Publicity, programming and promotion - Arrange an author visit

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A visit with an author or illustrator is a wonderful way to connect children—and their families—with the magic of books and reading. Here are some tips and resources to help ensure a successful visit.

  • Form a committee to collect suggestions from co-workers or peers. Ask community members whom they would like to hear. Select several authors and possible dates, as the first choice might not be available at the time desired.
  • Define the audience and determine both the length and type of program. Consider the primary audience—children, adults, or a mix of both. Determine the number and type of programs—a workshop, classroom or assembly presentation, speaker panel, evening program, autographing session or other.
  • Prepare a timeline. Preparing a timeline detailing preparation for the visit will help to ensure a successful event.
  • Select a speaker. Start at least six months ahead of the visit. Many authors schedule visits twelve months ahead, and really popular authors schedule as much as two years in advance.
  • Set budget figures. These should include the honorarium, transportation, hotel and meal costs.
  • Contact the author or publisher. Check the author’s website for contact information. The publisher or booking agent will need details such as the date and location of the visit, audience and type of program, a contact name and phone number.
  • Confirm details in writing. Include the fee, arrangements, accommodations and an event fact sheet with the details of the visit spelled out. If your library or governmental jurisdiction requires a contract, include all details.
  • Keep in touch. Call to confirm the visit the week before. Also ask about any audio-visual needs, e.g., microphone, flip chart, screen, projector. More communication is better than not enough.
  • Identify potential partners and volunteers. Partners can help with fundraising, publicity, transportation and other details.
  • Make all local arrangements. This includes booking the author’s hotel and, if necessary, the speaking location. It may also include making arrangements for any audio-visual materials the author may require in the visit.
  • Arrange for a book sale. This may be done through the publisher or a local bookstore. Publishers may send materials on consignment or local bookstores may handle sales. When selecting titles, match the cost and selection of books to the needs of the audience.
  • Develop and implement a publicity plan. Be sure to notify the local newspapers, as well as local community leaders, area schools, and nearby libraries.
  • Provide a memento of the visit. Ask the publisher’s marketing department for free posters or bookmarks, or create your own professional-looking bookmark to distribute. This is important, as not all children may be able to purchase a book.
  • Familiarize the audience with the author. Display the author’s work before the visit and offer programs featuring it. Include biographical information in the library newsletter, on program flyers and your website. Have children create artwork based on the author’s work for display. Plan to present it to the author as a memento of the visit.
  • Confirm local arrangements. Distribute a final itinerary the week before the visit to ensure a smoothly run event.
  • Last-minute housekeeping. The day before the event, check on room set-up, remind drivers or hosts and newspapers, and be familiar with all details of the visit. Be sure the introduction for the author is written and have a check in hand to pay the author in hand.
  • Write thank you notes. Send to the author and publisher/booking agent shortly after the visit. Also, be sure to thank the source of books, volunteers and others who helped make the visit a success.
  • Evaluate the program. Make notes of lessons learned. Review attendance numbers, response to publicity, and reaction to the program. This follow-up will help you do it better next time.
  • Wrap up the book sale and pay all bills.
  • Begin planning your next author visit.

Note:  Timelines and suggestions for author visits may be found on many publishers’ websites and on the websites of companies that arrange visits for authors.

Other helpful sources:

Balkin Buddies: www.balkinbuddies.com

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (requires subscription to log in):
www.childrenslit.com

Children's Literature Network: www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org

Inviting Children’s Authors and Illustrators: A How-To-Do-It Manual for School and Public Librarians, Kathy East (Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc., c1995)

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: www.scbwi.org

TeachingBooks.net (requires subscription to log in): www.teachingbooks.net

VisitingAuthors.com: www.visitingauthors.com