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Achieve Author Visits on a Budget

by Stephanie Squicciarini
April 4, 2012
Q. With our budget being cut, we don’t have the funds we used to have for author visits. And some of my colleagues never had any funds for author visits! Any suggestions on how we can fund these types of visits?

Normally I would say ask your public library to help, but those budgets are getting slashed too! But together, and with some creativity, you can still make these happen. Here are a few ideas:

Check with “local” authors. Local can mean anywhere within driving distance, so look beyond your state, too. While gas prices are still rising, it could still be more economical than paying for airfare. And, if they live close enough, they may not require lodging.

YALSA has an “Authors by State” resource on their wiki. This is one place to start. You can also check with regional writers and illustrators groups.

Check author websites for their event schedules. If authors who normally are not within your regional driving area will be doing an event nearby, or are on a book tour in your area for a newly released book, they are now local! And you could share the travel and other expenses with their other hosting venues. If they are on an official book tour, there might not be any travel expenses to cover. A win-win for everyone!

Check with your local hotels, especially the larger chains. Some hotels will offer deeper discounts or even complimentary rooms. They would rather have rooms full than empty. You could, in exchange, list the hotel as a sponsor for the author visit on your internal and external publicity, and/or acknowledge them in any articles published about the visit.

Partner with other schools. If you can get several schools to pool resources, authors might be willing to negotiate their fee. This partnership could mean either half days at each of two schools or booking several different schools, all within driving distance of each other, in a given week. An author might be more willing to negotiate their fee if they know they will be visiting several schools in the same area. This will also depend on how many sessions you want them to present at each school. So, you want to balance this with not expecting an author to do as many sessions as they might ordinarily do for their full fee.

Ask your PTA/PTSA groups. While they may not be able to fund the entire visit, they might be able to help with part of it. Or they could cover the cost of your author hospitality (don’t forget you need to budget in meals!).

Conduct a fundraiser. You can work with your students and/or your PTA/PTSAs on this too. A very successful fundraiser we hold each year for The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival is a Read-a-Thon.

Check with your local public library. They can be a partner in your fundraising efforts (your Read-a-Thon, for instance, could be held at the public library and then it also counts as a program for them!) and can also be another event host. Your guest author could visit the school during the day and your public library could hold an event in the evening and together you share the cost of any author honorarium and, if you cannot find a hotel to donate the room, any lodging costs. You will again need to balance this with your expected number of total presentations during the day. If an author normally will agree to, say, five presentations, the public library event will count as at least one presentation (depending on the length).

Arrange a book sale. You can work with a local book store (or chain) and ask them to donate back a percentage of any sales of the books, or work directly with the publisher. Most publishers will sell books to schools and libraries at a deep discount (usually 40%) for author events. Then you sell the books to students, faculty, and attendees at the cover price. While this may generate be a huge amount of money, it could help cover some of your costs.

Plan ahead! There are peak author visit times of the year: Teen Read Week and Children’s Book week, for instance. While those are great times to have author visits, authors’ time will be at a premium and, depending on your budget, may be out of reach. Think creatively when planning. For instance, if the author you’d like to invite lives in a colder climate, and you’re in an area that’s warm year-round, this could be an appealing detail!

Don’t give up even if your budget has been cut deeply! With some planning, partnering, and creativity, you can still have very successful author visits for your students and community!

Stephanie Squicciarini
Teen Services Librarian
Fairport (NY) Public Library

© 2012 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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