Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Successful School Visits With Darren Sardelli Notes 10/17/22

Darren Sardelli provided guidance on how to develop a school visit program that’s engaging, interactive, and fun. He offered tips on how to spark students’ creativity, hold their attention, and leave them with valuable tools that help them become better readers and writers. Darren also shared advice on booking schools.

Booking a Visit

  • • Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid. Contact teacher friends. You will gain confidence.
  • • Call the schools and find out the PTA contact who brings in authors. When emailing, keep it short and sweet. Include: who I am, what I do, and here’s my website for more information. He emails schools in September.
  • • Darren first started charging $150 doing 5-8 presentations in a day which wore him down. He felt like people were taking advantage of him. Don’t do more than 4-5 presentations/day. Now he charges $850 for one assembly and $1250 for two assemblies, though recently he lowered his prices as he noticed many schools had less budgets after the pandemic. It’s also okay to pass on an opportunity if a school is not willing to pay.
  • • Some schools require authors to carry vendor insurance for schools. Darren says he invests in it, and that it costs about $200+/year. He recommended Specialty Insurance Agency for Performing Insurance. Nassau BOCES requires authors to carry vendor insurance with its participating schools. Suffolk BOCES does not require it.
  • • Darren also does library visits which he says are similar to his school visits. He also offers writing workshops as well and has a motivational program for middle school and high school students. Darren says you can do author visits anywhere, such as camps and birthday parties.

Creating and Presenting the Program

  • • Start small such as reading to a class. See what works and then build upon that.
  • • Darren adjusts his presentations depending on grade levels. His K-2 presentation is different than the one for older kids. He’ll talk differently to various age groups and get on their level.
  • • Do something that gets them on board right away within the first five minutes. For example, he’ll ask the kids, “How many know what poetry is? How many don’t know what poetry is? Let’s talk about poetry. On the count of three can everyone say ‘Poetry’? 1, 2, 3…POETRY!”
  • • Keep things fresh because little kids get stuck on things. Be relatable and ask them questions to keep them engaged and interested. Interact with them throughout the presentation. Keep their minds shifting in different directions.
  • • Create activities for kids to do later. For example, teach them a new skill (e.g. rhythm in poetry) and encourage them to try that skill later in the classroom or at home.
  • • There will be good and bad days. Darren once had his microphone die, the kids got chatty, and he couldn’t control the crowd. It made him not want to do another visit. However, he forced himself to go to the next one, and it went well. Keep persisting and you’ll get through it.
  • • Darren sells his books at schools. He has a book order form he provides to schools once he signs a contract. He’ll bring books on the day of the visit and will personalize them. At some schools he’ll sell 5 books, at others he’ll sell 50. He often gets more orders after assemblies.