Lea Wait, here, with a reminder: even if you live far from Maine, a Maine Crime Writer (or another author) can speak at your school, library, or book group. And no one will have to travel.
Authors of books for children have been making Skype classroom visits for some time now, so I was pulled into it early. Inviting an author to visit a school in person costs the school money (hard when so many school budgets have been cut in recent years) and costs the author writing time.
Visiting via Skype is one solution that brings students and authors together. No; it doesn’t replace “in person” school or library visits. But it’s often more viable, especially when the author lives across the country.
Down to details. I charge $700 + expenses for an all-day in-person visit to a school. (Many authors charge a lot more.) That day may include speaking to an auditorium full of students, or perhaps visiting several classrooms, or a combination of those possibilities. Sometimes I run a writing workshop or two. I often have lunch with selected students (and/or teachers,) and allow time to sign any books students or staff have purchased. I’ve found school visits are most rewarding for everyone involved if the students have read at least one of my books before I arrive. Often they and their teachers have prepared questions for me — I don’t need to see those in advance, but having a question planned encourages shy students to speak up.
What do I talk about? Although I’ve visited classrooms from kindergarten through college, most visits I make are to 4th through 8th grades. My books for young people are set in the 19th century, so I talk about the research I do, often bring “show and tell” artifacts and research sources to share, and answer questions about … anything. What happened to Abbie after the book ended? What did you have for breakfast? How many books have you published? Which is your favorite? How do you get an agent? How many children do you have? How much money do you make? No question is off limits — and I answer all honestly. I always make sure I talk about research (not just Goggle and Wikipedia) and editing (even published authors edit — a fact that often surprises children.)
If a school can’t afford to have me visit in person, I’ll visit via Skype for 15 minutes for free. If they’d like a longer time, or more visits, I charge a little for that. I can answer a lot of questions in 15 minutes.
But Skype visits aren’t just for schools. I’ve visited book groups and libraries via Skype, too. Basically, the same rules: 15 minutes for free, and a nominal amount for time over that. And it’s best if my audience has read at least one of my books first.
If you’re an author who’s thinking of doing Skype visits, here are a few suggestions:
1) Explain on your website what you will do, what you will charge for your time, and any special topics you can cover. If you’re interested in speaking with students, point out how your visit will support the curriculum.
2) Remind groups that your visit will be much more memorable if the audience is familiar with your books.
3) Don’t schedule more than three Skype visits per day. You do have to prepare yourself (and your work space) and being “on” can be exhausting.
4) Schedule a time at least a day ahead when you can connect (on Skype) with the person and place you’re visiting, to assure that all technical systems are working and that you’re in agreement on what is expected from the visit.
5) If you are charging for a visit, ask for the payment in advance.
6) Before the visit, send promotional materials to the school or library or book group to help them get excited about meeting you. After a visit, send a thank you note, and perhaps a picture or bookmarks, or some other gift.
If you’re the person or organization inviting an author, make sure you both agree as far in advance as possible on the basics: the date, the time, the length, and the content of the visit. Let the local parent organization (for a school) or newspaper (for a library) know of the author’s visit. Parents may want to purchase an author’s book in advance, or local readers may want to join you for the Skype visit. Request an invoice from the author, if appropriate, and ensure it is processed in advance. Don’t forget to reserve an appropriate room for the visit, and alert the technical staff about the visit to ensure you are prepared.
And — for both authors and readers – enjoy the visit!