School Visits for Authors
Author Jen Malone has great how-to tips for authors who would like to make school presentations. You should check out her website at JenMaloneWrites.com. Her site embodies many of the principals she talks about and that I summarize below.
As you begin
You begin this journey by starting with referrals from friends and friends of friends. Even if you’ve landed a contract with a publishing house, you want to start small and locally. The truth is, that even with a publishing house behind you, you’ll need to do this sort of work on your own.
Things Aren’t What They Used To Be
In the past, authors used to visit schools and talk about being a writer. But these career-day presentations are a thing of the past. Given the need to teach to the test, teachers can’t spare the time. If you hope to get into a classroom, you must fit into their curriculum. To do this, you’ll need to get help from teachers or research their common core curriculum. That way, you can pitch your presentation as fitting into their lesson plans.
Be prepared to undergo a background check before you step on campus. You need to ask about this early on to get clearance. But once this has been done, it’s usually retained on file and easier to do for subsequent visits.
Setting Your Terms
Some visits may be informal and arranged with a phone call. But others may require travel, and you may incur up-front expenses. The more formal the visit, the greater the need and likelihood you’ll need a contract that spells how the costs are to be covered, and any cancellation clauses. Weather events can cancel school even as the author is en-route or past a refund date for air fare and accommodations. Who pays in such a case? It’s best to have a clear understanding, in writing, to cover such contingencies.
This is something you’ll probably revise as you go, but know that you’ll need to put the information on your website so teachers can see and know if you’re within their budget. You can, of course, offer some freebies to low-income schools, or package deals that offer some free visits. At the time of the 2014 talk, Jen said that a nominal amount would be $1,500 for a day at a school with 4 classroom visits and an all-school presentation.
Your website should make it easy for teachers and interested administrators to contact you. You may want to show yourself in action, but this requires planning. As you might expect, you can’t just take pictures of yourself with kids and put them up on the web. There needs to be permission slips signed off, and children without this sort of prior clearance will need to be tactfully excluded from promotional images.
Talking With Kids
Know that kids will ask all manner of direct and awkward questions, especially about money and how old you are. This can be a lot of fun, but you’ll probably be dispelling myths about how rich or famous authors are. Take it all in a spirit of fun.
Jen noted many websites, in addition to her own as an example of how you should project a professional image. Again, don’t expect your publisher, agent or anyone else to do most of the legwork required to make a successful visit.
But do check out some of the author-websites such as the following:
Here’s a list of tips from the American Library Association. The advice is aimed at parents and teachers, but it is useful for author’s too.
Here’s a link to the Children Writers and Illustrator’s web page that discusses authors visits.