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!

Guest post: Kristin Albright on her writing inspiration PLUS free books!

Hello! I want to say a big thank you to Aussie Owned and Read for hosting me today. It’s my 33rd birthday, so enjoy a big slice of imaginary chocolate cake okay?

I’m a YA author from Wisconsin, and I published my latest book, More than a Moment, in June of 2015. The blurb for the book is as follows:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00024]
Julia Becker, a pretty and popular barrel-racing champion, is acutely aware that life changes in the blink of an eye. She’s about to start her senior year of high school and is recovering from a serious riding accident when her long-time boyfriend, star-quarterback Tyler Perkins, breaks up with her.

Lucas Mercado, the son of a Mexican migrant worker, has been living and working at the Perkins dairy farm for the last three months. When he meets Julia at the end of summer, he wants nothing more than to help her start riding again. There’s something about her that draws him to her, but he knows he needs to be careful.

When Julia is finally back on her feet, she begins to train for a rescue race with Lucas. Just when life starts feeling normal again, Julia is reminded of how quickly things can change and just how much she has to lose.

Life happens fast, and sometimes it’s all you can do to not blink.
The idea for More than a Moment came to me when I was driving in the country during the summer. I’d recently moved to the central part of Wisconsin and was surprised at the number of migrant workers I saw out in the fields. As I drove I couldn’t stop thinking about their lives, and I knew I wanted to write a novel about a migrant worker’s son falling in love with a local girl.

At first I was hesitant to tackle the subject. Politics aside, how could I do justice to the boy’s story? While there has been a big push in the book world for diverse characters and stories, I knew I wanted to proceed as authentically as possible. While conducting my research for the book I interviewed a former dairy farm employee, watched videos about migrant workers in the dairy industry and checked out books from the library that I thought might round out my knowledge. While I didn’t read all of these books cover to cover, I found them invaluable and would recommend them to readers interested in the subject: With These Hands – the hidden world of migrant farm workers today by Daniel Rothenberg, Voices from the Fields – children of migrant farmworkers tell their stories by Beth Atkin, and The Circuit – stories from the life of a migrant child by Francisco Jiménez.

While the stories were all very different, I saw themes emerge. Themes of family and heartache, of isolation and misunderstanding and of new beginnings. Lucas began to take shape in my mind, and once I outlined the story, it was a short five weeks until I completed the first draft. More than a Moment is a sweet YA love story, but it also digs into a lot of contemporary issues. Julia and Lucas don’t live in a perfect world, and they struggle with racism, bullying, peer pressure and stereotypes as they navigate their young love.

I wrote More than a Moment as a standalone novel, but lately I’ve been thinking there may be more to Julia and Lucas’s story. If you want to stay in the loop for my future projects, you can sign up for my newsletter on my website www.kristinalbright.com or find me on Facebook (Author Kristin Albright). I’ve recently begun teaching high school again, so I’ll be writing on a more seasonal basis for now.

Kristin Headshot 3-2014_pp

Thanks for reading about my new book. In honor of my birthday, I’ve decided to do a one-day giveaway for More than a Moment. It will be free on September 22nd (on Amazon.com). If you take advantage of this giveaway and enjoy my novel, please consider taking a moment to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads so others may find the book too.

Thanks guys!