Author Visits from the Author Perspective: Part One

Recently, as I arranged an author visit, I started wondering about how authors view those events. What advice might they have for librarians planning an in-person author visit? I put together a survey which I sent to a few author friends (and friends-of-friends), and though my sample size wasn’t large, the authors offered a lot of useful information for librarians planning author events.

Due to the survey’s length, I am breaking it into three posts. Today, I will cover demographics of responding authors, and logistics planning for visits. In April, I will cover preparing for and promoting an author visit. In May, I will cover making the event go smoothly on the day it happens.

Author Demographics

The kind souls who gave their time to answer my survey are: Martha Brockenbrough, Margriet Ruurs, Phoebe Fox, Dianne White, Kirby Larson, Kelly Jones, Lily LaMotte, and Dori Hillestad Butler.

I first asked what grades they generally wrote for. Most write for elementary school students as well as other grades (see chart), and Margriet Ruurs also writes for educators and parents (“other”).

Next I asked how many in-school visits they made each year. Most landed in the 1-10 range, though Margriet Ruurs makes over 21 visits a year, and Dori Hillestad Butler may make 1-25 visits, depending on the year!

Thirdly, I asked how long they’d been making school visits. Most have been doing so for eight or more years, and Dori Hillestad Butler estimates she’s been visiting schools for over thirty years!

Preparing for an Author Visit


What’s the best way to contact an author about a visit? For all surveyed, contact information on their website is the place to start, but other ways may also work. In the “other” category, Kirby Larson uses a booking agent, How Now Booking, and Lily LaMotte is also exploring that option.

Determining Fit

When you contact an author, what should you ask to determine if they are a good fit for your school and your students? The authors offered varied answers, many of which boiled down to librarians being familiar with the author’s work, and knowing what they are looking for in terms of a presentation. As Dori Hillestad Butler says, “Not everyone who reaches out to me knows what they want,” which can make it harder to determine if an author is a good fit. While some authors list details of their presentations on their websites, that doesn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t tailor a workshop or presentation to a school’s needs.

In terms of more specific questions, librarians could ask what an author’s typical school visits look like, how many visits they’ve done, and the focus of their presentations. Kelly Jones recommends asking: “What will our students leave your presentation with that they may not have known before? What new tools might be in their toolboxes?” Practical details are also key, such as travel distances, number and age of students, and fees.

Deal Breakers

What might make an author turn down a visit? For most, it was scheduling issues, with too many sessions and too great distance coming in next, though as Lily LaMotte adds, “If the school is part of a larger trip to the general area or en route to somewhere I’m already going, then distance isn’t a factor.” Kelly Jones feels that “restrictions on what I can present that would negatively affect what I try to teach students” would be a deal breaker, and another author dislikes background checks, especially if she’s expected to pay. As she says: “It shouldn’t ever be needed because I shouldn’t ever be alone with students.” Margriet Ruurs stated, “I have never turned [a visit] down and worked through any concerns with the librarian,” so it’s always worth asking!

Time Frame

How far in advance of a visit should you contact an author? Answers varied widely, so it’s great if you know far in advance, but worth asking even if you don’t. Kelly Jones suggests: “If it’s coming right up, more date options make it more likely we can find one that works.”


How should a librarian approach asking about an author’s fees? Among the authors’ varied answers, several said their website lists their fees, or that a librarian should simply describe the number of students and number of sessions needed, and ask based on that. It would also help for authors to know your budget, if you have that available. Says one author: “This is a business conversation! I also appreciate knowing if you’re considering creative cost-saving measures like sharing travel costs with a nearby school or library.” Another author recommends that librarians also “touch base about how payments happen because that’s awkward to ask.”

What’s not okay is requesting free visits. As one author says: “Asking for free visits is never OK–it puts us in an absolutely terrible spot.” Says another: “What is discouraging on my side of things is when a librarian reaches out (expecting a visit to be free) and then never replies back when they learn that an author values their time as much as any other type of presenter would.”

Travel Needs

How does an author like to have their travel arranged? The answer varied, so it’s best to ask directly. Sometimes authors prefer the school make the arrangements, some prefer a travel stipend so they can make their own plans, and some prefer a combination. In some instances, for example, the school might have a connection with a local hotel and get a discount, so it would make more sense for the school to make that reservation.


There are many details to consider when you’re organizing an author visit. What sort of communication is most helpful for the authors before the event? I asked them to rank the importance of different kinds of information, and the many topics they ranked highly illustrate the value of clear communication!

Answers in the “other” category included knowing which of the author’s books the school has, directions and parking, goods/services tax, student safety rules (i.e., is the campus nut-free?), and whether translators will be present. Lily LaMotte likes to meet virtually with the event organizer beforehand to answer all of the outstanding questions.

Book Sales

Often, you’ll want to sell books at your event, so students can get their books signed. Asked where they prefer you get books for the event, the authors had different answers, so it’s best to check. Several said that whatever worked best for the school was fine, though Margriet Ruurs added, “Anywhere but Amazon!”


What else can happen on an author visit? Says Dianne White: “Basically, if a librarian has something in mind, they should always ask!” Several authors were enthusiastic about meeting students and teachers for lunch. Says Kirby Larson: “Those informal moments generate amazing conversations.” However, at least one author prefers quiet time during an energetic day, so ask before scheduling lunch sessions. Several authors also enjoy attending book club meetings.

Kirby Larson is “always happy to do interviews with student reporters, if the school has a newspaper/news program. And I know I can’t answer every question that comes up during Q&A so am happy to receive a list of student questions from the librarian following my visit that I can answer after I’ve returned home.”

Martha Brockenbrough enjoys “teaching teachers how to write/teach writing,” and Kelly Jones adds, “I’m also happy to talk to any available teachers or staff about how to follow up on the exercises I teach, if they have time and their students are interested. Often, I hear that the students who don’t already see themselves as readers or writers are inspired by what they learn, so it feels like a great moment to build on that excitement.”

Dori Hillestad Butler likes to do a “small group ‘critique the author’ session where I’ll read from my work in progress and ask the kids for feedback. I model how to give and receive constructive criticism and this is a great opportunity for me to connect with my audience before the work is published and see how it’s landing.”

Next week, I’ll cover preparing for and promoting your author visit. Thanks again to the authors for their time and thought!

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