Thursday, December 07, 2006

Author-Booking Agent Interview: Susan B. Katz of KatzConnects

Could you give us a brief history of KatzConnects? Who are the players?

My name is Susan B. Katz. I am a National Board Certified Teacher with over 14 years experience as an elementary educator and bilingual consultant. I am also the founder of KatzConnects. We bring prominent children's authors, illustrators and musicians into schools, libraries, conferences, museums and literary events.

On KatzConnects' team are many top-notch educators, with a combined teaching experience of over 70 years! We have a Director of East Coast Marketing, several people marketing on the West Coast and even a Director of International Marketing (based in Spain) who books in American Schools overseas.

KatzConnects represents such prominent authors as Laura Numeroff (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), Yuyi Morales (Harvesting Hope, Just a Minute), Alma Flor Ada (Pio Peep, Tales Our Abuelitas Told) and many, many more (50 at the present moment).

What was the inspiration for founding the agency?

With one foot in the children's book world through SCBWI (I am also an author/illustrator) and one foot in the education world, I saw the need to bring more authors into schools. The overarching vision of KatzConnects is to find unique funding sources for visits so that they are at no or low cost to schools but the authors are still paid their full fee.

What is the scope of its activities?

On our website, you will find biographies of our 50 authors, illustrators and musicians. Currently, KatzConnects brings children's authors, illustrators and musicians into schools, libraries, conferences and events. We book single author and multi-author events. Please visit our calendar page.

How do you work? Do you field requests, make arrangements, negotiate contracts, follow-up, etc.?

We proactively market to schools, libraries, conferences and events. Our authors also list us as their booking agent on their website with a link to our website. KatzConnects arranges all of the details for the visit: schedule, flights, hotel, contracts, invoices, etc. We work collaboratively with local community leaders throughout the U.S. and abroad to secure visits.

Do you actively seek out speaking opportunities, and if so, how?

Yes, we network in a variety of ways, both through traditional and non traditional marketing strategies. Our collaboration with various community leaders has allowed us to bring many authors into schools at no or low cost to the school.

Recently, we brought 18 authors in (at no cost to the schools) as a part of Reads Week in Stockton, California. All of our authors were paid their full fee. Community leaders and KatzConnects jointly fundraised to make those visits possible.

Could you give us some idea of rates and fee structure?

As a booking agency, we charge the author a 15% commission, just like a literary agent. Either the school pays the author or we help find a funding source to sponsor the visit. We are always on the lookout for large, corporate donations for KatzConnects' author visits. Authors' specific fees vary depending on a variety of factors.

Why is there a need for such services?

Schools, libraries and conference coordinators usually have to seek out individual authors either through the author's website or the publisher. Before KatzConnects came into existence, there was no one "clearinghouse" for authors, particularly in California.

KatzConnects is now a stable of literary talent 50 strong, with many award-winning authors and illustrators on board. There is also a great need for find alternative funding--and we help find it.

Has the need grown over time, and if so, why?

All children need positive role models of literacy in their lives, perhaps now more than ever. As an educator, I know that recent school budget cuts heightened the need for fundraising assistance on author visits.

The goal at KatzConnects is to increase literacy and arts education by bringing children's authors, illustrators and musicians into schools around the world. We work collaboratively with schools, libraries and museums to get authors, illustrators and musicians to children.

What should a prospective speaker consider in hiring a booking agency?

Good question: all the same considerations as for hiring a literary agency: do they charge a fee upfront? A few agencies I know of charge $3,000 plus just to list and be in their brochure. That is free at KatzConnects, part of our services. We only charge a commission when we get you a visit.

Other questions are: How long have they been doing this? Do they actively seek out and secure visits? Most school visit and booking agency websites have you pay a fee to simply be listed with the hope that someone will visit their site. We proactively market to schools, libraries and events on behalf of our authors.

How would you describe your client base? Could you list some of the folks you're working with now?

KatzConnects is proud to present such prominent, award-winning authors as: Laura Numeroff (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), Alma Flor Ada (Pio Peep), Ashley Wolff (Miss Bindergarten), Yuyi Morales (Harvesting Hope, Just a Minute), Elisa Kleven (Abuela), Mike Graf (Tale of the Scorpion), Michael Elsohn Ross (Snug As A Bug), Belle Yang (My Name is Hanna), Elissa Haden Guest (Iris and Walter) and many, many more. See a complete list of all of our clients at www.katzconnects.com.

What makes KatzConnects unique among event agencies?

Three things:

1) We are run by experienced educators who know the ins and outs of school culture.

2) We have the vision and the chutzpah (that's Yiddish for guts) to believe that one day, every school and every child will have author visits. We trust that there is money for such a worthwhile endeavor and actively seek out unique funding sources. All of KatzConnects' authors are still getting their full fee.

3) We are the largest children's booking agency in California (and one of the largest in the nation). We proactively market for school, library, museum and conference presentations.

You're also a children's author-illustrator. For those new to your work, could you offer a brief introduction to your books?

My books bring color into the lives of children. Most of my books are concept books, many are Spanish bilingual. I use a mosaic- style cut paper collage. I am a contributing author to a forthcoming book with Lectorum, Yo Soy, in which I have one poem in Spanish and another in English. Other books are currently under consideration...fingers crossed. See my author/illustrator website.

For the past seven years, I have been fortunate to be a part of an amazing critique group, The Revisionaries, deemed "a nexus of creativity" by one New York editor and "the hottest critique group in San Francisco" by San Francisco Magazine (June, 2005).

Is there anything you would like to add?

We are extremely interested in any information on grants, sponsors, angel funders and/or philanthropic individuals to help KatzConnects complete our goal of bringing prominent children's authors into schools around the world at no or low cost to the school. At this time, we are only very selectively acquiring additional prominent authors, illustrators and musicians.

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