Question: How can speaking engagements help create awareness and sales for my book, and where can I find speaking opportunities?



There are many ways, both online and offline, that authors can create awareness for their work and develop a readership over time. These include initiatives like social media, blogging, advertising, in-person events, and public speaking.

Talking to audiences about your book or area of expertise can be a very effective marketing tool, allowing you to build credibility, create personal connections, and sell more books. Readers love meeting authors and when given the chance to hear about you and your book face-to-face, it’s difficult for them to walk away empty-handed.

The Benefits of Speaking Engagements for Authors

Many authors would love to stay hidden behind their computers, never venturing out to interact with potential readers or share their messages in person. While the internet does allow for digital promotions and connections, it’s not nearly as effective as interacting with potential readers face-to-face and having the opportunity to speak about your book to a captive audience. The most successful book marketing plans employ an integrated approach, with a combination of both digital and in-person initiatives.

Speaking engagements have many benefits for authors including selling books and building credibility.Some key benefits of adding speaking engagements to your book marketing plan include:

•  Strengthening your author platform
•  Selling books and merchandise
•  Incremental income from speaking fees
•  Creating deeper connections with readers
•  Enhancing your thought-leadership and credibility
•  Promoting your business or services
•  Enabling additional opportunities for you and your book

If you have a fear of public speaking, which many people do, don’t despair. This doesn’t have to keep you from talking with potential readers about your book in-person. You can start small with a talk for a local book club or with a booth space at your local farmers market, and then work your way up to bigger gigs as you feel more comfortable. The good news is, the more often you speak and the better you prepare and practice, the more experienced and confident you will become.

If you wish to take your speaking to the next level and work on your skills more seriously, organizations such as Toastmasters teach public speaking skills through a worldwide network of clubs that meet online and in person, and there are public speaking courses available at many universities and community colleges.

Where Authors Can Find Speaking Opportunities

Anywhere you can find potential readers may be an opportunity for a speaking engagement. There are many places, events, and occasions where a speaker may be welcomed or needed to add an interactive, educational, or inspirational element. Organizations and businesses may need a keynote speaker, grade schools may be hosting author visits, and conferences may request speakers for panel presentations.

Here are some common places authors can find speaking opportunities:

Authors can find speaking opportunities through businesses, organizations, libraries, clubs, conferences, and more.•  Organizations
•  Businesses
•  Clubs
•  Conferences/conventions
•  Bookstores
•  Libraries
•  Universities/colleges
•  Grade schools
•  Festivals/fairs
•  Retreats
•  Churches
•  Museums
•  Media/expert interviews

It’s important to “think outside the box” when brainstorming where you can speak. You can also take the initiative to create speaking opportunities for yourself by reaching out to local businesses, libraries, media, and other organizations with a compelling presentation proposal.

In addition, authors can consider retaining the services of a professional speaker’s bureau to assist with finding speaking opportunities. These companies act as a bridge between organizations wishing to hire speakers and speaking experts such as authors, and they earn a commission for their services. Some of the larger traditional publishing houses have internal speaker’s bureaus, as do many writers organizations. If you’ve self-published through an assisted self-publishing company, they may have a partnership with a speaker’s bureau that you can utilize for a fee.

What Authors Can Speak About

When invited to speak at a venue or event, it’s your job as a guest presenter to entertain, motivate, educate, inspire, or engage. The age and interests of the attendees along with the length, tone, and focus of the event can all greatly affect the presentation content, so it’s important to have a good event contact that can answer any questions and help guide you on the details and expectations. For example, a discussion with a small group at a local library or book club meeting is much less formal than a presentation in a ballroom at a large conference. And, the energy level of a presentation to school children is vastly different from one given to a professional organization.

The key to a great speech or presentation is to keep the content focused on two or three key things you don’t want attendees to forget. There are endless things authors can speak about, but four popular approaches include a live reading from your book, discussing the inspiration behind your book, speaking about your area of expertise or topics in your book, and sharing your writing or research process and what you’ve learned.

Authors can speak about many things, but doing a live reading at an event is a popular approach.Live Readings

When reading an excerpt from your book, we recommend keeping it short – 6 to 10 minutes max. This is typically around one-thousand words or less. For fiction and memoir authors, you’ll want to focus on a faster-paced, compelling scene that doesn’t require too much explanation or backstory. The more conflict in the scene, the more gripping the excerpt will be for your audience. Nonfiction authors should find a passage that demonstrates your expertise on the book’s topics, or solutions you present in the book. If you’re sharing a book of poetry, choose only a few of your favorite poems to read.

