Advice on running events in schools

  

Why invite an author to your school?  

 A successful visit could:

  • Make books and reading seem more exciting to your class
  • Inspire your class to look at more of the author's/illustrator's work
  • Make the act of writing seem tangible and real
  • Encourage your class to try their own creative writing/illustration

 Children's comments following a successful author event:

 "She's really interested in the words. I asked her if she ever gets tired of using words in different ways and she says that she couldn't be a writer if that happened."

 "Sometimes when I read her books I think she must know me or know my mum or something. Honestly - they're so like the way my life is. It's funny sometimes but not always. Like my life!"

 "I think that all through it I was up in the clouds imagining all things that he talked to us about. I was very sad when it was time to go."

The key to a successful author, illustrator or storyteller visit lies in choosing the most appropriate person for your requirements and preparing well for the event. Read more about this in the following sections.

 

How to choose an author

It's crucial that you choose a visitor most appropriate to the type of event you would like to organise. Think about the following: 

  • The type of event you would like to arrange - would you like the visitor to talk about their books and writing, or to run a creative writing/drawing workshop?
  • The age group of the pupils you would like them to talk to. The best thing is to pitch the event at one age group - tempting as it may be to try and involve as many pupils as possible, remember that it can be very difficult to speak to a group of pupils of lots of different ages and still make it interesting for all the pupils involved.
  • How many pupils you would like to involve in the event - as a general rule of thumb, the smaller the size of the audience, the more everyone, the pupils, the visitor, and the organiser, will get out of the event.

Once you've decided on the above you can set about finding an author, illustrator or storyteller who best fits the requirements you've set out.

 

Where to find an author

You can find information about contemporary Scottish writers, illustrators and storytellers and their books on the Scottish Book Trust Database. There are also details on peoples availability to visit schools or libraries and the type of events they do.

You can also get recommendations from a local education resource centre, public library or colleagues

You can find out more information about poets from the Scottish Poetry Library and more information about storytellers from the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

 

Planning a successful event  

It's a good idea to start planning the session a long time in advance. Here's a suggested timeline of activity for planning your event:

Nine months to a year ahead

  • Discuss your plans for inviting an author/illustrator/stoyteller to talk to your class with your colleagues and find out if there are any opportunities for collaboration
  • Decide on the visitor and send an invitation outlining your proposed event and its timing - making clear whether funding is confirmed or not (some writers may not accept provisional bookings)
  • Apply for support from Scottish Book Trust's Live Literature funding
  • Apply for funding from any other available sources

 

3-6 months ahead

Once you get confirmation of funding, you should confirm the date and time of the session(s) with your visitor. In your correspondence, include the following details:

  • The age-group to whom they will be talking
  • The size of the group
  • Are there any pupils with Additonal support need if so what would work best
  • The length of the session(s)
  • The number and timing of the session(s)
  • The type of venue- be sure it is fully accessible
  • Any equipment (crayons, paper etc.) required
  • Arrangements for refreshments, lunch etc.
  • The fee agreed per session, plus expenses if appropriate

 

Remember to include:

  • the address and phone number for the venue
  • a map or clear directions
  • confirmation of collection times if arriving by train/bus
  • details (map, directions) of accommodation if necessary and confirmation of how it is to be paid

 

Find out from the visitor:

  • Which books they are likely to be talking about
  • Which books they would like the audience to be familiar with
  • Whether they are willing to sign books
  • What equipment they are likely to require (flipchart, overhead projector, table etc.)
  • If they are happy to be filmed/recorded during the event. Use the permissions form to get written consent (please be aware that the visitor is not obliged to agree to be filmed)
  • If they are happy for members of the press to be present

 

One month ahead:

  • Put a notice up in the staff room detailing the forthcoming event
  • Contact the relevant publisher(s) and ask if there is any display or promotional material available
  • Ensure there are copies of the writer's books available in the school
  • Prepare the audience by introducing the visitor's work, reading sections aloud, and making the books available to them
  • Organise the availability of books through your local bookseller or equivalent - these can be sold in advance or/and on the day of the visit (see selling books)
  • Let parents/carers of school children know about the visit

 

Two weeks ahead:

  • Ensure that the children are aware of the forthcoming visit
  • Ensure that children are familiar with the visitor's work
  • Discuss the kinds of questions they might ask the visitor
  • Identify two children who will greet the visitor at the front door
  • Identify two children who will accompany the visitor out of the school, at the end of the visit
  • Alert pupils (and their parents and carers) to the possibility of buying a book by the visitor, giving details of price
  • If the visit isn't funded through Scottish Book Trust, ensure that the payment will be available on the date of the event
  • Alert colleagues to forthcoming visit (making plans for relief cover also)

 

The day before the visit:

  • Talk about the visitor and remind the pupils of the kinds of things they might ask 
  • Arrange a display of the visitor's books
  • Make a welcome notice for the visitor
  • Ensure that the receptionist (and other staff memebers) are aware of the visitor's arrival and ensure that the ‘greeters' know when to meet them and where they should take them
  • Make arrangements for refreshments/lunch for the visitor
  • Remind children of the possibility of buying books and their prices

 

On the day of the visit:

