3 S.R. Johannes: Skype Book Tours: Guest Post by Kate Messner (author of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Skype Book Tours: Guest Post by Kate Messner (author of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z)

KateMessner is the author of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. and SUGAR AND ICE (Walker/Bloomsbury, Dec. 2010), the MARTY MCGUIRE series with Scholastic (Spring 2011), and two forthcoming picture books with Chronicle Books.

"The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z" - Gianna Zales is a star runner with one more hurdle to jump before she goes to cross-country sectionals – a monster leaf collection project. To get it done, she’ll have to survive a rival who desperately wants to take her place at sectionals, a grandmother who leaves her false teeth in the refrigerator, and a best friend whose feelings about her are changing like the leaves. Gianna Z needs a stroke of brilliance to make it work!


Hi Shelli, thanks for having me!

You asked me to talk a little about Skype tours and why I find them useful use.

When my middle grade novel THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. came out in September, one of my goals was to make a personal connection with as many teachers, librarians, and young readers as possible. In addition to writing for kids, though, I’m also a middle school English teacher, and spending too much time out of my classroom at the beginning of the school year was out of the question. Thankfully, technology came to the rescue!

If you’re part of the online children’s literature world, you’ve probably already heard a thing or two about Skype author visits – a low-cost or no-cost way for classrooms, libraries, and book clubs to connect kids and authors. As someone who wears two hats – both author and teacher – I’m a huge fan of this new kind of author visit for a few reasons.

  1. Flexibility. Though I love visiting schools in person, I spend a limited number of days out of my own classroom each year and get more requests than I’m able to accommodate. Skyping with some schools allows me to connect with kids, librarians, and teachers I would have missed otherwise. I can Skype with a classroom on the other side of the world during my 40-minute lunch hour or after school, and hang up in time to teach my afternoon class or make dinner.
  2. Cost. While traditional author visits are amazing opportunities, they are cost prohibitive for many schools. If you know an educator, you probably know that many schools are facing dire financial situations right now – the worst they’ve seen in years. Enrichment activities like author visits are often the first thing to be cut in a budget crisis, and virtual visits offer an alternative that still allows for those connections.
  3. Far-reaching. While an in-person author visit requires many months of planning and the cooperation of a whole school community, a single dedicated teacher or librarian can often arrange a Skype visit in just a few weeks. The potential to connect with more readers – readers whose schools may never be able to host an in-person visit – is a huge benefit.
  4. Fun! Skype author visits are fun.

If they sound fun to you, too, you may want to take some of the following steps before diving in:

  • If you have a computer with a microphone, camera, and Internet connection, you already have the equipment you’ll need. Just download Skype (www.skype.com), register with a username, and try it out with a friend.
  • Make sure you like the background and lighting in the shot. Practice looking into the camera so that the person on the other end of the connection sees you looking right at them.
  • There are some how-to-Skype features available online that you may want to read, including this technology feature I wrote for School Library Journal.
  • You’ll also need to decide what kind of Skype visits you’d like to offer. Some authors only do paid visits, while others offer a couple different options. For example, I offer free 20-minute Q and A sessions with groups that have read one of my books in addition to paid Skype visits that are longer and include an emailed PowerPoint presentation that the teacher runs on a second computer.
  • Once you’re comfortable with Skype, it’s time to let teachers and librarians know that you’re available for Skype author visits. You can register with the terrific Skype-An-Author network.
  • The SLJ Skype feature has a list, as well as a link to my blog, where I keep an updated list of traditionally published authors who offer free 20-minute Skype visits to classes & book clubs that have read their books. Just leave a comment with your name and website if you’d like to be added.
  • When teachers and librarians begin to contact you about Skype visits, many will be looking for guidance about how it all works. The SLJ feature includes a how-to list that may be helpful for you to share with those who request Skype visits.
If you’d like to know more about Skype author visits, she'll be presenting on this topic at both the New England SCBWI Conference in May and at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago later on this month.

Tell me what you guys think about Skype Tours! Do you think you would utilize them or do you prefer signings in person? Do you have any questions about Skype Tours?


Kerri Cuev said...

I am not familiar with Skype but it sounds great! Another interesting way to network and market!

Love the book cover!

Kelly Polark said...

I just started using Skype a few months ago. I love it! It's so wonderful to actually see the person I am talking to.
I would totally use it for class visits when i get to that point!

Natalie Aguirre said...

A Skype tour sounds great to me too. Like Kate, I work full time and couldn't take much time off for author visits. This sounds like a great way to connect with teachers & students. I like the 20 minute free Skype visit because it would be a quick way to answer questions about your book without too much advance preparation.

Stina said...

I hear about Skype last month. Haven't seen it in action, though. Sounds like a great idea.

Thanks for this great post!

Anonymous said...

If I had a book published, it's totally something I would consider doing. Great idea.

Anonymous said...

If I had a book published, it's totally something I would consider doing. Great idea.

Heather Kelly said...

Shelli--thanks for having Kate here--I met her at a book signing last fall, and she is so wonderful--and I have to give a shout out about her book, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.--It's wonderful. My ten year old son and I are both big fans!!

And, I love to Skype. My writing partner and I meet each week to chat on skype, and I'm thrilled to know that my skyping skills will come in handy when I'm a famous author, like Kate!! :) Thanks Shelli! Thanks Kate!! Great pointers today!

Ann Marie Wraight said...

Quite a lot of people use SKYPE here in Greece and surprisingly few use TWITTER ...I understand that in USA it's exactly the opposite.

YES - it's a great way to talk to your audience - especially if there's a huge distance involved!!

Another advantage is that you can wear your comfy pj bottoms and just wear a decent top...It's seriously a super concept!
10 out of 10 from me.

M Pax said...

A innovative use of technology. Like the idea of still wearing PJ bottoms and slippers. :D

Jemi Fraser said...

What a great idea! Love the whole concept. I haven't used Skype yet - my family and friends all live in town - but this is a fabulous idea!

Sherrie Petersen said...

In person visits are certainly more fun, but I think Skype is a great alternative.

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Christina Farley said...

I think they're awesome for international schools who have a greater expense flying authors overseas. Kate has really put together a great blog entry and the skype an author program is awesome!

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Gail said...

When I get a book published, I'll love school visits since the teacher in me misses the kids. But in reality, since getting around to places can be an issue for me, I think Skype will be a fabulous alternative.