PLANNING AN AUTHOR VISIT
Give yourself the gift of time. Start thinking and planning early, perhaps six months to one year in advance. I’m happy to give presentations on short notice, but it’s helpful to the school and the students if you can allow planning time.
Discuss a date for the event with the author. Be specific when considering what you want to happen during the author visit. Some things to consider are:
- Date, day, and time
- Location(s) of event
- Autographing opportunities and schedule
- Number of presentations the author will give
- Length of each session
- Age group the author will address
- Size of the audience
Consider recruiting PTA volunteers and students to help. The more parents, students, and volunteers involved in the visit, the more fun and meaningful it will be.
Some schools enjoy decorating hallways and libraries with decorations reflecting the author’s books. This turns the author visit into an artistic event as well as a literary one!
It’s helpful, though not necessary, to have:
An Author’s Day Coordinator or committee
A Media Liaison to publicize the event
The Media Liaison can announce the author visit and availability of books for autographing in the school newspaper, PTA Bulletin, and other publications read by students, teachers, and parents. They may also wish to publicize the author visit through local media. I’m happy to give interviews. In this way the author visit becomes a community event as well as a school event.
It’s helpful and fun if an escort is assigned to an author, to make sure they don’t get lost from the bathroom to the library. This might be the librarian, a parent, or a student.
Consider coordinating with other schools and libraries in the community in order to share travel and lodging costs. This can be helpful for schools, saving time and money, and I enjoy blocking my visits into several days or a week.
Some schools help fund their event with sales of the author’s books. You can order my books directly from the publisher, usually with a 40% discount. The savings can be passed on to the students or you can sell the books at a smaller discount and apply the funds towards the author’s honorarium.
Funding resources include the PTA, Adopt-a-School Sponsors, Friends of the Library, Title I and Title VII, School Improvement Plan (SIP), Grants, School Site Council, Corporate contributors, Grandparents.
LETTER OF AGREEMENT
After the date has been set, I’ll send out a simple letter of agreement for the school(s) and myself to sign regarding the visit.
ORDER THE AUTHOR’S BOOKS (AND READ THEM!)
Books should be ordered 2-3 months prior to the author visit, if possible. Giving students a book order form is a good way to determine approximately how many books you will need, but there will always be last minute orders. You will want to order extra books. You might also want to send out another book order form closer to the author’s visit.
You can order books directly from the publisher, usually at a 40% discount. I will provide the publisher contact information. They will accept returns of unsold books, but you will need to pack them up and pay shipping to send them back.
You can also order from your local independent bookseller. The bookseller may or may not be able to give you a discount, but they will often offer to deliver the books and/or come to your school to handle the book sales. They will also take care of returning any unsold books. Call your local bookseller to see what kinds of services they provide.
To get the most from my visit, read my books before Author Day. Ideally, each student should hear or read one or more of my books and complete an individual or class project based on them. The more a student interacts with a book, the more excited they will be and the more they will learn when I visit. Check out the book-related activities on my website.
Meeting the author as she/he signs their book is always a special time for both student and author. But sometimes there are too many books to allow each child to present their book to be signed. In these cases, I’m happy to autograph books, to be distributed to students later, between my presentations or at my hotel.
I prefer to sign books only. No hands, shirts, or diaries, please.
Things move smoothly if a copy of the order form or a post-it note is placed opposite the title page, with the name to be inscribed printed legibly. Include the teacher’s name if the books are to be delivered to students.
AS THE DAY DRAWS NEAR
- Test all equipment (microphone, screen) prior to the event.
- Remind students about the author’s visit and collect last-minute book orders.
- Brief the “Author’s Escort” on escorting the author, helping to pack and unpack, acting as an aide (working lights, providing water, etc.) and assisting the author while autographing.
- It’s helpful to reserve a parking place for convenient unloading if the author is driving to your school.
- Set up and re-test equipment to be used.
- Make sure the honorarium is ready and presented no later than the end of the event.
I like to arrive at least one-half hour to an hour prior to the first presentation. During this time I will set up and sign books if needed.
AFTER THE AUTHOR VISIT
- Return all unsold books. (I love it when there are none!)
- I enjoy hearing from students and am always grateful for letters, artwork, or photos after my visit. If there has been publicity, news clippings are appreciated. If students have further questions, classes are always welcome to email me.
- If you love my books, I will love you in return if you recommend one or more of my books for your state reading award.
HAVE A WONDERFUL AUTHOR’S DAY!
Assemble and test all equipment before the day of my arrival. Please arrange for someone familiar with the sound system and lights to be on hand during set-up.
I like to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to my first presentation to set up. I’ll bring my own projector and laptop to use with my Keynote presentation, but ask the school to provide:
- A microphone. A lapel microphone is preferred.
- A rectangular table, approximately 3 by 5 or 6 feet, for my books and props.
- A rolling cart or table for my projector and laptop computer.
- A screen, the larger the better.
- An extension cord and power strip for two plugs.
- Last but not least, I love a well-prepared audience. Students get lots more from my presentations when they’ve read my books, discussed them in class, and thought about questions to ask.
My honorarium for an in-person school visit is $950 plus reasonable travel expenses for a full day of up to 4 presentations or Funshops, plus autographing.
For schools interested in a longer author stay, I have a package where I cover airfare. These longer visits have been extremely successful, as librarian Beth Coffey shares.
“You have such a special gift. Your writing is amazing. Your books have touched everyone at Demmitt. They become a part of us. When we took down the Names from the naming ceremony the kids all had to have theirs. A few were lost and they came to me to remake them because they wanted that to remember what you taught them. To the very last day of school, kids were still coming up to me and sharing about their stories, which you had inspired. Gabe, the boy who played Jack, recited the Roar of a Snore for the 2nd grade talent show. Alyssa shares with me almost everyday her progress on her writing and how grateful she was for the time she spent with you.
Our 3rd grade class got locked in a room and we had to take them out the window. No one was scared or crying because they couldn’t wait to get back to the room and write a story about their adventure, because, “Mrs. Arnold would love this!” Emma shared with me that the part about rejection really meant a lot to her. She wants to be an actress and she knows now it’s ok to get rejections because it only takes one yes. She even drew the slide from your presentation (about only needing one “yes” to be on the way to your dreams) in her journal so she would always remember!”
This option includes the following:
- One full day of presentations
- Two full days of writing “Funshops” for groups, preferably about 20 students per group.
- One Family Evening
- Video chat with students prior to my visit, if desired.
- Video chat with students after my visit, if desired.
Honorarium for this special 3-day visit within the continental USA is $3000 plus ground transportation/lodging. If you wish this 3-day visit outside the USA, we can discuss the transportation expense.
FUNDING AN AUTHOR VISIT
You know a visit from a children’s author is a fabulous way to inspire students to read and write more. But sometimes the budget is a bit tight. You need creative financing! Here are a few suggestions:
- Apply for an Amber Brown grant (link to https://www.scbwi.org/awards/grants/amber-brown-grant/) between November 1 – April 15.
- Apply for a Wells Fargo Charitable Contributions for Education grant (link to https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/charitable/)
- Consider approaching local businesses, like Rotary, Lions Club, Target, and Wal-Mart for a grant. These clubs and resources are looking to serve their local schools.
- Approach Parent/Teacher Associations or other special interest clubs to help with funding.
- Friends of the Library, if there’s one in your town, may help contribute to bringing an author to your community.
- Some hotels will donate a room if they know it’s for a local school’s author visit.
- Book sales are a wonderful way for students to remember a special visit and help finance the visit. If books are bought at a discount from a publisher, the school can use the proceeds to help pay the author’s honorarium.