As the children’s and YA book buyer for Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Caňada, California, Catherine Linka as had countless experiences with authors and school visits. But many authors are clueless about etiquette. Take a look at the tips she shares and ee how you might improve your approach.
1. Be absolutely clear from the first conversation with a bookseller if you need to charge for a school visit. It is fine with us if this is how you make your living, but do not expect us to get the business for you. We will, however, be happy to supply books after you have made the deal. If you can afford to do free school visits, it will be a treat for us to call our customers and set those up.
2. Tell us what size of group you prefer to work with well in advance. It’s OK if you like to meet with 20-40 kids. You don’t need to see a huge group to please the bookseller.
3. Help us sell you into the school. Send us jpegs of you and your book. Forward us a short bio, and ask your publicist to send us a couple ARCs to give to teachers. Give us a summary of what you will do during your visit or suggest pre-visit activities for the teachers. Booksellers are busy, and we appreciate authors who make our lives easier.
4. If you need audio-visual equipment–give us 3-4 days notice to contact the school and get those arrangements in place. And tell us what type of hardware or software you’re bringing.
5. Be professional. Avoid off color language or controversial statements that can embarrass the school and endanger the relationship that the bookseller has with it. Booksellers work very hard to build relationships with schools and libraries, and we need authors to understand that if we take them to a school– their behavior reflects on us.
6. Give us a cell phone number so if you are late, we can reach you.
7. Do a good deed. There are some small schools in my area that are dear to my heart, because they serve kids who have emotional or learning differences or who are in the foster care system. Visiting these schools won’t sell a lot of books, but I will be a Heather Brewer fan until the day I die after watching her speak about growing up as an outcast to a group of kids who I know struggle with social relationships.
Catherine Linka is the children’s and YA book buyer for the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Caňada, California. An MFA grad of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Catherine’s debut novel, A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS will be published by St. Martin’s in spring 2014.