Archive for September, 2013

Students Love Interesting Props

School Visits — Part 2

copyright 2013 by Sherry Garland

There are basically two types of author presentations: those that entertain and those that inform.  The best programs have a good mix of both.

ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment programs include things like musical instruments and singing, puppets, tall tales, dressing in costume, telling jokes, reading funny poetry or funny stories, and doing various antics that keep the kids laughing. This type of program is most often geared toward the younger audiences preK-2 and often includes a lot of student participation.

INFORMATIVE: An informative program will teach students something, either about a certain subject or about writing. This kind of program includes props, slide shows (PowerPoint), explanations and answering questions. A program about American history or a writing workshop falls under this category. These programs are geared toward older students, grades 3-12, and adult. Programs for high school and adult audiences usually have less student participation.

COMBINATION: The best programs are both informative and entertaining. There will be enough entertainment to keep the kids interested, yet they will be learning something at the same time. For example, I do a program about Texas History that includes many props and artifacts and dressing up of students in historical costumes as I talk about the topic. For my LOTUS SEED program, I bring lots of props from Vietnam, have several demonstrations, show slides, and talk about immigrants.

1.   SUBJECTS FOR AUTHOR PROGRAMS: Typical Presentations:

“What It’s Like to be an Author” (or illustrator) — slides of your office, research sites, etc.

“A Program about Writing/ Making Books” — steps author goes through to create a book from idea to finished product

“Program about the subject matter of your book”

“Writing Workshops” (smaller group, with writing exercises)


pre-K-2 lasts about 20-30 minutes + Q&A; grades 3 and up lasts about 45-50 minutes + Q&A.


A Typical School visit Set-up

–Don’t just stand there and read your book – anyone can do that

–Use visual aids – slides, artifacts, props, puppets, funny hats, art work

–Involve students – have demonstrations; use volunteers; ask the audience some questions

–End program with questions from the audience


An author’s fees will include the honorarium, lodging (if required) and transportation cost (airplane, automobile). Honorarium fees vary widely. Typically the more famous the author, the higher the fee because that person’s time is considered more valuable. However, this is not always the case. Also, fees vary depending on how bad the author wants the gig.  For example, if you have relatives in Chicago, you might decide to accept an author visit there even though the honorarium is below what you normally charge. On the other hand, you may decide you really don’t want to go to Chicago, so you raise the fee to compensate. Lastly, most authors give the schools a multi-visit discount.  for example, if you speak at only one school, you may charge $800, but if you are speaking to five schools, you may drop that fee to $700. You have to weigh your desire for income against your lack of desire to speak to a room full of twisty kids.

If you are a beginner with only one book (unless it is a Newbery winner!!!), you usually start out low and gradually raise your fees as you publish more books and become more famous. Test your presentations on a couple of schools for free so you will have a good feel for what happens.

Some authors charge a set fee for each presentation, for example $250 for one, $500 for two, $750 for three and $1000 for four. Others charge one price for a half-day and one price for a full day, no matter how many presentations are given. I personally do not give more than four presentations per day because my voice goes out and my feet hurt too much.

In Part 3, I will talk about the technical aspects of the author visit, equipment, schedules, selling books, craziness and some examples of memorable school visits.




Read Full Post »