EVENTS A Survivor’s Guide to School Visits

It is every children’s author’s dream: a publishing deal. But, for some, the prospect of what comes next may be their worst nightmare: school visits. The rows and rows of expectant faces are just the tip of the iceberg. Sarah Broadley attended an event full of advice on preparing for the inevitable.

On Saturday 9th June, SCBWI South East Scotland welcomed Linda Strachan, chair of the Society of Authors In Scotland, to our shores. A fact-filled morning discussing the ins and outs of school visits, how to say no and so much more.

Linda Strachan, chair of Society of Authors in Scotland.

Climbing up the next rung on the ladder now that you have an agent and/or are published, brings with it a whole heap of dilemmas and questions that you had no idea existed or perhaps were in denial they would need to be thought about let alone given their own spreadsheet or section on your tax form.

Linda paved the way for us all as she shared her experiences over the last 20 years or so on being a published author across all genres. Preparation is key to survival.

Have you been in touch with the school? Do they know when you're arriving? Have you already discussed payment? Who do you give your invoice to? What's their address? Any roadworks/road closures you should know about? Are you selling books while you're there? Do the kids know you're coming/selling books? Contact number for the school should you take a wrong turning and end up at Trunchbull's dorm?

The questions are endless. The only way to get around this is to be prepared.

Listening intently: authors at the event.

Linda showed us some tick sheets she uses to help her prepare for school visits and sends to the school, to make sure everything is agreed in advance. Don your best 'I know what I'm doing' tie and go for it.

The trick is to prepare everything well in advance, not the night before. Pack your bag well before you go and leave enough extra time for getting lost or roadworks. Are you driving there? Is there enough fuel in your car? All these little things and more will help ease your way into the day.

Before you offer school visits, research your audience. Which projects are they doing at school that tie in with your book? Find something the age range will engage with and (particularly in primary schools) take props, and you'll be OK.

How to say NO

This is work, not a hobby, you get paid.

We hear stories all the time about authors and illustrators being asked to do free events - "it's great for exposure", "we don't have any funds, could you do it for free?" "just this once"... and what about schools being strapped for cash?

Linda told us to consider very carefully before agreeing to do any event for free. Do the janitors work for free at the school? Does the head teacher do it for the love of the job and nothing more? No. Everyone else working in the school is being paid that day, so why should the author work for free? And consider what happens to the next author who comes along and expects to be paid for their work if you do it for free. Yes, it is a job, not a hobby and you should get paid.

There are many ways to help those with funding issues: direct them to live literature funding/First Minister's Reading Challenge/Inspiring Classrooms or one of the other funding avenues available and they are more likely to be able to say yes and the kids will have had a fantastic time meeting an author.

Consider a publicity sheet to send out to schools - your photo, website/blog, book covers, blurbs, social media contacts, links to book trailers. They may even send it out to parents or put it on their school newsletter.

Linda told us to consider very carefully before agreeing to doing any event for free. Do the janitors work for free at the school? Does the head teacher do it for the love of the job and nothing more? No. 

Bookmarks - a fantastic keepsake for those kids who didn't/couldn't buy your book, it gives them something to take away. Get them printed with a small white space and you can sign it for them too.

We live in the digital age, use it - posters, postcards, bookmarks, stickers, Youtube - it all helps promote and gather interest in your work. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook - follow schools and libraries, get your name out there.

Thank everybody - even if you got a flat tyre, the school was closed without them telling you or you spilt beans down your top at lunchtime.

Linda left us with some fantastic words for all those who are about to launch their début or even their 15th book - "If you've done the hard work, you deserve the party!"

And don’t forget the reasons why you started writing - enjoy it!

Here's to all the survivors: may you always get paid, may the kids love your books and may you never ever stop writing.

* Cover image: LiliGraphie
All other photos: Sarah Broadley.


Sarah Broadley lives in Edinburgh with her family and two cats who bring her dead things when she writes in the wee small hours. The cats that is, not her family. She writes picture books and middle-grade novels. Occasionally she attempts to draw things that sometimes resemble actual things. Follow her on Twitter: @sarahpbroadley, or on her blog:

Fran Price is Events Editor for Words and Pictures. If you'd like to tell her about a SCBWI event, do contact her at

1 comment:

  1. Remember to enjoy the school visit. OMG - they make you feel like a rockstar! Thanks Sarah.


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