You’ve finally written that book that’s been pulling at your heart and mind. You hit publish and beam because all of your dreams have finally come true: you’re a published author.
And then, you wait. And wait. And wait.
Now what? How do I get my book into the hands of kids? Isn’t it enough that it’s available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble? What am I doing wrong?
If you relate to any of that, then welcome to being an author! Living “the dream” of being a published author is actually the same as starting an author business and learning how to get your book selling. Whether you wrote to share your message, to make an income, or to achieve a bucket list experience, your books need to sell in order to return your investment and get into the hearts and minds of kids with your stories.
One of the major ways that children’s book authors can further our impact is through author visits, often in the context of a school, library, or retail store event.
“But Marcy,” you might say, “I’m an introvert. I don’t do people. I do writing.”
Me too, friend, me too.
But you know what I’ve learned? On average, every book sold equals 8 lives impacted. If I want to change even a piece of the world, I need to sell my book and engage real-life humans, especially the “little” ones for whom we have such an opportunity and responsibility to steward and influence.
Do you know what I’ve found? School and author visits end up being so much fun. For reals. You might end up loving it.
So, in this article, we’re going to focus on the author visit, live and virtual, in order to position you to influence the world around you and have a blast at the same time. We’ll cover the why it matters, the differences between a virtual and live visit, how to reach out to get the author event gig, how to best prepare yourself for the event, what to do at the event, and how to maximize your time, energy, impact.
Here’s what we’ll cover about how to book author visits & speak at schools:
- Why should you speak at schools?
- What is an author visit?
- How to do virtual author visits
- How to book school speaking gigs
- Outreach for author visits
- What to charge for school speaking
- How to prepare for author visits
- What to do at a school speaking gig
Why Author Visits & Speaking At Schools?
Children’s book sales are event-driven. Yeah, they’ll sell online, but the best way to get noticed as a new (or seasoned) author is to become the book or author that parents, educators, and counselors recommend. And how do you become that author?
By showing up.
When you show up at a live event and get to meet your future fans face to face, you form a connection. This is true for humanity overall, right? Being together can create a kind of trust, a bond, and loyalty, This is especially true for parents who see someone genuinely love their kids and make them happy. Think of a time you went to a concert or heard a new-to-you speaker. If you had seen an ad on Facebook, you probably would have skipped right over buying their music or message. But after the concert or presentation, after your experience with the person, it’s quite possible you bought their book or music as a new fan. Why? Because you made a personal connection with that person.
This is how children’s books sell best: through human connection.
Author visits give us the chance to engage the very kiddos we’ve been hoping to reach. It gives their adults a chance to see that we are real people with a real passion for kids. And, it brings awareness to who we are and what we do in a sea full of authors and books. We become the name those families talk about and recommend to their friends and family as a result.
Not only that but books you sell at a live event bring you the most profit! No one is taking their cut or commission for helping you sell it. It’s just you and your profit after the cost of printing. Not only can you impact kids and their communities through author visits, but you make more money doing it. It’s basically a lot of winning when we show up for author events.
What is an Author Visit?
An author visit is an opportunity for you to meet your fans, sell your book, spread your message, and add value to your host! Your host for the author visit might be a school, a library, a retail store, a podcast, a conference—anywhere you get to show up live and interact with readers.
Sometimes an author visit includes a presentation, as in a school visit. Sometimes it’s simply you at a table signing books. Other times it’s your face or voice on a screen responding to interview questions.
Whatever the format, your job is to bring your best self and do what you can to support the missoin of your host.
If a podcast has invited you to speak, do research into their target audience. Then cater your answers and free gift, if you offer one, to support the goals of the podcast. If it’s a parenting podcast meant to encourage and equip parents, then massage your message to do just that! The more value you bring to an interview or visit (versus making your time a big sale’s pitch), the more they will love and recommend you.
“Okay, Marcy, I’m convinced. But here’s the thing… sometimes the world shuts down and won’t let us leave our houses. How am I supposed to do an author event then, huh?”
