Key Steps to Planning a Successful Author Visit
Hosting a visiting author at your school, library or conference is an investment. With thoughtful planning and consideration of key factors, you will reap the rewards of your event for years to come. Here’s how to get started:
DREAM BIG and BUILD A TEAM
Start the planning process early. Many schools begin planning for an author visit a full year in advance. Build a team that includes as many cross sections of the curriculum as possible. In addition to the media specialist, principal, teachers, and the PTA, consider including the art teacher, learning specialists, the music teacher, school board members, the local public librarian, and community members. The possibilities for cross-curriculum planning are infinite. The goal is to have the entire community excited and invested in this event.
IDENTIFY THE SCOPE and GOALS OF THE VISIT
Your team’s first step is to identify the purpose of hosting an author and the outcomes you’d like to achieve through this investment of time, resources, and money. Some key questions to ask are:
- What are the curricular goals?
- Which genre would you like to highlight?
- What is the target age of the audience?
- What type of visit would be best: one-day visit, multiple-day residency or writing workshops?
- Where in the school can you host visits? What will the size of the groups be?
- What is the budget and how will the event be funded?
- Can you pool your resources and work with other local schools to bring an author to your area? This will greatly reduce your expenses.
Insider’s Tip: Programs work best with children seated on the floor. Many authors have programs where the room will need to be completely darkened for slide viewing.
INQUIRE ABOUT AVAILABILITY
Once you have a list of your desired outcomes and potential author and illustrator programs to achieve such goals, contact Children’s Authors’ Ally to discuss possible dates. You will want to eliminate vacation days, testing weeks and special events dates, such as school plays.
Insider’s Tip: Be flexible in your thinking. Some of the best author programs are not necessarily presented by household names. In fact, many of the most well-known children’s authors are no longer traveling to schools. What matters most is that your young authors are left inspired to read, write, and believe in themselves as bestselling authors-in-training. Trust us to match you with a terrific fit!
CONFIRM AND PLAN
Once the date for the visit is confirmed, a performance agreement will be generated. At the time of contract, the honorarium, travel arrangements, set-up needs and specific schedule requests should be clearly communicated and agreed to by both school and author. Be sure to put the event on the master calendar for the school and community. Share the news with your teachers so that they may have the opportunity to plan an author study well in advance of the visit. Schools working with Children’s Authors’ Ally can rest assured that every detail will be thoughtfully planned.
Nothing prepares students better for an author visit than being familiar with the author’s books! Read and study many of the author’s books before his/her visit. In addition, many schools have created enormous enthusiasm by creating art projects, bookmarks, bulletin boards, and original songs based on the author’s stories. For visiting poets, we suggest reading one of his/her poems per day during the morning announcements. As the adage states, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
In an effort to help schools familiarize students with the author’s books, we offer sets of the author’s books on loan about one month prior to the visit.
- Make a welcome sign
- Create a bulletin board about the author visit and use a publicity photograph from the author and illustrator program page.
- Showcase the author’s books in every possible classroom
- Post a notice in the PTA newspaper
- Publicize the event at Back To School Night
- Hold a raffle for an autographed book or host a writing contest for lunch with the author
- Invite parents to attend the presentation or help coordinate the visit
- Send a press release and invite the local newspaper (with the author’s permission)
- Invite a student journalist to interview the author before school or during lunch
OFFER AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS FOR SALE
With the substantial decline in bookstores, authors have had to increasingly rely on school visits to market their books. This is what allows many to keep writing and illustrating the wonderful books we treasure. The joy students (and teachers) feel upon receiving a personally autographed book is immeasurable. Children’s Authors’ Ally can show you how to facilitate a book sale seamlessly (See our services).
Insider’s Tip: We are aware that not all students are able to purchase a book. In order to ensure that no student leaves empty-handed, most authors have prepared bookmarks, or handouts with his or her autograph. These can be copied in advance for distribution on the day of the visit.
PAY ATTENTION TO LAST MINUTE DETAILS FOR ENSURED SUCCESS
- Communicate to let the author know what you’ve done to prepare and if you have a particular area of focus
- Ask students to bring prepared questions to the presentation
- For younger students: review the difference between a question and comment
- Make sure all needed equipment is in working order
- Ask the technology point person in your school to be present during the author’s set- up
- Confirm the room is reserved
- Have the author’s honorarium payment ready and any forms that need to be completed, such as a W-9
- Distribute the book order form (in paper form) to students one month prior and two weeks prior to the visit.
- Communicate the final schedule for the author visit and send to Children’s Authors’ Ally at least three weeks prior to the event
- Communicate final book orders
- Children’s Authors’ Ally will guide your organization with how to best prepare the books for easy autographing
- Set aside books owned by the library for the author to autograph
- Ensure all Arts in Education forms are completed
BE A GRACIOUS HOST
The author has likely traveled a distance to visit your school and is excited to come! Don’t overlook kind gestures such as offering coffee in the morning and water throughout the day, showing the author to the restroom, and allowing for a few quiet moments to collect his/her thoughts between programs. The adults in the school set the tone of respect. Kindly ask that adults in the audience model active listening and require the same of their students. Lunch preferences vary per author, and therefore, Children’s Authors’ Ally will communicate with you regarding the format of the gathering and dietary preferences. If the author is staying in a hotel, provide suggestions for local eateries and things to do. Please do not assume an author will be able to dine with a school group in the evening. Authors often have homework assignments. They just call them deadlines!
DO AN AFTER-THE-VISIT ASSESSMENT
- Gather feedback from students and teachers
- If you’d like to send thank you notes and projects, Children’s Authors’ Ally will happily forward them for you.
- Assess whether your goals were achieved and start planning for next year!