Last year, I discovered an effective way to add an extra visit or two to an out-of-town gig. I’ve never had much luck with “cold call” mailings — not only when I was new to the game, but also when I had quite a few published books that librarians would likely recognize. I just never saw any evidence that my mailings ended up anywhere but in the trash. So I had nearly given up on cold calling.
Then, I found something that really worked!
I decided to give it one more try when I was hired to visit a school in a city about 4 hours north of my hometown. Always better to bundle a few more visits into such a long drive, right? So I spent an hour or two perusing the websites of other elementary schools in that city, looking for the email addresses of likely folks to email about my upcoming visit. School websites are notoriously varied, so sometimes it took some real sleuthing to come up with the librarian’s email address. Failing that, I also looked for reading specialists or even just principals or vice principals that I could send personal emails to.
Then, one by one (NOT as a group) I emailed the dozen or so names I had collected (just one per school; in other words, I didn’t email both the librarian AND the reading specialist) with a message that read something like this:
On March 2nd, I’ll be visiting Lincoln Elementary for an author visit. Whenever I’m doing an author visit, I like to let other schools in the area know I’ll be in town, in case they would also like to book a visit around the same date. (Then I briefly outlined the benefit of doing this, namely shared mileage and a reduced rate, since my honorarium drops to my “local” rate on the second and all subsequent days — with, of course, all amounts being averaged between all participating schools.)
Notice that I specifically named the school I’d be visiting. This is a form of “social proof,” which is a marketing term. Social proof is what we all seek when we’re making purchasing decisions. For instance, if we know nothing else about an out-of-town restaurant, but we see that its parking lot is full, this is a form of “social proof” that it’s a popular restaurant, so it’s food must be pretty good.
Also, it’s very possible that the new folks I’m emailing actually KNOW a few colleagues at Lincoln, and my being hired by a known name is likely to sway them that I’m a good bet as a presenter.
At any rate, within hours, I had heard back from 3 of the 12 folks I emailed, asking for more information. Compare that to NO responses, over many weeks, from an expensive, time-consuming mailing to several hundred schools! And of those three inquiries, I did book one school, meaning I had just increased a one-day gig with a long drive to two days and nearly double the income, with no extra drive time.
I considered it time very well spent!
P.S. – And, of course, I always recommend to my host, after an event has been booked, that she ask around among her colleagues at nearby schools, to see if they would be interested in having me visit the day before or the day after. If she can find a partner school, she saves money on travel expenses and also benefits from multi-day reduced rates.
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