Confessions of a Children’s Book Author … About Author Visits

Contribution by Shelly Roark, award-winning children’s author of The Bubble Who Would Not POP!

Want to know the best part about penning a children’s story? Reading it to your audience … KIDS!

That’s why after your book is published, the fun begins. In order to get the word out about your new book and to make connections with your readers, I recommend scheduling as many visits as possible to read your book aloud. It’s a blast . . . and reading your new book to children in and around your community is a great way to promote sales.

In order to help you get started, I’m sharing the answers, learned through trial and error, for the four biggest questions authors have about promoting a children’s book through author visits.

1. What do I do during an author visit?

Children love show and tell! Reading is a main ingredient for sure, but you can also use any other talents you have to engage kids. For example, maybe you have puppet friends, do simple illusions, play an instrument, draw cartoons, play a gam, etc. Develop a “program” for each situation. For example, public school visits might be more about reading and writing while chapel engagements have a clear faith lesson for private schools. Start with about 20 minutes of material and adjust up or down depending on the needs of the organization and the age group.

2. Where can you go?

  • Schools. Public and private schools are great places to start. Contact the school’s librarian or offer to read in the classroom. Talk to the principal or the counselor about participating in special events such as Red Ribbon Week, dress-up days, theme weeks, the annual harvest festival, Christmas parties, etc. For private or faith-based schools, ask to speak for chapel service.
  • Public Libraries. Library read aloud programs are the best! Make an author visit during the summer or any time in the year. Bring along a simple craft or coloring sheet that works with the theme of your book.
  • Churches. Contact churches to visit during Sunday school, children’s church, or special events and outreaches. Some churches have “children’s messages” as part of the regular service while others have kid-focused programs that offer opportunities to read your book or teach a faith lesson.
  • Bookstores. In addition to book signings, many bookstores have read aloud programs along with other bookish activities, promotions and events. For instance, you could join in a day of Christmas festivities or back-to-school events.
  • Special Events. Make note of special community events. Festivals, craft fairs, back-to-school bashes and other kid-friendly events might give you a chance to read to or entertain children.
  • Clubs and Organizations. Although community clubs and organizations, like the local rotary group or a chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, are not likely in your target demographic, they can still help you promote your book. Talk about writing or another area of interest. Leave information with them on how to purchase copies of your book for their children or grandchildren.

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3. How do you get in?

Contacting the venues above begins with an internet search or phone call. Find out who your contact person will be and how best you can reach them—personal visit, phone, email, or regular mail. Prepare a press kit for yourself that includes a sell sheet or promo page with images of yourself and your book, a brief paragraph or two about yourself and your book, and contact information. Start off with an introduction that lets them know why you are contacting them, what you can do for them, and how hosting you will benefit their children or group. You can mention what age group works best with what you have to offer, if there is a cost to them, and if you have any additional gifts or talents to share.

4. What’s in it for you?

You may be wondering . . . how is all of this going to sell my book? Here are a few ways to make appearances benefit you.

  • Ask the organization to send home order forms ahead of your visit. A bookstore may want to stock copies for your visit. Others may want you to bring books to sell.
  • Whether you sell books during your visit or not, send home a bookmark, postcard, or simple flyer featuring images and information that promotes your book and tells them where they can purchase it later.
  • Post about your visit on your preferred social media outlet and ask the venue to tag you in any post they have about the event.
  • Depending on how far you travel and your expenses, you can also discuss a fee with the venue.
  • When you make an author visit that includes adults, have a signup sheet to collect emails or direct them to your website or social media to help grow your email list.

Every visit you take time to schedule builds on the one before and connects you to those you wrote your book for in the first place. Every appearance or performance introduces more people to you, your book, and your talents. And sharing your story in person is so rewarding for you and for them.