There is a lot of pressure on children’s authors to seize every opportunity for school visits in March. What started as a global day of celebrations has evolved into a week of book-related activities or, due to the teachers’ strikes in the UK this year, a fortnight.
This can only be a good thing for children’s authors as the opportunities open up over a longer period.
But what if you still don’t have a booking? What if all the talk of busy schedules and the spraying of pictures of successful visits, happy authors and school halls full of children all over social media is just fuelling your imposter syndrome?
Here are some positive steps that you can take this year to put you in a better position for your next school visit.
1. Reframe March as a period of professional development. There is lots going on, so there are plenty of opportunities to learn from other writers.
2. Pop into your local library. It’s a brilliant place to practise as it’s not as structured or formal as a school visit. People mill around choosing books and chat in the background, so not all attention is on you. Could you read your story? If you write for school-age children, could you read a story from the library collection to younger visitors? Could you join or suggest an event for home-schooled children?
3. Call local schools. What are they doing for World Book Day? Could you volunteer and help them? Even if they have an author booked, they may need help with activities and you get to observe another author. (Mention your DBS certificate when you contact them.)
4. Call local book shops. What are they doing? They might have a session on World Book Day, but they usually host events until the £1 Book Tokens run out on 26th March. That’s a long period and you might be able to help them to boost footfall into their shop while building relationships with the shop and the local community.
5. Find out what is going on in your local area and join in. Get behind other local authors, make connections in your community and learn your craft.
6. Record a short video introducing you and your book, a little bit about your journey, how you write (including the mistakes), an idea for an activity and how to find you. Put it out now, with all the trending hashtags, everywhere that your customers hang out: social media, your website, video platforms, blog posts, podcasts, etc.
7. Follow other authors writing in your age group and genre, along with local authors and those with similar values to you. Add to the conversation without selling. Watch and learn.
8. Get in the spirit of things and let your audience get to know you. Talk about the recently-published books and authors that you love, the books that influenced you when you were growing up, post pictures that show you modelling reading and writing, or perhaps dress up as one of your characters (or take an illustration from your book and create a graphic). People buy from people.
9. Get support from author groups such as Doing The School Run With Your Facebook Group. There are guides devoted to big events in this group and a supportive and knowledgeable community of children’s authors.
But most of all, enjoy the celebration of books, reading and writing. This time next year, it could be you posting happy pictures of successful author visits.
Isobel is an Oxfordshire-based editor and proofreader of inclusive books for children, and helps children’s authors market their books to UK schools and create engaging author visits. Writers seek her help to make their books more inclusive and accessible to children and their adults, and appropriate for teaching and learning. As a former school librarian and governors’ clerk, she knows what teachers want and need, where they look and how to unlock the budget for books and school visits. As well as editing and coaching, she loves spending time outside, playing music with friends and exploring the world of film.