You don't have to be a children's writer in order to work with schools – except perhaps if you write erotica. You need to be able to talk to children. This doesn't mean talking down to them. There are actually very few people who can't relate to children. Many "full-time" writers do many school visits. It can be well-paid and it can help you to promote your books.
At the time of writing, I charge £400.00 for a full day's visit. Very few schools actually pay that as I often offer a discount and I offer a couple of other models – see below. Two schools near to each other can also share a writer. It is important to charge – your time is precious. However, you might offer a few visits free or very cheap while you find your feet. If there are schools with which you have connections, try approaching them fist.
My £400.00 workshops includes all of the materials, a free book or two for the school library and all materials also on a memory stick for teachers to use later and for follow up work. The school only has to supply any stationery for the students.
I always charge travel expenses. However, I work these out in advance and add it to the fee. That is 0.45 per mile plus £5.00 for breakfast, £10.00 for lunch and £20.00 for dinner, plus £75.00 for an overnight stay. Often, I'll go be train, which may be cheaper, but then expenses get bumped up by taxi fares. Sometimes the hotel or airbnb is cheaper, sometimes more expensive. Doing it this way is win/win. The school has a fixed price. I claim the expenses on my tax return.
The "free" visit
Note, I still charge travel expenses. This visit is limited to 1.5 hours. It includes:
· A short talk about me as a writer
· Readings from a book of the teacher's choice
· A Q & A session
· One creative writing exercise
· A chance for book signings
A fundamental understanding of this sort of visit is that you will have the opportunity to sell books.
The custom visit
This is where the school tell me what they can afford and you tailor your visit to suit them. I make sure travel expenses are covered.
I can customise my visit in the following ways:
· I shorten the day
· I don't give books to the library
· The school shares me with another nearby school
· The teachers produce the materials themselves - though there is a risk here that the material may not be produced. I take them along on my lap top or memory stick to the school just in case.
· I lower my fee a little
Terms and conditions
Here is my contract with terms and conditions attached:
Contract for School Visits from Gill James
07778 866661 / 0161 723 0444 firstname.lastname@example.org
Date and time of event
Contact person – name, phone number, email
Groups (year, number in each group)
Equipment I need
Equipment the school will provide
Estimate of travel expenses
Terms and conditions
1. I will invoice the school about ten days in advance. Payment is due within one calendar month of the visit. An interest charge will be added to late payments.
2. Even "free" visits will incur a travel expense charge.
3. I am self-employed and pay tax annually. I must not be processed through your payroll.
4. I expect to sell books at your event but I will provide them and process the sales. I shall supply in advance hard-copies of a letter to parents. I will bring the books. There will be an option for parents /guardians / students to purchase in advance. Please allow ample time for signings.
5. For paid visits I will bring all materials except for stationery. I will indicate which student stationery is needed. For "free" visits I may send you a few materials to be photocopied.
6. You may at any time order one of my books from me directly as an inspection copy. If you are going ahead with this workshop you may keep this book free of charge. At paid workshops you will also be gifted another book for your school library.
7. Full-time staff from the school must be present in the event room at all times – otherwise my public liability will be invalid.
8. I must be allowed a short break at least every two hours. Please supply water.
9. Cancellation policy: if you cancel less than three weeks before the event 10% of the fee is payable. If I have to cancel because of ill-health, severe weather or public transport failure, the workshop will be offered at another mutually convenient time with a 10% discount.
On behalf of the school
On behalf of Gill James
This normally fits on to a sheet of A4. It's actually a constant work in progress and if you'd like the latest version, email me at email@example.com
Most of what is here you will probably have negotiated beforehand via a set of emails. Incidentally, I usually print off all the emails and a copy of this before I go the school. Don't rely on your phone, tablet or lap-top. You may be without power or a signal when you most need it.
Always make sure about car parking arrangements and where the entrance to the school is. The post code doesn’t always take you to the front gate.
What you may need to negotiate
Be aware that many schools will try to put you on pay roll. This is totally wrong and you must fight it. Otherwise you'll be paying tax and NI twice. It's wise to include your tax number on your invoice.
Always expect to sell books.
There should always be a member of full time staff with you and that should preferably be a qualified teacher. Okay, sometimes they'll sit at the back of the class and get on with their marking. Most, however, join in. You actually need this to validate your public liability insurance. More on that later. They know their students well and you should leave all of the discipline to them. You can remain the nice guy.
Negotiate a break to suit you. I insist on having one every two hours and that I have water available. Unless I am invited to lunch I take a packed one. You can usually sit quietly in the staff room to eat this. Sometimes this gives you the opportunity to talk to other subject teachers and perhaps start negotiations for another workshop.
Be very firm about the shape of groups you are willing to work with. Be wary too of being asked to talk too long to a whole year group or even a whole school, though you might start and end your day that way.
Also be very firm about which age groups you are comfortable with. I personally will not work with lower than year 5 but am happy to go up to Year 13.
Here are some patterns I've used:
1. I talked to the whole of a year group at the beginning of the day.
2. I spent one hour with each of four classes
3. I met the whole year group again at the end of the day for Q & A and book signing.
I worked all day in the conference room with eight gifted and talented students.
