Hosting an author for a virtual visit is a great way to inspire young readers and writers. Follow these simple steps and your students will be chatting online with one of our authors in no time!
First, you’ll need to download Skype video calling software on the computer you plan to use to host your author event. Skype is free. Once you download the software, the site will take you through a short tutorial. You’ll learn how to add friends to your contact list and make a video call. It’s as simple as the click of a mouse. Some of our authors are also versed in using Google’s Hangouts, another option for making free video calls.
Practice a video call or two with a friend to get familiar with how the software works. Once you feel comfortable with Skype or Google Hangouts, you’ll be ready to invite an author in for a virtual chat.
Choosing an Author
Your next step is to select one or more authors for your visit. Some of our clients have done author/illustrator visits or even full author panels! Head to our Author Profiles page to look through our complete member list. Our talented group of published authors cover a variety of genres and age-ranges, including picture books, middle grade, nonfiction, and young adult. Each author has detailed information about their areas of expertise, availability, and fees. Most of our authors charge between $75 and $125 for a 30-minute visit, and $150 and $300 for a 60-minute session. Keep an eye out for specials and contests, which we offer regularly. Once you’ve made your selection, contact the author(s) through the email or website provided in their bio to request a virtual visit. Please mention that you located them through OnlineAuthorVisits.com, since our authors have committed to donating a portion of their fees to their favorite charities.Your author will then take you step-by-step through the complete virtual visit process, from selecting a date/time for your chat to gathering feedback following the visit.
Preparing for an Online Visit
Agree on a date and time for your virtual visit with your author. If you do not live in the same time zone, be sure to account for the time difference. As soon as a visit date has been set, your author will send you their Skype ID so you can add him/her to your Skype contact list. You will need to do the same. Please let your author know if you’ll need an invoice. If there are any forms you will need the author to fill out, please send them in advance of the scheduled visit. In the days and weeks leading up to the visit, help your students become familiar with your author’s books. Have them check out the author’s blog or website for bio and book information. If there is a particular book or series you want your author to talk about, let her/him know before the visit. You can even send the author questions in advance.
What Your Visit May Entail
Most online visits last 60 minutes or less. The length and content of the session is up to you and the author you choose. Let him/her know if you’d like to focus on a particular topic or book. Your author may do one or more of the following:
- Share how he/she became a writer and his/her path to publication
- Explore the writing process: how he/she does research, how books are published, the revision process, ideas &inspiration
- Writing prompt, lesson, or workshop
- Q & A
A Q & A session works best if students prepare their questions in advance and write them out on cards. Have the students come up to the camera and microphone when they ask their questions so that the author can see and hear them clearly. Authors love questions that show students have read their books and have done some research about them prior to the visit. They also like questions about the writing process. What are some things students grapple with in their own writing? They may want to ask how the author has solved similar problems.
Matt Rosebrough, a Teaching Specialist at Willard North Elementary in Missouri, put together this how-to video showing Ms. Weis’ second grade classroom preparing for and visiting with author Suzanne Williams:
After the Visit
Once your event is finished, feel free to share how you felt it went with your author. Did everything go all right? Would you have done anything differently? Your satisfaction is important and your feedback is valuable in helping us improve the virtual visit experience. We may even use your evaluation on our testimonials page.
Integrating Virtual Visits
If you’re looking to educate, challenge, and motivate your students, why not make author virtual visits a regular part of your curriculum?
YA librarian and blogger GreenBeanTeenQueen runs a Skype book club for teens at her library in Missouri. After a 20-minute discussion about an author’s book, the teens then Skype with the author. For more great suggestions on setting up a book club, check PBS Parents, Scholastic, and eHow.
Educator Mary Larson leads a writing club for middle school students in her rural school district of Juda, Wisconsin. During the school year, the teens meet regularly to share their writing then cap off the year with a Skype visit from an author, most recently with author Trudi Trueit. The Skype session gives the young writers the opportunity to ask a professional writer in-depth questions about such things as the writing and revision process, finding an agent, and publishing their work.
