Monday, May 17, 2010

THE BUSINESS OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS: What makes a high-quality school visit?

After an exciting couple of weeks (thanks for all the comments, emails, and FB congrats!), it's back-to-business here at the blog. The dust is finally settling a bit (metaphorically, I mean--it's still pretty thick on the furniture around my house).  I am trying to reflect on this experience and look forward to sharing the many wonderful bits of advice writing colleagues have sent along.

Meanwhile, before the insanity began, I was excerpting portions of my SCBWI presentation on Making School & Library Appearances as Part of Your Book Promotion Platform. Today, I'll get back to this with a discussion of QUALITY.

There are several levels at which the author/illustrator can create a high-quality appearance.

1. The initial contact and dialogue with the host
2. The appearance confirmation and preparatory correspondence
3. The presentation itself
4. Post-presentation follow-up

Today will focus on the INITIAL CONTACT AND DIALOGUE WITH THE HOST. While students or community members are the ultimate audience for your presentation, a quality appearance begins with the coordinator or host (teacher, school administrator, librarian, PTA parent volunteer). For this individual, an important element of quality is an author's accessibility and responsiveness. In our age of Twitter, Facebook, multiple e-mails, phones (seem a little old-fashioned sometimes), day jobs and stolen writing time, it can be hard to manage appearance requests coming from many different directions. However, the faster you respond to an inquiry, the more likely you are to book the appearance. Make this initial contact HIGH QUALITY by:
  1. Providing a best email address or other contact information on your website and all appropriate venues. A one-click link to contact you OR to your publisher/appearance coordinator OR to direct site visitors to your AUTHOR APPEARANCE INFORMATION PAGE is ideal.
  2. Checking all of your email and other networking accounts routinely. If you do not have time for a long conversation, a quick "I'll be in touch" reply is much better than weeks of silence.
  3. Installing an auto-reply to any email address from which your answer will not be prompt to advise folks of your response time or provide an alternate contact method.
  4. Drafting a reply email with relevant information (this can be modified per request but at least you won't have to start fresh every time and are less likely to forget key details). This email should include:
  • A thanks for their appearance request and confirmation that you are scheduling school/library visits.
  • Your standard honorarium (e.g., $X/day plus travel and expenses for UP TO 3 (or 4) presentations plus book signing), perhaps noting that you need further details regarding this request before finalizing price (this is a good line to include if you are inclined to be flexible on fees).
  • The information you need from the host (exact address, email(s) and contact details; best dates for presentation; age/grade level and group size(s) you will be addressing; number of presentations, etc., they have in mind).
  • Links to your website, educational materials (such as reading guides or presentation descriptions), etc., so that you continue to show the value of your appearance program in the time between first contact and confirmation.
  • An explanation of what happens next (e.g., "As soon as I receive this information I will contact you to see if we can get this on the calendar.").
ONCE this conversation yields an agreed-upon presentation date, fee, and rough itinerary, the next step in ensuring a high-quality appearance is your confirmation and subsequent correspondence with your host. This will be the subject my next "Book Business" post.

Meanwhile, wishing you a happy week ahead.


storyqueen said...

This is a great post. I'm going to print it out. (I do lots of school visits as the story queen, but the business end tends to bog me down.)


Carrie Harris said...

Yep. I'm bookmarking this one. THANKS!!!

Lisa_Gibson said...

Great post! Valuable information.

Chandrika Shubham said...

Thanks for sharing. :)

lisa and laura said...

Great information, Stasia! Lisa and I would LOVE to visit schools and talk to kids. Hopefully we'll have the chance to do some visits!

dkm1981 said...

Hi I'm a new follower and I'm finding your blog really interesting! This was a really interesting post thanks!

Stasia said...

Glad this post was helpful. If there's an author appearance issue you'd like me to cover, please feel free to put a suggestion or question in a comments box. Thanks for following!