Why Authors Should Also Be Speakers

This may be  scary idea for some people, but here are 7 reasons why you need to be a good speaker as well as a great writer.

  • Successful best-selling authors speak at Writer’s Festivals. Therefore, if you want to be a successful author, you need to prepare for these events and make sure you fulfill the audience expectation when you get there. (I have been at too many festivals and been terribly disappointed when the author gave a poor performance).
  • Reading your own book aloud is a common request at book launches, author events and more. If you stutter and stumble on your words, or you cannot deliver with aplomb your own sparkling prose, will those people buy your books?
  • It makes you stand out in the crowded marketplace of authors. Thousands of books are published each week so how do you stand out? If you are a speaker as well as an author, you stand out amongst those authors who prefer to stay out of the limelight. These days you need to be a bit pushy to get some attention for your book.
  • Speaking can generally make you more money than book sales. Speakers can earn a hefty speaking fee for a keynote, but you can also run day workshops or other events that can make you money. You can charge several hundred for a day’s workshop per person, and several thousand for a keynote (some speakers charge 10’s of thousands). It is certainly another significant income stream that provides an addition to book sales.
  • You can sell books at your speaking gigs. Back of the room sales are guaranteed if you give a great talk/workshop/seminar. People want to take a piece of you home. Therefore, you can add this income stream to your speaking fee.
  • Speaking enables you to connect with people and they are more likely to become fans. If people listen to you and see you in action, they get to know you better. They can ask you questions and you can demonstrate your knowledge. You connect with individuals this way and great marketing is best done with a personal connection.
  • Speaking generates word of mouth marketing. If you give a great talk or seminar, if you are memorable for all the right reasons, people will talk about you to their friends. This generates word of mouth publicity for you which is the very best kind. People will then buy your books, or attend your next workshop or may pass the word on in turn.

What do you think about public speaking? Is it critical for authors these days?

    Image: Flickr CC Hiddedevries

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    1. says

      Last Saturday — when you where posting this blog — I was giving a book reading with a friend. I have flown solo, combined my reading with music, joined with other readers and gone of Youtube. Its hard. I’m dyslexic. I’m shy. I have a million reasons why not to. However, sometimes good things happen when you step out of your comfort zone. Thank you for outlining even more reasons to do so.

      • says

        well done Leanne! That is so great! It’s funny but I am pretty confident in front of a crowd talking and sharing information. But I am SERIOUSLY nervous about reading my own work, so kudos to you. I will try to follow your example as well!

    2. Genny Ross-Barons says

      To build my platform and continue to develop my writing skills I started a blog, Life & Writing on Roatan. That led to my website http://roatanvortex.com and then I got asked to host a live stream talk radio show at http://roatanradio.com
      I was terrified but excited to give it a try! My first few shows I sounded like a monotone robot. Now it’s smooth sailing, I love it.
      I have a forum for bringing my stories to life that excels beyond reading them out loud to just myself.
      I am connecting with far more people and getting instant feed back…gotta love it!

    3. says

      I’ve always enjoyed speaking, and have had a lot of success the times I have. I would be interested to know what resources you’ve found, or what suggestions your readers might have, on lining up speaking engagements.

      • says

        Hi Laura,
        to be honest, I have had all my live speaking events in the last year through Twitter connections! People have connected with me online, checked out my blog and then booked me. I have not solicited for work at all yet, but then I only speak about once per month right now.
        I did do one public workshop which I advertised to my list, as well as on twitter and facebook.
        You can get a bureau if you are established and can command a decent fee but that is mainly for the pros.
        I hope that helps! Thanks, Joanna

    4. e.lee says

      this post makes a very true point. I’ve met writers who honestly believe that their work should do all the speaking for them

    5. says

      Absolutely! I think every author should be (or try to become) a confident speaker.

      That’s why, at my recent book launch, I vehemently thanked Toastmasters International for helping me gain the skills needed to be a competent and enthusiastic speaker. And that I recommended that every author in the room (and there were many) join TM.

