Authors – How to Have a Successful School Visit

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  2. March 4, 2012 9:19 am

By CJ Heck

I’m often asked what constitutes a good author school visit. From the school’s point of view, they want to know anything they can do to make it a success. From an author’s point of view, we have to ask pretty much same question, “What should I expect and how can I make it a success?” The answer is, be prepared before the day of the school visit.

I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve done a lot of school visits and I can write about what works for me, and what doesn’t. Maybe it will help to make your author’s school visit a success, too.

Address as Much as Possible on the Phone, When You First Set Up Your School Visit:

* Be honest and open about what you will do and how much you will charge. State your daily rate and the number of presentations you can, or will, do for that daily rate. If you are only able to do two presentations per day, for example, make that clear in your first phone conversation with the school.

Also be honest about the group size you’re comfortable with. If you LOVE speaking to a full auditorium of teachers, students and, at times, even parents, then say so. If you would rather keep the groups small, then tell them that, as well. Just keep in mind, the smaller the group, the more presentations you will have to do to include all of the school’s students and teachers.

* Be clear and up front about what you charge for traveling, room and/or board, plus any other expenses.

* Find out when you will be paid, i.e., the day of the school visit, or in the case of Title One, how long you will have to wait for the board’s approval and your check.

* Find out whether the local media (radio, TV, newspapers) will be contacted about your school visit; whether they will attend; whether time will be set aside during the day for interviews and photos. Ask the media for copies of the newspaper article after it appears and make sure they have your address.

* Create an invoice (nearly all schools require one) for services rendered. It should have the name, address and phone number of the school, the name of your contact there, all charges, and a total for your school visit. Make sure your invoice has your personal contact information — I have mine centered at the bottom in smaller print. Mail to the school, and on the day of the school visit, make sure you bring along a backup copy, just in case.

* Talk with the school to decide how book sales will be handled, i.e., when and where you will sign books, who will collect the money. You should also know whether you will be discounting the retail price of your book(s), and whether you will take preorders for books prior to the school visit.

* Tell the school what props you will need to have on hand for your author visit, i.e., easel, pointer, chalkboard & chalk, chair, stool, rocking chair, rug to sit on, microphone, podium, bottled water, tissues, etc.

* Find out where your presentations will be, i.e., auditorium (on stage), cafeteria, library, classrooms, hallway or loading dock. Again, talk to the school about the maximum number of students you would be comfortable speaking to — this is very important.

* Find out where you should park and what time you should arrive at the school to meet your contact, the office staff, take a potty break, and to set up.

* Ask for your school visit schedule as soon as they can give you one, so you can plan, i.e., how long the school has allotted for each presentation, the ages of each group so you can modify your presentation to be age-appropriate (should you need to), and to be in your assigned area in time for signing books with anything you need, i.e., pens, bookmarks, etc., Again, make sure you know when you will do this. During lunch break? After the last presentation?

* Keep accurate records (copies of everything) for the IRS: the total for the entire school visit, i.e., amount you received for the actual day, or days, of presentations, number of books sold and the dollar amount, any expenses incurred (gas, mileage, plane ticket, room, food, etc.) that were not already paid to you, or for you, by the school.

* After you get home, be sure and send a “Thank You” note to your contact at the school. You never know whether that might make the difference in them having you back another time.

If you think of any question I haven’t addressed here, please feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help in any way I can. I hope you have a great school visit!

CJ Heck is a drafted poet, writer, blogger and author of four books. For excerpts and more information, please visit: http://www.barkingspiderspoetry.com. CJ is also a Vietnam War widow.

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