Friday, November 2, 2012

Is Your Book Perfect for the Classroom?
Part 2
The Gatekeeper at the Desk:
5 Strategies for getting your book past the School Secretary!
Making a ‘cold call’ at an elementary school can be tricky. Your goal? To get your book into the hands of the media specialist, the one person who can order dozens of copies resulting in great sales for you.  When my first book came out, my husband and I drove all over south Florida, stopping at every elementary school along the way. If I got to see the media specialist, I’d give her my contact information, a bookmark with my webpage address, and a copy of my precious book.
However, there were times when I wasn’t granted access to the media center. Instead, I was blocked by (notice the capital letters to show respect) The School Secretary. This lady was hired to maintain order in that front office and to keep the school running interruption-free. Her job is to protect HER teachers and HER students. She’s no soccer mom and she’s nobody’s nana. In her eyes, I was an interloper, an intruder, an interruption! I was not getting into that media center without her approval, and neither are you.
So, here are 5 suggestions for getting past the gatekeeper at the desk:
·        Present yourself as a professional. Do not wear flipflops, shorts or torn up jeans. Pluck out the earring if you’re male, and easy on the makeup if you’re female. Schools are still made up of fairly conservative people. When in Rome….
·        Timing matters. Visit the school after the students arrive in the morning OR before they leave in the afternoon. 7:30 am to 8:30 am is chaotic in the school office. Everyone is helping tardy students check in, lunch reports are being completed, parents are everywhere, and your presence would just make things worse. The same conditions exist in the office between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm, except now everyone is exhausted and grouchy from the school day. Not a good time to sell a book.
·        Have a picture ID ready. School officials have to be very careful about who they let in the door. Wear a professionally made nametag, and present your identification at the front desk. Sign in at their computer or guest book, smile, and slap on the ‘visitor’ sticker they require you to wear.
·        Do NOT interrupt. If the secretary is on the phone, wait patiently. If she’s in the middle of a conversation, smile and wait patiently. If she’s eating lunch at her desk, she’s already had a rough day. Eating at her desk means she was too busy to join the teachers in the lounge. Try to find someone else to help you, or just wait patiently until she acknowledges you between bites. Remember, she’s the queen of the land, and you’d better be nice or you’re out.
·        Know the name of the person you want to see. This earns you some credibility with the people at the front desk. If the Secretary tells you the media specialist is available, you’ve just struck gold. If not, have a brochure or card ready to hand the Secretary. Leave a bookmark just for Her, and then ask to leave a message for the media specialist. Don’t leave your book. You need to put that directly into the hands of the media specialist.
Selling your book to an elementary school can open lots of doors for you. News about your books will spread quickly through the district or county. Soon there will be requests from other schools for more books and author visits, and then you're on your way!
A little nervous about talking to 150 fifth graders? Don’t be! I’ll talk about creating and presenting memorable programs in my next blog!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Is Your Book Perfect for Schools? 5 Tips to Get Your Book on the Classroom Shelf!



In 2006, after 20 years of teaching fifth grade, I decided to leave the classroom in order to write historical fiction for middle grade students. Since then, I’ve traveled to schools all over the Southeast, doing author presentations and teaching creative writing workshops. But most importantly, I’ve sold books!
Here are the most important lessons this teacher has learned:

1.     Check your content. I understand you don’t want to be censored, but if you want to sell to schools, you have to consider your audience. Your student readers may respond to the sex and violence in your written-for –middle-school novel, but the teachers and parents will not. Keep in mind who’s filling out the order forms. Sex, drugs, and violent vampire attacks will not sell to schools.

2.     Check the curriculum. What’s being taught in the schools? Are your books in line with their lesson plans? Many of the states are changing to the Common Core Standards, and you can easily access those standards on line at Teachers don’t have time for frills in the classroom. Point out that your books correlate to the objectives they’re teaching, and be specific!

3.     Create teacher friendly materials. I write teacher’s guides that include journaling prompts, comprehension questions, skill sheets, and additional activities. Give suggestions on how your books can be used in the classroom. Do they teach about specific events in history? Do they cover important social issues? Do they inspire writing activities? Art activities? Skits? Use your imagination!

4.     Offer to do an author presentation for students. You may have to do a few for free to get started. Work for book sales. If you convey your excitement about your books to the audience, you WILL sell books! (Read more about author presentations in future posts.)

5.     Okay, so you’re going to hate this one, but here goes: Don’t be afraid to give away a few copies of your books. I know that’s painful, but schools are not going to buy your books sight unseen. They have to know what they’re getting for their money. My suggestion? Go to your local schools. Ask to see the media specialist—NOT the principal! The media specialist knows which faculty member will be willing to give your book a try. Leave the book with him or her, along with your contact information and your resume. School personnel want to know YOU, not just your book.
Have you tried to get YOUR books into schools? What worked for you? Share your ideas!