The key to having a successful author/illustrator event is preparation! You can never start planning too early for your event.
Prior to Making Contact with an Author:
Consider the following:
- Type of program (small groups or large assembly presentations)? How
many students in each session?
- Grade level(s) to be addressed
- Topic(s) to be addressed
- Presentation location
- Date/time of author visit
- Single or multiple authors
- Partnering with neighboring school, splitting the expenses for the non-local author’s accommodations, etc.?
- Author autographing session as part of visit
- Book sales as a fundraiser to offset the cost of the author visit?
Making Contact with an Author:
- Not sure whom to invite? Consult with colleagues, visit your local library for suggestions, attend author presentations or book signings at local bookstores, or contact a booking service (such as Children’s Literature (insert link here)) for assistance.
- When making contact with the author or the booking service, be ready to provide specific information to meet your requirements for the visit.
- Follow-up a verbal agreement with an author with a contract or letter of intent. Have your administrator sign the agreement, as their support is essential for a successful visit. Include set-up or equipment needs in the letter.
Use the following checklist to assure the day of the visit will be successful.
- Read the books. The most important thing you can do to prepare for a school visit is to read the books to the students and to encourage staff to read the books in their classrooms.
- Share biographical information about the author with students, staff, and parents.
- To enhance your author’s visit, offer their books for sale to the students and staff for autographing.
- Distribute and collect pre-sale book order forms.
- Make a display of the author’s books and encourage parents to come in and peruse them.
- Plan a week of innovative events to correspond with the author’s visit:
- Sponsor a bookmark making contest
- Sponsor a school-wide vote for favorite titles by authors who will be visiting and post the results outside the Media Center
- Cover classroom doors to look like book jackets
- Film or record students sharing book reviews of the author’s books and post on your website.
Book Sale Tips:
- Send the (pre-) order forms out in a timely manner. Be clear about types of payment accepted and include a cut-off date.
- Have books organized and ready for the author.
- Set aside a specific time for the author to sign books on the day of the visit.
- Explain to students that the author will only be autographing books. And will not sign slips of paper, etc.
- If students already own any of the author/illustrator’s books, encourage them to bring them in to have them signed.
Day of the Event Tips:
This last minute checklist will ensure that you will enjoy the author’s visit!
- Complete a schedule to be shared with your administrator, as well as your guest, taking into consideration lunch times and recess times. Invite your administrator to attend a session and perhaps even introduce the author/illustrator to the students.
- Celebrate the author’s visit with a large welcome banner.
- Provide the author with morning snacks, coffee, tea, water, etc.
- Ensure enough time in the author’s schedule for them to have lunch with you, fellow colleagues, or students; inquire in advance what they would prefer. Also, inquire as to special dietary needs for lunch.
- Assure that the author has a comfortable chair and that the equipment they require is in working condition.
- Provide a table for the author to use for their belongings, books, notes, water, etc., as well as space for autographing.
- Provide illustrators with an easel and drawing paper, as many will include illustrating in their presentation.
- Ensure that teachers are seated with their students during the author’s presentation. You or someone from your staff should always be present to ensure that things are running smoothly and according to schedule.
- Begin the sessions on time and finish them on time. Take the initiative to wrap up question/answer times in order for the author to have time to prepare for the next session or for a personal break.
- Ensure the author’s honorarium is prepared in advance.
- Double check that all books are signed prior to the author’s departure.
Now, that you have hosted a successful author event—what’s next?
- Write the author/illustrator a thank you note and ask them for recommendations regarding future author visits.
- Encourage students to write the author/illustrator and encourage teachers to make class books to send the author.
- Ask students’ how they felt about the visit: what did they learn; were they surprised by anything that the author had to say; what did they think about the steps the author took from concept to published book?
- Post photos of the visit on your website and notify the author of their posting.