I love doing school visits, but I have to confess, I love summer break, too. I wrapped up my final visit last week, which got me thinking about things we can all do, during summer break, to help our school visit careers once school is back in session. Here are a few suggestions…
1. Polish up that brochure you’ve been planning and have it printed. I like Vistaprint.com and Gotprint.com. They’re both quick and efficient. Things you might want to include in the brochure:
• images of your book covers, synopses and/or reviews.
• your fees, unless you’re more comfortable having them contact you about that.
• descriptions of your programs. You really need at least two different types of programs for younger and older students.
• photos of yourself, preferably in action as a presenter. I’ve had many teachers say they chose to hire me precisely because photos of my presentations were lively and fun.
• testimonials, if you’ve collected any. If you haven’t, don’t worry, but do start compiling a few as soon as possible.
• and of course, plenty of contact info, including phone, email and website.
My current brochure is bigger than my previous pre-2012 brochure, which was less complicated. If you’d like to see my current 8-panel brochure, you can download it on the Author Visits page of my website at kimnorman.com. But you may find my older brochure, pictured here, a simpler layout to duplicate. If you’d like to use it as a template for your own brochure, click this link:
Goodness knows, I didn’t originate the 3-panel brochure, so feel free to use mine as a reference, but, of course, I also ask that you come up with your own wording about YOUR programs and not use mine.
2. Print some business cards. Splurge on a double-sized, folded version so you’ve got room for your book covers on the back. I had never really bothered with business cards before, but a recent discussion with other authors, particularly a suggestion from Toni Buzzeo about the double-sized cards, convinced me. Toni has been a generous mentor to me over the years, and I really respect her opinion. So I’ll be having some printed this summer.
3. Update your website with these items I listed in a former blog post entitled FOUR WEBSITE MUST-HAVES.
4. Work on your next book! Nothing builds a school visit career more effectively than having multiple books in print.
5. Experiment on a social media platform you’re not familiar with, especially Twitter and Pinterest. Maybe even give Linked-in a try.
6. Check your Google rank. If you’re traveling this summer, borrow a hotel computer, or a far-away friend’s or relative’s, and Google a few phrases related to your niche, to see how you’re ranking on Google from the perspective of a stranger. On devices in our homes, Google filters results related to our location and our typical searches. So our websites will rank higher on our own computers than on a distant stranger’s device.
7. Do yourself a favor! Not to be too bossy and self-serving, but: become a part of the Cool School Visits generous community by subscribing! Summer is a perfect time to digest the free guide, Planning Your Author Visit, which comes with your free subscription, using the form in the upper right side of this page. Scroll up there and subscribe right now!
8. Get hooked on marketing podcasts. Here are some of my favorites:
• The Flipped Lifestyle Podcast
• Smart Passive Income Podcast
• Social Media Marketing Podcast
That last one is actually two podcasts. I like the one with “podcast” in the name (listed second) a bit better than the one with “show” in the name (listed first.) Marketing is an important part of any author’s life, especially those who want schools to find us on the internet. I’ve picked up hundreds of great tips from marketing podcasts. Maybe it’s thanks to some podcast tip that you’re reading this article right now!
9. Put together a video about yourself and your school visits. Sue Fliess did an amazing job recently of creating a promotional video for her author visits. For those who are curious what tools she used, Sue says, “I did it all with iMovie and got royalty-free music from themusicase.com.” She’s thinking about tweaking it to use as a generic piece she can send, in advance, to schools she’ll be visiting soon. If the school plays her video a few times during morning announcements before the date of her visit, it’ll be a wonderful way for students to get to know her and to ramp up enthusiasm for her visit. (Always a plus!) For that purpose, she’ll be deleting the segment where she pitches herself as a presenter and add an opening such as: “Hi everybody! I’m excited to say I’ll be coming to your school soon!…” etc. This way, she can use the same video for all schools. I once thought briefly about personalizing a video for each school. Ca-razy notion! Of course, I was not organized enough to manage such a thing!
Check out Sue’s Author School Visit video on YouTube HERE.
And visit her charming website, HERE. It’s chock full of goodies. Thanks, Sue!
10. Join SCBWI and explore its phenomenal message board. Make connections with other authors and illustrators. Connections can be great career builders.
11. Start a critique family. If you’re not already in a critique group, post a few messages on SCBWI’s phenomenal chat board and form a new group. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done for my career… although, back then, I made connections in the Children’s Writers (CW) chat list in Yahoo Groups. It’s still around. Google it.
12. Be a joiner. Find a handful of children’s writers’ groups on Facebook and join. Become a contributing member of the groups by offering helpful answers to other members’ questions. Through Facebook — and long before Faceboook, through the above-mentioned Yahoo group — I’ve formed long-term relationships with other writers whom I consider close friends, even if we’ve never met in person. Some of them I have met in person, and we’ve become such fast friends that we stay at each other’s houses (when I’m in their town doing a visit, or vise versa) and hand out each other’s brochures to coordinators who have hired us for school visits.
