Author school visits are a fantastic way to promote your children’s or YA book. They can do a lot to build your profile and sell books. But what do you actually do? How to you make it work? We’ve put together some tips to help you create an entertaining and effective author school visit.
How do I start organising author school visits?
The key to success with author school visits is good planning. This sounds basic but think about what, when, where, how and who.
- What will you talk about in your book? What if anything will you give away (everyone loves free merchandise)?
- When does it work in your schedule to do these visits?
- Where will you go? What schools are within reach of your home?
- Who will you talk to? What age group is best suited? And who is the contact person at the schools?
- How will you best leverage the visit to promote your author brand?
Where can I do my author school visits?
The key here is research. Start with a map and look at how far out you want to take your visits. Think about your audience and start creating lists of possible venues that match that age group.
For the first few, it can help to visit schools or preschools where you have a personal connection. We have visited the preschools and primary schools where our kids attend. They were very excited to host the dad of one of their students.
Who is the best contact to organise my author school visits?
This will vary depending on each school and their structure. If you have a contact at the school, start there, as they will link you up with the best contact.
Some larger schools will have a Reading and Learning Coordinator. Others will work through the librarian and still others will work through the principal.
Again, the key here is research. Look on the school website, talk to the people you know. You can even call the school and ask the office. Just make sure not to call at break time when they’ll be very busy.
What do I do at an author school visit?
A successful author school visit will go beyond a reading of your book. Think about some of the ways that you can engage your audience and get them invested in you and your stories.
Some of the options for topics to discuss or activities to run include:
- A day in the life of an author. Most children have no idea of what your day to day life will be like. Share photos, stories and talk them through some of what you do.
- Similarly, talk through the process to create a book.
- Talk through the process to create an illustration. Artists will often share stage by stage photos, videos or live draw.
- Create an activity around the subject area of your book. This is great for books with a message.
- Share your journey to becoming an author, kids love to see pictures of you as a kid and the progress to get to where you are today.
- Create a new character. Run through the process to think up a character and then get the kids to create one with you together in the presentation. You could even link this to a competition that runs after your visit where you judge the best character.
How will I sell my books at my author school visit?
Selling books is an important component of these author school visits for most authors. Think about the kids and the parents. Your goal is to make it as easy and as appealing as possible to order several of your books.
Create an order form that shows your books, a little bit about you and has all the prices. This should be in PDF format so it can be easily printed at the school or attached to an email to be sent out to the parents.
Pre-orders will be easiest for you to manage. To encourage these, you could offer a discounted price for books ordered before the visit. Remember to factor in time and costs to pack up the books to deliver to the kids in their classes.
I recommend having an option to pay by credit card or bank transfer. Most parents now do not want to have the hassle of sending cash in with their kids to school. Depending on your technical capabilities, you could even create an order form on your website.
It is likely you will pick up some extra orders after your visit. Create a printable activity for the groups such as a colouring page. This can include order details or be attached to your order form and sent home with the kids on the day.
What type of merchandise can I use at author school visits?
Everyone loves a freebie. Kids are no exception. Planning merchandise is really fun but it is also very easy to overspend and blow your budget. Merchandise is always cheaper with a long lead time and large quantities, so plan early. Merchandise usually requires a deep etched (cut out) image. This is a service we offer, so get in touch if it’s something you need.
Some great and low cost items to give out include:
- Colouring or activity sheets
- Colouring stickers featuring your characters
- Pens or pencils
Should you charge for an author school visit?
Many schools do have a budget to cover author school visits and are happy to pay a fee to authors who prepare a presentation. Whether you charge or not, depends on your goals for your visits. Some options to consider:
- Don’t charge, if you want to reach as many children as possible with your message.
- Do charge, if you want the visits to provide a second income stream.
- Offer a sliding scale of prices based on book sale numbers, if your primary goal is to sell books.
- Offer the first few visits for free, so you can practice and fine tune your presentation.
- Consider your costs to do the visit. Even if you don’t charge a fee, you may wish to ask for reimbursement of travel expenses if the school is a long way away.
Where to Next?
Have you started running author visits? Let us know if you have any top tips to add to our selection. This is just one of our indie author guides, designed to help you at every stage in your indie author career. To keep up to date, do join our author newsletter or keep in touch on our social channels. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.