Early on in the school year, I had the crazy idea to try to bring an author to our school. I did my research, got the proper permission, and started the process. It wasn't easy, but it was absolutely worth it!
I worked together with our librarian, our campus ELA department, and the students in our school book club to bring the event about. We decided to invite Obert Skye because he has written multiple popular trilogies.
How to plan an author visit
1. Formally invite an author
To get Obert to HMS, I went though one of his publishers, Simon and Schuster. We made our formal request about 8 months before we hoped to have our event and offered multiple options for the date. I had a great experience with this process though Simon and Schuster.
Fundraising for our author visit was definitely the most stressful part. If I were to do it again, I'd want to have the funds secured much earlier! We were raising money here and there all the way up to the week before the visit.
Simon and Schuster have ballpark figures for individual author visits, but the actual fee is determined by the author. We paid for the author appearance, travel, and hotel. In order to raise the funds, we reached out to our PTA, the district, and librarians. I applied for a grant from our district and got it! We also asked for local businesses, friends, and family, to sponsor the activity. Our local Potbelly Sandwich shop agreed to donate 25% of the proceeds from one night to the cause as well. And our best fundraiser was, of course, our ReadAThon.
Publicizing for the event was the next most time consuming factor. Not only did we have to spread the word about the event, but we had to raise student interest as well. We started by withholding the name of the author from the student body. I gave the students one hint a day for a couple of weeks and watched them speculate wildly!
Once the word was out, we had flyers everywhere. We advertised on our book club website and made frequent appearances on the morning announcements, Twitter, and the school website.
I also made the following Powerpoint for ELA teachers to share with their students.
HMS Broncos Book Club
5. Order books
Simon & Schuster offered a discount on books purchased for the event, and they were willing to purchase back any books we didn't purchase. STILL, we ended up just going through Barnes & Noble because our school already used them as a contractor and they were willing to give us practically the same deal (PLUS they offered all of Obert's books, not just those published by Simon & Schuster).
We tried pre-ordering, but it was nearly impossible to get a head count. Middle School students just aren't interested in an author visit until the day of. Then all of the sudden everybody wanted the books! Oy vey. Suggestion- get plenty of the first book in every series the author wrote.
6. Daily Schedule
We decided it would be much more meaningfully if we did smaller groups for the event instead of a large assembly. This was a little tricky to arrange, but well worth it. We invited all 6th and 7th grade English Language Arts Elective classes to attend during their regular class period. We were even able to set aside a couple of periods so Obert could have a break and eat lunch! Then, after school in the evening, Obert was available to sign books and answer questions. His presentation was perfect- he not only got his kids interested in the books, but he also got them interested in reading and writing.
After students attended Obert's presentation, they completed a short survey in their classes through Google Forms that helped us to measure the success of the event. We asked students what they enjoyed most, what they learned, which books they are planning to read, etc. With a few very negative (and cranky) exceptions, most students reported having a great experience!