Bookweek is coming up and I’m starting to prepare to visit schools and libraries around the state. This made me think about visits I’ve done in the past (I’ve done hundreds) and what did and didn’t go well. So, I thought I might write a couple of posts offering some quick tips for teachers/ and librarians (today) and authors and illustrators (tomorrow) to make visits run smoothly.
So, here goes: ten ways to prepare for and run a successful author visit:
1. Book your author/illustrator well in advance. Bookweek, in particular, is a very busy time of the year, and organised schools/libraries will have booked at the start of the year, or even before. I already have a booking for Bookweek 2017, yet had a request for a 2016 visit just last week (needless to say I had to say no).
2. Research your presenter. Know what they write and who it is aimed at. Don’t book a YA Author for your kindergarten audience. Also see if you can find feedback on their previous visits. You want to know that your presenter is competent.
3. Be prepared to pay. Most Australian authors/illustrators will charge ASA Rates, which you can find here. They are not cheap, but the cost covers both the presentation time and the preparation time, as well as the years of experience your presenter has.
4. Discuss the visit with the presenter. Is there a specific topic you’d like covered? I’ve had over 40 books published, so can tailor my presentations to all kinds of age groups and topics, but this will be more successful if I know in advance. Also find out if the presenter has any requirements – audiovisual equipment, an easel or whiteboard, chocolate (this is always a good thing).
5. Arrange your audience well in advance. If you are a local library, advertise to local schools well ahead of time. It takes a lot of planning at the school end to organise an excursion. If you are a school librarian, again, make sure that class teachers know about the incursion well in advance of it happening.
6. Promote promote promote. Once you’ve worked out who your audience will be, promote the visit to them. Make a display about the author, including their books. Talk up the visit – show the children you are excited, and encourage them to be excited too.
7. Check if you have the author’s books in your library. I have visited lots of schools where my books aren’t in the library, or where the one I have come to talk about is the only one not in the collection. When kids hear about a book, they want to borrow it.
8. Encourage (insist if you can) class teachers to be present for the author visit. Lots of school visits are scheduled so that the students see the visiting author during library time, while the class teacher is on other duties. The risk is that there is no follow up discussion or benefit from the visit. The best visits I have are those where the teachers have talked with the students beforehand about the purpose of the visit, and often result in kids going back to class to write or read or otherwise build on what they’ve heard from me.
9. Set up a suitable space for the visit before the author arrives. If you only have the author for an hour, avoid using a large chunk of that time to get chairs in place, or a projector set up. It’s always great to have a glass of water for the author and tea/coffee/lunch available if they are there for the day.
10. After the visit, chat with your fellow staff, the author and the students about how it went. Get feedback so you know what did/didn’t work. And, start planning for next Bookweek.
If you are a teacher or librarian and think I’ve missed anything important here, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment. Tomorrow, I’ll have ten tips for authors.