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Event Contracts for Authors

As a children's author, I'm often asked to present at schools, libraries, and zoos. Other times I'm invited to teach workshops for writers. I learned it's not just big name people who need contracts for events. A contract is needed for all authors putting on presentations because it spells out expectations--both your own as well as those of the host organization. An event contract is an important business document for authors!
When I teach writing workshops about getting started with author visits or community events, I'm often asked to share more about contracts that I create. 

So I compiled a list of frequently asked questions about author event contracts. I hope these answer all of your big questions. Though we're discussing contracts, please remember I am speaking from my experience as an author presenter. I am not an attorney.

Do I really need a contract? Wouldn't a letter be just as good and more friendly?
In my experience a signed contract is needed. 

When I first began, I called my contract an informational agreement or something like that. I didn't like the formality of the term contract. And though I required a signature, without calling it a contract it wasn't taken seriously. 

I visited many schools without issue. However, when I visited one school, it was clear only one person was really expecting me. And he hadn't asked for the things listed in my letter to be done in advance.

After that, I began calling it a contract. In addition, I requested two signatures.

How long should my contract be?
Your contract should be as long as it needs to be. I want to provide a simple contract, so I use simple (but clear) terms. I keep my contract to one page, when I am able. If I visit more than one school or add a family literacy night or a second school to the same contract, it will be longer than a single page.

What elements MUST be in an event contract? 
Author contact info 
Host organization contact info
Contact person info 
Date of event (Don't forget the day of the week.)
Topic and schedule if within 6 weeks
Equipment needs
Other requirements 
Fees, discounts, and donations
Fine print: Cancelation clause and late fees
3 signatures (Author's plus 2 signatures for each school)
How to return signed contract to you

I let me contact person know why I am requesting the cell phone number. Even if my contact person is a PTA volunteer, I still request the cell phone number of a staff member who will be in charge the day of the event.

Some contracts cover multiple schools. If this is the case, I include the schedule for each school if it's available. If not, the contract states which school will be on which day. In addition, I request an administration signature and event person signature for each school.

Keep in mind your equipment and considerations may be very different than mine. Though I take a USB drive with my slideshows, I always take my computer with me but leave it in my vehicle. Yes, I really drink three bottles of water if I have three presentations in a day--in addition to drinks while traveling and with lunch.

What might be your other considerations? If you don't have a remote control (very affordable and NEEDED) to move your slides forward if you walk around a lot, be sure to have a plan for moving slides forward. If you need assistance with this, state it in the contract. Seriously. But really, just spend $15 for a remote. This is mine. (Affiliate link at no additional cost to you.)

Some of the language in my cancellation clause came from the recommendation of Kate Messner

What are optional elements of an event contract?
Topic and schedule if more than 6 weeks away
Additional considerations
Signature image

I scanned my signature to include my signature on every contract without printing it out.

Can I see an example of your contract?
Yes! I think examples are the best way to get started. Consider asking other author friends to see theirs, too. Here's a screenshot. I removed personal information.
Enlarge to see text.

Why do you include original fees if you have already discussed a discount with an event planner?
In my experience it's best to show the value of your program even if you volunteer the event. I let event organizers know they should talk to me about budget concerns and always include donations in the contract. The invoice would have the details (such as how I came to ask for a certain amount of money for mileage).

What should be included in a cancellation clause?
Consider what is a reasonable reason to cancel the author visit after the contract has been signed. Illness, weather, and school cancellation are given. How much do you want to be reimbursed? When should you be paid? Much of my wording is thanks to Kate Messner. 

What if a school already has a contract?
In my opinion, as well as other experienced author presenters, a service contract is not likely to include things that you need as an author providing presentations for students.

What if I'm teaching at a library, community event, or at a writing conference?
I provide contracts for library and community events when I'm presenting a formal presentation though there are exceptions. (Once again, I learned this the hard way.) Writing conferences typically provide detailed contracts. Some events, like book signings, don't need contracts.

Do I need an event contract for virtual visits?
Yes, but it should be adapted for virtual visits. (THAT is a whole different discussion. If I can advise you through a consultation, let me know.)

Is an event contract legally binding if I write it without the help of an attorney?
My understanding is that with appropriate details included it is a legally binding contract. However, I am not an attorney and cannot provide legal advice.

What if the school doesn't follow through with all elements of a contract?
You'll have to decide if it's important enough to mention. 

Some things aren't too crucial. For example, sometimes equipment cannot be set up in advance because the space is used prior to school or some other reason. Though it may have been nice to know in advance, to me it's not a big deal. (Though it's less of a big deal if the tech staff is available since they're often required.) 

I've only had one situation with a significant delay of payment, and the event coordinator and business office were as concerned as I was over the delay. 

Want to know more about events? Check out these blog posts.

Was this helpful to you? I love to help writers! I'm available for consultations, critiques, and as a workshop presenter. Tell your local writing group about me if you think I'd be a good fit for a presentation.

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