Thursday, February 22, 2018

10-Great Strategies to Secure & Monetize Your Author Visit

school visits, making money as an author,
By Jaimie Engle, @theWRITEengle

Part of the Indie Author Series

Author visits are a great way to build your brand and cushion your cash-flow. If you are a good speaker, you can:
  • Teach at conferences
  • Speak at community events
  • Share at school visits
  • Keynote at all of the above

It’s not easy to grab hold of a visit, especially with so many authors competing for the job. Here are a few strategies you might know and a couple that will blow your mind.

1. Set Yourself Apart

You are one of many. In order to land a school visit that rocks you must sell yourself as a unique commodity that the school MUST have. If you go in as “an author” especially one who wants to “sell books” you will probably not get the gig. How can you be seen as different? You can find a need and fill it. When you are there to offer something for the school or community, you are no longer a liability; you become an asset.

2. Get Connected to a Cause

Find a social issue in your book that you can use to help teachers or community event planners be more successful in what they do. In my case, my focus is bullying as exemplified through my first novel, Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light. The book is about a bullied boy who is chosen by a magic arrow to travel back to 1485 England and rescue King Richard’s nephews from the Tower of London. Through this adventure, Clifton learns the power of words and how to be the voice for others so he can face his own middle school bully.

My second cause is wolf conservation (and I’m working with my local zoo to get that program started!) Dreadlands: Wolf Moon is a Viking Norse adventure featuring shifting wolves. I’m using this angle to bring science and STEM education to schools while selling a few books along the way.

When you approach a school with a product (your visit and book) that can fill a need they already have, then you are not an addition, you are a solution!

3. Create a Package That Sells

Your Author Package is your business card. You need a detailed cover letter and several levels of package material to meet the needs of your targeted audience. For example, you may wish to just send out your packages and costs. You may wish to start with your testimonials and books. Or you may receive a request for the whole shebang. Not to mention, many school emails will not accept documents over a certain file size and the email will get kicked back. It’s important to showcase your talents through packages, photos, testimonials, reviews, and past speaking gigs. This is your selling tool. I can help you with building this package and finding your personal social issues if you need it.

4. Offer Multiple Options

My author packet includes both workshops and presentations, a la carte menus, and Skype experiences. In all, I offer 12 unique courses to meet a variety of technical needs and for a varying audience. They are backed by PowerPoint presentations and-or worksheets to meet the needs of auditory and visual learners. These should be powerful, informative, and aligned with standards that the teacher’s already need to check off. Why not give them a fun way to meet their learning milestones?

5. Ask Well-In Advance & Follow Up

Teachers (and event planners) are busy. You must be vigilant and diligent with your requests or you will fall through the cracks. I begin marketing school visits in May for the following school year. I reach out to those places I visited in the previous year first, offering them “first right of refusal” and get working on my package and material over the summer. I create infographic teasers, which go out the first week the teachers return to school after summer break, and I follow up in 2 weeks with an email that includes my author packet and a postcard that I send via smail-mail. It’s important to me that teachers receive a physical, virtual, and personal experience. Then I spend the rest of the year with detailed charts and lists to make follow up effective.

6. Provide Marketing Materials for the School

After I secure a visit, I send the school marketing materials to get the kids excited to meet. I provide a poster that the school can print that includes my bio and book info, along with the date of my visit. I give them links to my book trailer video, website, and coloring sheets or puzzles for the kids to print at home or the school to print if they wish. I share book order forms and always offer options and discounts for schools and large advance orders. And I send a pre-visit video, explained later in this post.

7. Provide Unique Sale Opportunities

I usually do a 20% discount on all teacher orders and offer a volume discount of 40% off if they purchase 40+ books. I include an option for students to purchase a book for their teacher and provide swag as an alternative to books, just like the book fairs. Silicone bracelets with my logo are a huge hit and I keep the cost as low as $5 to give everyone an opportunity to go home with something. Not every family can afford a $12-$15 book, but most can hand their kids a five-dollar bill and not miss it. Each student gets a bookmark and sticker with purchase.

I also offer to keep the order open for a week or two after my visit for students who didn’t buy books in advance but would like to. How this works is up to each individual school. Some schools send order forms home and parents can order directly from me online or via Amazon. Other schools send me a total book count, hold the cash and checks, and I show up to sign and hand out purchased books.

