Business Blog: Why I do free school visits

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 🙂

6 Responses to “Business Blog: Why I do free school visits

  • Yes Zee I too for the first several years talked to pupils, read my books without charge. Then realised I often paid a lot for petrol, travel time and time when I could be selling my books. Then I proposed and it was well received that my low fee of $25 to call and spend time answering questions and talking about writing and ideas would be waived if books were bought for their library. This worked as they always bought books.

    • Z.R. Southcombe
      1 year ago

      I think that’s what I’ll do next year. This year I’ve asked schools to ‘consider my books for purchase’ and that usually covers my petrol fee at least.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Robyn.

  • I feel an author should always do school visits for free, except in the case when they’re super-popular such as Phillip Pullman or Rowling. We can also give out free paperbacks at these events if we wanted to – we can claim each book’s cost back via our taxes (at least we can in the UK).

    • Z.R. Southcombe
      1 year ago

      We can claim against our expenses, but I don’t think we should always give visits for free – our time is more valuable than ‘free’. Always good to get different perspectives, though! 🙂

  • Visiting schools for free sounds like a great strategy as long as it didn’t go on too long. As a new author, you need to start someplace to get your books and yourself known. I don’t think I’d give out free books though. Maybe discounting the price would be a good idea though so that the parents are more likely to buy the book for their child.

    • Z.R. Southcombe
      1 year ago

      I haven’t marketed the books to parents at this point, and I’m not planning on giving free books as well as giving my time for free. It does cut a lot of time out of producing my own books (the visit plus a presentation for each visit) and that needs to be taken into account as well.

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