Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ten Ways to Find an Author or Illustrator to Visit Your School

In many schools, a visit from an author or illustrator is part of the yearly schedule. But just where should schools look to find appropriate candidates? To begin with, try to determine what type of visitor you would like; if you had an author last year, maybe an illustrator this year. This of visitors based on the kinds of books they have published—do they books that will appeal to only one segment (age group) of your school, or do they have books that span your ages? Do they have fiction books, nonfiction, graphic novels, or poetry, and how does that compare or build upon last year’s visitor? Are they local or close to it? Travel expenses can drive up the cost of visits, so determine up front if it’s realistic to bring in an out of state visitor. Once you’ve narrowed down your “dream visitor”, it’s time to begin the search.

1)  Ask other schools. One great way to connect with a visitor is by asking other schools in your district and surrounding area if they have had a great visit in the last couple years. Schools will be candid with you about what the students and teachers thought, and will probably be willing to share with you what the visit cost. (Unfortunately, many author and illustrators’ sites do not have costs listed—you have to contact the individual to learn of their fees. While fees can change from year to year, you can usually get a pretty close “ball park” figure by asking a school who has recently hosted them.)

2)      Ask your public librarian. Your public librarian may have a slightly wider “net” cast of authors who have provided visits in your area.

3)      Google.  
  • a.       Google authors and illustrators and go directly to their sites. You can either choose favorites of your own and search them by name, or google “children’s author” or “children’s illustrator”, adding your state to the search if you need to keep the search close to home. Carefully read their visit descriptions to see what kinds of programs they do. Some are presentation only, while others do workshops with kids as well. (Bear in mind that if you want a visitor to do workshops with the majority of the school, you will likely have to retain them for more than one day.
  • b.      Google publisher’s websites. Many of them have links to their authors and illustrators who do school visits.
  • c.       Google sites that help schools connect with an author or illustrator. You needn’t pay for this—look for a free service. Do be aware, however, that most of these sites charge the author,  so many authors won’t be found on them.

4)      Blogs. Search teacher and librarian blogs for posts about their visitors. These ladies and gentlemen are all about passing on valuable information, so see what they have to say.

5)      Twitter. And speaking of social media, if you follow teachers and librarians on Twitter, send out a tweet asking for help. The broad scope of your network might turn up just what you’re looking for.

6)      Book Festivals. Attend book festivals to meet possible candidates. I’ve known schools who have researched the authors and illustrators who will be in attendance and gone to a book festival and have arranged their visit on the spot!

7)      Local Bookstores. Ask your local bookstore for recommendations. I know, this is becoming easier said than done, but if you’re lucky enough to have a good little Indy Bookstore nearby, the workers there can be a wealth of knowledge.

8)      Local Arts Organizations. If you have a local arts organization, see if they have any affiliation with authors and illustrators. Some do.

9)      Author/Illustrator recommendations. Each year, ask your visitor recommendations for other visitors and find out why they recommend them. Like all professionals, most people are fairly networked in with others in their industry. Find out what they know.

10)   SCBWI. Check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—nearly everyone in this industry is a member of this international trade organization and on the National site, they list authors and illustrators who make school visits. If you want to look on a more localized scale, check online by googling  SCBWI followed by the state where you live to find a local chapter. (There are often more than one chapter per state.) These often have links to their members who visit school, and if there aren’t, email the regional adviser, asking for help.


  1. I'm a YA author and I'd love to do more with school visits - the ones I've done have always been a hugely rewarding experience, with kids ranging in age from 12/13 to high school seniors. Giving schools advice how to find writers is wonderful - do you have any advice for writers trying to let schools know that they're available?...

    Alma Alexander (, www,

  2. Hi Alma, thanks for your comment! Some of the most successful visiting authors that I know have materials (brochures, etc.) with them at all times. Anytime you meet a teacher or school librarian, it's good to have those with you. Attending book events is a good way to make contacts too. Every fall, I email schools to let them know what my school visit programs will be for the coming year. I've had good success with that too.