Sharon Amolo, Media Specialist at Gwinn Oaks Elementary in Georgia has hosted Northwest author Suzanne Williams for an online visit each year for the past three years. “Suzanne is really easy to work with and her books are wonderful,” says Sharon. “Her price is very reasonable so if I have a tight budge I know hers is always one I can afford. She is also wonderful with the students and keeps them engaged during her presentation by not only answering their questions, but sharing her research process and sources, too.” Sharon says Skype visits are a great way to extend your book clubs and book discussions. “With the prominence of social media and connections it only makes sense that libraries stay current and offer this as a service or program.”
Never done a virtual visit before?
Neither had Theresa Kemp, computer teacher at a K-8 school in Glen Cove, NY. She graciously agreed to be interviewed about her experience for OnlineAuthorVisits.com.
Q: Why did you decide to try a Skype visit?
A: We decided to try a Skype visit because we just received new smart boards and a digital webcam for the school. We wanted to test our new technology.
Q: How did you choose which author to Skype?
A: We took several approaches to finding an author to Skype. First, I worked with the teachers in my school to see what the children were reading and then I researched the authors of those books to see if any of them could schedule a Skype visit. Some of the middle school students were reading Goddess Girls by Suzanne Williams. Next, I checked with a librarian who gave me a few websites help me find an author who does virtual visits. Ultimately, we chose Mrs. Williams based on a recommendation from a teacher in another school where Mrs. Williams conducted a Skye Session.
Q: How did you prepare students for the virtual visit?
A: The librarian in our school read a few books by Mrs. Williams to our students. Library Lil and Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name were two of the books that were read and loved by our students. Our middle school students discussed the Godddess Girls books and we displayed books by Mrs. Williams in our library so students could check out the books and read at home. We also had the classes prepare questions to ask Mrs. Williams. Two questions per class were selected for the Skype Session which was six questions in a 30-minute virtual visit. Students who read the questions to Mrs. Williams were selected ahead of time and they were given the question ahead of time so that they could practice. In addition, we emailed the questions to Mrs. Williams ahead of time so that she had an idea of what to expect from our students. I think this worked well.
Q: How did the actual visit compare with your expectations beforehand?
A: The actual visit far exceeded my expectations. My main concern was the technology. I was not sure how clear the Skype would be on the Smart Board, but the picture was very clear. I was also concerned about the bandwidth and the delay considering we were Skyping from the West Coast to the East Coast. However, we experienced minimal delay and no problems with the bandwidth. Regarding the visit, the children connected immediately with Mrs. Williams, she had their full attention as she shared stories and answered questions about becoming an author. Mrs. Williams was very relatable and the children thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Q: What did the author do/talk about that students seemed to enjoy most? What do you think/hope students will take away from this experience?
A: Based on feedback from our students, they seemed to enjoy seeing the illustrations that were not used in the book Library Lil. They also enjoyed hearing how Mrs. Williams came up with the idea for the story Library Lil and Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name. Students also enjoyed having the opportunity to ask questions directly to the author. I think and hope that all of the students came away from the experience with inspiration to do well in school, to be better readers and/or better writers.
Q: Will you try a virtual visit again? If so, what would you do differently next time? (Please include what you might ask the author to do differently.)
A: Yes! Absolutely! In fact, I would like to invite Mrs. Williams back again to discuss the Goddess Girls books with our middle school students. I think it would also be interesting to have a book club with a small group of students in which we read a book and have a book discussion via virtual visit with the author. I don’t think I would make any changes to the virtual visit we had with Mrs. Williams. I thought it went extremely well and the children took a lot away from the experience. What I would do differently is schedule a second Skype session that focused on a literacy connection with the author. In a literacy connection Skype session, I would ask the author to ask our students about the story. For example, what was your favorite part? Or how do you feel about a certain character or how do you feel about how the story ends? Can you think of an alternative ending? Did you make predictions, were they accurate? I would ask the author to have a book discussion with our students.