What should an author or illustrator expect from a school?
Key people are aware of the visit
Your contact person has hopefully communicated with all staff, or at least the school executive and key personnel, so that they are aware of who you are and the intended schedule and associated details of your visit.
Schools will be welcoming
Schools will be well sign-posted, and, ideally, you will be met and welcomed by the organiser or a school representative. If you’re at the same school for a number of sessions, adequate breaks must be built into the program. This will generally include morning tea, when staffroom etiquette (for example, which cups are for visitors) will be explained by the host. Many schools arrange special morning teas so other staff members have the chance to meet you.
If you are at the school all day, you need to check on the arrangements for meals prior to your visit. Lunch may be arranged for you but not always.
Students will be prepared
The most satisfying author visits are those where the students and teachers have been well prepared for the visit. The students have read, or had read to them, some of your books and they have engaged in some discussion about them. They may have visited your website and even brainstormed some questions to ask. Unfortunately, this does not always happen so you may need to start from scratch.
Author’s publications will be available
School librarians will generally purchase books by the author and promote them to the students. It is worth checking which of your titles they have so you can mention them in your presentation and perhaps promote interest in another title by reading an extract from it. Ideally, especially in regional centres and smaller towns, the local bookseller should be advised of the planned visit so they have your books in stock or may even arrange to sell them at the school on the day of the visit.
Programs and itineraries remain unchanged once negotiated
The author and organiser need to agree on the number and length of sessions. Author talks for upper primary are generally 45–60 minutes, middle primary 30–40 minutes and younger students 20–30 minutes. Writing workshops require a minimum of 60 minutes.
See the section of this guide on Being a presenter for more information.
Ideally the agreed program will not be changed after the details have been finalised. Any changes should be made known to the author as soon as possible.
It is not unusual for authors to be asked at the last minute to judge a Book Week parade, have more students in the group than originally agreed or fit in an extra session. Most authors try to be flexible with the first two requests, but fitting in an extra session is often asking too much.
If travel is required between schools, the organiser should ensure that is provided for the authors, and if the distance is substantial, that the day’s sessions are organised so that there is sufficient time to relax before the start of each session.
Payment for services
Always discuss with the organiser what work is required, what the payment will be and whether you will be paid on the day or after the visit. You (or your representative) will need to provide the school with a tax invoice. (See the section of this guide on The business of visiting schools for information on tax invoices.)
Communications prior to the visit
Authors who are arranging their own school visits to schools should ensure they have at least three ‘conversations’ with the organiser of the visit: the first one when the original booking is made, the second one to confirm the program and any special requirements, and the third one a few days before the visit to confirm that everything is in place. If special provisions are needed for your presentation (for example, data projector or computers to be used), or if there are personal needs that the host school should consider (for instance, vegetarian), this should also be discussed prior to the visit. If you use an agent to book your sessions, it is still recommended that you contact the school personally before the visit to pass on any requirements and introduce yourself to the organiser.