This is my fourth year of visiting schools, and I'm learning that most want to book an author during the fall or the spring. Brookline, for example, invited me to be their Sakar Fund author this March and April in all eight of their elementary schools. The Town of Needham, too, wanted an author to visit every school during April and May so they won a grant and invited me to come.
Schools in my home state are unusually open to author bookings. Brookline and Needham are both twenty minutes away. I drove to Thoreau School in Concord, Massachusetts last Wednesday, and am day-tripping twice to the Pike School in Andover, Massachusetts next week. I do repeat performances every year in my own town of Newton, where you have to be approved by the Creative Arts and Sciences Division to visit schools. So I may be spoiled when comparing the options available to authors based in other states, but I think the school visit soil in most places may be arable if not as fertile.
How does an author get started? In 2005, I created and offered a few (horrible, I'm afraid) presentations for free, was previewed and reviewed, improved and adapted my shows to enhance the curriculum, and slowly word began to spread. I researched, asked other authors what they charged, and put some middlish-of-the-road fees on my site in an a la carte list along with descriptions of my presentations. Some authors don't mention money on their sites -- they prefer to negotiate individual offers or use an agent. I do my booking myself (I like the control and prefer the direct access to educators), figuring that publishing my fees online might deliver me from countless back and forth emails.
Why do school visits at all? For me, as an ex-teacher who hated grading but loves teaching, it's first and foremost fabulous to be back in a classroom. Second, I get paid to be silly (and to educate, don't worry). Third, it does get the word out about my books. Fourth, I connect to the culture of my readers. Fifth, I receive awesome fan mail. Sixth, I still have time in my week for revision and promotion (if I don't waste it all playing Scrabulous). And finally, school visits leave me with an uninterrupted six months of summer and winter for writing; a nice seasonal rhythm that is beginning to shape the fleeting years.