Excellent question, fellow author! I get asked this a ton.
How to Run a Virtual Author Visit in the Midst of COVID-19
The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 changed how we do author visits. Some of those changes were challenging, and others of the changes were riddled with opportunity. Schools closed down and turned to online learning for indefinite periods of time, sometimes doing a hybrid of both. That left authors scrambling to figure out how to support the schools, students, educators, and families we lov.
While teachers were frantically figuring out how to teach from home during a pandemic, and kids were figuring out how to learn from home in a pandemic, we were left in shock to watch and wait, surrounded by our mounds of toilet paper.
What we learned is that schools, families, and students needed us more than ever, just not live in the auditorium as we’d done in the past. They needed us to show up live on their Google Classroom or Zoom. We all began to find our footing in a turbulent world, and we found that we needed eachother more than ever. We needed messages of hope, resilience, overcoming, peace, and unity. We needed silliness and laughter. We needed human interaction, even if much of it was virtual.
The kidlit community of authors took to our channels and began reading our books online to give parents and teachers a reprieve or something to do together. It was amazing. We’ve always been tightknit and quick to support one another and a global pandemic only made us shine all the more brightly.
Now we get to shine live and virtually! Running a virtual author visit is essentially the same as a live author visit. The primary difference is where and how the visit happens.
The Benefits and Downsides of Virtual Visits
- You don’t have to leave your home
- You only have to dress professionally from the waist up :p
- Saves time and money from commuting to the event
- Can do international or long distance visits without taking more time or money
- Kids who might be more shy in a live tend to interact more with virtual visits
- Technology can be glitchy and unreliable
- Can’t guage the body language and engagement of the kids as well
- Onscreen is great; but there’s nothing like a real human in the room with you
- Have to ship books to the event or individuals instead of bringing them
- No in person book signing or photo opps
Just like with anything, there are pluses and minuses to doing a virtual visit. However, all things aside, they end up being easy, less expensive, and still provide a great service to the classroom or event. They’re worth it!
How Do I Get an Author Visit?
First, be a published children’s book author! You can check out our Children’s Book School if you’re serious about doing this well. Ultimately, this is a major needle-mover in getting a gig speaking at schools.
Before reaching out to set up an author visit, make sure to put together an Author Visit Packet. This will keep you organized and set you and your event up for the best success. Setting good expectations and standards for communication with your event coordinator will lead to a smooth event for all.
My Author Visit Packet includes:
- A Timeline and Checklist to keep me organized
- An Agreement / Contract between the host and myself
- An invoice for the cost of my time/service
- A Book Order form to be sent to families ahad of the visit
- An Evaluation form to help me grow and to use for testimonials
- A flier the event can use to promote my visit
- An About the Author page with photo
- A Testimonial or a few
- Book Ordering Information (to go with the order form)
We’d love to share a sample of our template with you! If you’d like a sample of the Author School Visit we use and recommend, click here!
Once you have your Author Visit Packet put together, it’s time to reach out!
Outreach for Speaking at Schools
You can reach out to a school, library, or store via emai, phone, or in person. But before you do, do research into the school, the library, or the store and their particular mission, purpose, or goal for their clientele or students.
Do they have a particular focus?
- For school visit, look into the school’s theme for the year. Do they have a slogan? A mascot? What are the teachers currently working on in the classrooms? Do your best to cater your message or event to reinforce the efforts of the school.
- For a library visit, look into their themes or goals for visitors. Do they have a theme? A particular message they’re promoting? What can you do to reinforce the purpose of the library with your visit?
- For a bookstore, look into the goals of the particular store. Do they love promoting local talent? Do they host regular children’s events? Your visit helps promote their business and gives them an opportunity to host a community event. Do your part to invite your own circles of influence to support their store, and they’ll do theirs to bring new customers to you.
