Monday, September 24, 2007

Miss Viola on School Visits

Dear Ms. Viola,

I was recently invited to speak at an Elementary school during their Young Author's Day in Feb and she asked about my rates. For one, I write for teens, not children. Especially 3rd graders, so I don't know if she was unaware of the genre I write for.

Despite that glaring fact, it got me to thinking about doing high school visits. I'd like to start doing those, but I don't know what to charge. How do I figure that out? Being a "newbie" speaker, should I charge a flat rate or by the hr? What do I talk about and for how long? Should I tailor my "speech" for different class levels, or just stick to high schools and junior high?

Any suggestions and advice would be greatly accepted. Thank you.

Please sign me YAing it in Elementaryville

Congratulations, dahlink! You’re in demand!

Or at least, beginning the process of such.

One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of school visits occur at elementary and middle schools. Remember, the bulk of YA is read by kids fourteen and younger, often 12 and under! (ie: middle school and below) Some YA authors are able to do a great many school visits with great success, but the bulk of their actual appearances are not at high schools. If your YA novels are mostly rated G or PG, it will be much easier for you to present to younger audiences.

If you’ve decided your material is suitable for younger audiences, you’ll want to develop a small wardrobe of speaking basics, dahlink, just like the little black dress and classic white blouse.

Since they are in the throes of learning it, the elementary grades are always interested in hearing about the writing process itself, especially straight from the horse’s mouth author herself: pre-writing, first draft, revision, and polishing. They are always enthralled to hear just how many drafts professional authors have to do, how many changes their editor demands requests. It’s also a fun idea to bring visual aids:
A copy of a revision letter (so they can see how long it is)
Pages from a mss marked up for revision
Some galley pages or page proofs, so they can see how it evolves into a book
Copy edited pages
Any cover or interior art or sketches
Any fun themes or motifs from your novel that can be turned into physical props, hats, bugs, toilet seat covers, historical objects, etc.

Older, middle school audiences will have mastered some of the basics of writing and will be interested in funny problems you ran into writing the book, the inspiration for the story (especially if it deals with their age group) the frustrations a working writer might run into, expounding on interesting subject matter you touched on in your book.

Middle school crowds are a much tougher sell in terms of keeping them entertained, but luckily you can use more sophisticated approaches and techniques. Also, since they will be your actual target audience, you can focus more on the books content rather than the process.

As for what to charge: Well, dearest newbie speaker, the immediate answer would be nothing. For your first few school visits, you charge nothing. After all, you are still feeling your way and trying to build a successful presentation package. You’re experimenting. Therefore, gratis visits are often the norm for this stage. After you have a few visits under your belt and you know what you’re doing, you can charge, usually in a range of $100-$400 per day, at least until you start building up rave reviews and thrilled testimonials. Then you can begin charging the bigger rates of $500 plus per day.

An excellent place to do comparative fee searching is on children’s publisher’s websites. They often have a section devoted to School Visits and many list the authors available and what their fees are.

Good luck! If you follow these tips I have no doubt you’ll have scores of schools clamoring at your door! Now I must fly! I’m off to prepare a Certain Famous Pop Singer for her upcoming court appearance!

1 comment:

Mary Hershey said...

Dear Ms. Viola,

Thanks for all the great, illuminating advice. I like the idea of working gratis for a short period for a number of reasons-- first, the whole karmic networking, and also it gives you a chance to really develop yourself professionally before you begin to ask for a professional's wage.

Though, some authors may hit the ground running, others may not feel ready. So, I think this is very individual, but I like your suggestion. Takes some of the pressure off, too, I think.

And, to "YAing in Elementaryville", do give me a holler at and let me know your address so we can mail you your very own Shrinking Violet mug.

Mary Hershey