Author Visits from the Author’s Perspective, Part Two: Preparation and Promotion

Last month, I found myself wondering how authors viewed in-person visits, so I sent a survey out and heard back from eight authors. Last month’s post covered the demographics of the authors who responded, and logistical planning for an author visit. This month, we cover preparing students for author events, and promoting those events.

Preparing Students

“School visits work their strongest magic when students are prepared for the author’s visit,” states Kirby Larson. If an author is coming to visit your school, you want to prepare the students so they and the school can take full advantage of that visit. How do you do that? The type of visit will probably determine your preparation in terms of teaching the book(s) or doing read-alouds for younger titles, but you can prepare in many other ways. Dori Hillestad Butler suggests students engage in some writing or drawing to prepare, then post those writings/drawings as additional promotion. She says: “I especially like to see those on the walls—and I always take time to stop and read every one!” Martha Brockenbrough adds: “The more the kids know about the author and book beforehand, the better!”

Kirby Larson thoughtfully expanded her response to say: “Learning about me and my books ahead of time certainly strengthens connections between my writing advice/experience and the students’ internalization of that information. School visit prep provides context for the students. In addition, when teachers participate in the school visits (ie, do not bring their phones, laptops or papers to correct to the sessions), they are sending a strong message to the students about the value and importance of the information the author is sharing. And it is so helpful if the librarian/teacher tells kids in advance that I can’t sign bits of paper (or body parts); I do provide a book mark template with my autograph so every kid can have that.”

Asked for other advice on making sure a visit goes smoothly, most authors checked all the boxes: Make sure teachers/kids have the schedule; Double check on necessary tech; Have payment ready to go/already sent; Be prepared for book sales (contact vendor; get volunteers); Regularly check in to make sure teachers/students are prepared.

In the “other” column, Margriet Ruurs urges: “Share my books with students. I have been in schools where the students had no idea what was happening. If a librarian and teachers are prepped, it makes the impact of an author visit that much greater. We’re not just there to entertain for an hour but to leave a message of ‘books are important, and fun and interesting’!” Kirby Larson recommends that librarians: “Make connections between the author’s work and what the students are working on/learning about.” Kelly Jones advises that librarians “double-check that any substitute teachers know what’s planned—I once had a class miss a school presentation because no one had told the substitute.”


Another aspect of preparing your students and your school community is to promote your author visit. How can you best do that? Any and all ways, from the author’s perspective! Mount book displays in the library and elsewhere, promote the visit on the school’s website, communicate with parents and students, post on social media, and do booktalks. Other suggestions included contacting local newspapers, creating a countdown bulletin board, and setting out a box to collect student questions.

Doing It Right

I asked the authors for examples of librarians who had knocked it out of the park in preparing for/promoting their visit, and here are their responses.

Martha Brockenbrough: “Terry Shay at North Tama in Traer, Iowa. …He really prepared the kids well at every age level and assembled a squad of cheerleaders for my paperback Cheerful Chick.

Margriet Ruurs: “A Kelowna, BC librarian approached me for her school, but I explained that travel is too much for one day. She then promoted a possible visit to all local schools. She did not just pass that on to me, but arranged a two week schedule for schools, in a logical order, and made sure all schools have all information on dates, times, equipment and more. It’s awesome when a local librarian coordinates all that.”

Dianne White: “When the kids are excited, I know teachers and librarians have been talking about the visit ahead of time. When that happens, kids are always going to get more out of the experience.”

Kirby Larson: “For a recent week-long visit in a school district near Houston, the hosting librarian asked me for particular photos from which she created an “About Kirby” slide show that was made available to all of the schools involved prior to my visit.”

Kelly Jones: “I remember one library’s display—they had a big posterboard with photos of students, teachers, and staff holding books they were recommending. The week of my visit, the librarian was holding my book—a proud moment for sure! She told me everyone really enjoyed recommending books and having their pictures taken.”

Lily LaMotte: “I did the summer reading program kickoff for the Olathe, KS library. I don’t have the details of her promotion but we had a full house in their auditorium. If you mean a school librarian, I’ve had so many wonderful visits with schools. Kids were prepared and many of them had read my books or were using them in their classroom. The cafeteria at a school in Lewiston, ME even made a recipe from my book for the students’ lunch the day of my visit. So amazing!”

Dori Hillestad Butler: “A librarian in Cedar Rapids, IA, painted HUGE (5 foot tall!) pictures of my books and displayed them ahead of time. A librarian in the Chicago area had worked with the kids to make posters that said: ‘Here is what we know about Dori Hillestad Butler, Here is what we don’t know about Dori Hillestad Butler, Here is our plan to find out more: come to her presentation!’ (That’s directly out of my King & Kayla series.)”

Next month, how to ensure that your author visit goes smoothly on the day.

2 thoughts on “Author Visits from the Author’s Perspective, Part Two: Preparation and Promotion

  1. While I have hosted authors in my current school for 7 years now, this was a super helpful. Gathered some fresh ideas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *