Get close to an author

When I was a kid reading every book I could get my hands on, I never imagined that one day I might meet an author of those books, or that they would be interested in meeting a kid like me. And it’s probably the reason I walk around conferences completely starstruck at rooms chuck-full of writers. They look so normal! Almost like regular people! I have to remind myself that I am one of them. It would have been the thrill of my life to have met one of these people when I was a kid. I might have taken my writing career more seriously earlier on. Who knows? I could be writing my 20th book by now, and not merely (sigh!) my 8th.

PICT0027So, how do you make such a great connection for your students? A school visit. (Also called an author visit.) But don’t take my word for it: “When it comes to adding zing to classrooms and libraries, perhaps there is no power like the power possessed by bookpeople. … Though famous authors juggle many demands on their time… authors or illustrators who are just beginning their careers are often eager to connect with their readers.” — from the Introduction of Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz’s “Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers Real Space and Virtual Links” (This is the best resource for planning a great visit.)

Here’s how to plan the perfect school visit:

1) Contact an author. Many authors have their own websites, twitter, or belong to groups that organize school visits. Search for the author’s name, or SCHOOL VISIT or AUTHOR VISIT and see what comes up. You can also try publishers websites.

2) Check price. Different authors have different price points. But they all start at $500. Most are at least double that. I keep my costs low because not all schools can afford thousand-plus-dollar visits. And poorer school districts have even less of a chance of doing so. Many have said that my price puts me at risk for being under-valued, but I’ll take that risk. My prices are here.

3) Decide on the type of visit. Different visits may have varying costs. You may want a classroom visit, a full-day school visit, or a virtual visit.

4) Agree on a date and start preparing your students. The best visits happen when students have read the author’s work, are excited to meet the author and are prepared with questions or presentations of their own.

5) Raise the fee. The best idea is to try to get the most out of your school’s dollars by working with several teachers in your own school or nearby schools to spread out the cost of a visit. You can also apply for grants to get a speaker into your school. Your state’s Board of Education will have more information about this. Barring all of that, do a fundraiser like a bake sale, or even better, a book sale of the author’s books to raise the fee. Some authors will lower their costs if you buy more of their books. Just ask. (I do!)

6) Be ready for the big day with posters, ready questions, and all the author’s prerequisites (do you have their payment ready? Did you agree on lunch? gas money? a place she can set up her projector?)

7) Enjoy your visit and watch your students light up!