On March 15, 2018, Jeanette Bradley and I launched an anonymous, online survey with the goal of collecting data about author and illustrator compensation for school visits. This is the second post in our series of posts that dig into the data. (Our first post focused on the make-up of our 419 respondents. You can read it here ).
Pricing transparency helps us all. Knowing the going rate in your region, your genre, and your career stage, is key to pricing your services to maximize your ability to book school visits at a price that is fair and respects your time and expertise.
We asked survey respondents to give us their “average full-day charge for an in-person school visit.” Several respondents commented that they had tiered rates depending on travel distance, or that they offered discounts to low-income school districts or their own local district.
Because we asked for an average over all visits, our survey responses were grouped at points of mental rounding. We found the best way to communicate the distribution of day rates was to group responses into ranges, using a common mental rounding point of $250.
8% of respondents did all of their school visits for free.
Among respondents who charged for their school visits, the average rate was $1,002.
The most common day rate (mode) was $1,000.
The middle 50% of respondents who charged had day rates between $600 and $1200.
Who are the creators at the top of the range? The eight percent of respondents - those who charged more than $2000 for a full-day visit - had an overall higher-than-average numbers of books published, awards, and were more likely to have published a NYT bestseller. But the most striking thing about this group is that all of them indicated that a booking agent or their publisher books at least some of their school visits.
Looking at Rates
The following charts all exclude the respondents who did all of their school visits free of charge, in order to better represent average rates for creators seeking industry standards.
There is some variation in average pricing depending on the category/format people write or illustrate.
Respondents who write early readers earned a higher average rate, which appears to be function of those authors having published more books. Many of them have published in multiple genre categories.
Career stage matters! The average for debut authors is around $600.
Self-published authors are earning much less than traditionally published authors, though some commented that they exchange book sales for school visits. (Anecdotal comment from Michelle: I have heard this often in my school visits workshops and from schools that have had self-published authors visit).
Regional pricing differences are fairly large. School visits in the Northeast have an average daily rate $283 higher than those in the Midwest.
One respondent said, “Michigan has been a depressed state for school money since the recession of 2006. It's coming back now, and schools have a little more money now, but that's only recent, in the past two years or so.”
Another said, “I mostly do local visits, in New England, but my friends who are authors in the Midwest feel that the going rates there are lower than on the East Coast.” The data supports this opinion.
Respondents who booked their school visits through a booking agency charged an average of $538 more per day than those who did not.
Award-winners and Bestsellers
We asked respondents: “Have any of your books won a national ALSC, ALA, or affiliated award? (For example: Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Printz, Stonewall, American Indian Youth Literature Award).” We realize there are many other awards and honors that a book can win, but we chose these because of their prominence in the industry, and their potential to affect school visit rates.
16 percent of respondents have won a national ALA/ALSC award.
Respondents who won a major ALA or ALSC award earned on average $480 more per visit than those who did not.
Awards have a huge impact on the careers of authors and illustrators. One part of that is the increases in fees that creators are able to charge for speaking engagements and school visits. Recent analyses, such as Christine Taylor-Bulter’s audits of the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King awards, have shown that there is still a huge gender gap in the recipients of these awards. The ripple effect of these gaps spreads out into the pricing of school visits - survey respondents who had won an ALA or ALSC award at any point in time earned an average of 50% more per visit than those who had not.
17 percent of respondents have had at least one book on the NYT bestseller list.
Bestseller status translates into an average charge $708 higher than those who have not had a NYT bestseller.
We asked respondents if their most recent book had received a starred review from the following publications: Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.
31 percent of respondents had received a starred review on their most recent book.
Starred reviews have an impact on the amount respondents charge - each star appears to add value.
Number of visits
A day rate is not the only important factor in school visits – the other is the number of visits respondents are doing each year. Many respondents reported difficulty booking with schools at rates that they felt were fair to the use of their time.
Here’s a sampling of comments:
“...I find it interesting the number of times schools have assumed my visit is going to be free. Several times when I've mentioned my honorarium, they have come back and told me that they suddenly no longer need a visit or they found someone else or that their plans have changed...”
“My first book released this past year. As part of the launch week I offered free school visits for that week. I was unable to get a paying visit for the rest of the year. I had lots of requests but as soon as I sent over fee information I never heard from them again. One school even contacted me for a visit then when I sent fee info they said they forgot they weren't available that day after all and then asked another author (my friend) for the same day and did the same thing to her when she sent her fee information. I guess the librarian trying to get a free visit didn't realize what a small world it is in the kidlit community.”
“I almost didn't fill it [this survey] out because what I get is so low. In the past, I have done more school visits, but for me, it is barely worth it. If I charge 250, I get bookings, if I charge 400, I don't. So in a way I am in a catch 22. It is hardly worth my time to drive several hours and give up writing time for 250. So [I] no longer advertise or actively try to get school visits. My presentations are great, teachers and librarians love them, so I really don't think that is the issue. Recently, I presented at a librarian conference and six librarians asked about school visits based on my presentation. I quoted them a rate of 400 per day. No one booked a visit! Even 400 is a low rate these days...”
Respondents who have published more books did more visits in the last year – up to a point.
In our next post, we'll dig deeper into the statistics: Is there a gender gap in school visits? Watch for that post soon.
(If you want to be sure you don’t miss the posts, you can subscribe to this blog on the right sidebar and get it delivered to your inbox).
NOTE: I apologize for posting this later than we intended. Life sometimes demands our full attention.
About the authors of this study
We (Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito) volunteered our time and expertise to bring you the results of this survey. We’d appreciate any support you might offer us in return. Perhaps you could buy our books (or rather, pre-order Michelle’s), request them from the library, tweet about them, or write a review if you’ve read them and enjoyed them. Thank you for considering.
Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. (Yes, she is a data nerd who can draw.) Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.
You’ve landed on Michelle’s blog/website, so you can poke around to learn more about her. In case you missed it, here’s the cover of Flying Deep, which comes out May 22nd.