Once you’ve done the hard work of writing and publishing your book, it’s time to consider getting some speaking engagements so you can spread the word about your book’s message. As an author, it’s highly possible you’ve convinced yourself that speaking in front of an audience simply isn’t for you—after all, you’re a writer, not a speaker…right? That’s not exactly true.
While the walls of publishing are coming down, and there’s never been a better time to become a published author, this means there’s an awful lot of competition. The authors who are willing to put themselves out there—whether in the form of speaking gigs, media, or other in-person appearances—have the best chance of standing out from the crowd and grabbing the attention of book buyers.
Speaking Engagements: How to Land Your First Gig as an Author
We’re not saying it can’t be nerve-wracking to stand up in front of a crowd. That’s why we recommend starting small, saying “yes” to multiple opportunities, and getting lots of practice. This isn’t a one-and-done proposition if you truly want speaking to become an effective piece of your “professional author” repertoire.
So, how exactly should you land that first speaking engagement? Read on for our ten tips, and you’ll soon be writing your notecards for your debut talk.
1. Start Local
Conferences are a natural place for speakers of all levels to take the stage. However, don’t feel as though you have to limit yourself to formal settings to find speaking engagements. Any group where your desired audience gathers can provide a chance for you to speak.
You could speak to students, to religious organizations, women’s groups, at your library, local business associations…the list is endless! Look around your own community and make a mental list of all the places where you might ask to speak.
2. Speak to Your Niche
If your book is geared toward a specific niche, explore related groups. For example, if your book is a memoir about overcoming an obstacle—such as domestic violence or cancer or another illness—you could speak to a support group. If your book is about productivity, then seek out entrepreneurs’ groups or the chamber of commerce.
If you’re a nurse, and you’ve written a book about health care, then hospitals are a natural place for you to speak. If your story relates to a specific sport, then hit up the closest sport teams. No audience or venue is too small or informal for your first “official” speech.
3. Find a Natural Connection
While we do recommend starting small and local, look even closer: make sure the group you choose will actually be well-served by hearing your message.
Look, there’s nothing worse than standing in front of a crowd that’s bored, or worse—hostile—because you’re wasting their time. There’s an easy way to warm up any crowd, and that’s to have something in common with them. You want your first speaking engagement to be closely related to your book and your book’s message. If your book is all about the stressful life of a lawyer, then you’re not going to want to speak to a group of airline pilots.
For your first speaking gig, your goal is to find an audience that will benefit from your book’s message. Ideally, you want to find an audience you naturally connect with, because that connection will make you more relaxed and authentic, which will result in a better speech.
4. Build Excitement
If you’re not quite ready to beat the bushes in order to grab your first speaking engagement immediately, then consider building up some excitement first. We authors share a common goal: to get our target readers excited about our book’s message!
How do you do that? The good news is the Internet makes building a virtual audience fairly easy these days with consistent effort. You can establish a following of readers through your website, through online forums, via social media, and by writing blog posts, both your own and by writing guest posts for others. Use all of these types of content to build your audience with the goals of increasing book sales and finding your first speaking gig.
5. Hone Your Skills
Think of informal ways to practice your speaking abilities with the goal of scoring a “real” gig. You can produce videos on your book’s subject, join podcasts, and seek out online interviews to share your voice with the world, gain exposure, and get comfortable with your talking points.
By showcasing your speaking talents, you open the door to an invitation to speak in a more structured setting. Plus, you get great practice speaking about your book’s message before you have to stand on a stage in person.
6. Attend a Writer’s Workshop
A great way to get the inside scoop is to meet other authors and pick their brains about their speaking process. How did they find speaking engagements? What are their best speaking tips? What fees do they charge? Meeting other writers gives you a broader network to use as resources on all topics that impact authors—not just the nitty-gritty of drafting books.
7. Speak at an Industry Event
These fact-based speaking engagements are perfect for non-fiction authors. Whether your industry is blogging, healthcare, law, plumbing, or real estate, it’s likely you can find a conference about it. The exact nature of the industry doesn’t have to mirror the topic of your book. Instead, you can focus your talk on skills that can help people in that that industry. For example, if your book is about productivity, you can create a talk that’s focused on how your audience can adapt the productivity lessons found in your book to suit their particular industry.
8. Aim Low (at First)
You first speaking engagement probably won’t be a Ted Talk, and that’s okay! The first time, in fact, you may have to volunteer your time to speak at a pretty tiny event. But as the saying goes, you have to walk before you can run. Just keep taking steps toward bigger and better events. With each new speaking gig, your resume will grow—along with your confidence!
9. Practice Makes Perfect
Write a speech today, and read it to yourself daily—before you even have speaking engagements lined up. You want to be able to handle a speaking engagement that’s the very next day if someone called you out of the blue. Once you’ve taken the time to put together your speech about your book, you’ll notice ways to refine it and improve on it day after day when you practice like you’re speaking in public. What way when the times comes, you’ll be ready to shine.
10. Say YES!
When you’re offered your first speaking engagements—take it! Even if it gives you butterflies or if it’s not the “perfect” fit for your brand, you need to be open to invitations when you’re just starting out. You’ll gain valuable experience, polish your skills, and get your book’s message out there to the public. All good things!
Get started now on finding your first speaking gig. No matter the size of your audience, you’ll gain exposure for your message, while achieving the unparalleled life experience of speaking about your passion.