Having a few readings under my belt I was fairly confident I would be fine talking in front of 100 kids. I don't know whether I would have gone through with it if it was my first one. The school had bought one of my books for their library and the school librarian contacted me via email requesting that I come and speak at their assembly. The reason for her contacting me was that I was actually a pupil of there's once upon a time. This also put me at ease knowing the place and the people meant I would have a bit to talk about.
I did a lot of research on how to get the most out of a school visit. One of the main pieces of advice I found was to send them some information and activities to do leading up to your visit. This gets all the children familiar with your book and who you are. It also adds a lot of hype and makes it more fun for both them and you as the visitor. I sent through some colouring in pages, activity pages and posters to put up in the classroom. I also made a competition of the colouring pages with A3 signed colour prints from the book as prizes. When the children entered the hall for their assembly they all greeted me 'Hello Amy Burrell' all wanting to talk to me, it was great. I felt like a celebrity.
I pre arranged with the school to use their projector to plug in my iPad. This was great as I just used a .pdf of the book and everyone could see it massive behind me as I was reading. As I started to read I told the kids to read along if they wanted. Little did I realise that the whole school knew my story word for word even the 5 year olds. So I ended up reading my story with 100 children reading it along with me. It was so magical and really touching. I had an equally rewarding visit at a daycare centre where I read the story to around 30 2-4 year olds. I was sitting on a chair up the front and as I read they got closer and closer until the were practically sitting on my lap. They just get so much out of having a special guest come to read to them.
As I was allotted a 20-30 minute slot in the assembly I had to do more than just read my story. I ended up showing the kids some of my illustration work and photos of when I went to their school. I also requested a whiteboard and picked 2 volunteers to come up the front while I drew a cartoon of them. While drawing I talked them through how I create my characters and how to draw a face. This was a huge hit and I had the whole school laughing at the great characters. The school was also able to print the images off the whiteboard and I signed them and gave them to the kids.
I thought about giving away a copy of the book however I then decided signed prints was a bit more special and could potentially create another sale. I planned to judge the colouring in competition at the visit however this was not possible as there were 100 of them. I took them home with me and judged them, then posted them back to the school.
I used this visit as an opportunity to create a bit of publicity. I emailed the local newspaper and told them about the visit. They sent a reporter along and she wrote an article and put it in the paper. She also gave me a contact of the owner of the local bookstore who I contacted and sold 5 books to. She published a note saying available at that store in the article. This was great however I have had some feedback from people saying they have gone into the store and asked about the book and the staff didn't know anything about it. I have tried to contact the owner several times and am having trouble getting hold of him. Not a good look for me:( From now on I will be quite selective over who stocks my book and the conditions.
This visit didn't actually create that many direct sales I think I sold one copy to one of the teachers and that's it. However the article in the paper got me the 5 sales to the bookstore and I have had another 3 who contacted my parents for a copy because of the article. I think this was a worthwhile marketing stint however I have a lot of room for improvement with converting it to sales.