November 26, 2014

Authors' Booking Service: Helping readers connect with youngCanLit authors and illustrators

Schools, libraries, book festivals and other literary functions that endeavour to enlist Canadian authors and illustrators are fortunate to have the Authors' Booking Service to help connect readers with those who produce our rich collection of youngCanLit. For those who have ever been interested in booking an author or illustrator, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and Valerie Sherrard, youngCanLit authors in their own right (write?), created this service in 2006, and share details about it here.

HK:  What is the Authors' Booking Service?

ABS:  Since 2006, Authors' Booking Service has been assisting educators and librarians with finding young adult and children's book creators who are qualified and willing to present at schools and libraries.

We currently represent more than 100 high-profile Canadian children’s authors and illustrators who produce fiction and non-fiction in all genres of work and for all ages. Our creators range from budding writers to multiple award winners. We represent six of the original Seven series authors, a poet-songwriter, an astronomer who brings his own planetarium to visits, an artist who donates an original sketch to schools she gives workshops for, and a singer-songwriter who can workshop how to craft your own school anthem. Our creators entertain, inspire, educate and, most of all, promote literacy and creativity, each in their own unique way.

In recent years, we have partnered with the OLA Forest of Reading program to help current nominees with their bookings. This is particularly important for out of province nominees, because without a critical mass of bookings, many could not afford the trip to their own award ceremonies.

We represent seasoned creators and brand new authors. The one thing that all of our creators have in common is that they love doing school and library presentations and they're good at it!

An impressive group of youngCanLit authors, including Janet Wilson, Rona Arato, Loris Lesynski and Marsha Skrypuch (just to name a few) met with teacher-librarians in Dufferin-Peel.

HK:  Why did you start this service?

ABS:  We saw the need for a booking service that would provide educators and librarians with up-to-date information on children's and young adult authors who were willing and qualified to do school and library presentations and writing workshops. From a creator’s point of view, there was a huge need for a service that could connect with educators and librarians in a systematic way to manage creator presentations and to ease communication challenges.

We recognized that many smaller schools and libraries could not afford an author visit. We know that staff is stretched to the limit, often managing more than one library or having other roles in addition to the library. They do not have time to co-ordinate an author visit with area schools and libraries in order to minimize the cost.

We also realized that many schools and libraries were not aware of funding programs available to offset some of the costs of an author presentation. As well, many authors did not know how to access funding programs.

We knew that crises happen. What if an author or illustrator is sick or has a family emergency and cannot visit at the appointed time? For the author, it would be near-impossible for them find their own replacement at the last minute. And it is a daunting prospect for a school or library to find a last-minute replacement.

Sometimes funding approval comes so close to the deadline that a school or library is left scrambling for an appropriate author or illustrator to come in before the money disappears. Similarly, sometimes an author is in a particular city or town, their travel has already been paid for, but they’ve only been booked for part of the day. They’re biding their time in a coffee shop, waiting until the train arrives when what they’d really like to be doing is one more presentation.

We also knew how difficult it was for authors and illustrators to manage their own bookings. It takes a LOT of time to write or illustrate a book and so figuring out a way to cluster school and library presentations in a way that doesn’t interfere with the creative process (and deadlines) was essential.

HK:  Who uses your services?

ABS:  Mostly children’s librarians, and school library staff, although we’ve also helped line up presenters for government functions, clubs and cultural groups. We focus on Ontario, but we’ve also satisfied requests from across Canada and even from the US.

HK:  What are the advantages to using the Authors' Booking Service?

ABS:  When you try to book an author on your own, you’re starting from scratch. You might have a particular author in mind, but you have no idea whether you can afford them or whether they’re available. You can email them and may never hear back – it could be because of board email filters or it could be because the email you have for the author is no longer valid. Whatever the reason, it is a frustrating exercise.

We keep track of our authors’ availability. We can inform you right up front about the author’s pricing, dates available and whether they’d be a good fit for your needs. We can also recommend alternatives. Every single ABS author has an author page which lists key information like presentation costs, travel fees, recent books and awards, presentation details and audience parameters.

We also send out a weekly email newsletter with news of interest, including availability details for our members’ upcoming tours. We can help you share an author with neighbouring schools in order to minimize costs. We can let you know when there are subsidies available.

If you have an urgent need – we can get things done quickly. For example, your scheduled author comes down with chicken pox two days before the visit. We can find you a replacement – and not just any replacement but a fab one. We’ve managed situations like a municipality wanting four energetic YA authors for a noon-time gig in a busy shopping mall, and oh, the event is on Friday.

HK:  Is there a charge for schools, libraries or other venues who want your help to book an author or illustrator?

ABS:  No. The service is free for schools and libraries. However, if you use our website as a resource, we ask that you book through us rather than emailing the author directly. This helps us track our bookings.

