Professional Speaking for Extra Income


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As the author of a nonfiction book, you are an “expert. " That can translate into beaucoup bucks on the lecture trail. Not only are you paid to speak, but it's an ideal opportunity to sell copies of your books at full retail price. (More about that later. ) First, however, be sure you want to get in front of an audience; it can be a frightening experience for the timid.

We give several speeches and seminars each year. Be careful not to get so carried away that your writing suffers. We typically package some vacation time with the lecture engagement as the travel expenses are footed by the hiring organization.

There are things you should do to prepare yourself for professional speaking. If you expect to be paid, you must put on a solid performance. To get pointers and practice, join Toastmasters. Actively participate. Also volunteer to give free speeches to local service clubs to gain experience in dealing with an audience.

As you become qualified, join the National Speakers Association (phone 602-968-2552 or fax 602-968-0911 for membership information. ) Attend their national convention and winter workshops. We guarantee an NSA convention will be one of the most extraordinary experiences you'll ever have! The energy is off the Richter Scale, the education unparalleled, the people warm and friendly. This is where the serious learn the art and craft of profitable professional speaking.

People bandy about the terms “agents" and “bureaus" when talking about professional speaking. Hardly any speakers have agents. Bureaus will only be interested in you after you've proven yourself, are speaking frequently, and earn upwards of $3000 a gig. Most of our speaking engagements come to us because we keep a high profile; we constantly promote ourselves and our books.

When someone calls asking you to speak, get them to commit to money before you volunteer what you will take. How? Ask “What is your budget?" Often you'll hear, “Oh, we can only pay expenses. " Or “We just have a $200 honorarium. " Then it's up to you to become creative. Ask how many people they expect to attend. Inquire if you can sell books after your talk. That's called back of the room sales. Ideally, you should accept Visa and MasterCard, which encourages impromptu buying and increases sales.

If there is an exhibition or trade show in conjunction with the conference, suggest they give you free exhibit space. Many professional speakers find product sales amount to more than their fees! For writers who must often be content with a paltry 10 to 12% of net, this is a wonderful way to improve your bottom line. (Assuming you have the right to sell your own book, that is. You did negotiate that provision, and a good buy-back discount, into the contract, didn't you?)

Always try to get the association or corporation to purchase your books to give attendees. We spoke about marketing strategies at the National Air Transportation Association in Las Vegas recently. Part of the negotiations included a sale of 250 copies of our Big Ideas for Small Service Businesses. At a 40% discount that brought in an additional $2,500. (Only when you self-publish, can you give such generous bulk discounts and still make a nice profit yourself, however. )

How did we get that engagement? In January we spoke in San Diego for the Professional Convention Management Association. They learned of us through a directory listing. We didn't wow them with a video (don't have one) or even provide an audio tape. What we did was tell them about the book we'd written and how our message would add value to their convention by giving attendees results-oriented strategies they could immediately use to promote their organizations better. Bingo.

Once you get started, a wonderful ripple effect takes over. One of the people who heard us there hired us for Las Vegas. We gave basically the same speech, but with examples customized to the air transportation industry.

By writing excellent books, then publicizing the heck out of them, you automatically promote yourself. Awhile back we received a letter from the co-director of the Palm Springs Writer's Conference. It read: “Since self-publishing seems to be a coming trend in the topsy-turvey world of publishing we intend to do a class on the subject during next year's conference, and since your Complete Guide to Self-Publishing is by far the best book about self-publishing on the market, we would be honored if you would consent to give this lecture. "

He offered a free trip for two to Palm Springs, California; accommodations at the swanky Riviera Resort; a speaking fee; a table for book sales; not to mention joining a faculty that included Micky Spillane, Iris Raider Dart, Olivia Goldsmith, and Ray Bradbury-what would you say? That presentation went so well we were invited to become permanent members of the faculty for this annual event. And we sold over $800 worth of books.

An excellent place to prospect for likely organizations to hire you is one the internet at Called the Expo Guide, it includes over 4,000 conventions and expos. They are listed by both subject and location. If you don't want to travel, click on your state and see who is doing what in the next year or so. Perhaps you'll fit into some of the programs. Better yet, do a search by subject. If your book about parenting? Gardening? Entrepreneurship? You'll be able to pinpoint the conventions devoted to your topic in a matter of seconds. Request particulars about the event as though you were interested in attending. Then you can see where they are in the planning process. Armed with this ammunition, contact the meeting planner about being part of the program.

If you want to really cash in on being a sage, impact people's lives, and have fun in the process, say “yes" to professional speaking. Then do the things we've outlined to prepare yourself for this exciting new spin to your career.

© Copyright 2005 Marilyn Ross

Marilyn and Tom Ross are the coauthors of 13 books including the best-selling Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and the award-winning Jump Start Your Book Sales. Through phone consultations and ongoing coaching/mentoring, Marilyn empowers authors and self-publishers to realize their dreams. She can be reached at 719-395-8659 or

Visit for free meaty information on writing, self-publishing, and book marketing strategies.


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