7 Tips to Ace Your School Author Visit

April has seen Aussie Owned and Read talk about all things marketing. So far, the focus has been on online marketing strategies, but today I’d like to take a look at a face-to-face strategy particularly useful for YA authors – school visits.

IMG_3261 by Kian McKellar via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/qzBhBH

Image by Kian McKellar Flickr CC

“Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is”

In my role as a high-school teacher librarian I have been lucky enough to attend numerous school author visits. Authors LOVE to talk about their books, BUT there’s no quicker way to send a class of teens into a coma than to wax lyrical about every detail of your publication journey and current book baby. There’s a good chance most of your audience haven’t even read your book, so your mission is to make your story sparkle brighter than Edward Cullen on a cloudless midsummer scorcher and give them good reason to give up six to nine hours of watching funny cat videos on YouTube to want to read it.

So, how do you grab their attention, you ask?

Make connections. Establishing a relevant context for students by drawing connections between your experience and the students’ can leave them with a more rewarding experience. Try these ideas:

1. Tie into the syllabus content covered in class. Speak to the group’s teachers / teacher librarian before the visit and ask about the units the class is currently studying in different subjects. You’d be surprised where you can find crossover content to help make your novel’s subject matter relevant. English, yes, but also, History, Science, PDHPE.

2. Talk about your research. High school students are familiar with different research strategies for school assignments. Ask about their surprising / funny / unexpected research experiences then tell them about yours:

  • How did you go about your research?
  • Did you go anywhere special?
  • Did you meet / interview anyone in particular?

A visiting author I once saw had a hall of ninth graders in the palm of her hand when she told them about the time she was set on fire (under controlled conditions!) in the name of research.

3. Unpack the revision process. Talking about the evolution of your manuscript and all the challenges along the way can be effective if discussed in the context of the students’ creative writing.

  • Bring visuals of marked up pages – scrawls and scribbles of red by you and suggestions by your editor.
  • Show students the different stages of editing, allowing them to see all the work that goes into the finished product. If nothing else, the English staff will love you, because you’ve vindicated them in their constant mantra of ‘writing is re-writing’.

Image by Laura Ritchie via Flickr CC

Now, all this talking is fine and good, but to make your author visit a success you’ll need to balance your gabbing with something else, namely …

Less words, more action. One repeated negative piece of feedback I hear from students and teachers is that the author spent most of the session talking at them. To mitigate your audience tuning out, try the following:

4. Break up your presentation into segments. Five to ten minute segments are best, each with a different focus but with clear transitions linking one to the next.

5. ‘Activity’ is king. Involve your audience as much as possible!

  • Got a YA fantasy involving martial arts? Have students learn some basic martial arts moves.
  • Got a YA contemporary featuring dance? Get the kids grooving with a ten second dance routine.
  • No martial arts or dancing in your novel? No problem. Pick a bunch of students to act out a short scene from your book while you read out the excerpt.

Anything that involves the audience will make for a better experience. Even something as simple as …

Props and visuals. Everyone has a dominant learning style, be it visual, kinesthetic or auditory, so it’s good to include visual and hands-on material in your author talk, such as:

6. Slide-shows.

  • If you’re reading out a passage from your novel, have a slide-show ready to help set the mood or introduce the physical setting.
  • You could show pictures (hello Pinterest!) of your ‘cast’ of characters using actors.
  • Share images or video related to your research – people, places, activities.

7. Relevant props.

  • So your novel features martial arts, but your attempt at a roundhouse kick is likely to land you in emergency? Bring in a mannequin dressed in a dobok instead and show some video footage you came across during your research.
  • Is your novel a YA historical? Try to source some replica artefacts linked to your story that students can touch and examine.

The idea is to bring alive aspects of your story world to spark your audience’s interest.

Black Beauty by Carol VanHook

Image by Carol VanHook Flickr CC

If you include props and visual media, make sure your audience has plenty of opportunity to be involved, and you draw connections between your writing and their experience, you’re set for a successful author visit.

But how exactly is one successful author visit a marketing tool, you ask? Teachers and teacher librarians have wide reaching professional networks and word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is. One successful author visit will likely result in invites from other schools.

