I know this is a controversial idea so I’m going to begin with couple of notes:
- Authors (and other artists) deserve to be paid for school visits.
- Schools are not just paying an ‘hourly rate’ for an author’s time, but also their expertise, their training, their experience, and their influence on the students.
This year, I’m doing free school visits. I’m doing this for a few reasons, mostly related to marketing and publicity.
I’m a new author. Like emerging artists and beginning speakers, it takes a while to build an audience and ‘platform’. This is one way I can build relationships with people important to my business (children, teachers & librarians) and get some exposure for my work.
Eventually (next year), I will start charging, and for a few years I’ll raise my prices as demand increases until I hit standard rates.
It plays to my strengths. I am a qualified primary school teacher, I’ve worked with children in academic and leisure environments, and I’ve taught workshops in the arts before… it’s bang in the middle of my comfort zone. There’s been so much in this whole writing / publishing / marketing business that has been difficult and new for me that it’s nice to do something that comes naturally to me.
It’s a win-win-win setup. I get to share my work with children and teachers, the teachers get to reinforce their ideas, and the children get to meet a real author. In everything I do, I try to make sure that it’s always a win-win agreement.
I liken this structure to putting first-in-series books as perma-free, or raising painting prices annually based on experience and profile. There is an argument that it devalues the author visit, but I know that free books exist by the thousands on Kindle, but just the other day I forked out $30 for a ‘real book’ – and I know some schools who have hired me for free but also paid for more well-known authors.
In the end, it’s about doing what I can with what I’ve got 🙂