Book Marketing, Romi Sharp

Authors! The Focus is on YOU! How to Successfully Conduct Author Visits

Book Marketing Secrets #5

With Book Week fast approaching, today’s Book Marketing post is all about author visits, and how best to go about them. Sure, they can be daunting, overwhelming, and downright frightening, but you needn’t fear. School talks or workshops should be FUN! And as long as you’re prepared, they will be! Your visit could be the one that sticks with particular children for years to come, so why not make it unforgettable?!

It’s all about them.

Students, parents, staff, event coordinators. They all want something to take away from your presentation. Consider how you would want them to feel at the end of your visit. This is the end goal.

We have a very special article from author-presenter-extraordinaire, Teena Raffa-Mulligan, who generously shares her experiences and top tips for author talks. Thanks, Teena!

Put the smile into school talks
By Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Does the thought of school talks make you cringe or smile? For me, they’re a fun part of being a children’s author. Yet my first public appearance was a disaster.

I was 14 and my English teacher had entered me in a regional public speaking competition. We prepared well and I got off to a great start. Suddenly I realised everyone in the room was listening to me … and I froze. My mind went blank. I lost my words. Mumbling an apology, I hurried back to my seat among the other competitors.

After that experience, public speaker wasn’t among my career choices. So how did someone who wanted to spotlight her work rather than herself come to find it fun to take centre stage and talk about books and writing?

In 1982 when my first picture book, You Don’t Know Me?, was published, I was famous for five minutes because of its stranger danger topic. The book was endorsed by the WA premier, police and education departments and used in schools around the country. The local primary school invited me to talk to students and the principal assembled all the classes at once: about 500 kids in one area. It was scary. And I shake badly when nervous.

But something happened the minute I started to talk. These kids were interested in my story and I relaxed. Instead of being another embarrassing failure, my first guest author session was a success. More invitations followed and I now rate school visits one of the best things about being a children’s author.

Over the years I’ve found out what works for me. I have a wheelie case that is always packed ready to go and I take lots to show and tell: my books, some magazines featuring my poems and stories, story drafts at various stages of development, a publisher’s proof copy, a rejection letter, my first ‘novel’ written at age 14 in an exercise book. I also have a selection of PowerPoint presentations on various topics. For workshops I have my ‘box of tricks’, which includes a selection of interesting objects, pictures, fabrics and one-line story openers and closers to trigger ideas for students to produce a short piece of writing.

The focus is on interaction, so I walk around a lot and ask questions such as where writers might get their ideas, what would happen if we did nothing about them, what we can do to make sure those ideas develop into stories. The kids get plenty of opportunity to ask their own questions about writing and my life as an author. My aim is to excite kids about books and writing, inspire them to believe they can write if they want to and encourage them to have a go. My message is: if I can do it, you can too.

And that applies to school talks too. Here are my top tips…

1. Be yourself. Not everyone is a performer. Kids will know immediately if you’re trying to be something you’re not. Tell jokes and do tricks as part of your presentation if that’s your style. Otherwise, share your story simply and honestly.

2. Be prepared. What do you need to do to feel comfortable about giving your talk? If you’re a planner, draw up an outline of your talk and the topics you’ll cover. Practise at home and take along a small card on the day with headings to jog your memory or prepare a PowerPoint presentation.

3. Take along samples of early drafts as well as your published books. Kids need to know that writing is a process and writers don’t instantly produce word perfect stories like magic.

4. Specify the preferred age group and size of your audience. Sessions for one or two classes of similar age work best for me. A whole-school group of students ranging from pre-schoolers to Year 7s in an assembly area is an entirely different story.

5. Be clear about the school’s expectations — and yours. Do they want to offer the kids an insight into the writer’s life? Practical writing advice they can use when producing their own stories? A combination of both? From your perspective, you need an appropriate space for your talk and shouldn’t be expected to discipline inattentive children. Ideally the experience will be enjoyable for everyone involved.

Above all – have fun!

Special thanks to Teena Raffa-Mulligan: website | facebook

Even More Tips…

  • Promote your visit prior to the event by providing fun, educational activity sheets relating to your book. Also offer complimentary display posters the staff can hang up around the school. PLUS, include a take-away bonus upon completion of your presentation for students to follow-up with in class or at home.
  • Come up with innovative ways to entertain your audience. Special artefacts, live animals, science experiments, role plays …the possibilities are endless.
  • Involve them with regular interactive activities, including questioning, challenges, votes, asking for volunteers and visual elements. Keep them on edge, focused and engaged.
  • Request photos and a testimonial from your visit. Create those lasting memories for the students and staff. Bonus: sharing these reviews is a beneficial way to promote yourself to other schools.

The benefits to school visits are vast. Not only do you have the opportunity to promote your work, raise your profile and earn an income, you get to meet an audience that is probably super excited to meet you and create a presentation that is stimulating, inspiring… and unforgettable! Remember to be entertaining, hands-on and interactive, but most importantly, be yourself, oh, and be prepared!

Do you have tips you’d like to share?


Additional resources

Credit: Creative Kids Tales

Spreading my ‘Author Wings’ through school visits by Georgie Donaghey – Part 1

Spreading my ‘Author Wings’ though school visits by Georgie Donaghey – Part 2


Books On Tour PR & Marketing is available to help you create an effective marketing plan for your book. For further information, feel free to contact us.


Next time…
Next month we will continue our Book Marketing Secrets with…Creating Graphics and Visual Content.

Previous articles…
Learn the Basics to Book Marketing and How You Can Implement Them Without Fail
How Your Website Works Your Market
How to Get Featured – 5 ways to pitch to the media
Do You Need More Likes? How to Plan for Social Media Marketing


3 thoughts on “Authors! The Focus is on YOU! How to Successfully Conduct Author Visits”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s