author visits

10 Schools, 3 Weeks, 1 World Book Day!

World Book Day season is over once more – and yes, it’s become a season, at least for us authors. For me it’s the busiest time of year with school vists most days and normal life on hold as I navigate early morning motorway routes, school car park security systems and the staff room tea making facilities. A big change from working at home in my pyjamas!

This year I had full day visits to Maulden Lower School, Bedford, Upton Cross Primary School, East London, Larwood Primary School, Stevenage, Greenfield School, Bedfordshire, Hartsfield JMI School, Baldock and Bradwell Village School, Milton Keynes, and half day visits to Pulloxhill School, Bedfordshire and Watford St John’s C of E Primary School, Watford. I also did a 1 hour story telling and poem making session at Hertford Heath Primary School and a writing workshop for years 1 and 3 in local primary schools hosted by Holmer Green Senior School, Milton Keynes. Thank you to all these schools for having me and making me feel so welcome!

Here are my top 10 tips for school visits:

  • Prepare for no tech to work. It takes away so much stress! This year I decided not to use Powerpoint presentations unless I was in a big hall and really needed to.
  • Identify where the staff room and toilet are at the start of the day. They’ll be your homes from home!
  • Take a travel cup preloaded with a tea bag. Saves precious minutes finding the tea caddy and working out which mugs are for visitors.
  • Make sure you have DBS and photo ID at the ready!
  • Research the route before leaving and identify where the car park is. Also, get tips on parking in advance, eg if the car park is full you have a plan.
  • Stare in awe at teachers as they silence the pupils with a single word. (But, more often, a nifty action rhyme.)
  • Don’t say, ‘Shall we have another story?’ unless you’re sure everyone will say yes! There’ll always be someone who isn’t feeling it on that occasion.
  • Do follow up admin straight away when you get home, even if you feel like collapsing at the end of the day.
  • Stare in awe at teachers because they don’t collapse at the end of the day (at least, not while anyone’s watching).
  • Remember why you’re there and enjoy every second.
About me

My publishing journey – how to promote your book

As promised, here’s another update on my journey to publication.  Really I should be talking about the illustration process, but as that’s still happening (and very exciting it is too), I’ll write another post about that when I can give you… wait for it… the whole picture.  Sorry about that.

With five or six months to go before publication day and not much that I can contribute to the text at this time, it’s a good time to start thinking about promotion.  Fortunately my publisher Maverick held an author’s day last week where we discussed that exact topic.  The timing could not have been better, and I’m now buzzing with ideas of how I can promote my book.  So here are the main points I picked up.  I hope they’re useful to you too.

  • No one can force you to go out there and promote your book, but it helps a huge amount.    The publisher will promote you using social media, press releases, presentations to buyers etc, but only you can produce the author in person. You have nothing to lose but some spare time and possibly your dignity.
  • There are basically four types of author visits you can do: library visits, school visits, bookshop visits and events.
  • Libraries are very welcoming to authors.  Library visits are likely to be around an hour and may consist of a reading, a short activity and book signing.  You should be able to sell copies of your book directly to the public.  Also check with the library that they do actually have your book for loan.  If not, prompt them!  Summer holidays are a good time for parents looking for activities.
  • Be brave and walk into your local bookshop.  Introduce yourself and ask if you could come and do a book signing session.  This is often a good way to get your books into bookshops that wouldn’t normally stock you.  For example, Waterstones only order centrally but they are allowed to support local authors.  The bookshop will then order in stock from the wholesalers (Betrams and Gardners are the two big companies). Be proactive and offer an activity or a reading rather than just a ‘buy my book’ approach.  Mention the visit to local press and radio beforehand.
  • You can contact local primary schools directly by emailing their Literary or Key Stage One leader.  Make it easy for them by providing e-posters and flyers.  You can also include a form that allows parents to pre-order signed copies of the book, to be collected on the day.  The school should have a budget for author visits and you will be expected to charge.  You can find guidelines on how much at the Society of Authors website.  They also have a useful pdf about author visits.  You no longer need to be CRB checked (these days DBS checked) to visit schools as long as there is a teacher in the classroom at all times.  However you will probably find that having an up-to-date DBS check makes your approach look more professional.  And it’s very useful to have a teacher present at all times anyway!  You can get a DBS check and insurance through the National Association of Writers in Education at
  • Events can range from school fetes to county fairs to literary festivals and radio station visits.  Think laterally and try to find a connection between your book and the local area or event. You can buy copies of your own book at a good discount and resell them.  Add value by signing and personalising the books.
  • There are various directories of authors you can join if you want to be contacted about a visit, such as
  • When you’ve read your book out, what else can you do to keep your young listeners entertained?  Thanks to author Alex English for sharing this resource on 103 things to do after reading a picture book.  And don’t be desk bound – children love songs, rhymes, games and dressing up, so think about the content of your book and how you can transfer this into some educational playtime!

Right, I’m off to buy a lab coat, four pairs of glasses and a big bag of props.  Author visits may be nerve-wracking but they sound like they can be a lot of fun, too!

Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip will be published by Maverick Books in January 2016.