Children’s and YA Authors and Illustrators, Public Speaking, and Event Planning

Author Carmen Oliver speaks to elementary students.
Author-Speaker Directories

Author School Visits by State: a state-by-state listing, not a booking service, from author Kim Norman. CYN NOTE: traditionally published authors may request a free listing.

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Speakers Bureau: “Many of our speakers have videos, links to books and other information to help you make an informed decision about bringing a speaker to your venue.”

Author-Illustrator Panels

Let’s reflect on the importance of passing the mic-literally and verbally-on author and illustrator panels at events celebrating books for young readers. The best practice is for each participant to take responsibility and ensure that every speaker has roughly the same opportunity to share information and insights.

However, some of us may find it challenging to remain self-aware in front of an audience, especially if we are used to being the center of attention or tend to babble when we’re nervous. If you happen to find yourself verbalizing or being centered much more than everyone else, consider redirecting the focus and saying something like, “What a terrific question! I’d love to hear what Author X thinks about it.”

On the other hand, some of us may be consistently, even systemically, marginalized and may find ourselves talked over or on the receiving end of fewer questions. In such cases, try interrupting with “Before you go on, I’d like to speak to that point, too” or jump in with a question to whomever else is likewise being left out and then build on their answer.

Moderators, you’re in that job for a reason. Set expectations by giving your audience and participants a heads up as to your approach. After the introductions, say, “We’re all here to hear from each of these terrific speakers, but our program time is limited, so I’ll jump in as needed to make sure that happens.” Then, if the moment calls for it, try saying something like, “That’s fantastic, Big Talker. Thanks for sharing. Now, let’s hear from Other Panelist.”

To those who’ve spoken on author or illustrator panels, what tips do you have for facilitating a balanced, inclusive conversation? To those who regularly attend them, what approaches do you appreciate most?

School Visits: Planning and Programming

ABCs OF AN AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR VISIT by Sharron McElmeel 2nd ed. (Linworth, 2001). Focus on traditional planning issues. Somewhat dated, but still lots of good information.

Author Visit Central: a simple, streamlined, free book-ordering outlet for sales that supports, authors/illustrators, independent bookstores and schools.

Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators and Storytellers Real Space and Virtual Links by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz

TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS WITH AUTHORS, ILLUSTRATORS AND STORYTELLERS: REAL SPACE AND VIRTUAL LINKS by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz (Libraries Unlimited, 1999). Unlike other author visit guides, this book goes beyond nuts-and-bolts planning to illustrate how to create the best accessible encounters between students and authors. Choosing the guest, guidelines for successful visits, making curriculum connections, using e-mail to connect with bookpeople, having live chats in virtual space, taking advantage of ITB and satellite technology, and using such props as realia and curriculum guides are covered. Grades K-12.

Ten Tips for a Perfect Author Visit by Michael Shoulders from Nerdy Book Club. PEEK: “The school librarian or media specialist should be an integral part of the priming process. What better way to generate enthusiasm for a visiting author than by actually reading the works by that writer beforehand?” SEE ALSO The Perfect Author Visit from Dan Gutman.

At the Museum with Leila Sales from Publishers Weekly. PEEK: “…Sales arranged an inventive event in keeping with the theme of her middle grade novel… ‘make your own museum’ camp.

Author-Librarian Interview: Toni Buzzeo on school visits, part one and two by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations.

Authors Answer: What Made Your Best School Visits Great by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. PEEK from Margarita Engle: “If I’m out of town, a ride from the hotel is a precious gift, saving me the anxiety of finding my own way around. It makes an enormous difference.”

Curious City: U.S.-based supplier of books for school/author events nation-wide.

Event Planning by Kelly Bingham at Through the Tollbooth. PEEK: “We have noble intentions through our visits, and it is true that many authors do them for free. But most authors get paid, and to be frank, many authors earn up to half their annual income from school visits. So that is something to consider as well.”

How to Host an Author Visit from Scholastic.

How to Plan an Author Appearance from Penguin.

Book A Children’s Author Bringing Books to Life from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A Love Note and Battle Strategies for Author-Speakers by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations. PEEK: “Low audience turnout? First, don’t take it personally. There are a ton of factors that go into attendance at an author event. If you’ve made a good faith effort to spread the word, that’s all you can do. It’s especially tough in a city where you don’t have personal ties and aren’t plugged into local media scene. Your biggest fan could live across the street and still have no idea you’re right there in the neighborhood.”

Author Melissa Stewart

“Meeting” the Author by Melissa Stewart from I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. PEEK: “Seeing someone on screen isn’t quite as powerful as a live visit, but videos are a great option for schools that lack the time, resources, or funding to bring in authors and illustrators. They’re also a great way for any school to increase their students’ exposure to book creators.” Creating Programs That Kids, Teachers and Librarians Love.

School Visits by Authors Boost Children’s Writing Confidence by Johnny Zucker from The Guardian. PEEK: “Be familiar wth the author’s work. It sounds pretty basic, but I’ve seen some eye-popping mismatches. A writer of edge-of-your-seat action novels may have a problem connecting with reception-age children who are used to stories about pancake-making goats. It’s also important for your pupils to be familiar with at least some of the author’s output.”

