by Arielle Haughee
Sell More with School Visits
It’s the time of year when things are gearing up for school, and the perfect time for you to start setting up school visits. School visits are a great way for you to connect with young readers, encourage them to write, and feel like a rockstar—the kids all think you’re famous! It can also be a great way to sell books, but you’ll need to plan ahead.
Connecting with Schools
It’s tough to start out with cold calls or emails; schools are not exactly welcoming to community members (aka strangers) these days. The best way to get into a school is to use your connections. Do you have children or grandchildren in school? Perhaps another family member or some neighbors? Have their parent reach out to the school for you or send in a sample of your book with a flyer or personalized note.
To Charge or Not to Charge
There is much debate in the kidlit community about whether to charge or not. One side argues that author time is valuable and schools have resources to help pay. The other side believes in the importance of influencing kids, regardless of payment. Both sides have valid points. I get the best of both by not charging a fee to come to the school, but making sure they set up a preorder for me.
Setting Up Preorders
Doing a preorder before your scheduled visit will help you be successful with sales. You can bring the ordered books with you, along with a few extra, and have them ready to go. Remember that parents won’t be there to buy books the day of the visit, so selling the day of isn’t feasible. Trying to sell books afterward doesn’t work out to well, either. I’ve learned that the hard way. The best way is to work with the school’s media specialist, who can coordinate orders across grades and then communicate them to you.
Getting Kids Excited
You can get the kids pumped up for your visit with two easy tricks. First, send a few attractive posters to the school for them to hang up in the halls or office. You can also mention the preorder on them (wink). Second, create a quick video introducing yourself, sharing a little about your book, and perhaps that lovely preorder. Show your enthusiasm and it will be infectious.
Be sure to always ask which age group(s) you will be speaking to. Remember that kindergarteners can only sit for about twenty minutes before they get wiggly. If you create slides, have more pictures for grades K-1 and gradually increase the complexity of the content for older grades. Fourth and fifth graders do very well with discussing the writing process. Most of all, no matter the age group, make sure it is FUN!
If you come across as professional, knowledgeable, and fun, schools are very likely to ask you back next year. And if you get your preorder set up and send content for the school to share ahead of time, you’ll see the payoff from school visits, too. Once you visit a few schools, you can request the media specialist or your contact person if they would be willing to reach out to another school to let them know how great it was to have you. Then you can get started all over again!