Are you and your books stuck on the school bus like bubble gum under a seat, riding around in circles? If the royalties you earn barely cover a daily cup of coffee, I have a solution that can help. I’m here to tell you how to un-stick yourself by getting into the schools as part of your marketing campaign to sell books.
What many people don’t know is that writers who are able to earn a living do so by giving presentations related to the topic of their book, or to the craft of writing. I am a children’s writer. School visits are something I have added to my marketing strategy. They’ve yielded a nice chunk of change.
The first step to getting started with school visits is to figure out what your presentation will look like. What age range are you comfortable with? (Age 5-7 = grade 1-2; age 7-11 = grade 3-6; age 11-14 = grade 7-9; age 14-16 = grade 10-11.) How many people will you talk to per session? How many sessions will you have per day, and how long will they be? What type of sessions will you have (e.g., reading with Q & A, talk, interactive workshops, or drama sessions)? Will your session cover any aspects of a school’s curriculum? Once you’ve figured these things out, you can create your presentation. If you’re lacking ideas, you can always go online and see videos of what other authors have done.
Before approaching schools or other venues, consider making a one- or two-page flyer. This visual representation of your brand allows organizers to learn who you are, see a summary of the presentations you offer for particular age groups, and know what to expect during your visit. The flyer should include your author photo with a personal message about how you enjoy school visits and what you hope to accomplish, such as getting kids excited about reading and ways to contact you to request a visit. Let them know what your technical requirements are. Do you need an overhead projector, a microphone, or something else? Of course, you want to sell books, so tell the school if you’ll bring books with you, or if they need to pre-order. And, do you charge an honorarium or travel fees? Be upfront about financial arrangements. (A note about fees: if you’re a beginner, consider relying on book sales for your earnings. When the word gets out about how awesome your presentations are, then start charging for personal appearances. Some authors charge $300 for a half-day and $500 for a full day. The best-known authors can command more than $1000 a day.)
It’s also a good idea to create a “librarian kit.” The kit includes electronic files of Jpegs of your book covers, interior illustrations, a customized price list that students can take home to parents, and PowerPoint presentations. Later, you might want to create book cover posters that you can snail mail to the school.
When you’ve created your presentation and librarian kit, you are ready to contact schools. Google searches provide lists of schools in the cities you wish to visit. Call the schools to ask how to arrange an author visit. Usually, you’ll speak with the librarian. Keep track of who you’ve contacted and the responses you’ve gotten. Spreadsheets are useful for this. With a lot of tenacity, you will schedule a visit.
Two weeks before your visit, confirm the date and time of your session, the equipment you will need, the group size, number of books needed (paperback: two for every three children; hardcover: fifteen percent of the total number of children), how books are supplied, and fees. The day before, run through everything on your own equipment. Make sure it all works and that you’re comfortable with the presentation. On the day of your visit, arrive thirty minutes early. Be nice to everyone, because it’s important to make a good impression. Be ready for anything. Stay calm even if things aren’t going perfectly. Make it enjoyable for your audience and make sure a teacher is in the room with you. After the visit, send the organizer a thank you card. If sales were especially good, you might include a Starbucks gift card.
It takes time and energy to visit schools and build your experience with them. Once you’ve done a few, you can post information about them on your Website. Include photos and reviews you’ve received. Eventually, schools will approach you. With a little effort, you can make money by getting off the bus and going into schools.