Tips on Hosting an Author/Illustrator Visit
Make certain you are familiar with a person's creative work(s) for the young before deciding to contact an author or artist's publisher-representative or phone or write to him or her. Locate the book(s) of the individual(s) you are considering as guests in your school, library or community. Look for the books in your school library media center, public library and/or the CCBC.
Plan ahead! A year in advance of the proposed event is not too soon to begin, although six to eight months may be adequate. Some of the book creators listed here typically already have commitments to speak throughout the coming year. Although not all Wisconsin writers and artists are this busy, your invitation stands a better chance of being accepted if you extend it as early as your planning permits.
Know your resources and expectations. Before you issue an invitation, have a clear idea of several dates/times, exactly what your financial arrangements will be, and exactly what you are inviting this guest to your library, school, or community to do.
Respect the author or artist's time. Be aware that almost everyone who has agreed to be listed is a full-time worker in one capacity or another, as well as a writer or artist of books for children. Those book creators who can work full-time as writers or artists usually do not have someone to manage the business portion of their careers. Book creators usually have several absolute deadlines and other commitments ahead of them. They are professionals whose time is carefully utilized.
Most of the individuals are willing to be contacted directly. Others wish to be contacted through a publisher representative or booking agency. Regardless, when/if you initiate a phone conversation regarding an invitation, always ask if this is a convenient time for a conversation. If not, make an appointment to phone at a mutually convenient time. An appointment to issue an invitation is a business arrangement for each of you. Do not expect the people listed here to return your long distance phone calls in any way other than as "Collect" calls.
Prepare the audience for the visit. This is the element that can make the difference between a visit that is dynamic and energizing and one that falls flat. The time spent in classrooms and libraries preparing to welcome and interact with a special guest will make for a richer, more meaningful visit for both the audience and the author or artist. Preparation begins with familiarizing children or young adults with the visitor's books. They should be read and discussed. Preparation can then extend to special projects related to the author's or artist's work. Get kids excited about the person they are going to meet! For two excellent perspectives on what makes a visit successful from an author's point of view, read "Make Every Author Visit a Smashing Success" by David M. Schwartz (Instructor, v. 104 n. 7, April 1995: 48-51) and "A Latina in Kentucky" by Pat Mora (Horn Book, May/June 1994: 298-300).
Be a good host. Whether the author or artist you are hosting is from your own community or is traveling across the country, she or he is your school or library's guest and should be treated accordingly. Arrange for comfortable, convenient accommodations if overnight stay is necessary. How will she or he get to and from the airport? Who will be providing transportation to and from the school or library? Who is available to answer questions about the visit or about your community? Who will be taking him or her to dinner or other meals? Provide your visitor with a clear written itinerary in advance of how his or her time will be spent, including scheduled appearances, breaks, meals, and other commitments. Along with the itinerary, a list of contact names and phone numbers is essential.
Will there be a book sale and autographing as part of the appearance? Make sure you allow ample time for this and have thought through the logistics ahead of time so the visitor is not mobbed at the end of the formal presentation.
The work that goes into planning a successful author or illustrator visit is significant, but so are the rewards!