Arranging for a children’s author or illustrator to come to your school will take time. You’ll need to start planning six months to a year before the date you want to host the event. Begin by working with your faculty, library staff, PTA, and administration to strategize what you want to do. Together, plan the following:
Decide when to host the event
Consider tying the author visit to a seasonal theme. For example, invite an African American author to be part of your February African American Month celebration, or invite the creator of a book about nature to a spring event with outdoor activities.
November, March, and April are usually the busiest times for authors and illustrators, so it may be hard to get a first-choice author scheduled during those months.
Determine whom the author will speak with
Are you looking for an author just for a middle school visit? Do you want someone who would appeal to a wide range of grades? Determining the audience will help you decide which author to extend an invitation to.
Authors will usually set limits on the number of presentations they’ll give in a day, so determining how many students you want to reach will also determine the type of presentation you expect the guest to make (a small intimate reading and discussion, a large auditorium presentation, a writing workshop, etc.)
Set a tentative budget
Honorariums for authors can run between $500 and $2000 a day, plus costs for travel, lodging, and related expenses. The authors’ pages will help you estimate the honorarium costs for authors you’d like to host, but final fees and expenses will need to be worked out one-on-one with the author as you plan the event together.
Consider extras such as flowers or decorations to set a mood for the presentation, lunch or light refreshments for the author and staff the day of the event, books or materials you’ll need to order beforehand. Outline your expected expenses before you start considering fundraising strategies.
Choose an Author
Based on your criteria for the event and your budget, start browsing our list of authors, either alphabetically or by region . Keep in mind that you might be able to keep some costs down by inviting an author who’s nearby.
Don’t pass on authors whose names aren’t immediately recognizable. Review their booklists — you may be surprised to find they created a story you loved! Also read their biographies and information on their own Web sites; you may discover a great learning opportunity with an author who has overcome challenges or lived an extraordinary life.
Prepare a proposal
Put together a proposal for the event that includes your budget estimates and the educational benefits of the visit. This will help you secure funding from your PTA, approvals from school administrators, or support from the faculty and staff.
There are several sure-fire ways to raise extra money for an author visit.
Host a book sale
In addition to making the author’s titles available to students at the presentation, schedule an event that parents can attend (host an evening sessions or plan a daytime presentation well in advance so parents can make arrangements to be at school). Order books beforehand, and save 40%. Just shop for your visiting author’s books in The Teacher Store and enter coupon code AUTHOR at checkout. You can also use this discount when ordering through your Scholastic sales representative or at 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
Reach out to the community
In their informative guide The Author Studies Handbook , Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman recommend appealing to local shops for donations such as dessert for a luncheon with the author and flowers to adorn the book displays. In their own experience planning author visits, Kotch and Zachman say they created brochures “that outlined the program and invited participation.” They circulated these to parents as well as area businesses and received great responses and offers of assistance.
Apply for grants
Kotch and Zachman also encourage looking into grants. There are numerous library grants that may be appropriate for your event. Check with your district to see if a professional grant writer is available to guide you through the application process.
Host a tried-and-true bake sale
If it’s worked for your school before, don’t hesitate to run another bake sale, car wash, or similar traditional fundraiser. Promote the fact that all proceeds will be used to bring great authors to the school.
Making Your Author Visit a Success
Essential to putting together a rewarding author visit is communicating with the author. Once Scholastic has confirmed an author who will visit your school, you’ll start working directly with the author or the author’s staff to plan the details.
- The day’s schedule (number and length of presentations, breaks, meals or receptions with faculty, students, and parents)
- Type of presentation and grade level of students
- Equipment that needs to be available for the presentation
- Autograph policy
If authors will not be signing individual copies of books, request that they sign a school banner and several instant photos. The banner can become a great keepsake (collect new signatures each time you have a visitor) and the photos can be offered in a raffle with a copy of the author’s book.
Remember that the single most important reason to invite an author is to provide a learning opportunity for students. Use these tips to create a strong curriculum connection:
- Provide copies of the author’s book(s) to each classroom scheduled to attend the presentation — reading and studying the author’s work should be mandatory.
- Put together a packet for each teacher who will participate. Include the free biographical information and resources available on the authors’ pages.
- Arrange a meeting for all the participating teaches so they can discuss classroom activities and lessons based on the author’s work and visit.
- Have students create visual or dramatic displays for the day of the event. For example:
- dressing in period costumes if the author will be discussing an historic novel
- building photo or art collages representing scenes from a book
- outlining a character’s journey on a map or timeline
- creating welcome posters featuring characters from one or more of the author’s books
- performing a scene from one of the author’s stories during a break in the presentation
- Help students prepare question to ask an author during any planned open discussion time.