Event planning is time-consuming and if done well, the events can be amazing. There are a lot of moving pieces, especially if you are coordinating an author visit to a school.
The first step in planning is to reach out to authors and illustrators to find out their availability, programs/offerings and honorarium. Many authors schedule events six months to a year in advance.
Things to consider:
- References may not be enough. Anyone who loves to read knows that authors are amazing. What you may not know is that not all authors are amazing public speakers. Capturing and maintaining the attention of students takes very special skills. Testimonials are terrific, and references from past visits can be helpful. Check with other schools, libraries and local, independent bookstores to see if they have recommendations for you.
- Does the honorarium include travel expenses? If not, ask for an estimate including travel.
- How to keep expenses down. Would the author be willing to accept rides to and from the airport/school/hotel? Would a local hotel or bed and breakfast be willing to donate a nights stay? Reach out to other area schools. Authors often offer discounts if multiple schools book back-to-back visits. Additionally, travel expenses could be split between schools.
- Get it in writing. Picked the author? Selected the date? Great! Have everyone sign a contract. Be clear on what the expectations are and what the visit will include. Also, make sure to inform the author of everything that needs to be done prior to the visit to insure payment. Does the District require W9 Forms, are there special contractual forms specific to your school or District, will they need to submit receipts for reimbursement?
- Think about books. Authors and illustrators love connecting with their readers. The opportunity for a student to talk with an author/illustrator while having a book personally inscribed is priceless. Find out how the author likes to manage book sales for the event. You can work with a local, independent, bookstore or order directly from publishers.
- Check-in, then check-in again and again – up to the day of the visit. Make sure the author/illustrator has approved the schedule for the day. Double-check to make sure they have driving directions to the school. Be sure you get the author’s cell number, and that they have a way to reach you on the day of the visit. Make plans for lunch – be sure to check with the author to see if they have special needs. Check your presentation equipment and make sure the author is aware of what is available.
- Be a good host. Make sure students are aware of the visit. Make announcements, post fliers in the hall, send book orders home. Be there to greet the author when they arrive. Have a technical expert on-hand to help with projectors, microphones and other equipment. Provide the author with bottled water during the day.
- Have fun! Author visits can be amazing for everyone – students, faculty and families.