Friday, April 23, 2010

An Interview with Kim Norman of Author Visits by State

Another hectic week.  Hoping things will calm down soon and I can finish editing my SCBWI Conference notes for posting here.  But, by way of apology, here is something I know you'll find useful.  I recently discovered author-illustrator Kim Norman's blog, Author Visits By State, and was delighted by the practical, straightforward organization as well as the entertaining and useful content of such postings as her 12/6/09 answer to the question, "Why do authors charge fees for school presentations?" So, I just had to get in touch with Kim and learn more.

SWK: When did you start your AUTHORS VISITS BY STATE blog, and what inspired you to do so?

KIM NORMAN: I kept hearing from educators at the schools I visited who said they wished there were some sort of quick resource for perusing a list of authors. If it were based on the author's region, that would be helpful information, too. I looked around and didn't find anyone else doing it exactly that way, (authors who specifically visit schools, listed by region or state), so I decided to compile my own list. I started the list by seeding it with about 40 or 50 authors with whom I am acquainted, and emailed a few others asking their permission to add them. Then it just sort of took off on its own. It seemed to go viral in the writing community for the first few months; I could hardly keep up with all the requests! I'm now approaching 700 links on the site.

SWK: What is the most typical way that authors or illustrators find you?

KIM: I think there are a variety of ways they find me. For the first couple hundred links, I asked folks to link back to the Author Visits blog, which quickly built its Google rankings, since the more links that lead to a site, the higher it ranks. (That's just ONE way that Google ranks sites, of course.) I didn't demand a reciprocal link; but did ask for one if it was possible.

SWK: What is the most typical way that educators and librarians find your blog? And do you publicize your site for educators in any way?

KIM: Hard to say. Sometimes it's from a "tweet;" sometimes from a link they've found on a state reading association site; often from those links I asked listed authors to add to their own sites. 

SWK: Have you received any interesting feedback about the author visit experience from teachers or librarians via your blog?

KIM: Not directly to the blog. After my own school visits, I always send a feedback form along with a thank you note for both the coordinator of the visit and for the students, (which I assume is often shared with the students during morning announcements. Educators seem to appreciate a teaching opportunity about thank you notes.) My feedback form asks the recipient of I can use their comments on promotional items, such as my website and brochures, and most people are fine with that.

SWK: What do you think is the most important thing an author or illustrator can do to develop the school and library appearance aspect of his or her promotional platform? 

KIM: I still believe the strongest promotion is word-of-mouth. So I think it's important for authors to apply to do presentations at educator conferences. Sometimes it can take a couple of years for someone to hire you after they've seen you at a conference, but they do seem to hang onto those brochures for a long time; they also share them with their colleagues. Another idea is for authors to promote each OTHER. I have occasionally swapped brochures with other authors, offering them to visit coordinators after my visit as someone they might want to consider for the following year. My friends do the same for me. 

SWK: I think it is amazing that you provide this listing service free of charge to members of the children's book writing community. Can you share a few thoughts on how this project has impacted you as a writer and as a member of this community? 

KIM: It has been fun receiving emails from authors & illustrators whom I revere, asking me to add them to my site. Also, I've gotten a bit of a reputation (deserved or not!) for knowing a lot about the school visit "biz." For instance, my agent directed one of her colleagues--an agent who has written some books of her own--to email me for advice about pricing her own visits...Regardless of my reputation as an "expert," I continue to evolve as a presenter myself. I'm always striving to add educational value to my presentations. I hope this makes me more attractive as a presenter, since educators can show administrators that I offer information students can apply to their own writing and testing skills. At the same time, I strive to make sure that my presentations are as entertaining as they are educational. A presentation that's chockfull of information is of no value if students sleep through it!

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