Middle-grade and YA author Sylvia McNicoll

HK:  What fee do authors/illustrators pay to use your service?

ABS:  For every presentation we book, our authors are charged a small flat fee, which goes towards maintaining the website, paying for our mailing list subscription and paper brochures. What’s left over is split between Valerie and myself.

HK:  What kinds of authors do you book through ABS?

ABS:  We’ve learned over the years what sorts of presenters are most in demand. Just writing or illustrating a great book is not enough, they must also be able to wow an audience.

We make a point of filling niches, so our presenters have specialty topics that fit in with
the curriculum. We also have speakers who can talk about the Franklin Expedition, hockey, the War of 1812, swimming across Lake Ontario and running a 100 mile marathon. Many of our authors have overcome great personal challenges and they can inspire your students to do the same.

Picture book author Lisa Dalrymple
The bulk of our authors ( live in Ontario and are usually available throughout the school year.

We also represent out of province authors who come to Ontario once or twice a year and need a clustering of bookings to make the trip viable.

And we provide special representation for those authors and illustrators who are current nominees for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading (check out the website for current nominees).

HK:  Are there any authors that you do not work with e.g., those who live in the US?

ABS:  In order to keep our numbers manageable and still meet the needs of those using our service, it is necessary for us to be somewhat selective. We tend not to represent authors who are brand new unless they’ve garnered a significant number of awards or nominations. We have represented authors who live in the US when they’ve been shortlisted for the Forest of Reading Awards.

HK:  How do you recommend someone get in touch with you to use your services?

ABS:  Email us at or visit our website at  We would love to hear from you!

You can also subscribe to our newsletter. Email us and ask to be added, or simply enter your email address on the subscribe button that’s in the top left portion of every ABS author’s page.

Read what those who've used the Authors' Booking Service say about its service:
David Carroll came to St. George's Junior School this morning and enthralled the students (gr. 3-5) with his Ultra marathon stories. He has great messages to share with the students through his "we all have super powers" and "nothing is impossible". David kept the audience engaged with his slides, music, reading, story telling and chatting with the kids. Very personable, fun and easy going. Highly recommended! - Juli Belliveau
I saw the "Your Turn" section and had to thank you for recommending Sigmund Brouwer to us here in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario in June 2014. What a fantastic author! He shared his high energy, enthusiastic, informative and inspirational Rock and Roll Literacy Event with 6 of our schools in June then returned to visit 9 more in November. Being able to have this author has impacted our students' enthusiasm for reading, writing and improving library interest. I whole heartedly recommend inviting Sigmund Brouwer to any school, any time and be ready to have your world Rocked! - Roberta Chiarello, System Teacher-Librarian, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board
About Marsha Skrypuch: "The feedback I have received from our students has been awesome. Everyone LOVED your presentations and are so inspired to read, and read more of your books. Bombs for Hitler copies were all gone by 8:40 a.m! There were so many inspired and motivated students." - Marla Cook
I am so grateful for Authors Booking Service. You have made the process of arranging author and illustrator visits so straightforward. The authors that we have hosted this year have been phenomenal! - Andrea Wesson
Thank you for helping me arrange Rebecca Bender's visit to our school. It was a smashing success! - Tom Holmes
Quotes from authors:
"I love the way ABS connects me with teachers, librarians and readers, without whom I'm not sure what I'd be doing." - Allan Stratton, author of Curse of the Dream Witch
Living on Prince Edward Island is a dream come true but Authors’ Booking Service makes it possible to come home again."Sharon E. McKay, author of War Brothers and Charlie Wilcox
"Authors' Booking Service has been ideal for both promotion of my services and to smooth out the booking process: it allows a one-stop shopping for bookings, thus facilitating what to me is the less thrilling part of my work as an author. Marsha and Valerie are energizer bunnies in this regard, and have done great work in promoting school visits, and authors, and literacy, and thus all the good things that happen as result." - Bill Swan, Red Maple award-winning author of Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death: The Steven Truscott Story
Picture book author/illustrator Mireille Messier
"Thanks to ABS I’ve been able to reach out and present my French picture books to immersion schools students that I would otherwise never have had a chance to meet."Mireille Messier, author of Fatima et les voleurs de clĂ©mentines
"I love the way you guys tell a school that I am a 'wise choice' as a presenter. No one in my whole life has called me wise. It makes me feel grown-up and Gandalf-y -- neither of which is my natural state." - Richard Scrimger, author of Ink Me and Zomboy
"Not only do this powerhouse duo walk on water, but they patiently lead their authors to that water. What did we do without them?”Teresa Toten, author of Governor General award-winning The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Please note: CanLit for LittleCanadians has received no remuneration for promoting the Authors' Booking Service.  As always, I promote youngCanLit, and its authors and illustrators, because I love it.  Without promotion, we could sadly lose the wealth of youngCanLit gracing our bookshelves.

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