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Marissa King's picture
Marissa is the Chief of Staff at the non-profit Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma where she overuses sticky notes and obsesses over new teacher development. She is a former Tulsa Public...
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5 Tips for Bringing Big Name Authors To Your School

The first time my students saw a big name author come to our school, even the most reluctant readers charged through their reading, scribbled questions on scraps of paper, and clamored for front-row seats. Somehow, the in-person star power of an impressive author drew them into the pages of a book and had them bubbling about literary possibilities.  

In the last few years, I’ve organized in-person author visits with several New York Times bestselling authors and a Pulitzer prize winner. Of course, virtual author visits are a far lower lift and significantly less expensive but if you’re up for the challenge and big-bang impact of in-person visits, I have a few tips and tricks for booking successful authors even when money is tight.

  1. Think Beyond Cost. Since most schools can’t drop the going rate of five or ten thousand dollars for an in-person author visit, you’ll need to be strategic about who might be willing to visit your school for less. While money is clearly important (and helps authors continue to research and write), a little planning can help you convince a big name author to visit your school for other reasons. 
  2. Align with pre-set travel schedule. An author might be willing to drop by your high school if they have a larger, ticketed event close by or can complete a little book research at the same time. One author kindly visited my school because she could combine the trip with a visit to her mother who lived nearby. 
  3. Consider book sales and book publicity: Even if you don’t have enough cash to float an author visit, you may be able to connect to a social campaign or mission of the book that will garner important press. One school scheduled a big name author visit after getting a philanthropist to agree to buy the author’s book for every kid in the school.
  4. Work with great partners: Check in with your local bookstore or library to see if you can collaborate on an author visit or partner with larger community event. Perhaps you can partner with a town-wide reading program or start your own to find more cost-sharing partners and spread the excitement. For one author visit, my colleagues and I arranged a partnership with a refugee resettlement program and the local library to connect to prominent themes in the book. 
  5. Before You Pitch:  Before you directly contact an author or their agent, consider what you really want the author event to entail. Are you imagining an hour-long, all-school gathering or a more involved event with classroom visits, book signings, and student interviews? You’ll need to carefully detail what you want before you pitch the author or agent. 

Be prepared to discuss options as authors may have strict guidelines about the kinds of events they’ll do. In some cases, consider if a Skype visit would fit your needs better.

Not all authors engage listeners and readers in the same way. Before you go to all the trouble of finding partners, raising money, or doing extensive research, take a bit of time to find out what the author is like in person. I’ve worked with authors who have carefully spoken to every student in the book-signing line to those who wanted to leave the event without a single conversation. 

Bringing an author to your school takes a lot of work but there’s nothing quite like watching students bubble with excitement at the prospect of meeting a real author. A little bit of work can lead to weeks of magical preparation and an inspiring literary event.

Marissa E. King