I'm thrilled to sit in on Alexis O'Neill's session on School Visits this morning!
Alexis is an author of three picture books and numerous articles, pens the column "The Truth About School Visits" for the SCBWI Bulletin and just launched the blog schoolvisitexperts.com - where she shares her expertise and has created a community hub for authors and ilustrators to learn and talk about the art and commerce and pursuit of school visits!
First thing that impressed me about Alexis' session: She gave each of us a brief survey to fill out (30 seconds) before the session started to gauge the room's interest on the three main topics - setting fees, getting gigs, and delivering the goods.
And then she got our attention by getting us all clapping and singing a rhyming song - that got the room quiet and excited and attentive. (Without saying "okay, everybody sit down and be quiet, we're ready to begin!") Oooh, she's good.
She shared handouts where
Here's some highlights from the information she shared:
You're professionals. You need to think about what you're worth. You have something of value to share with other people.
Where you are in the country can dictact how much you can charge.
Even when schools say they don't have any money, there are programs they are mandated to do (for example, title 1 schools have literacy requirements - suburban schools have parent organizations that raise money throughout the year for programs.)
Find out what other authors around you are charging - even libraries have budgets. That way you know what's reasonable.
And know your bottom line - what makes it worthwhile for you to do?
Get known locally first, but realize you're never a prophet in your own land. You'll get more gigs 50 miles away.
Find out what state and local meetings and events can you attend - is there a librarian event you and some other authors can do a showcase at?
"Wherever librarians and teachers gather, be there."
Delivering the Goods -
Your school visit needs to be enriching, and you want kids and teachers to learn something that they can use when they get back to the classroom. Kids are writing every day. You're a writer. If you're an illustrator, it's another way of expressing an idea - and kids need to do that, too!
Remember that everyone in the audience wants you to succeed. Be human, and don't think you have to be perfect.
As she wrote in her slideshow presentation
Inspiring lots of writing and art (where kids express themselves)
Wow. This is such a great session - lots of contributions from audience members (which includes some super-accomplished author visit experts themselves!), and lots of great stories and advice from Alexis! I'm really going to have to check out the articles and forms and downloadable pdfs on her schoolvisitexperts.com site, and if you're interested in doing school visits, so should you!