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Planning An Author Visit – Before you begin!

Author visits are one of my absolute favourite things to do. Yes, they can be a little nerve-wracking beforehand. Yes, they do take a bit of effort to get right.

But they are also lots of fun and a brilliant way to promote yourself and your books. Not to mention, there really is nothing better than seeing the genuine joy and excitement on the children’s faces.

So, how do you organise an author visit?

I’ve done many author visits now, and, like many things, the success is in the planning.

First and foremost, it’s very important to know what you are offering schools before you book any visits in - and the best place to start is with some research. Firstly, I’d see what other authors are offering. Facebook groups are great for this – for example, Create Engaging School Visits or Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling. Have a search through the newsfeed, engage and ask questions there – you’ll get lots of ideas.

There are a few things you should consider at this point, including distance (how far are you willing to travel?), age groups you’d like to work with, types of session (e.g. assembly, workshop, book signing), fees, what activities you’ll run and so on. So, let’s take a look at them in more detail.

What year groups/ages would you like to work with? You should also consider adapting your sessions for different age groups. Perhaps you could do a shorter, more image-based interactive work with younger children, and have older children rewrite the ending or write a short sequel. It’s up to you, but looking at this will help you generate ideas for your sessions, which will be very helpful when you start planning activities. I adapt my sessions, so I can deliver sessions to children from pre-school age up to year 6.

How far are you willing to travel? I prefer to stay within 30 minutes of home because I have young children I drop off and collect from school. I tend to drive, but you will want to consider how you’ll get there and back - and factor in the time and cost. If you’re travelling further afield, you might want to include your travel/accommodation costs in your invoice – but you’ll need to be upfront about this with the school at the time of booking.

If you’ve decided on age groups, now you need to look at what sort of sessions you might like to offer. You may already have a preference OR you could provide options that schools can choose from. For example, assembly-style presentations, class-sized interactive sessions, or workshops with smaller groups of children. You’ll need to consider how many children will be in each session because, for example, workshops tend to work better in smaller, class-sized groups.

How long these sessions will be may also vary, and you might want to have some shorter and longer options up your sleeve to suit. I’ve had schools schedule 30 min sessions or 60 min sessions – so I just add/remove elements accordingly.

This next one can be a little awkward…

How much will you charge? I’m of the mind that all authors should charge for their visits. I know some authors offer visits for free BUT just like everyone else, we authors have bills to pay too. Remember that every school visit requires several hours of preparation, as well as the time on the day – and you must value your time, experience, and unique offering, don’t undervalue your time.

According to The Society of Authors, group members reported a wide range of fees (excluding travel and expenses) from £350 to £1,000 per day (for authors in high demand). Half-day rates ranged from £150 to £800. Single session fees were quoted at £150 to £250 plus travel for a single session (not exceeding an hour) when the author or illustrator is visiting a local school/library or carrying out a number of separate visits in the same area. Average rates were around £400-500 for a day, £300 for a half-day.

I’m upfront with my fees – they’re on my website, so if I get an enquiry, I just send everyone there. Not everyone’s budget can stretch to it, BUT I can’t afford to offer my time for less.

Once you know what sort of sessions you’re offering, you might already have some ideas for activities. You could use games, songs, quizzes, and writing activities to engage your group, as well as reading your books to them. Anything that gets the children interested, engaged and interacting will be wonderful for them and so rewarding for you.

These activities might need resources, for example, colouring pages, stickers, activity sheets or bookmarks. If they are going to need these, will you be providing them? This will be a cost to you, and you should consider that when pricing your visits.

Now, ultimately, while these sessions are great for the children and the school, they are also a great advertising platform and a great place to sell some books. You should think about how you can facilitate these book sales. Perhaps an after-school bookshop/signing. Or you could ask for pre-orders ahead of the visit. Will you use order forms or an online shop? How will you take payment?

I take pre-orders directly from parents via my website. I provide the school with a parent communication, including the website link and a discount code that enables free shipping – and also helps me identify which school they’re ordering for. I also like to do an after-school book signing session, where I have extra copies for sale, and I take payment through a card reader.

Most schools have a school library, so I love to donate a few copies of my books to them. It’s great to give all the children an opportunity to read them.

Making your visits unique

Try making your sessions a bit different to other author visits. Make it fun. Make it authentic – be yourself! Perhaps include pictures, videos, props, music, dressing up, or games. The more the children enjoy the visit, the more they will be inspired, the more they will remember you, and if you’re a hit with the children, there’s a good chance they might invite you back!

Whew! That was a lot to consider…

But getting these things straight before you start offering visits will help everything run more smoothly. This list is something I go through every time I’m planning a new author visit.

Keep an eye out for what I do once I’ve planned my author visit offerings.

Are you already doing author visits? If not, what do you think you will offer?

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