The Inspiration

Authors often get asked about what inspired their story or motivated them to write a book. Giving the audience a behind-the-scenes look at what led to the concept or focus of your narrative with a personal story can be a great way to form a meaningful connection.

Area of Expertise

Nonfiction authors often write about a topic they have studied or practiced, which can translate easily into a speech or presentation. You can give an overview of the topic, focus on specific subtopics or steps in your book, or teach on your area of expertise.

Writing or Research Process

Readers enjoy hearing about an author’s writing process and what went in to the planning, research, and execution of a book. Authors can speak about their outlining process, character development or world-building process, the universal themes or messages in a book, or the interesting findings discovered in their research process.  

No matter your presentation approach, be sure to leave time for some interaction with the audience whether in the form of a Q&A session, practical exercise, or a book signing. You can even do a combination of more than one of these elements if time allows.

For children’s presentations, authors must keep the content fun and entertaining, while also sneaking in some educational takeaways. No matter the audience or venue, your goal should be to create a memorable experience.

How to Pitch Yourself for Speaking Opportunities

Event planners, organizers, and journalists are very busy individuals managing a lot of different details and tasks, typically on short deadlines. They get inundated with pitches and proposals from potential speakers, so it’s important to present yourself professionally and give yourself an edge. A great way to stand out to these decision-makers is to have a media or press kit ready that provides details about you, your book, and When you speak, make sure someone can take photos and videos of you if allowed to use in future marketing.your speaking experience. Per freelance publicist Lindsey Gobel, an author's media kit is his or her calling card, and should include the following:

•  Professional author photo
•  Compelling bio with speaking experience
•  One-sheet that includes the book's metadata, book cover, book description, and topics you can speak about
•  Press release
•  Video footage of you speaking at an event

It is highly recommended you have both a hard copy version and an electronic version of your media kit so that you can easily provide it, whether in person or over email. The electronic version can also be available for download on your author website.

The Importance of Building Your Speaking Portfolio

When getting started with speaking, it’s wise to consider all opportunities, no matter how small the event might be. You never know what a speaking engagement or appearance will lead to or who will be in the audience that may keep you in mind for future opportunities. An effective way to start garnering opportunities is by focusing on your local area. You can reach out to businesses, libraries, schools, and organizations to see if they have an upcoming event that will require a speaker. You can also offer to speak for free to give you an edge over other speakers. Many organizations and schools have little to no budgets to hire speakers. Once you gain more experience and begin speaking outside of your local area, you may be able to start charging a speaking fee.

Once a speaking event has taken place, email or call your primary contact to ask if there are any other organizations with whom they have a relationship that might be interested in your services. You should also request a testimonial that you can include on your one-sheet and website to add to your credibility.

Speaking Engagement Checklists

Below is a list of important tasks you will want to complete for every speaking engagement:

  Know your audience and tailor your presentation for that audience.

  Promote the event on your social media pages, website, and in your email marketing leading up to the event.

  Confirm the date, time, location, length, and expected attendance with your contact at least 1 week prior to the event.

  Confirm the room or venue set up and equipment that will be available to you if needed.

  Prepare, practice, dress appropriately, arrive early, and be professional.

  Have a friend or fellow writer there to take pictures or video if allowed, and to help with book sales following the presentation.

  Make sure attendees know how to tag your social handles in social media posts to encourage sharing before, during, and after the event. You can also use existing hashtags in your posts to make them more discoverable, or even create a new hashtag specific to the event.

  Thank all attendees for participating, and send a thank you email or note to the event organizer and anyone else that helped you.

  Request testimonials.

Below is a list of assets you will want to consider bringing for every speaking engagement:

  Plenty of book copies

  Markers or pens for book signings

  Water to stay hydrated

  Multiple ways to take payments

  Method for collecting email addresses for your mailing list

  Marketing materials with where to find you online and where to purchase your book/s

  Exclusive merchandise or swag

  Complementary workbook, worksheets, or coloring pages

  Wireless mic and clicker

  Laptop with presentation

  A survey card or form to collect feedback from attendees

Public speaking and appearances are amazing opportunities to form personal connections, further spread your book’s messages, and sell more books. Speaking engagements can also be an effective way to strengthen your author platform and gain credibility. If you are not already out there talking with potential readers face-to-face, we encourage you to get started!

 Photo credit: skynesher via Getty Images
Photo credit: georgeclerk via Getty Images