What Makes a Successful School Visit?
Author visits are a great way to share your picture book with an audience! Many authors and illustrators have figured out what works for them at school visits, but some are just starting. If you’re looking for some ideas and tips on how to have a successful author visit, this blog post is for you! So, let’s get into it!
Getting connected to schools:
Connecting to schools for an author visit can be both easy and difficult. Sometimes they fall into your lap and other times you might feel like you are shouting into the void with no replies. Calling a school can be hit or miss. Schools are busy during the day and they if they don’t know you from Adam, calling isn’t always beneficial.
Often times, the school staff prefers an email. In your email, including a link to your book, any great reviews, and what you will offer in the visit. In addition, it is advisable to have a dedicated website for your author information. This link can be sent in those emails to give more information without overloading the school staff in one long email. Keep it short and simple. Remember, they are quite busy.
If emailing doesn’t work:
Think outside the box!
Being a part of your local community and chatting with folks, letting them know you have a book and are willing to come to the school, is a great way to spread the word. People will be excited for you and might speak on your behalf to their kids’ school media specialists.
If you have book events at bookstores or other venues, have a school author visit sheet to give to parents, including your author website address or QR code for easy access. The bookstore might be happy to share with their patrons as well. Simply chatting with the community can help bridge the way to being invited to a school.
Of course, always remember to share on your social media accounts that you are available for author visits and include what you offer. Adding pictures of you at an event and your book will catch their eye!
Don’t forget an agreement!
It may seem like overkill or too formal to have a signed agreement with the school, but it is not. Email or phone correspondence can be a place where scheduling details can get lost or overlooked.
An agreement stating the basics such as date, time, fee, cancellation policy, and other expectations, helps keep everyone on the same page. You’d be surprised how often facts were misunderstood when an agreement was presented. Schools are happy to know what to expect when you arrive. It makes for a much better visit overall!
What you provide the school:
Coming to speak at a school and share your book is wonderful in itself, but you can always do more to make a great experience! Provide material for the teachers and staff to use that accompany your book! If you have the means to provide a teacher’s guide with questions for students, special non-fiction facts, vocabulary words, and other relevant materials, you can send these once an agreement is signed. Don’t be shy in sharing that you have these materials in an introduction email. Coloring sheets, crafts, writing prompts, and other activities are always appreciated.
How to manage book orders:
Whether you are working through a legacy publisher or independently, you will want to work out how the school can order your books. There are several ways to make this happen but consider that the school would prefer a streamlined method. If you have a website with a shop, you can have your book available to order there. The school can send an email with the link or QR code to access your shop. That way, you as the author, can facilitate all orders. Use this as a perk for the media specialist at the school. They will be happy not to have to collect order sheets and checks from their students.
If a dedicated webpage and shop is unattainable, Venmo could work as well. You could instruct the family to go to your Venmo page and include the book title(s), quantity, and personalization right there. Again, this keeps the school from having to deal with the order details. If there are any questions, you can always go back and ask if there is any confusion.
If Venmo is not an option and you need to collect checks, you could provide the school with a spreadsheet to keep track of orders. The checks could be made to the school, and you would then be paid by the school for all of the totals. This helps in case there are problems with a check, and you are left without a payment. A spreadsheet will keep the school organized with the student information, the dedication and quantity of orders. Do everything you can to make things smooth for the school.
Authors and illustrators usually charge a fee from the school to speak. Some schools or organizations might not have a budget for this. If this is the case, offering to come based on book sales is a great way to both speak to the school and sell books. It is often more rewarding to know books are in the hands of students. Make sure you are comfortable with how many books would be fair to come to a school. Always be willing to negotiate.
Have you tried something that you’d like to share? Post in the comments below!