected. It becomes an unexpected bonus.
2) I also like to be able to ask the school to allow me to send in pre-order forms and have my books available for purchase when I do my visit. While much depends on the school and district’s policy and the socio-economic community of the school, the fact that I am not charging for my visit makes them more likely to agree to this. This becomes a win-win for me as I can add to my sales and get my books into the hands of kids- which after all, is my ultimate goal.
For authors of books for children, school visits are the most awesome experience in the world! Getting to meet and talk with large numbers of your reading audience. To share with them your books, your stories, your passion. To hopefully spark or feed their interest in reading and writing and (in my case) history. That is the best part of being an author.