What’s the Deal with Those Authors Visiting Schools? from Shannon Hale. PEEK: “Schools where the educators prepared the students for my visit, the assemblies went 1000x better, and students were still buzzing about the assembly and reading my books and other books I recommended for months after.”

Booking Agencies

Authors and More: “…a full service company providing authors, storytellers, illustrators, and musicians for schools and library programs. Our primary customers are schools and libraries.”

Balkin Buddies: for appearances in schools, libraries, and at conferences. Promises “the best speakers who are also fabulous authors and illustrators,” efficient service, and expert advice.

Booking Agent Interview: Jean Dayton of Dayton Bookings: Literary Tours and Promotions by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations.

The Booking Biz: see link to invite Cynthia Leitich Smith to your event.

The Booking Biz: Author and Illustrator Visits from Schools Libraries and Literary Events, founded by Carmen Oliver. CYN NOTE: The Booking Biz represents Cynthia Leitich Smith’s author events. SEE ALSO Carmen Oliver on Founding a Children’s-YA Author and Illustrator Booking Agency from Cynsations and 5 Ways Author School Visits Benefit You by Carmen Oliver from The Booking Biz.

McBookWords: information for schools, educators, and librarians about children’s/YA book authors and illustrators who make appearances.

Winding Oak: offers promotional and booking services for children’s book authors and illustrators. Publicist Interview: Aimée Bissonette of Winding Oak from Cynsations.

Equity and Inclusion: Diverse Programming

How and Why to Build Diversity into Your Speaker Program by Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Booking Biz. PEEK: “Think about a balance of voices, their idiosyncratic and intersecting perspectives, because that will make for a richer, more layered and interesting conversation. It’ll allow more kids to vicariously see themselves in what’s happening. It’ll allow more kids an opportunity for new and deeper connections with others, heightened empathy.”

No More All-Male Panels from Mike Jung. PEEK: “… what kind of ally am I if I prioritize my own comfort over the gender-driven inequities faced by my colleagues every single day? What kind of ally am I if I silently cheer on people working to fight gender bias at their own risk without doing any of the work or assuming any of the risk myself?”

School Visit Finances

5 Fundraising Ideas Kids Can Do from The Booking Biz. PEEK: “Children are wonderful entrepreneurs, and getting them involved with raising funds helps to build excitement about the event itself. Win win.”

21 Ways to Fund Author Visits from The Booking Biz. PEEK: “Schools that are faced with tight budgets might have limited opportunities for author visits, but there are ways to gain the needed funds so your school can take advantage of this huge benefit.”

Alternate Funding for Author Visits by Greg Pincus from Cynsations.

Amber Brown Grant from SCBWI. PEEK: “…commemorates author and beloved school speaker, Paula Danziger.  One school is awarded each year with an author or illustrator visit and new books to continue Paula’s love of connecting children with creative influences.”

Educational Grants for Books, Author Visits & School Programs from Donna Jannell Bowman. PEEK: “I scoured resources and compiled this mega list of grants for schools and classrooms.”

Funding an Author Visit: There’s Money Available from Donna Jannell Bowman. PEEK: “…how do you pay for an author visit when budgets at the school and district level are squeezed?”

School Visit Surveys by Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito from Polliwog on Safari:

Author Caroline Starr Rose

The Truth About Author Incomes from Donna Jannell Bowman. PEEK: “We don’t like to talk about the money side of authorship. It’s more fun to talk about the magic of creation and craft. But our silence perpetuates misconceptions, so let’s pull back the curtain, shall we?”

Why Pay Authors for School Visits Anyway? from Caroline Starr Rose. PEEK: “There’s an unspoken assumption attached to this one, the idea that once an author sells a book she has it made. In truth, it’s safe to say many of us make less (in many cases far less) than your average teacher. All of my books have sold for less than what I received my first year teaching, and that was in the mid-nineties in New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the U.S.”

Online Visits
Author-librarian Toni Buzzeo

Guest Post: Toni Buzzeo on Get Out There—Virtually—and Connect by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations. PEEK: “Virtual visits can unfold in many different ways, but will usually begin with a brief presentation by the author, followed either by slides via desktop sharing or questions and answers between children and the author or, often, a combination of the two.”

Virtual Author Visits: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Awesome from Kate Messner at Kate’s Book Blog. PEEK: “Talk to your students about etiquette for a virtual author visit. In many ways, it’s just like having a guest speaker in your auditorium or classroom in person, and kids need to know that all the same rules about courteous behavior apply. It will also be important for them to know that technical issues are a possibility and that their quiet cooperation will help you get things fixed more quickly.”

Preparing Presentations
Author Bettina Restrepo

Propping Up Your School Visit by Bettina Restrepo from Cynsations. PEEK: “I began with props and a budget. I made a list of all the things I wanted to have for a school visit. Then I made a budget of $300. Would I make enough money doing school visits to earn back my investment? I took the chance, because the best thing you can do is invest in your book and yourself.”

Secrets to Successful School Visits by Cynthia Lord from Donna Gephart at Wild About Words. PEEK: “…tell the principal how wonderful the media specialist (or whoever organized the visit with you) has been to work with. It’s a nice way to affirm the hard work that went into bringing you to the school.”