Events, The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

What’s it Like….Planning School Visits

mary tudor 007
Did someone say dressing up?

What a fool I am – I thought I was breaking ground, talking to school librarians about what they really want from a school visit. Of course I wasn’t! Still, researching this post has kept Bad Shouty brain mostly in check this week – and I’ve learned stuff!Mostly that, Nicola Morgan, Author Agony Aunt, has written several , very informative, posts on the subject. Here’s a bit of a list:

And this on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure

And in a super internetty twist one librarian responded to that last post on the list, here:

My lovely librarian interviewees, David Rose and Margaret Bone, shared a little about what they’re looking for too.

  • School librarians have to think about lesson times  – it’s difficult to take children out of their normal lessons so sticking to the school timetable helps. group sizes can vary but the ideal time period seems to be 40-60 minutes. Lessons are often between 40 and 50 minutes long so tailor your talk to that  time for Q&A and book signing.
  • Be clear about what you charge, including travel or overnight expenses. The Society of Authors recommended rates seem to be about right.
  • If books are going to be for sale, make sure the librarian knows which of your books you’ll be talking about as these are the most likely to be in demand.
  • Video clips, book trailers and dressing up all enliven an event.
  • Freebies like bookmarks go down well and prizes are fun but can get children over excited.
  • Pupils like to hear an author read from their own book.

I found it interesting to look on the SCBWI Speaker bureau too  – you can get a real feel for what people offer –  it’s wide-ranging! Candy Gourlay’s page sprang out as particularly vibrant and engaging. It’s well worth browsing through to help formulate what you think might work for you.

I also had a chat with Teri Terry . I’ve seen her in action, having sneaked into an author talk she did, and her audience really seemed to connect with her.  She also seems to be  forever on the road and she’s just setting off again to promote her new book, Mind Games .  Teri tends to do a combination of talk with readings and she loves a good Q&A. A large group tends to be less interactive but, if she feels she can keep control of it, she’ll get a larger group to vote on things by show of hands. Teri says children seem fascinated by how many times she’s been rejected, (excellent news for me.)

Teri gives guidelines on her website about her talks but will tailor them to a school’s needs, this seems to be quite common and makes a good deal of sense. Adaptability is pretty important – at one event,  the power went out just as Teri got mic’d up ready to go and the whole show had to decamp to the school foyer. She survived and the event was a success, like the Madonna and the Cape incident all over again. Only without the cape. Or the Madonna. But with the success – hoorah!

So what have I learned?

  • Plan well but be prepared to alter course if things aren’t working out.
  • Know what you’re offering – schools have limited budgets, make it worth them having you there.
  • Be clear about your charges
  • Be mutually respectful and communicative about expectations.
  • If you ever need to know anything about anything writery Nicola Morgan or Anne Rooney ( Stroppy Author) will have got it covered.

I can’t wait for this part of being an author – I hope I still feel that way after my first event!

Mind Games Cover

4 thoughts on “What’s it Like….Planning School Visits”

  1. I’ve been doing events for over 20 years and I’d never give prizes – unless they’re the kind of ‘prize’ everyone gets. Imagine they’re a kid who doesn’t have money to buy a book at the end – if it’s that kind of event – and they don’t win a prize either. Double disappointment. And, remember, you’ll be old way before they are and one day you may be hobbling across the road when one of them is at the wheel of a car and sees an opportunity for REVENGE… Forget prize. Enjoying books ain’t a competitive sport.

    1. Very true – I had an awful situation in the Gambia once, I was working with a village womens group and as I left, a crowd of children were after my empty water bottle. I thoughtlessly handed it over to the child with the loudest grabby hand and created the haves and teh have nots – jeering and tears followed. You are a wise man Mr Ardagh.

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