Monday, June 15, 2009

New Ways to Visit Readers on the Internet

A few months ago, the internet was merely a way for me to introduce readers to my books on my website, respond to emails from readers and librarians and teachers, and, I'll admit it, a great source of hidden object games for my Mac. But the net has suddenly expanded into a more powerful networking tool than I had anticipated, through Facebook and this blog, and also to a new way of doing more affordable school visits.

With budgets being cut across the nation (schools seem to be on the lower end of government financial expenditure), a lot of authors I know have faced school visit cancellations and a decrease in the number of new invitations. To my delight, I've received more invitations to speak to schools in the 2009-2010 school year than ever, and most of them are thanks to the internet.

The honorarium is usually the least of the cost of bringing an author to a school, unless you're lucky enough to have one living down the block. The real expense comes from the travel costs. But having a virtual author visit eliminates travel expenses completely. I've always offered typed chats with a class in a chat room, but that wasn't as personal as seeing the author face-to-face through a camera lens. I'd done some video chats in the past, but they usually involved traveling to a school that had a distance learning lab so their equipment could be used to transmit my talk to other schools. It was a good start, but it was still expensive, because the other schools had to pay for the use of that equipment as well as the author honorarium. But current software takes expensive equipment out of the equation.

Using my Mac iChat (something included on every Apple computer) and the built-in camera, I can talk to students in a classroom with no extra expenses. Even if the school uses PCs instead of Macs, either a teacher has a MacBook or the school has a PC with an AIM network. Plug the school's computer into a large screen, and a group of kids can see me easily. Timing become more flexible, as we can have either a single class visit at a single affordable price, or schedule several class chats during a day for a full day's honorarium, something that can't be done as easily if the author has traveled several hundred miles to take time out of her writing schedule to speak to students.

More and more friends are starting to do these virtual school visits. Okay, I miss the hugs from the kindergarten students, and I miss the cookies that kind-hearted teachers bake to share with me, and the other real moments of a school visit, but I don't miss the hours of driving and I'm sure the school administrators don't miss writing the check for the travel expenses. We both miss autographing, but I send signed bookplates for students after our virtual visit, so they have a little something solid to remember the experience. Who knew the internet could put an author from Montana into a school in Indiana so easily, affordably, and instantaneously?


  1. How did I miss that yuo had started blogging? Lovely to see you here.

  2. Thanks! As you can see - I'm pretty new at this. But I like the idea - as long as I can think of something worth writing about. ; )

  3. This is a very interesting post to read.Reading on the web affects how writers must write. Each writer must become a peddler of sorts, persuading readers to stop for a minute to listen to a pitch.
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