Friday, December 13, 2013

A lesson on school visits

If you write for kids, you've probably considered the benefits of giving a school talk. The idea sounds nice, but you might have questions about where to start or how to get the most out of the opportunity. Since I've never given a school talk, I decided to reach out and get advice from an author who's been there and done that. Please welcome, Kelly Hashway!

http://kellyhashway.blogspot.com/

School Visits Can Be an Author’s Best Form of Marketing

School visits are a great way to reach more readers, but how do you go about setting them up? School librarians should be at the top of your list of friends. Put together a press release or one sheet with your book cover, blurb, pertinent information (like publication date, publisher, ISBN), and any endorsements you have for your book. Also, make sure you have your contact information in there. If the school is local, go meet the librarian and bring a copy of your book to donate to the school’s library. If the school isn’t local, you can get the librarian’s email address from the school’s website. Or call the school and ask to speak to the librarian.

If you aren’t a big name author (yet), offering to give your presentation for free is an almost guaranteed way to get your foot in the door. It’s about spreading the word and getting your name out there, so even if you don’t make money from the presentation itself, you can and most likely will gain readers and make sales after the presentation.

When you approach the school about coming to visit, let them know you are open to small group or large group settings. I’ve spoken to individual classes, which makes it easier to interact with the students, and to auditoriums full of students. The key with either setting is to be enthusiastic. If you are excited, the students will feed off of your energy.

A word of advice for big group presentations is not to hide behind a podium. The school will set one up for you, but I wouldn’t stand behind it. It’s screams “I’m going to lecture you for the next hour!” Kids hate that. For one of my presentations, I stood up on the catwalk that was on the stage for the spring play. It was great because I was up high so everyone could see me (I’m only 5’1”) and the kids thought it was awesome that I was up there. They weren’t expecting it, so I grabbed their attention from the moment they entered the auditorium.

Kids are very visual, so you’ll want to have visual aides. A slideshow with lots of images is great, but arrive to your visit early and perform a test run with any technology you are going to use to make sure everything is working properly before you begin. During your presentation, don’t stand in one spot. Move around. Interact with the audience. Keep your energy high. Don’t be afraid to crack a joke and just be yourself. Kids can sniff out fakeness from a mile away. No matter what age they are, kids love to be read to so bring a copy of your book. If your book isn’t out yet, print an excerpt and bring that with you. 

And leave time for questions. They will have them. Just be prepared from some questions about your age. For some reason, they always want to know how old you are and how much money you make. One of the best responses I got from a group of students was after I told them that I sold my first short story for a whopping two dollars. The entire auditorium broke out into applause. Why? Because I was so excited to make money for my writing—no matter how small the amount—and they could see that. They shared in my celebration. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Finally, be prepared to stay longer than you anticipated. I was asked to stick around for lunches so the students could interact with me in a less formal setting. It was so much fun, and I signed everything from agendas to paper plates. 

So go make friends with school librarians, because school visits can be a really fun way to reach a large amount of potential readers.

Great advice, right! As someone who's only 4'10" I can totally relate to the evils of podiums. Be sure to check out Kelly on her blog or Twitter. While you're there, check out all her great books, including her YA paranormal series, TOUCH OF DEATH.

AmazonB&N, or Walmart
Jodi Marshall isn’t sure how she went from normal teenager to walking disaster. One minute she’s in her junior year of high school, spending time with her amazing boyfriend and her best friend. The next she’s being stalked by some guy no one seems to know.

After the stranger, Alex, reveals himself, Jodi learns he’s not a normal teenager and neither is she. With a kiss that kills and a touch that brings the dead back to life, Jodi discovers she’s part of a branch of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac, Ophiuchus. A branch of necromancers that are descendants of Medusa. A branch of necromancers with poisoned blood writhing in their veins.

Jodi’s deadly to the living and even more deadly to the deceased. She has to leave her old, normal life behind before she hurts the people she loves. As if that isn’t difficult enough, Jodi discovers she’s the chosen one who has to save the rest of her kind from perishing at the hands of Hades. If she can’t figure out how to control her power, history will repeat itself, and her race will become extinct.

Already a fan of the Touch of Death series? Be sure to pre-order FACE OF DEATH, releasing January 7th at AmazonB&N, or Walmart!

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me, Sarah. I'll be sure to keep checking back in case anyone has questions about school visits. :)

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  2. Super tips, Kelly! Sarah - "the evils of the podium" - hahaha! Great post, ladies! :-)

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    1. Podiums are not our friends. Though I wouldn't recommend standing behind one even if you are tall enough to see over it. ;) Kids automatically tune you out when you step behind one.

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  3. Yes, visuals are a good strategy, as well as making it dramatic. Think of it as extreme theater that will keep even the hyperactive kids entertained.

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    1. Yes! You have to almost become an actor and put on a performance for the kids. You must entertain them.

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  4. Great advice, Kelly. I made one school visit in the cafeteria where the kids sat on the floor and I stood at the front of the room with an overhead projector. I know. I'm way out of date. :) It worked pretty good though the classes were combined. I need to do some more visits. Am not the best speaker. Thanks for the motivation.

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    1. Sometimes schools have to get creative as far as where to put you while you do a presentation. Many schools are no using their auditoriums for band classes, so I'm glad you brought up the cafeteria. I should mention that you should always ask where the presentation will take place so you can plan accordingly. Having a back-up plan in case of any sudden changes is also recommended. You never know what may happen, so make sure your presentation can be adapted if the location changes.

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  5. Hi Kelly, great advice. What do you do if the technology won't allow your powerpoint to work?

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    1. Always have a back-up plan for this exact reason. Don't count on technology. It's not that trust-worthy. I'd have other visual aides to use in place of it if necessary.

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  6. What an excellent and informative post! Kelly did such a wonderful job and seemed to touch on all the important points. I have done two school visits and I can't think of anything to add (my book isn't published, but two librarians read it to their students)! I especially agree about getting there early and testing out the technology, as that was a problem both times but because my co-author and I were there early we were able to work it out. I loved picturing Kelly up on the catwalk! How cool!

    School librarians are wonderful people and they are so helpful!

    Thanks, Kelly! I am saving this post as one of my favorites so I can read it over for future school visits (hopefully there will be more once my book comes out).
    ~Jess

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    1. Aw, thank you, Jess. I'm sure there will be many more school visits in your future.

      Oh, and the catwalk was awesome! I felt tall for the first and only time in my life. ;)

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