Keeping Track of School Visit Inquiries

Notebook_Appearances_3-ring-binde

It's easy to find all materials related to each school visit in this one-stop binder. Everything slides easily into page protectors.

Whenever anyone contacts me for an appearance, I capture as much information as possible up front, whether they book me or not.  I keep records on computer and ancillary materials (booking form, contract, program, maps, etc.) in a 3-ring binder set up with tabs for each month.  (I’m sure that tech savvy folks could find a way to do this all electronically, but I still like the “backup” of a real notebook!)

 First, I file their email inquiry on my computer in a folder called, “Appearances.”  Within Appearances, I have a folder for each year.  So, let’s say Jane Little from the Sunshine Elementary School in Taos, New Mexico contacted me by email, this is how I would file her note:

 Appearances

2010

NM – Taos – Sunshine Elem – Jane Little

Go to "Resources" for a pdf of this sample booking form.

Go to "Resources" for a pdf of this sample booking form.

Next, if we carry on a correspondence, I paste all of her emails into this file so that I have our running correspondence in one spot.  If we talk about a specific date, I then record pertinent information on my paper booking form and place it in a page protector in my 3-ring notebook behind the month of the requested appearance.

In front of each month, I have a calendar page.  On it, I pencil in all of my appearances.  This gives me a clean, one-stop look at what’s ahead for me.

Calendar Sample - May 2010_smWhen it’s time for the visit, I take all the pages for that school along with me from my notebook.  (This has saved scads of space and manila file folders in my real-life filing cabinets!)

Some schools may take two or three years before they bring me in, but I  stay in touch with them in the meantime.  When I transfer data onto a spreadsheet, I can easily see which schools might be ready for a “revisit” a few years after my initial visit.

12 Comments on “Keeping Track of School Visit Inquiries”

  • I can’t wait to try your ideas.
    Hmmm. Why didn’t I think of them myself?

  • This is such a great site! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us–I’m sure I’ll be a frequent visitor!

  • Great ideas, Alexis. I just put all my school inquiries in one place…can’t believe I wasn’t doing this. You mentioned that you stay in touch with the places that don’t hire you after an initial inquiry. How do you do this…an occasional email? Snail mail?

    Greg

  • When a new book comes out or if a book wins a special distinction, I send an announcement via email to anyone who’s been in touch with me in the last 3 years. This keeps me on their radar. I only do this once a year since I don’t want to be seen as an e-pest!. I haven’t sent postcards, but I do know that author /photographer Sherry Shahan does, and I’m on her mailing list. I usually post her card on my fridge, so I assume that others do this, too. This small gesture keeps her name in front of me so I know she exists and is active. Because I’m active with many literary organizations, the postcard is also handy to bring to committee meetings when folks are discussing programming.

  • Thanks, Alexis. Postcards are great for all types of promotions and personal correspondence — Thank yous, new book announcements, book-signing invitations, etc. Sherry

  • Wow! I love your Booking Form! I keep contacts in an email file and I have a system for bookings. But I never thought to start keeping track at the point of ‘first contact’. LOL! Sounds like Star Trek.
    May I use your form?

  • Absolutely use my form! Anything posted here is for you to use.

  • Aleixs, You are always generous with sharing your knowledge. Thank you.

  • I’m enchanted by your notebook, Alexis. I may try something similar, since it’s still easier to glance thru hard copies than open a bunch of digital documents hoping to find the right info. One thing that has helped me to corral correspondence is to start a folder in my email program as soon as I get an inquiry. I name the folder the city or school name and the date, if one has been proposed. (I use a simple 6-figure date system: March 10, 2011 is simply 031011.) Then all subsequent emails go in there. Much easier to keep track of a conversation.

    Likewise, I start a digital folder for each inquiry — within a larger folder named for the school year. That simple 6-digit dating system — which I devised years ago when I worked at a newspaper — also works nicely to keep folders lined up chronologically: 040611_Danville falls neatly beneath 031011_Sarasota just because my computer naturally lists lower digits first.

    To keep fall dates in that same, nice chronological order, I add a space at the beginning of the digit. That way (space)091610 will still stay above 011511. Otherwise, my computer wants to put 091610 below 011511. (Apparently my computer is treating the numbers like an alphabet, rather than simply — logically — noticing that 091610 is a lower NUMBER than 011511, so it should come first! But it doesn’t unless I add that space.)

    I still like your paper backup. Besides, I love fiddling with notebooks. Makes me feel so important and busy!

    😉

    Kim Norman

  • Hi Kim – The notebook I keep is not just a backup. It’s data I need to bring with me to the school. I don’t want to have to open my computer for the map, schedule, names of hosts, etc., as I’m driving there (!) so I bring the hard copies with me.

    Like you, I begin with a digital file, too, and store correspondence, schedules and any pdfs hosts send my way on my computer. I like your system of beginning file names with the date of appearance. It is helpful for seeing the chronolgy of visits in your digital folder. How do you categorize the inquires that don’t have confirmed dates attached? Potential hosts will often begin with me by saying that they want me “sometime in February” without a date assigned. If we do book a date, I can name the folder with it as you suggest, but I don’t want to lose data from those who inquire but may not book this year.

  • If it looks like it’s really going to develop into a gig, but no date yet, I just create a folder with the school or city name, something like “Chicago_date?”

    If I’m feeling especially compulsive about how the folders line up, I’ll name it “z_Pittsburg_date?” so that the folder is guaranteed to fall near the bottom, easy to see and rename once there’s a date.

    For inquiries that are still quite undeveloped, I create a folder for each one inside an “Inquiries” folder which is stored in that first folder named for the school year. Easy to rename with a proper date code and slide out of the Inquiries folder if it turns into a solid gig.

    While I don’t have a notebook, I do have a real-live colored paper folder that I always bring to visits. Inside that I put all the papers I’ll need for the gig:
    –Travel-related stuff (hotel confirmations, plane ticket printouts, etc.) tucked into the left pocket
    –Contract and all things needed for the presentation, such as lesson plan, printouts of special things I might be using, (like maybe a new call-and-response piece that I haven’t learned by heart yet) tucked into the right pocket.

    Makes me feel very organized, (not my natural state!) having that one folder with everything in it. Of course, I’m always terrified I’ll lose it, so I try to keep digital versions of everything in my email so I can retrieve things from anywhere in the country — provided the school doesn’t have a blocking system to keep me out of Gmail or my online Mac storage. (Which has happened. Very aggravating. Not that the school has that blocking system, which is understandable sometimes; just that I’ve done all this extra labor to for backup and it was pointless.)

    Only happened once, though, when a PTA mom stood with checkbook in hand and said, “So what was your fee for today?” Expecting the check would be ready, I hadn’t memorized that info. (Fees vary because of travel expenses.) That’s when I learned to always have the contract with me. We figured it out somehow.

    Kim

  • Kim write: “Only happened once, though, when a PTA mom stood with checkbook in hand and said, “So what was your fee for today?” Expecting the check would be ready, I hadn’t memorized that info. (Fees vary because of travel expenses.) That’s when I learned to always have the contract with me”

    Good point, Kim! I always carry a copy of the invoice and the letter of agreement I sent to them since not everyone sends a formal contract.