Before You Call to Invite an Author:
Have two lists ready: one with questions you want to ask, and another to write down the things the author will want and need to know from you. I know this sounds overly simplistic, but trust me, as an author who has done my share of school visits, you would be surprised at the number of schools who make the initial call with no idea when the school visit will be, or how much they can afford. Remember, too, an author has a schedule to check, just like the school does.
Information For Your Call:
* Date of proposed school visit
* A rough idea of what your school can afford (fee, travel, room & food)
* Number of groups/presentations you will need and ages of students in each presentation/group
* Whether you plan on inviting the media (radio, TV, newspapers)
* Where you intend for the presentations to be (auditorium, library, classrooms, etc.)
* School’s contact info
Questions to Ask on the First Call:
* Are you available on the date we have in mind?
* Author’s fee for the day
* Do you have creative ideas to help us hire you in the present economy.
* How many presentations can/will you do per day?
* What will you include in the presentations and will they differ by age group?
* Does the author allow for Q&A at the end of the presentation?
* Do you need a microphone?
* How many children per group are you comfortable speaking to?
* Do you give schools/students a discount on price of books?
* How do you arrange book sales? Book signing?
* Once arranged, ask for a contract/invoice from author to be sent
* What equipment will you need on hand, i.e., water, easel, chalkboard, chair, table
Make sure the children and teachers know there will be an author/poet coming to the school. Familiarize the students with the author and their work. Some things that work well are:
* Read a bio about the author in class
* Take students to the author’s website
* Hang a photo of the author in the classroom
* Make welcome banners and displays to help generate excitement
* Draw illustrations of author’s work, then hang in classrooms and hallways
* Read excerpts of author’s work on P.A. system each morning
* Have students each make a list of questions to ask the author
* Send a book pre-order form home with children so parents can plan book cost
* Invite parents to attend their child’s author presentation
* If school has a marquis, put school visit date and author’s name on it
* Call media to announce upcoming author school visit
* Make sure the office staff knows about the school visit so they can welcome the author
Anything the school can do to make this an exciting time for students is helpful. Most authors will work with the school, if you ask them, so keep in touch by phone and trade ideas before the school visit. One school I visited actually used the fact that I go by my initials (CJ), and held a contest with the students about what the initials really stood for. It was fun for everyone, and the winner got a free book (I donated it) and a picture taken with me for their school’s yearbook.
Another school got very creative when the school district cut their funding. To help cover the cost of an author school visit, they held a prearranged “Dinner With The Author Night”. They opened it up to the whole town by advertising in the local newspaper and radio, saying the school was holding a raffle for dinner with the author who was coming to the school. They sold raffle tickets through the students and the school office for $2.50 per ticket. The school was more than able to afford the author visit — it turned out to be one of the most profitable fundraisers the school ever had…and I had a wonderful time at dinner with the winning family.
There are all sorts of ways to overcome cutbacks in school funding in this crazy economy. Talk to the author you are thinking of hiring for your school visit. See what things have worked for them in the past and listen to any ideas they may have.
I’ve often donated a few of my books to schools so they can sell tickets for a book lottery. Then on the day of my school visit, I drew one name during each of my presentations for the winner. That worked very well and generated a lot of excitement before the school visit and during each presentation.
A few more helpful notes: during the presentations, please ask that teachers remain with their classes. Children always behave better when they are seated near their teachers. Please don’t put the author in the position of acting as a disciplinarian. They have enough to focus on and may even be dealing with a little stage fright.
In closing, if you’ve put the author up for the night in a motel, give them a quick call. Being in a strange town can be a lonely experience. You could offer to take the author out to dinner. They will probably decline, wanting some time alone to prepare for the next day, but I guarantee, the author will certainly appreciate being asked.
I hope your school visit will be a success in every way!