· We talked about what they liked to read.
· We worked through a series of creative writing exercises to produce stories and poems.
· We collaborated on a short play which we then rehearsed and performed just amongst ourselves. Later they polished it up and showed it to the rest of the school.
Children were cherry-picked to join groups of about 15 students.
1. I read to the whole of lower school and conducted a Q & A session.
2. I worked with Year 7 on Haiku, acrostic poems and some OULIPO activities. See:
3. I worked on story with Year 8
4. I worked on play scripts with Year 9
5. I lead a further Q & A – this time I asked the questions. This was followed by a book signing.
What you might do in your workshop
Obviously you want your books to feature prominently. Negotiate with your contact person about which book/books might be the best to use.
Topic of your book
You might have a book with a strong theme or setting. You could base some or the whole of your workshop on your research. I do this with my Schellberg Cycle workshop. This is very suitable for Year 9 as that is when they learn about the Holocaust.
Negotiate with your contact about what sort of thing they'd like you to do. They'll probably want to hook it to the curriculum. You will probably want to subvert that a little and in fact that's what they've invited you in for – even if they don't realise it.
Produce a book
I have put together a workshop that can last one day or more or be delivered over several weeks. You can access it here:
We write, edit, illustrate, publish and market a book. This can be a free school visit as sales of the book cover my costs.
Making sure you can sell your books
I send enough hard copies of the following sort of letter to the school. I keep a "float" of twenty books that I've purchased at author discount. If I'm using self-published ones I can offer a substantial discount to parents who purchase directly from me.
This sample letter makes it all largely self-explanatory:
Dear Parents or Guardians,
I shall be visiting the school on 31 March to deliver a workshop about my Schellberg Cycle project. This will form part of students’ education about the Holocaust. This project was kick-started by a sabbatical from the University of Salford. I am an experienced secondary school teacher and university lecturer.
I am writing a cycle of stories based on a true story, partly about my late mother-in-law who came to England on the Kindertransport, and also informed by a collection of letters from her classmates: the girls wrote letters in an exercise book that they sent on to the next girl. Read more about the project here:
The workshop does deal with some of the horrors of the Holocaust but also looks at how ordinary German people got caught up in it.
The first story in the cycle, The House on Schellberg Street, is already published. It is Renate’s story of coming to England and being puzzled about her identity. It also tells of what happens to her grandmother, Clara Lehrs, and how this extraordinary woman, a Jewess and therefore persecuted herself, looks after a group of disabled children also threatened by the Nazi regime. The book is readable by children aged 13 and above and may also be of interest to adults. This story ends on a hopeful note.
I shall be signing copies on the day.
· If you would like a signed copy you can:
· Buy it from Amazon and get your child to bring it on the day to be signed:
· Send a cheque for £7.99 made to G James to the above address with a note that this is for the book. I shall bring the book on the day.
· Make a bank transfer to G James sort code 60 18 28 / Account number 19129823 and email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) that you have done that. I shall bring the book on the day.
· Send £7.99 in cash on the day with your child. Note, as always there is a risk in sending cash into school and I also can’t guarantee that I would have enough copies. The other options are safer.
Thank you for your support in this and I look forward to working with your child.
Dr Gill James
Public liability insurance
Most schools – and indeed other organisations – will insist that you have public liability insurance – and like you to have £10,000,000. You can obtain this for free if you become a professional member of NAWE:
http://www.nawe.co.uk/. There are several other advantages of belonging to NAWE as are mentioned elsewhere in this book. Take a look at their site to see what else.
The Society of Authors also offers this at a reasonable rate if you are a member and if you're not, you might want to think about joining. Find them at:
DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) Checks
This is all about child and vulnerable adult protection checks. The Service confirms that you are not a risk to children and vulnerable adults.
Strictly speaking you don't need these as your public liability insurance will insist that you have a full time member of staff with you at all times and you only need a DBS check if you will be alone with children or vulnerable adults. However, NAWE will again process it at a reasonable price and remind you when the current one is out of date.
Word of mouth
Do you have contacts with local schools? Do you have friends and family who can help? How about popping in to your local school and leaving your contact details? This is particularly useful when you are just starting out.
If you are a paid up member, NAWE, The Society of Authors and SCBWI (The Society of Book Writers and Illustrators) allow you a free listing:
Your own publisher
Many publishers will keep a list of authors who are willing to visit schools. We're starting to do this for Bridge House, Chapeltown and Red Telephone authors
There are several paid for opportunities. Here you can often add more information and update your details regularly. I recommend Contact an Author:
I've used this myself quite successfully and I know the people who run it.
This is a handy way of emailing all appropriate schools. They're not cheap but if a group of you bunch together you can make it cost effective. I've worked with a group of other writers very effectively. Find them at:
Your own web site
Have a page on your own web site devoted to your school visits. You should include:
· Details of what you do
· Flexibility – what interested parties might do if they cannot afford the full fee.
· Link to your books
· Link to past events - a note here: never post photographs of students unless you have express permission. I tend to photograph their work or the teachers and get one or two of myself.