Planning the perfect author visit: tips for librarians, teachers and media specialists

An author visit can be a wonderful addition to the school year. Students love meeting authors and illustrators in person. This guide will help you to plan the perfect author visit, based on input from both authors and from expert author visit organizers.

Step 1: Identify your Author or Illustrator

Ask yourself: what kind of author or illustrator do you want to have visit your school? Young? Old? Someone with a message worth sharing? Someone who has published many books? A popular author that your students already know about?

Selecting an appropriate author to visit your school is the most important decision you will make when planning your author visit.

What are the best ways to locate a quality author or illustrator to visit your school? Google is one good answer, asking teachers and other librarians or media specialists from other schools who they’ve been happy with is another approach.

Step 2: Contact the author or illustrator

After you have identified the author or illustrator you would like to come to speak at your school, it’s time to contact them. It is usually a good idea to do so as soon as possible to ensure the best chance of securing the date you want. How do you get in touch with a speaker? Usually an author’s publisher can pass on any visit requests or you can also see if the author or illustrator has a request form on their site. For a good example of an author visit request form see Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini’s Author Visit request form.

Step 3: Begin the planning process

Once you have contacted the author and scheduled the visit, you should begin planning for the visit.

Some suggested considerations:

  • Transportation – how is the author going to arrive? If the author is flying in, transportation should be arranged from the airport to the lodging where they will be staying. Different authors have different requirements in this regard — it is best to ask them directly what they prefer. Many authors will request to be picked up and dropped off so that they do not get lost and they can concentrate on giving a good presentation.
  • Lodging – where is the author going to stay? Most times an author will be visiting your school for a day and will need to have a place to stay the evening before. You should arrange for the best accomodations possible. You want the author to be as rested and relaxed as possible.
  • Activities – how can you get your students excited about the upcoming author visit? Many schools encourage their students to participate in projects that relate to the author’s books in some way, such as:
    • Read the author’s books
    • Make their own books
    • Decorate the hallways with original artwork that relates to the author’s books
    • Create a public service project that relates to themes relevant to the author’s books

    Step 4: Final preparation logistics

    Make sure you have contact information for the author for when they arrive. Cell phone numbers are a must, both for the author and for the greeter. This will greatly assist if for some reason a flight is delayed or there is a mix-up.

    Make sure that the hotel reservation is confirmed.

    Confirm with the author the exact number of presentations, the number of students they will be speaking to, any special needs or requirements. Communicate as much as you can to make sure that the author understands your expectations and that you understand their needs. This will help ensure a smooth visit.

    Step 4: The day of the visit

    Prepare a brief introduction of the author to share with your students. Introduce the author and then enjoy the presenation. Make sure the author knows before-hand how long the presentation should last and if there are any special-needs students.

    Technical requrirements

    Find out ahead of time if the author has any special requirements for giving their presentation.

    Typical needs might include:

    • Digital Projector – more and more authors are using Powerpoint to present slides of thier books. A good digital projector will help make this memorable for the students.
    • Computer – many authors have thier own laptops for giving presentations, but sometimes they are not able to bring them. In this case, if they have a Powerpoint-based presentation to give, you should arrange for a computer to run the presentation.
    • Microphone – if the author will be presenting in an auditorium to a large group of students it is usually a good idea to provide a microphone. Make sure you test it before the visit to make sure it works. If the author will be using a lapel microphone, make sure you allow enough time before the presentation to attach the microphone and test.

    Book Signing

    Inquire with the author if they will be available to sign books. Most authors will happily sign as many books as needed. Many schools order a copy of the author’s book for each student to give everyone their own book to enjoy. Make sure you communicate with the author before hand that you would like them to sign books, and indicate how many they can expect.

    Step 5: Post-visit

    After a successful author visit, your students should be excited about books and the opportunity to meet an author. Encourage them to do additional projects relating to writing, illustrating and being creative. Keep the momentum going and the anticipation will build for what the next year’s author will bring.