Tips from the Maureen Hayes Award Selection Committee on planning an author or illustrator appearance
The Kids! Campaign Tool Kit also provides tips and resources for planning author/illustrator visits at http://www.ala.org/ala/alsc/projectspartners/AuthorVisits.htm
What is the purpose of your event? Who will your target audience be? What date(s) are you looking at? It’s best to have at least three authors or illustrators in mind. What is more important to you: the date of the event or the choice of author/illustrator? Try to get a handle on some of these basic facts and then proceed.
You will be responsible for paying the author/illustrator and all associated expenses; the Hayes Award will reimburse you for up to $4000 TOTAL for honorarium and travel expenses:
• author/illustrator honorarium (Hayes will reimburse this cost, plus cost of next item, up to $4000)
• travel expenses including flight and transportation to/from speaker’s home to airport and back, or train fare, or mileage if speaker drives (Hayes will reimburse these costs, plus cost of previous item, up to $4000)
• local (on your end) transportation.
Identify the author or illustrator who most fits the scope of your event.
Try to have a couple of authors or illustrators in mind as not all authors/illustrators are currently making appearances and some may already have prior commitments. Usually the author’s/illustrator’s publisher Web site will have a list of authors/illustrators who are currently making appearances. These lists may not be all-inclusive, so feel free to inquire about the availability of someone whose name is not listed.
Contact the publisher.
Once you decide on an author/illustrator you’d like to invite to your school/library, contact the author’s/illustrator’s publisher at least six months to one year prior to the scheduled appearance. The staff member who handles author visits can discuss availability, fees and honorariums with you.
The publisher will send you a confirmation letter spelling out the terms of your agreement, including the honorarium, date of visit, and other details. (Author/illustrator should be paid on the day of the visit.) Once you receive the confirmation letter, feel free to contact the author/illustrator directly to work out specific details.
Make travel arrangements.
As the host, you are responsible for making the author's travel plans (including but not limited to making plane reservations, booking hotel rooms, and arranging for ground transportation) unless otherwise specified by the publisher and/or author/illustrator. Be sure to ask about special needs or requirements the author/illustrator may have.
What will the author/illustrator need for the event?
Authors/illustrators vary in their presenting styles and equipment needs. Some prefer to make their presentations in small, informal settings, rather than large auditoriums. Ask the author/illustrator well in advance how he or she would like the day's events to be organized.
Prepare the audience.
Visiting authors/illustrators agree that the most important way to ensure a successful author/illustrator visit is to make sure the program attendees have read and are familiar with an author’s/illustrator’s books.
Buy the books.
Author/illustrator visits that include book-signing events create much enthusiasm and excitement. You can pre-sell the books yourself or work with a local independent bookstore, but either way you should start planning at least six weeks in advance of the event.
Publicize and generate excitement.
Organize a publicity committee. Distribute a newsletter or flyer about the event, make posters or other announcements, and ask local public and school librarians to showcase the author's/illustrator’s books. Contact the publisher to send you promotional materials. Have the committee send a press release or letter to your local media announcing the event and invite them to attend. (Always ask the author's/illustrator’s permission before scheduling a press event.)
Make sure the author’s/illustrator’s payment is on hand the day of the event.
Don’t surprise your visiting author/illustrator by making changes to an agreed upon schedule.
Most authors/illustrators consider lunch a time to re-group. If you would like him/her to have lunch with a group of teachers or a small group of students, be sure to discuss this with the author/illustrator in advance.
Be a good host and provide water and refreshments/meals on the day of the event as needed. Make sure all local transportation needs are covered. Stay on schedule!!
These are just some starting points. The following Web sites have detailed information about how to successfully host an author event, including sample schedules and other helpful guides. Take a look at one or more of them to familiarize yourself with all details that can be involved. Plan, plan, and plan some more! But in the end, have fun!
Cooperative Children's Book Center