Once you’ve done your research, reach out! Offer them your Author Visit Packet to get a feel for your high quality and professionalism around visits. Offer to perosnalize it for your mutual event.
What to Charge for an Author Visit
While we’re talking about Author Visits, let’s talk about payment. Should you charge for your events? YES!
You are using your time and expertise to put on an amazing event. You are worth being paid for your time. This is one way that authors make a livable income—book sales and events.
Don’t undersell yourself or other authors. When you do free events, you set a precedence that all authors will do free events. This is not what we want! We want the expectation to be that authors will be paid for their time.
I love how author Caroline Starr Rose describes why we charge on her website:
“When a school pays for an author visit, they are investing in the years of knowledge and skill she’s amassed. Not only does a school compensate the author for the work she does that day, but all the preparation that went into the presentations beforehand, the time spent traveling to and from the school, and the author’s time away from her writing desk. An author visit isn’t just an event, it’s an experience, one that takes time and preparation to get it just right.”
- School and Library Viritual Visit fees run from $125/session (often 30-45 minutes) on up (excluding travel costs).
- School and Library Live Visit fees run from $300/assembly (often 30-60 minutes) on up (excluding travel costs). (For example, I charge $500/assembly and recently saw another author who charges $875).
Some authors choose to do a free or event or two when they’re getting started to gain experience and testimonials. Don’t stay there! Start to charge in support of your own business and authors everywhere. There’s funding available for author visits!
How to Prepare for a School Speaking Gig
This is where your research and planning come in handy. Pull out your Author Visit Packet and follow your checklist.
My pre-visit checklist includes things like:
- Make sure the agreement (complete with technology or equipment I’ll need) is filled in
- Get signed agreement from event coordinator
- Get payment from the event coordinator
- Get order forms from the school
- Plan my presentation
- Get planned schedule of events for the visit
- Order books to bring for order fulfillment and day-of sales
I also gather my packing list for the day. Some of the things I always make sure to bring are tape, cash change, a signing pen, a camera, coloring pages, my credit card reader, my business card, any related decor, a bottle of water, an easy, healthy snack, and even a friend to help take money while I sign books and smile for pictures.
What Do I Do at an Author Visit?
This is where your own creativity can come out and play. Infuse the values and themes you’ve learned about this event location into whatever you choose to do. I often read one or two of my books (Having slides of the pages as I read makes it easier for the kids to see).
I have some discussion questions to follow up the stories, related to whatever theme I’ve chosen (eg. bullying, friendship, being “just right,” etc.). I usually have a short “fun facts” time where I share about the revision process, the illustration process, or putting a book together.
And then I love some Q&A with kids. You never know what they’ll ask or say.
Once, while reading my book Weirdo and Willy to a group of 300+ kids, a girl shouted out, “Eww, this book is going to make me barf!” While most books wouldn’t find that high-praise, it was exactly right for what I’d just been reading! It showed her engagement with the story and an understanding of why Willy was so weird, yet we learn that weird is the new cool. I love kids!
Some authors only read their books, some bring activities, songs, or videos for kids to engage in. Whatever you choose to do, always make sure that it’s aligned with who you are and reinforces the needs of your event. That way everyone wins!
But most importantly, have fun!
If you’re not having fun, then you’re event probably won’t be memorable, recommendable, or fun for anyone else. Don’t overthink it; just come be the “famous” author they’ve all been waiting for and shine!
Are You Ready for Your Author Visit? Get Started Today!
You’ve got everything you need to get started! We’ve given you what you need to plan an author visit, live or virtual, in order to have the most reach and impact possible. Now you know why author visits matter, how to set one up, how to prepare, what to charge, what to do at the event, and how to have fun! You’ve also got a head start with a sample of our Author Visit packet.
If you’re looking to publish a children’s picture book, we’d love to help. We have a whole community of authors, just like you, investing in their stories to get them into the hands of kids. We can change the world through our children by bringing them good stories!
We can help you get your book in the hands of kids asap – but only if you take action now.