THERE IS NO CHARGE TO BE LISTED on this blog, however I do ask for a reciprocal link to Cool School Visits, at www.coolschoolvisits.com . (Check it out! I offer lots of free advice about doing school visits!) Sorry, except for a few close friends, I can only list you in your home state.
MY DEFINITION OF "TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED"...If you're with a publisher you know I'll recognize, write to me and I'll add you. If you have any doubts, CLICK THIS LINK and scroll down to a list approved on SCBWI's "Published and Listed" (PAL) list. If you see your publisher on this list, write to me. If not, then you're with a publisher too obscure to be added. I don't want these author lists to become so lengthy that the site loses its original intent: to save educators time when "shopping" for an author.

Why do authors charge fees for school presentations?


This weekend I heard from an author, obviously a sincere and well-meaning person, who asked to be listed on this blog. The problem with her request is this: she does her presentations for free. She says she loves it so much that the children's enjoyment is compensation enough, even if the school is a long drive from her home. I'm always sorry to turn down a request, so I wanted to give her my reasons. Here is my reply:

"Dear author,

Congratulations on your books. You sound like an upbeat, energetic person. For now, until you charge for your visits, I'm afraid I can't list you on the Author Visits by State website. This is a list for professionals who make a living not only writing their books, but also speaking to students about them. As long as you present for free, I'm afraid I'll have to place you in the volunteer rather than professional category.


If you decide to begin charging, do let me know, and I'll be pleased to add your link. I would encourage you to consider it. Your time and talents are worth something. And you may find that when you charge, you're actually treated with more respect at the schools you visit. Not to mention that you'll cover expenses such as gas and time spent on the road. (Five hours on the road to visit a school for free? Oh dear, you are a more generous person than I.)

I have discussed this with a group of author friends, and we all agreed this was the best response to your enquiry. We love what we do, too, but we cannot afford to do it for free. You see, the trouble with your request, for us, is that when you do visits for free, you potentially lower all fees. Except for the rare bestseller or "living legend," children's book writing is not known to be a lucrative profession. Many children's authors, even those with numerous books from famous publishers, have alternate sources of income: teacher, librarian, newspaper reporter. I'm a freelance graphic artist. Speaking fees help keep us solvent so we can do the thing we truly love: writing books for children.

I know, when you look at the fees per day of some authors, it seems a large sum for "a single day's work." Take my own fee, for instance, which is in the moderate range: I charge $600 for a full day of local presentations, (within 50 miles), which I cap at four hour-long presentations. I've tried to do more, but -- especially since I sing for the younger students -- my voice doesn't hold out for more than 4 hours. Doing simple math, 600 dollars seems like a lot of money for "four hour's work." But I'm not being paid for just those 4 hours. There's the travel, of course. There is the time I spend creating a lesson plan. (Every school seems to have different needs and different ways they congregate assemblies. At one school, I might present to one grade at a time; at another, I may do K thru 2 in one session and 3 thru 5 at another. This requires different preparation for the greater age spread.) There's the correspondence time with the contact person, sometimes running to dozens of emails, the generation of a contract and other materials such as posters for the event.

It's also true that, while I work from a lesson plan, a school presentation is more like a performance than a teaching session. Most authors, even those who spent years in the classroom as teachers, say the energy-expenditure during a school visit is very different than a day spent in the classroom when they were teachers. I don't know of any actors who do 4-hour one-man performances, at least not day after day. The physical toll, especially on the vocal chords, is too great.

Now add the hundreds of hours I work every year promoting myself as a speaker: I do unpaid presentations at educator conferences, I maintain this author visit website, (now at over 600 links; a lot of labor there), I built and now maintain my website & blog, I network, I write articles and supplemental materials for educators to use with my books. That's before you factor in the years of "apprenticeship" just to become a published author in the first place. And, of course, every hour spent speaking, driving or promoting my services is an hour spent NOT writing a new book. I would argue that you have put in similar amounts of labor, meaning your time is worth something, too.

You are the best person to make that call, of course, so I won't belabor the point. I do wish you well, and hope to hear from you in the future that you have decided you'd like to be compensated for your work.

Regards,

Kim Norman
"

23 comments:

Katie Davis said...

Kim, GREAT post.

You know why it is that any time a school asks for a "deal", THAT is the school that does the worst job? The kids won't be prepared, the teachers are correcting papers during the presentation or worse - leave the room...I could go on... It's because people value what they pay for. I've seen it time and again.

Oh, there was one problem - you don't charge enough! AND you do FOUR presentations! Yeesh, girl, raise your rates and eliminate one presentation - you're worth it!

Katie Davis

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Yes - WONDERFUL post Kim! Thank you for putting this down in writing. And I agree with Katie - you don't charge enough and four is too many. Three assemblies is the most I can do in a day. More than that (I've learned from experience) and I lose my voice and am thrown into an exhausted coma. I adore doing school visits, but they need to be worth my efforts. Those who request our services generally have no idea how much time we put into planning an exciting event for their students - or even responding to requests that don't pan out (usually because of cost). And of course, all of that is time away from why they want to hire us in the first place - creating books!
e

Joi said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto.
Infinite thanks for safe-guarding the professional status of our work, Kim!
If I did not get paid for these high-output, high-value performances, I would be out of business, unable to service the schools at all. My 20 yrs of experience have shaped a truism: every day at a presentation venue "costs" me two from my office, work, earnings, and life.
BTW, if I set out to perform four sessions, they'd have to keep the ambulance on idle in the parking lot! I try to limit it to 2 workshops, or 3 assemblies per day.

Michael said...

I agree with Katie. Any time I do a "favor for a friend" the teachers do NOT prepare the children for my visits. Another side of the coin is: My wife spoke at a school I previously visited. It's about a seven hour drive. I wanted to spend my day at schools and contacted six schools for a free day just to get known a little better in the area. Nobody wanted me. I don't know why, because I get PAID to visit about 85 schools a year. I thought it odd that none of the administrators would return my call. I wondered if they thought "Free" was a scam!!!
Katie, you are correct...people value what they pay for.

Kerry Madden said...

Fantastic post, Kim! You said it all and you said it beautifully! Thank you!

All best
Kerry

Kim Bookwriter said...

Thanks for the great comments, guys. I have been thinking about raising my rates, especially once I put out a new brochure, which will go to press as soon as I have my new book cover. Next week, my ed says. Yay!

Pam Calvert said...

You are so right on all points. Thank you for saying it, Kim.

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Anjali said...

Looks as though you have some spam in the comments section!

Thank you so much for this great post. School visits are wonderful but also tremendously draining.

I had a few nightmare experiences when I first started out. I did a local free school visit, and the teachers simply left me to babysit the kids. The students were not prepared for my visit. They didn't know who I was or why I was there. When the third set of students filed in, I packed up my stuff and left. I no longer do free visits.

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