8. Create Pre- and Post-Videos

On one of my many school visits, I realized I had a dilemma. I would show up for a visit and the kids wouldn’t know who I was. Then, after my presentation and introducing them to my books, they would want to buy a book, but they had no money. To overcome this objective, I created Pre-Visit and Post-Visit Videos. In the pre-, which goes out a few weeks prior, I introduce myself and my books to the kids, share links to the website, and tell them how excited I am to be meeting them. I send them to Amazon to review the first pages of the book and let them know I will be selling and signing books at my visit. The first time I asked the teachers to share this video with their classes, I showed up with a 20 book pre-order (as compared to my previous 0-3)! Wow, it worked!

In the post-, which goes out about a month after my visit, I share how fun it was to meet them, ask if they are still committed to being bully free (which we pledge during the presentation), and recommend that they review the book if they’ve purchased it or grab a copy if they haven’t. I also ask them to share their bully story via my website. In this way, I am providing the school with a full experience from before I show up to far after I leave. I’m not just another author trying to make a buck.

9. Ask for the Referral

After each school visit, I send a thank you email to the teachers with a performance feedback sheet for them to evaluate my presentation. Included in this sheet is an opportunity for teachers to recommend other educators or schools (or community events, if it’s not a school) which could benefit from my program. I always get a referral for the next gig. In fact, many times teachers take it upon themselves to let all their fellow educators know that they MUST bring me out to their school next. Many times, my initial August mailing lands me one or two visits, with the rest coming straight from those school’s recommendations. Always ask for a testimonial as well, just 2-3 sentences describing your event for others to read on your website. Referrals and testimonials will get you more business than any ad you could ever pay for.

10. Get Insured

If you are planning to make author visits a full-time thing, you will definitely want to get insured. An insurance policy might run less than $600 per year and can insure you for the entire state. You will get a badge once you’re fingerprinted, and insurance should cover anything that might happen on your visit. My average gross income per school visit is about $500, so all I need is 1 per year to make it worth this investment. I’ve known schools to turn authors away a few days before their scheduled event because they didn’t carry insurance. Listen, if you’re a business owner and running a business—which you are as an independent author and speaker—then you must do what other business owners do…and that includes getting licensed and insured.

I hope you have discovered some new strategies to grab your next author visit and monetize it. Getting out into the community and meeting (or making) your fans is an incredible feeling and the best way to find more readers. Each year my schedule books faster and with more days filled due to consistent strategies and business planning that work. In 2017, I visited 17 schools in Florida. Selling yourself and your books is a job that requires you to think like a master marketer and brilliant business owner. I’m here to help if you need it.

Jaimie Engle
Jaimie Engle is the author of dark thrillers for teens where magic turns ordinary into extraordinary. She weaves history, magic, and lore into her books, which take readers on wondrous adventures, though her passion is talking to kids about writing and social issues because words have power. She loves coffee, cosplay, podcasting, and making Wick Books™ candles inspired by scents from her novels, and lives in Florida with her awesome husband, hilarious children, and the world's best dog.

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About Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light

Clifton Chase is the latest target for bully Ryan Rivales. When he finds a mysterious arrow in his closet, he takes Ryan's bet to see who can hit the target. Ryan nails the bull's-eye, but Clifton's piece of junk arrow sails out of sight and when he finally finds it, something isn't right. Somehow, Clifton has magically time travelled to Medieval England in the year 1485, where he meets two a dwarf, a mythological bird, and two princes bullied by their tyrant uncle, King Richard III.

The Arrow of Light, carved from wood of the Tree of Knowledge and fletched with feathers from the all-knowing bird of wisdom named Simurgh, has chosen Clifton. He is led by Dane the Dwarf to Droffilic Tower where Clifton must rescue the princes, Edward V and Richard Plantagenet. And somehow, he succeeds! After a near miss rescue mission, the princes are reunited with their sister Elizabeth, and plans to defeat King Richard are set in motion. Clifton is knighted for his valor and presented with his own sword. He can't believe it. It is Excalibur. After he wakes up from fainting, the group prepares to leave the Great Hall. No one counted on a dragon showing up in the city. But, the dragon didn't know about Jasper Tudor and his travels to the Far East. He recites a chant in the bell tower, transporting them all to the safety of a waiting ship in the English Channel.

Only after Clifton learns the true meaning of friendship, bravery, and sacrifice can he help the princes escape and find the courage to face his own bully, Ryan Rivales. Befriended by a dwarf, a mythical bird called Simurgh, and a cast of comical characters, Clifton's epic fantasy adventure through medieval times is the perfect book for boys and girls of all ages, and the young at heart.

A coming-of-age historical fantasy for those readers who like Percy Jackson, Narnia, and The Never Ending Story.

This book for kids teaches about bullying through a fantasy adventure; a great way to open the door to an easy conversation about a difficult topic.

Amazon | Barnes & NobleiTunes | Indie Bound