  • Ensure that the venue is suitably equipped
  • Ensure that refreshments are available
  • Ensure that the visitor is met and taken to the correct venue
  • Make sure the visitor isn't left alone with the pupils at any time and discuss with your visitor whether a break will be required
  • Please be aware that very occasionally issues of discipline arise and these should be dealt with by the organiser, not the visitor
  • If appropriate, ensure that books are available for sale
  • Thank the visitor for their time, and show them the way out

 

The day following the visit:

  • Write and thank the author/illustrator/storyteller for their visit - it's always great to get feedback. You could encourage your pupils to write too.
  • Talk to the children about the event

 

Promoting your event  

When appropriate we would encourage you to promote your event so that as many people as possible both attend and hear about your event. Simple ideas to promote your event:

  • Create a mailing list and send advance notice of your event by post or email
  • Produce a poster/programme to promote the event and display on public notice boards at local community centres, libraries, schools etc.
  • Inform colleagues about the event and ask them to spread the word
  • Contact your local newspaper by phone to ask them if they would be interested in covering the event (you may also wish to send a press release with a brief outline of what is happening) - please ask the author/illlustrator/storyteller if they are happy to do interviews or photos
  • If you wish to film the event, discuss this with your visitor before the event and get written consent using the Permissions to film form.
  • Contact the visitor's publisher to see if they can assist you by providing posters or other promotional materials (eg. bookmarks).
  • Invite some pupils to write an article about the event for the school newsletter and website. 

Scottish Book Trust can give you some advice on marketing and PR as well as provide copies of Scottish Book Trust's logo.  

Please note that it is a condition of funding that Scottish Book Trust is acknowledged on all promotional material and press releases.

 

Selling the writer's books on the day of the event

Why sell books?

Hearing an author or illustrator talk about their books can be a very good way of making your pupils want to read one or more of their books - and if those books are available at the time they may want to buy a copy. If you're ordering a lot of books, it may be possible to receive discounts, and you can pass this discount on to your pupils, making it cheaper for them to buy the book from you than elsewhere. If successful, it may well provide a way of raising some money towards paying for the author/illustrator's visit.

Before you start

  • Think about how many copies of the books you will need to order. How many people are attending the author's/illustrator's event, and out of those, how many are likely to buy books?
  • Think about which of the author's/illustrator's books you would like to order. If they have had lots of books published, it may well be worth getting in touch with the author/illustrator to ask if they are going to talk about one book in particular on the day of the event. If this is the case, it is a good idea to order more copies of this title.
  • Order the books at least two to three weeks in advance of the event to make sure the stock arrives in time.

Where to get the books

Before ordering from any supplier, check that you can order the books on a sale or return basis. This means that you will only pay for what you sell on the day, and you can return any unsold stock to the original supplier afterwards.

Ordering books from a school supplier

The following companies supply books to schools for author/illustrator events on sale or return. Contact them directly to find out more:

Glowworm Books Scotia and Chameleon Educational Book Suppliers

Units 3 & 4,

Bishopsgate Business Park

BROXBURN

EH52 5LH

Tel: 01506 857570

Fax: 01506 858100

17 Register Road,

Kilsyth,

Glasgow,

G65 0DS,

Tel:(01236)826041 

Fax:(01236)826031

 

Ordering books from your local bookshop

You will find details of your nearest bookshop in the Yellow Pages. Ask:

  • If they would supply books for the day.
  • If they offer a discount to schools
  •  If they will send the books out to you, or whether you need to go and pick them up from them
  • If you're ordering a good quantity (more than 10 books), it's worth asking if they will increase the discount on the books.

Keep a record of what you sell on the day and return any unsold stock to the bookshop, together with payment for the books you have sold.

Ordering books from the publisher

  • Find out the name of the publisher. If you have a copy of one of their books in front of you, the publisher's name is usually on the spine, and always on the opening pages of the book. Their contact details will be on the publisher's website. Check Scottish Book Trust's Scottish writers database. You can also look the author's/illustrator's books up on www.amazon.co.uk. Remember an author/illustrator can often be published by more than one publisher. If there are with several publishers, it may be easier to get the books from your local bookshop or school supplier.
  • Ring the publisher and ask to speak to the sales department. Ask if they supply books to schools on sale or return. If they do they will generally allow you to place the order over the phone, or they will post/fax an order form for you to fill out.
  • Remember to ask if they offer a discount on school sales, and see if they will offer you a bigger one if you're ordering a good number of books.
  • Keep a record of what you sell on the day. After the event, ring the publisher to let them know how many books you will be returning. They will send you labels to put on the front of the parcel of books you send back to them to show that the return has been authorised.
  • Using the official labels, return any unsold stock to the publisher, together with payment for the books you have sold.

Asking a local bookseller to bring books to sell on the day

Alternatively, you can see if someone from your local bookshop would like to come to the school to sell the books on the day of the author's/illustrator's visit. This probably means that your school won't receive any revenue from the booksales, but it will save you having to order the stock yourself, send unsold stock back after the event and having to deal with any associated paperwork. You can find details of your local bookshop in the Yellow Pages.

Bookshops in Scotland who usually offer this service include:

Waterstone's

There are Waterstone's stores in most major towns and cities in Scotland. Visit www.waterstones.com to find your nearest store.

 

Blackwells

Blackwell's have stores in the following places in Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and St Andrews. Contact details for each of their stores can be found on their website: www.blackwell.co.uk