On Monday, author Suzanne Slade will be guest blogging here at Boxcars, Books & a Blog. She did 13 Skype visits on Read Across America Day. She (and the kids) had a great time. Suzanne and I have an ongoing discussion about the relative value of in-person vs. virtual author visits.
We both agree that author visits to schools and libraries – be they virtual or otherwise – are a key component to an author’s marketing goals. (Note: when we say “Author Visits,” we mean both authors and illustrators.) But she feels that the Skype visits are more efficient and accomplish more over the long run because you can do so many more of them. A valid argument.
Thanks to the new technology, it’s easier for the author and cheaper for the school to do Skype visits…and you really can do more of them (look out for Monday’s recap of 13 in one day). I do think this is a great addition to an author’s marketing activities. However, I don’t think they should completely replace real visits.
Benefits of a school visit:
- Making connections with your target audience
- Listening to your target audience
- Making connections with teachers and librarians
- Developing brand loyalty
- Honoraria can significantly help your income
- Selling books on the day of the visit
All of these things can be achieved with a Skype visit, but I would argue to a lesser extent.
Watching an author on “TV” — even with real interaction — is not the same thing as really “meeting” an author. I bet as much as parents and grandparents who visit the kids via Skype love it, they’d rather be there in person.
More practically, it’s been my experience with in-person visits, that the less money a school spends, the less the effort they put into prepping the kids. (Not for every school and I’ve heard tale of schools spending $10,000 for a week and not preparing the kids for it.) Unprepared kids learn less from the visits, buy fewer books at the visit, and forget the author ever existed within weeks (if not days) of the visit.
You’re also going to make less of a connection with the librarian and teachers. One of the long-term effects of a good school visit is that the school buys all of your future books as well. This will happen a bit with Skype visits, but when a librarian has spent an entire day with you — including lunch — they really are more likely to feel an “ownership” of your extended presence in their school.
Of course, some people can’t do 50 school visits a year (note that some people do as many as 80-100). Illustrators have a harder time leaving the studio than authors have leaving their offices. Parents with younger children have more limited schedules. A day job can limit your ability to travel. Living in an out-of-the-way place can increase your travel time and the school’s costs. All good reasons for not getting out much.
I guess what I’m really saying is DO SCHOOL VISITS — both in-person and virtually. Skype (and whatever comes after it) is a way to do MORE of them overall, not just replace the ones you were already doing.
Be out there…
in the world…
meeting your audience…
and selling your brand.