I do a lot of Skype author visits with classrooms and libraries around the U.S. and beyond, and while it’s not quite the same as an in-person author visit, I love that I get to meet so many more kids than I otherwise might. This spring, I tried an experiment to make my Skype author visits a little closer to the in-person variety — by offering classes the opportunity to order personalized, signed books from one of my local independent booksellers after the visit. It was a great success and something I’ll be doing again in the fall.
Here’s how it worked:
First, I approached Marc and Sarah at The Bookstore Plus, my nearest indie bookseller, with the idea. Would they be game to work with me to get signed books to kids who had met me via Skype? They would! (Indie booksellers are awesome that way.) We figured out the best way to set it up, double-checked prices for the order form, and talked over all the details of how much advance notice they’d need for orders, etc. Everything about how it would work.
I have a standard email that I send teachers and librarians who inquire about my Skype author visits. To book a visit, I ask them to respond to a list of questions – about what kind of visit they’d like (Q and A or longer presentation), the age & number of students in the group, what they’ve read, the organizer’s Skype username, and a contact phone number in case there are technical difficulties that day. I added one last question to that list: Would you like your students to have the opportunity to order signed books after our visit? If so, I’ll send along an order form.
Passing out order forms isn’t a requirement for my Skype visits — just an option — but many teachers and librarians took advantage of that opportunity for their kids. I emailed an order form for them to print and send home to families. Mine looks like this:
After our Skype visit, the teacher collects money (checks made out to the bookstore) and order forms and calls the bookstore to let them know an order is on the way. That allows the bookstore to order copies of books if there aren’t enough in stock. The bookstore shoots me an email to let me know they’ll be getting an order in a few days, and I schedule a time to visit to sign books. (Sadly, my nearest indie bookseller is an hour from my home; those of you with indies nearby are so lucky!)
Meanwhile, at the bookstore, the order forms and money arrive, and someone (thank you, Cherise!) gets the books ready by slipping the order form (which includes the kid’s name and how the book should be signed) into the appropriate book. It goes into a box until I come to sign. I bring my pens, and the order form tells me how each book is to be personalized. Most often, a post-Skype book signing only takes 15-20 minutes, though last weekend, there were three boxes of books waiting for me, so my husband took the kids for ice cream while I signed for about an hour.
I put the books back in the boxes as I sign, so once I’m done, they’re organized, still matched with their order forms, and ready to be mailed to the school. The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid offers free shipping on orders over $50, and pretty much all the school-Skype orders qualify for that, so it works out well for everyone. The kids get their signed books at school, just the way they’d get a Scholastic Book Clubs order that arrives to the classroom. A great local bookstore sells some books that might otherwise have been ordered online or not at all, and I’m happy knowing that my stories are making it into more readers’ hands.
This system may not work for every author or every indie bookseller, but if you’re a writer who does Skype visits, it may be worth asking about and considering. Got questions? Fire away in the comments and I’m happy to answer if I can.
And finally…the UPS guy arrived this week with something too exciting not to share. For next fall’s visits, I’ll have one more title on the order form…
My editor at Scholastic sent along the first final copies of CAPTURE THE FLAG, my July 2012 mystery about the heist of the original Star-Spangled Banner from the Smithsonian and the three kids with a mysterious connection who race all over a snowed-in airport trying to track down the thieves. I’m excited about this one – and there’s a sneak preview of the first two chapters online now if you’d like to start reading a little early.
If you’d like your very own signed copy, The Bookstore Plus can help you out, too. I’ll be signing CAPTURE THE FLAG there on July 2nd, and they’re happy to take orders over the phone (518-523-2950) in advance.