Monday, May 23, 2016

The School Program - Pre-Pub Panic, Part 2 ~ by Patricia Toht

As I mentioned in a February post, next year is publication year for two of my picture books. That means that 2016 is officially my year of Pre-Pub Panic!

My panic got off to a mild start. The first thing I thought about was the launch party, which was fun to consider - after all, it's a PARTY!

But more recently, I've been thinking about school programs. YIKES! What the heck do I have to offer???

Luckily, I spent a few years working for a literary events company that placed authors in schools for visits. I've seen some of the best in action - Brain Selznick, Jack Gantos, Megan McDonald, Carolyn Crimi, Kristy Dempsey.

I also peeked at my fellow authors' websites - critique buddies like Eileen Meyer, Heidi Bee Roemer, Darcy Day Zoells, Nancy J Cavanaugh, and Ruth Vanderzee, and authors whose dynamite presentations I have seen or heard about, like Aaron Reynolds and Miranda Paul.

Nancy J Cavanaugh at a school presentation.

Even more research helped. In my notes, I compiled a general list of topics for authors:

THE publishing journey
or how a book gets published

Your OWN journey
or the specifics of 
your path to publication

THE process of writing 
a picture book or novel, 
fiction or nonfiction

Your OWN process
or the unique way that you work

• A specific area of CRAFT 
(voice, character, world-building, etc.)

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Your WRITING AREA of expertise 
(poetry, humor, etc.)
Your SUBJECT AREA of expertise 
(animals, medieval times, etc.)

A book about bugs? The presentation 
can be all about creepy crawly things.

which often focuses on where ideas 
come from or revisions. 

Of course, choosing a topic depends quite a bit on the age level of the group you will be seeing, so it's best to have more than one presentation in your repertoire. 

What makes for a good presentation? Tips are multitudinous! I love this collection of advice from Book Moot, including:

* Stick to 30 minutes for younger kids, and 45 minutes for older.

* Have water on hand to refresh your throat.

* Know where the toilets are (and turn off your microphone while you're using them!)

* Make eye contact. Acknowledge and involve your audience. See Janie Reinart's recent post about ways to make your school visit interactive.

* To maintain order, YOU, the author, can tell kids to sit, ask them to quiet down, etc.

* Do NOT start signing autographs at the end of the session or you will be mobbed. Arrange for book signing time and supply a signed bookmark to be copied for all.

I urge you to visit Book Moot and read all of the wonderful tips.

Now, wonderful GROG readers, you help educate me, too. 

What presentation topics have worked for you? 

What tips do you have to pass along? 

I'm always thankful for your advice!

** Thanks to GROG fans chiming in, I have two dynamite websites for school program advice -- Alexis O'Neill and Kim Norman.

(And a shout out to Tammi Sauer, a school program dazzler!)


  1. Patty, it's your year to get it all ready. Looks like you are really in command of what needs to be done. My only other thought, since you covered so much, think about your signature line for those autographs. I'm sure you have many signed books, that tag line before your signature should tie in to your book. That will be a fun topic to think about and try out.

    1. Great idea, Kathy - I haven't even considered that yet!

  2. Kim Norman has a wonderful website called Cool School Visits. It is a goldmine of great information.

    1. Thank you, Tammi! Time to go digging for some school visit golden advice...

    2. And I should mention that I've heard YOU are fabulous at school programs!

  3. Yes, I agree with Tammi. I like Kim's web site! A plethora of wisdom.

    1. So glad you and Tammi mentioned it, Tina. :)

  4. Congratulations, Patty! Consider how many presentations you will do per day, what your going rate is, and have a contract for vists signed and returned to you to confirm dates and times. Also pre-order forms (pre-paid) for sale of books at schools. Does your publisher bring the books to the schools for you? Is there a book store in the area that might take care of sales for you? What about virtual visits? Have so much fun !

    1. Wow, there's so much to know! Thanks for the info, Janie!

  5. Congratulations, Patty :) This is your year! I think you have written and shared great advice and received some fine tips. Sending hugs for a fab journey into your writer's life.

    1. Thanks, Charlotte! I'm both excited and nervous, which I guess is probably pretty normal.

  6. I'd recommend trying the pen you will use on a book. I discovered the day before my launch day that the fancy pen I bought smeared on glossy paper. Yikes! Have fun! Congrats!

    1. Good advice, Keila! Sorry that you had to learn by experience. :)

  7. I'd recommend trying the pen you will use on a book. I discovered the day before my launch day that the fancy pen I bought smeared on glossy paper. Yikes! Have fun! Congrats!