With my new book coming out in early spring, I’m beginning to book school visits again after a three-year lapse. In that interim I’ve learned a few practical things – beyond the fun of preparing the presentation – that I thought I’d share, and I’d like to open a “suggestion box” for everyone in this talented group to pitch in with their own ideas.
Before the visit:
- It helps to establish a fee structure that is both realistic and fair to you and the school. I’d suggest that before you book your first visit, talk to colleagues and find out how much they charge. Remember to include expenses, especially if your visit is at a distance. Most authors do Skype visits for free or a nominal fee; a lot of authors offer free or low-cost visits to local schools.
- I try not to book more than one visit a month unless they are back-to-back in the same region. Writing comes first!
When the visit is booked:
- If the visit includes fees, expense reimbursements, and an understanding of technology requirements, I find it helps to send the school a contract. SCBWI has a model contract in their resource database for members that I modified for my use.
- I send that contract, together with a packet I’ve created, to the school contact person. In the packet is the following:
- A brief cover letter that directs the contact person to my website and my free downloadable study guides and cover jpegs, and expresses my excitement about the visit.
- A complete brochure that details each of my books, with synopsis, awards, and reviews.
- A ready-made poster with the date left blank that the contact person can fill in and post.
- A swag packet of bookmarks, etc.
- I’m now following the suggestion of some colleagues to supply one copy of each of my in-print books to the school. I order the books to be drop-shipped to the school as soon as the visit is booked. This accomplishes several things: I’ve found that the school doesn’t always have copies of my books on hand; students who are interested can read ahead of the visit; I get credit for the book sales; I create good will with my contact person. I’ve found that the expense is small, and I fold the cost into my fee.
During the visit:
- I try to bring bookmarks or other swag to hand out.
- I try to have someone take a few photos (quality video is even better if possible) that I can post to my website or use for publicity.
- If a bookseller is not involved with my visit, I’ve arranged with my local indie to bring a one-page order form for my books with me. Many kids won’t buy books before the visit but will be excited afterwards, and that’s when they’ll want to order. I ask the contact person at the school to collect the order forms and checks made out to my indie (I add something for shipping) and send the forms to me. My indie orders the books, I sign them, and then I send them in bulk back to the school.
After the visit:
- I send a brief thank-you to the contact person, following up with any reimbursements and orders.
That’s what I’ve got – if you have suggestions please add!
Janet Fox is the author of a number of books for young readers. Her debut middle grade novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, launches on March 15, 2016 from Viking.