Let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you when visiting schools. Leave your comments below.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Marketing and the Potato

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As we’re talking about marketing this month, Rebecca and Heather are going to look at what different mediums have done to successfully gain viral attention. In doing so, we will break down what it was about these marketing ideas that we found so memorable, and look at how they would translate to literary world.

We’ve broken these marketing ploys down into four key areas.

curiosity

Curiosity

These were the ideas that piqued the interest of the target audience by withholding information. By only providing part of the picture, the consumers were left searching for more pieces of the puzzle which generated hype and global reach across social media.

Cards Against Humanity’s 30 second Super Bowl ad that was a single shot of a potato with the word ‘Advertisement’ etched into it. It sent Twitter into a frenzy as people tried to decipher what it was about.

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Yes this is the real ad

The Matrix and u: hygiene products used a similar concept. The Matrix advertising posed a single question–‘What is the Matrix?’ and had a site set up devoted to the furthering the riddle.

 

Every question needs an answer.

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The VIP Experience

Making your consumer feel extra special is a great promotional tool and can create lifetime loyal followers. Everyone loves exclusivity, we all want to be a part of that little club. As a whole, people have the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, we all want more, and when given the opportunity to get something extra that no one else has, we more often than not jump at that chance. So using this main trait to your marketing advantage would be wise.

For example, Skyrim offered up free games for life, but the catch was you had to name your baby that happened to be born on the games release day the main protagonists name… Dovahkiin. You didn’t need to be one of the two people who actually went ahead and won this prize to be drawn to the weirdness of it.

You don’t have to offer up anything this dramatic, limited editions, and VIP tickets are also great draws, with youtube unboxing a few simple extras thrown in with your advanced copy can be the star of the show.

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Interactive

Get people involved. Get them out looking, talking, generating excitement. Your audience are the ones who can get word of mouth happening in a big way and usually drive awareness the most.

A great example of this was Bioshock 2s launch when they created ten promotional images and hid them in wine bottles. These bottle were placed on ten random beaches worldwide with clues for their fandom on where to find them. Kind of like what Willie Wonka did with his golden tickets.

You could do something as simple as a blog post scavenger hunt with a prize for the winner. Facebook launch parties get the word out there, and Instagram is a good tool to get people taking pictures with your book on launch day.

Resident Evil utilised a gruesome scavenger hunt where the winner would receive a trip to Africa. Which leads us into our next point.

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Shock Value (Trigger Warning for extreme gore)

Resident Evil rules shock value. Shocking your consumer either works for or against you, but either way it generates conversation.

With the scavenger hunt, body parts were scattered around Trafalgar Square in London. This gained media attention, and freaked out the onlookers who weren’t involved in the stunt.

Resident Evil 6 went a step further with a butcher’s shop in London’s famous meat-market Smithfield, selling ‘human meat’. The proceeds of these sales went to the Limbless Associate, a U.K. charity for amputees and other who have lost limbs.

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Now, obviously you don’t need to go to these extremes, but pushing the envelope so your marketing ideas go against the grain of what society deems ‘acceptable’ or ‘expected’ is one way to get people talking.

The most important part of marketing is to be memorable.

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Haunting Halloween Hop

Twas a dark, dark night in a dark, dark wood … Or was that a house? Either way, Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s time to get your scare on and join our Haunting Halloween Hop! We’re sharing the creepy cheer and we’d love you to play, too!

Halloween Hop

Yes, you too can be a part of a very freaky blog hop simply by following these three easy steps:

    1. Draft your post on Halloween, ready to go live either October 31. Your post? It’s to be what makes you scared. Is it a scary book? A scary movie? Scary weather? The creepy guy looking over your fence right now?*
    2. Join our Linky List (below).
    3. Visit all the other blogs on the hop and see what gives everyone else the night terrors. Hey, you could even meet a ghoulishly fun new blog in the process!

We’ll be doing shout-outs on our social media to those who sign up to, in order to try and help spread the scary, scary love.

And if you don’t have a blog, we’d love to see your scary thoughts in the comments of our post so we can hear your spook-spiration!

So, what are you waiting for? Join the fun and draft up today, then add your post to the list when it’s live. Don’t forget to share the thrills …

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 *NB: Aussie Owned & Read takes no responsibility for/is not affiliated with any creepy guys doing any creepy fence-looking. That’s a promise.