Sunday, July 27, 2014

Working for Free: Part Four - School Visits

Authors of adult books rarely have the opportunity to conduct school visits, unless they’ve written a book on a topic of local interest or a biography of a local personality, for example. However, the book still has to appeal to children, be age appropriate, and one that the school library might consider purchasing.

There’s often debate in the writing community regarding recommended fess that should be charged for school visits. There are frequently questions from new authors concerning appropriate fees or whether they should charge anything at all for a school or library visit. There’s certainly a case to be made for a free school visit at the start of your career. After all, you need the exposure, and it’s a great way to practice your readings or presentations with live audience. If nothing else, you’ll get some great ideas for improving your performances in the future, presuming you intend to commit to a long-term career in the children’s book world. There’s also nothing wrong with doing a visit at no charge perhaps at your own child’s school when you’re starting out, but not once you’re established.

Schools do have budgets to pay for swimming lessons, field trips, and visits by authors, illustrators, and other members of the arts community. Sometimes the money comes not from the school or school board but some kind of parent or volunteer committee. However, regardless of the source, there is money available if a school is inviting you to visit. Bear in mind that even a plumber or electrician whose children are students at the school would be very reluctant to fix broken power lines or blocked drains for free. These kinds of professionals also have a much higher hourly rate than a writer could afford to charge.

Teachers and librarians may sometimes ask you to forego a fee because your visit will be good for the students and promote reading. However, this can often be detrimental to the local writing community. If an author is prepared to visit schools at no charge, this may be expected of all other authors as well. Make sure that you always value your expertise. You’ve written a book and it’s been published, which is no mean achievement. This is also why the school is inviting you to visit, in order to inspire the children by your example. The school thus clearly places some value on your skills and this is your cue to ask for a suitable fee for your time, but don’t give it away for free.

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