13. Let yourself go… in a good way. While I love my podcasts for shortening a humid early-morning walk, I also save a few walks for just me, my dog and my imagination. Reserve a few walks and workouts for thinking about your next project. Brain scans show that when we’re engaged in something physical but monotonous, such as walking or doing dishes, our brains are popping with creative thoughts. Bring a pencil and notepad or record your thoughts on your phone via a voice memo.
14. Read your friends’ books and review-mention-tweet them! Remember the importance of connections… not to mention the importance of being a good friend.
15. Research educator organizations in your state. (Search with phrases such as “reading association,” “library association” and “librarian/teacher organization” etc., adding your state’s name to the search.) Some of them ask for conference proposals during the summer. Put in a proposal to do a presentation at their upcoming conference. If you’ve never written a conference proposal, don’t be intimidated. Most have a set format, asking for a title and a 50-ish word summary. You don’t even need to have the whole workshop planned out yet when you submit the proposal. Just write the summary and use that as a guide, later, when you design the workshop. Try to come up with a topic that teachers can take back to the classroom. It’s unlikely you’d get many attendees to a workshop centered exclusively around your book(s), but it’s certainly acceptable to make your book on, say, Civil Rights, a large part of a presentation around that topic.
16. Find a specific spot to store your school visit supplies. This will allow you to quickly grab everything you need when fall gets here. With all my school visit supplies in one place, I’m less likely to forget something.
17. My secret to quick storage (and travel): canvas bags and one rolling bag. If I have those 2 canvas bags looped over the handle of the rolling bag, I know I’ve got everything I need for the visit. (This is aside from travel bags, if it’s an out-of-town visit.) If you’re feeling creative, decorate a few canvas bags or pieces of luggage to hold school visit supplies and ONLY school visit supplies… to avert the disaster of discovering you have the wrong bag when you get to the school.
18. Organize your computer files. If you’re organizationally challenged like me, here’s how I “un-muddle” my Mac: In my Documents folder, I have one folder labeled SCHOOL VISITS. Inside that folder, various folders to hold things like book sale sheets, brochures, etc. Also in the SCHOOL VISITS folder: a folder for each school year. Since school years spill over two calendar years, I call them — for example — “2014-15” and “2015-16.” Then, inside each year’s folder, I name the folders for each visit with a six-digit date first. For instance, “091515_Denver” would mean I’ll be doing a presentation in Denver on September 15, 2015. All correspondence related to the visit goes into that folder. The reason for the 6-digit date at the beginning of each name is that my computer naturally lines everything up by numbers first. This means files line up in nice chronological order. You can also force a document to the front of the line by adding a space at the beginning of the name/date or force it to the end of the line by putting a “Z” at the beginning of the name. I do this for inquiries that haven’t been solidly booked yet: “Z_INQ_Denver_fall2016?”… something like that.
19. Work on your next book even more. Seriously, I cannot stress enough the importance of having more than one book in print. Many librarians prefer authors with a greater number of titles for their students to choose from. Presentation experience aside, authors with more books in print have an advantage over those with fewer titles. Narrow that advantage gap by finishing your next book.
20. Read poetry, then write some, even if you’re not a poet. Every form of writing improves when its practitioner tries his/her hand at poetry now and then. Poetry tightens your writing like nothing else. (That’s such a clunky paragraph, clearly *I* need to write some poetry, too!)
21. READ READ READ! Choose a particular children’s genre/age level for the summer and dive in! Then, come fall, when a student asks, “Who’s your favorite author?” or “What’s your favorite book,” you can honestly name someone you’ve read recently rather than someone you remember from your childhood.
Of course, no one can manage this whole to-do list in one summer. For one thing, it’s also important to really relax and enjoy our families in the summer, as that old photo of my boys in a pool suggests. (Taken so long ago that, now, that hair mostly only grows on their handsome young faces.) But let’s choose several items that seem the most friendly to our summer schedules and tackle them. Let me know how it goes. And if you’ve got other author-visit-related chores on your list, please share your plans! I’m sure I’ve left out a few.
Last but not least: the results of our Puddle Pug free book contest! Sorry to make everyone wait so long. I was in the middle of compiling this post early last week when I was felled by a nasty bug that’s still hanging around as an annoying cough, but at least I can move again. The contest was to comment on a blog post by June 1st. Tons of tremendous comments rolled in. The winners, by random drawing, are… DRUMROLL PLEASE:
Keila Dawson and Pat Miller. Congratulations, ladies! I’ll be contacting you privately for your addresses so I can mail your books and audio CDs. Thanks for playing, everybody, and have a great summer!
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