Classy Publicity: Author Amy Fellner Dominy on School Visits
I love having children's writers visit Blurb is a Verb because they so often describe publicity experiences about which I know nothing at all. Amy Fellner Dominy was gracious enough to drop by to relate her new found knowledge of: school visits! Amy's novel for 'tweens OyMG (isn't the title awesome?) debuted six months ago.
School visits are a great way to share your book and build a fan base with your readers. (And unlike a bookstore signing, school visits guarantee you an audience!) Unfortunately, I knew nothing about them. What would I talk about? How could I keep them engaged? Beyond those basic questions I wondered what kind of presentation I should create? And how did I arrange visits with the schools?
Six months later, I’ve survived my first author visits. I’m certainly no expert, but I did learn a few things that might help if you decide school visits are right for you.
Connect with local school librarians or English teachers. Offer to come in for a career day if that’s part of their curriculum. Or work with them to create a unique program that interests them. For me, I was willing to cater to local schools for the practice and experience. Once you hit up your local schools, you can ask for referrals and recommendations, which helps in widening your circle.
Tie your presentation to the curriculum. Teachers/librarians appreciate it if you can teach something to the kids that ties into their lesson plans. Is there a writing exercise you can do? An element of story that you can teach? A life lesson of perseverance that you can focus on? Recently, I was asked to come in and talk about the revision process to eighth graders. The teacher wanted me to convince kids that rewriting is something everyone does—even published authors.
When I was brainstorming ideas for a presentation, I tried to focus on my strengths. My background is in playwriting—which is pure dialogue. It also happens to be my favorite part of writing and I have a lot of “talky” scenes in my book. I worked up a presentation on dialogue and feel very comfortable with it.
Make your Presentation Visual
I do a Powerpoint and it works great. (It’s so much better than having the kids stare at me the whole time!) Not all authors have powerpoints, but all of the ones I’ve seen have something visual that the kids can focus on. If you have a book trailer, play it. Kids love that!
Share the Stage
If you can, get the kids involved. The simplest way is to ask questions and create a discussion. Each time I shifted to a new topic, I started with a question. You can involve kids in other ways, as well. For my dialogue presentations, I created Reader’s Theater scripts of a scene in my book and had kids come up on stage and act it out.
Make it Personal
This surprised me, but the kids really responded to slides with a glimpse of my real life. For example, when I talked about playwriting, I didn’t show a script—I put up a slide of me in high school, acting in the school play. (Maybe seeing how ridiculous I looked made me seem more relatable.)
If you’re not sure, ask.
What equipment do they have? What do you need to bring? If your presentation was done on a Mac will it transfer to their system? Can I show a slide of dog poop? (yes.) Can I say the word crap? (yes.) Can I reward kids who ask questions with candy? (no.) I’m very glad I asked the teachers before I came in. Different schools have different “rules” so be sure to ask if you have questions.
Observe other authors
Before my book released, I made it a point to sit in as many author visits as I could at the nearby schools. (Just call the school librarians and inquire if they’ve got author visits set up. Ask if you can observe and they’ll most likely say yes.) I found it very helpful to see what worked with the kids and what didn’t.
When you’re speaking to kids, anything might happen. They can get off on tangents, and ask a million questions about a detail you mentioned off the cuff. Also, in a school setting you never know when announcements might come over the loudspeaker, etc. So be flexible. If you run into disciplinary problems, ask the teachers to step in. So far, the worst I’ve had to deal with is chatty kids.
Visit the master of school visits. Author Alexis O’Neill runs an online site with everything you might want to know about school visits. http://schoolvisitexperts.com/. It’s an amazing resource for any author interested
in school visits. Be sure to check it out.
You can find Amy at http://amydominy.com/ or follow her @amydominy.