The Business of Writing: Speaking for writers

The business of writingWhile most writers are relatively insular types who enjoy the sound of their fingers on the keyboard more than the sound of their own voices, the fact is that speaking opportunities can be a great way to connect with audiences – old and new. Over the past few years, through the release of my books, my work at The Australian Writers’ Centre and the success of my blog, I’ve found myself fronting up to talk about everything from writing and social media, to publishing, to parenting, on several occasions.

And, I confess, I really enjoy it. (Clearly, the sound of my own voice is not something I shy away from…) I’d like to do more.

But where do these opportunities come from?

I asked Esther Kennedy, director at Booked Out, a speakers agency for writers, artists and thinkers, to answer a few questions on speaking opportunities for writers and authors. Booked Out has long-established connections with all major and independent publishers and counts some of Australia’s most popular authors among its friends and colleagues. The Booked Out list boasts authors of children’s books, young adult novels, literary fiction, genre fiction and non-fiction. Then there’s the picture book illustrators, performers, biographers and journalists. You’ll also find professional motivators and published commentators on issues of social and personal welfare – along with comedians, poets and hula hoop artists!

At what stage in my writing career might I start to think about speaking opportunities?
Esther Kennedy: “Most clients are really only keen on booking a published writer. Think about a library that’s having a ‘meet the author’ session. What they really want at the end of that event is for people to be interested in reading and hence borrowing books. The more books, the better. Having said that, many events are more suited to an author whose debut novel has just been published.”

What kinds of speaking opportunities are available for authors and writers?
EK: “At Booked Out, our clients have traditionally been primary and secondary schools. We started out as an agency that represented writers and artists in the children’s book industry. We’ve grown to include municipal libraries, regional literary festivals and small to mid-size organisations. As such we represent a more diverse range of writers as demand has grown. Speaking opportunities take all forms from a 20-minute keynote at a black-tie event to a week-long tour of schools and libraries for a remote council.”

What should/could I do to build a speaking CV? Do I need to film myself to show what I can do?
EK: “It’s a great idea to do a couple of freebies to start with so that you can use the feedback for improvement and also for promotion. Having a very short video clip is helpful, too. If you’re a children’s writer, doing a freebie at a school is fairly common. Ask any teachers you’re friends with or contact the school you went to – they always like to involve alumni.”

When should I speak for free and when should I expect payment? What kind of payments might I expect?
EK: “Unless you’re just starting out and you’ve offered a free gig for feedback or promotion, you should seek payment. The Australian Society of Authors has an outline of reasonable fees.

What makes you sign someone up to your agency as a speaker?
EK: “We have a big roster of speakers already so we are usually selective with new speaker applications. We’re unlikely to take on a new speaker unless they fit a niche that we don’t already cover and that our clients have expressed interest in booking. Having said that, we’re excited by new voices so if we think there’s no risk of jeopardising work for our existing writers then we’ll make an exception.”

For more information about Booked Out, visit the website here. There are some tips to help you become a better speaker here.

Do you enjoy public speaking?