Interview with author Neil Griffiths #ChaBooCha #ChaBooChaLite
Last March, I got in touch with Neil Griffiths, an author of multiple children's books who was doing school presentations in my area. He agreed to answer any questions members of ChaBooCha had for him, but we didn't complete the Q&A in time for the March challenge, so I decided, as the information was still useful, to post everything here during ChaBooCha Lite.
- How do you get into schools? What do you present, especially to different age groups & group sizes?
I have spent the last 21 years working with schools, universities, colleges, libraries and family groups. At the very beginning I realised that to get well known you need to be prepared to travel and do long hours. So I covered all the UK to begin with and then began to travel worldwide.
I also made the decision in the early days to be me! By that I mean that I wanted to be as natural in my presentations as I could and base much of what I said on real experiences in my personal life and professional one too.
I also knew that I had to offer a unique experience during my sessions that no-one else offered. So through long hours ( I am usually on the road by 4am!!) I gradually built up a reputation. I created a website but most of my bookings come from recommendations.
It has really helped that I was a headteacher (editor note: for those in the US, a headteacher is the equivalent of a school principal), giving me credibility with schools etc.
I have also been very flexible and versatile, being prepared to work with adults, children, teachers, parents, prisoners, in fact with any group who love children and want them to have a good start in life.
- Once you get your foot in the door, what do you send to the school in advance of the visit, so the children are prepared and excited about you coming?
Once I have been booked, I get a confirmation email and then send them one which outlines my visit and requirements. These are simple and easy to organise. I invoice after the visit.
- Freebies and activity sheets? How do you get students involved in the presentation? How do you keep students engaged? How is presenting a chapter book different from picture books? Do you read a chapter? And then do an activity?
When in settings, I do interactive storytelling with ages 3 to 11 and offer training for parents on developing a love of reading and to professionals on how to support reading for life. The skill is to be able to quickly adapt a story for all ages and my techniques as a trained teacher of 40 years makes this much easier.
When working with children, I rarely read word for word from the book. I perform them and use puppets and props and get the children to play some of the characters for me. Then I have whole school activities as part of the role-play.
When presenting my chapter books I take part of the story and role-play that. The art of getting children interested is in the skill of the presenter. You must know how children tick, understand their humour and get down to their level. It is all about dramatic presentation that allows you to create wild moments and then quiet calm moments and that takes years to get right. I do not give out handouts or freebies.
- Tips on getting book sales? What are your best marketing strategies?
Marketing books is notoriously difficult. My advantage is that almost every day I am in a setting or at a conference so I have a captive audience.
I never pay for advertising as it is rarely effective and very expensive. I have a great website and really present my books well on the road with an attractive stand that has front covers of all the books.
Neil Griffithswas a Primary School
headteacher for 13 years before taking on the role of director of a National
Literacy Project for the Basic Skills Agency. This agency believed in Neil’s
highly original Storysack idea and allowed him to promote it to schools and
communities throughout the UK. After six years, Neil began to devote all of his
energies to the project and set up what is now the worldwide, highly acclaimed,
and award-winning Storysack® phenomenon.
Many publishers and institutions have asked
Neil to contribute his wealth of experience to their projects over the years –
his knowledge of learning, his gift of story, his passion for teaching, and his
love of children – helping them to produce prized resources and to achieve success
in the highly competitive educational market. He has created award-winning play
resources, written a nursery curriculum, a best-selling resource book on
creative play for Nelson Thornes Publishers, and imaginative material for the
Early Learning Centre. He has developed a scheme for supporting English as an
additional language for Harcourt Publishing and has consulted for a highly
successful toy manufacturer.
Neil also finds time to write his own
children’s picture books, published exclusively by Red Robin Books. They
feature strong storylines, memorable characters, enchanting language, and
arresting illustrations. They charm children and have sold in the thousands.
Neil loves to tell a story and a story time with him is a rare and highly
entertaining event as he magically draws his audience into his storyworlds.
Neil is also available for inspirational
training worldwide. He is known internationally for his unique delivery,
exceptional energy, and his rare storytelling gift.
On September 30th, one person's name will be drawn to win this Novel Under Construction writing journal. All you need to do is comment on this blog post by September 29th. You have to be signed up for ChaBooCha Lite in order to be eligible for this prize.