This week Books and Publishing published an article on author visits by school library manager, Karys McEwen, the value of author visits in libraries. The impact of these visits cannot be denied.
But as she highlights, authors are more likely to be making their income from these visits (as opposed to book royalties). Authors love the opportunity to connect with audiences and sometimes we can take advantage of this love.
Angie Thomas, US author of The Hate U Give, recently tweeted about how often she is approached by students to answer their questions. Despite having a robust FAQ page, many teachers have offered extra credit to students if they can get individual responses from authors. This places a high pressure, intense workload on a person who was never asked if this was okay.
With that in mind, I thought I could share what we can be doing to ensure authors have a positive experience at your school or library:
Provide a detailed itinerary of the visit – when to arrive, who to check in with, when they get some downtime, who is providing lunch, your mobile number, the technology available, etc. Do not schedule their entire day, or assume they can use their breaks to mix with the students – ask first.
Presenting is challenging energy-wise, and you should account for them to have a quiet space (away from students and your colleagues) to recharge or regroup.
Be familiar with the Australian Society of Author rates – this is best practice. It is not unfair for an author to ask fees in line with these industry rates. While I am sympathetic that some organisations have limited budgets, the authors shouldn’t be the ones to absorb that reduced rate. Perhaps you can work collectively with nearby schools, etc. to share the cost. Use these rates for your budget proposals for 2019-20.
Don’t presume. Every author is different; share your expectations early and talk it through to ensure you have a shared understanding of the visit. Be prepared to shift some of your expectations to meet their needs.
Prepare the audience. There is nothing worse than a bored or unresponsive audience. Booking an author is great, but what was your reasoning for booking this author, and how is that relevant to the students?
Be present – adults need to be actively involved in the room. Too often there’s an adult in the back on their laptop typing furiously away: this gives permission to the students to switch off.
More supervision: make sure there are adults in the room that aren’t the author. Behaviour management is the responsibility of the staff members, not the author.
Selecting talent: while it is tempting to book the same author every year for that residency, it’s doing a disservice to the students. Think about what you’re trying to achieve, and find the best author to match that requirement. You’re booking the person, not just the author. If you’re considering asking an author to censor their identity to make you more comfortable, reconsider.
Avoid booking authors you haven’t read. Uninviting an author because you haven’t done your homework is not okay.
Ensure you request feedback after the visit specifically with regards to your communication and hosting.
Bonus advice: check the introduction bio with the author before using it. Sometimes it can be old, depending on your source. It's always advisable to check first.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments - I will endeavor to answer them speedily.