A Few Tips about School Visits
Like most parents, I have volunteered at the school to help with book fairs, teacher appreciations, band boosters, and fundraisers. I started writing when our sons were in elementary school. I had visions of volunteering at the book fair one day where my book would be sitting on the Scholastic cart. As you can guess, the publishing industry rarely coincides with an author’s big dreams.
The reality is I finally have several children’s books out, but both boys are too old to read them. Our youngest is a high school senior this year, and I continue to volunteer as a parent at the local schools, but work in a slightly different capacity. I’ve changed my focus to writing and reading. This year I’m offering a free power point workshop on writing to the schools in our district. Even more fun, is the added bonus of having the star of one of my books, a rescue horse named Flash and his trainer, participate in some of the events as well.
We’ve got six programs under our belt now. Here are a few things to consider about book promotion on a local level.
- Reach out.
Clubs, organizations, and schools are desperate for programs by authors. With fees in the $1000 and up range for most nationally known bestselling authors, school budgets can only afford these type speakers every three to five years.
Reach out to everyone you know and find contact addresses online. Does your local library have events that you can participate in? Send school and public librarians a postcard or flyer and make it easy for them to contact you. Be flexible and work with their schedule. Herding 700 kids in and out of the library takes some skills, but it is doable. I try to make myself available on a one-to-one basis as well. Be friendly and approachable for teachers and kids. At the end of the day, you’ll be exhausted and inspired.
- Shine and Sparkle
Kick some booty on the very first gig. Wow them and give them more than they expected. Develop a powerful, informative presentation that enhances the school curriculum. Word will spread.
- Be Open to Criticism.
I have tweaked my program several times based on feedback from librarians, teachers and principals. I always ask the librarians three main questions at every school visit, “What are your kids reading? Did I connect with your kids? How can this be better?”
I learn something from the students as well. In the first part of my program, we go through a series of slides about everything that writers write. According to a very attentive third grader, guess what I had left out; graphic novels. These are hugely popular with kids today. Based on questions, I also added pics of my workspace and of my co-worker, Kitty, our cat.
- Kids Are Visual
Use lots of pictures of young people in your power point. Kids today are very visual. Everything is photos, movies, video games, YouTube, and pics of their friends on snapchat. Your presentation must have relatable pictures. There is not one image of any adults in my 30-minute presentation.
- Kids love FREE things
Send a bookmark home which includes your book covers, website, Instagram tag and ordering information. Include the name of your local book store that carries your books. They may not purchase a book on the day of your author visit, but believe me, kids will remember you. They will point you out to a parent at the grocery store. Have books in your car.
What’s popular with the kids in our school district, you might be wondering? Interestingly, every elementary school has been different. Graphic novels, particularly ones about real historical events, wouldn’t stay on the shelf. The school last week loves horror and scary stories, so the GooseBumps series is always checked out. The school this week is reading mostly Big Foot and alien stories, even the girls. Who knew, right? Harry Potter holds no interest for this upcoming group of elementary aged readers. And girls have turned their backs on typical “girlie” type stories like the Barbie series which used to be very popular.
The interesting point that I have learned is that kids talk about their favorite books, just like adults do, and you’ll see those patterns from the books they check out. Two friends will read a book, and they tell their friends, and they tell others, and so on. BUZZ and word of mouth still works.
Start locally. With a little effort, you can make your book the BUZZ of the schools in your area.
Natalie Bright is the author of the nonfiction Rescue Animal series, easy readers featuring two rescue horses, Flash and Taz. Her Trouble in Texas series is a wild west adventure for middle grades set in the Texas frontier. She also writes women’s fiction. To see pictures of author events, go to Instagram.com @natsgrams Nataliebright.com