Let's just jump right in to our topic today: How does one generate or increase appearance requests? In response to the question of how he got folks to vote for him, the late Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill said something to the effect of "Well, first, I ask."
ASKING works at several levels. For first-time authors new to appearances asking means reaching out to personal contacts and the local community, and offering presentations to develop credibility and refine presentations. Think beyond your home area by considering all travel (will you be near your old high school or college, visiting a teacher-friend out-of-state, etc.?) an opportunity for book promotion. As your experience increases, ASKING can involve applying to speak at conferences and events. Again, target venues based on your platform and seek out opportunities for places where you will drive interest & book sales. Is affordability an issue for some of the schools interested in booking you? Here's a link to a great tip from Alexis O'Neill courtesy of Tina Nichols Coury's amazing blog.
Asking also means updating your web presence so that visitors to your sites are aware of your travel plans. Be sure to include an easy, one-click link to your calendar of upcoming appearances so that folks in places you'll be visiting are more inclined to try to reach you. For the tech savvy, holding contests for signed books, Skype visits, and other online promotions can raise awareness of your appearance availability.
SETTING OPTIMAL PARAMETERS may be more important than you realize in terms of establishing a positive relationship with potential hosts and making sure that all expectations are met. Key parameters are:
-PRICE. In setting your honorarium, consider your level of experience, publishing credits, geographic region and target audience(s). Factor in the hazards of value pricing--the less folks pay, the more they want :) Be consistent and describe WHAT hosts will get for your price. The majority of authors with whom I work, quote an honorarium in terms along the lines of $X per day for UP TO THREE (or four) one-hour presentations.
-AUDIENCE(s) I've made mention of this before but will say it again because I think it's useful. You may be an experienced writing instructor, a former grade school teacher, and/or just be very comfortable speaking to kids of all ages, BUT if you have not published a book for a particular age/grade group you should not offer to speak to this level because you are not the ideal author/illustrator for this host AND they are not going to buy quantities of your book. Similarly, given the amount of time it takes to prepare for an appearance, be honest about what type of presentations you are willing to do and avoid the "specially-designed" offer as so many times hosts aren't really sure what they want and this type of vaguary can result in mutual disappointment.
-AVAILABILITY. It's fine to do appearances only at certain times of year, days of week, geographical areas. Limiting options can actually encourage bookings as it takes some pressure off inexperienced hosts in terms of defining what it is they want you to do. One author with whom I work strongly encourages midweek school visits (no Mondays or Fridays) for optimal energy from student audiences.
Setting parameters also helps you clarify the type of school and library appearances you truly want to do. This can contribute greatly to another critical objective: BALANCING promotion, commitments, and writing goals.
From asking, we move on to ways to make yourself accessible to potential school and library hosts--that'll be Friday's post.