Successful School Visits

Josie Leavitt -- April 14th, 2014

School visits, if done well, can be win-win situations for the school, the author and the sponsoring bookstore. Bringing authors into a school is a gift for students, and often one that stays with young people for the rest of their lives. Often, if school visits are part of an author’s tour and that author is already going to the bookstore, the visit will be free. This is a huge boon to schools. The best school visit usually require at least one school staffer, often the librarian, to help organize and cheerlead the event. Below is a list of tips to make them as successful as possible.

- If a school, even the one that is most local to the bookstore, doesn’t actually order books from the bookstore, they are not likely to get offered visiting authors. This is definitely a case of helping the school that supports the store.

- Someone at the school must actually be excited about the visiting author. If there is tentativeness on the school’s part there is the potential for a bad visit. It’s totally okay to say no. The flip side of this works for stores, too.

- In a perfect world there would plenty of time to plan and perhaps do an author study and get the kids excited about meeting the author. We all know this is not a perfect world. But even with limited notice there are ways to get kids excited for author visits by reading the first few chapters of a book to the class in advance of the visit. It doesn’t take much to get kids intrigued by authors.

- Order forms must be easy and given to the school in a timely way. We offer our standard school discount to all books purchased for an author event. All order forms must be turned back to the bookstore at least a week prior to the event. I’m always surprised at what books the kids want and it’s often not the one the author is touring in support of; it’s usually the one you never expect and the one that’s hard to get. Allowing enough time to get the books in is vital.

- Bookstores must be really organized about the book orders and how the kids want them signed. I usually let Elizabeth do this for us. She’s meticulous and her system really works. Each child’s book(s) is rung up, the receipt stapled to the form and then the book is wrapped in the form. Then the books are organized by classroom and brought to the school for the author to sign.

- Authors need to make sure their computer/flashdrive/Power Point, etc works. Nothing is more frustrating than needing a Mac and only having PC things. I know it’s more to lug around, but if you bring your laptop from home, then you’ll know everything will likely work.

- Don’t schedule every minute of the day for the author. I know it’s a case of wanting to get the most out of the visit and getting as many kids to see the author as possible, but this is hard work and authors need time to eat, go to the bathroom and just breathe. Allowing breaks during the day just makes for better presentations throughout the day.

- Last tip: thank the author with something that’s easy to carry on a plane. Puppets and dioramas (I am not making this up) are lovely, but are really hard to travel with.

 

3 thoughts on “Successful School Visits

  1. melanie hope greenberg

    I take issue with self-published authors coming into schools. They undercut the those that went the path to publishing without shortcuts by not charging the school a fee, thus setting up a dangerous precedent that undervalues traditional author-illustrators. Also, the books in a school library are trade published so the self- published presenter has no authentic experiences working with that collaborative trade team. Just because someone thinks it’s ok to foot the bills and publish themselves for free does not mean they can expect others to follow in their footsteps (eg asking just about any blog on earth and strangers to review their books for free or without an exchange).

  2. elizabeth d

    I feel the need to remind your readers that most authors CHARGE for school visits. The authors who do school visits for free are typically big names being sent around by their publishing houses, with their food/lodging/travel/expenses covered as part of their book tour. The flip side is new authors or self-published authors who also may not charge. But there’s this whole area in the middle of fantastically talented, experienced, award-winning authors (and illustrators) who rely on school visits for a considerable chunk of their income. These are the authors who perhaps don’t have big marketing budgets being spent on them, who can’t realistically pay for food/lodging/travel/expenses out of their own pockets in the hopes of decent book sales (which won’t cover those expenses). So while I LOVE to do school visits and I truly want to share my debut novel A BIRD ON WATER STREET with kids, an author’s time has value and free visits like these create unrealistic expectations and conundrums for so many of us! I’d love to hear you discuss authors who charge for visits as well, please (who are also very happy to work with indie book stores)!

  3. Hugh Brewster

    For larger presentations, ask the schools to set up chairs rather than having students sit on a hard gym floor. Kids will get restless no matter how engaging the presenter. (Even gym mats on the floor are a help.)

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