      You’re right in that selling books may not earn an author as much as the speaking engagements he/she will be able to secure as a result of a well-written book. So every author should be prepared for those offers & join TM if they’re not.

    6. says

      I do agree that an author needs to be a speaker. I’d add two more reasons. First, learning to speak in public develops a powerful level of confidence. All writers need confidence. It’s that confidence that keeps you going when the manuscript you’ve devoted yourself to for weeks, months, or years is rejected multiple times. Second, book promotion involves media appearances. You will be on the radio, and if you’re fortunate, on TV. It’s MUCH easier to handle the idea of speaking to hundreds of thousands when you’ve gotten your feet with in smaller venues first.

      Thankfully, I was a legal writing professor at a law school before my first novel was published by Bantam and my first nonfiction book was published by Hazelden, so I was used to being in front of groups speaking. I still felt like a guppy in an ocean full of big fish with lots of teeth when I went to a writer’s conference to give a workshop. I was TERRIFIED the first time I was on TV, but then I dipped into my old experience, and I ended up having a blast.

      Yes, yes, yes, develop your public speaking skills. Do it any way you can. THEN picture yourself giving an interview on TV. And soon that’s what you’ll be doing!

      • says

        Hi Ande, yes, confidence is definitely important, and when you can speak well, it boosts that indeed. It improves with repetition as well!

    7. says

      I agree that it’s really helpful to speak. As I write in all kinds of areas, including writing ‘how to’, I pitched for several conferences, this year, and was given gigs at four, three of which pay. The money is not good and the book sales have been lowish but they’ve been really enjoyable events.

      Now, I recognise that I’m not a ‘big name’ and won’t be courted with the thousands mentioned in the blog (although it’s up for discussion) but what I find an issue is that I keep being put on at the end of the day/weekend. The book shop is ready to close, some of the delegates have already gone home or want to sit down with a cuppa or they’ve spent their book budget.

      I’ve been part of a panel or run workshops and have received great feedback – but bizness is slow …

      Any tips?

      • says

        Hi Sue, you could running your own sessions/workshops. You can charge more, sell your own product and do your own timings. I got a room in a local library for very cheap, then sold 15 places and ran it all myself plus selling some courses from it and made a good profit. I also charge a decent amount for a full day workshop now – or I do a short talk for cheap/free and then after I get good feedback, I asked if they would like a full day workshop. Hope that helps!

    8. Shannon Cason says

      So true…great post. I love to be entertained by an author. A book is usually entertainment, especially fiction, but I hate if I go to a reading or signing and the author is unprepared or unenthusiastic. Authors have to understand speaking is part of the deal. Toastmasters is a wonderful idea if public speaking is intimidating, because it gives you a chance to work out the jitters in an easy setting. Great insight:)

    9. says

      Hello Joanna –

      I’m on book tour right now, one more event to go – and you are SO right, being able to speak well is really important. (We authors really have to do it all these days, don’t we?) As you mentioned, at any speaking event (whether it is a reading or a speech) it just makes such a difference to be able to deliver material in a way that engages people.

      The one thing I would add to you reasons would be that it really helps with radio interviews. For two reasons: One is the obvious, if you have an engaging voice, then people who hear the interview are more likely to take note of you, remember your name, and buy your book. But the other reason, perhaps less obvious at first, is that the medium of radio is ONLY sound. So producers seek engaging voices, because the voice is all they’ve got to work with. It doesn’t matter how amazing the writing in your book is – if you don’t come cross well when speaking (or even better than just “well”) you will have to struggle more to get invited back for radio interviews.
      I think that this is especially important in both Canada and Australia, where we have a number of shows both on the CBC and the ABC that focus on books. Radio – especially public radio – is a medium that readers tend to listen to, so a very good way to connect with your potential audience.
      Thanks so much, Joanna, for all of the great tips you post here.
      Jackie (dual Canadian/Australian, living in Canada)

    10. says

      How true! For those authors who have fears of public speaking, consider finding a Toastmasters International club in your area. It will truly change your life and thinking about public speaking.


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