Speaking Engagements: Your First Gig as an Author

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…

…and make even more cash from it.

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.

Speaking engagements

While the walls of publishing are coming down, and there’s never been a better time to become a published author.

…but this means there’s an awful lot of competition out there.

We’re here to cover this information all about speaking engagements:

  1. What are speaking engagements?
  2. How do you get paid for speaking engagements?
  3. How to book yourself as a speaker
  4. 10 ways to land your first speaking engagements

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.

NOTE: One of the best ways to land speaking gigs is to place yourself as an authority through writing a book. We teach just that and so much more in our VIP Self-Publishing Program.

Learn more about it here

What area speaking engagements?

Speaking engagements are when you speak in front of a group of people on a specific topic you’re knowledgable about.

Most people think of Ted Talks when they hear the term “speaking engagement.”

However, not all speaking gigs have to be at the Ted Talk level in order to be considered a speaking engagement. Any scheduled speech you give (even unpaid) in front of a group of people is considered a speaking gig.

Not everyone can get paid to be a speaker upfront. If you want to be a paid speaker, you have to first hone the craft of speaking and then gain experience in the field.

Some may get lucky enough to be booked as a paid speaker upfront but usually, it can take time, experience, and a resume of speaking engagements in order to take home money for it.

An easy way to expedite the process of becoming a paid speaker is to increase your authority by writing a book.

Becoming a bestseller by self-publishing a book(something we here at Self-Publishing School teach) is even better. It’s a surefire sign that you know what you’re talking about and have credibility behind you.

How do you book yourself as a speaker?

Before you can reach the days of paying someone else to book your speaking gigs, you have to put in the work for yourself first.

This means doing research and performing a lot of outreach in order to connect with those responsible for booking speakers at different events.

Keep in mind that you may have to start small (and we’ll touch on this below) before you can expect to book yourself at larger, paid speaking engagements.

How to Land Your First Speaking Engagements 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 entrepreneur 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—that even pays more.

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 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)

The first of your speaking engagements 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.

Get Started TODAY

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Chandler Bolt

Chandler is the host of the Self Publishing School podcast & the author of 6 bestselling books including his most recent book titled “Published.”. He’s also the founder & CEO of Self-Publishing School, the #1 online resource for writing your first book. Self Publishing School made the INC 5000 in 2018 (#2,699) as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the US. Through his books, podcast, training videos, and Self-Publishing School, he’s helped thousands of people on their journey to writing their first book.

Comments From The Community


9 thoughts on “Speaking Engagements: Your First Gig as an Author”

  • Jyotsna Ramachandran says:

    Hey Chandler, that was an excellent post! I just opened myself to speaking opportunities in January. I’ve so far spoken at a B school, an entrepreneurial summit in my city and a virtual summit as well. The experience has been great. I can also see my credibility and income go up. Would highly recommend all authors to start speaking and also have a speaking page on their website with a list of keynote topics they can speak on.

  • Ruth Zubairu says:

    Hi Chandler,
    That’s the end – goal of writing a book for some of us.
    I really love the first point, start local. Most times, when we think of speaking, we have huge stages in mind and lots of money, but we could start small and even offer to speak for free.
    When people know, like and trust us, the doors would open for bigger opportunities.
    Awesome post.

  • 1GloriesWriter says:

    Some good practical advice here Chandler. You should follow this post up with one ttitled “Crap! I Landed a Speaking Gig… Now What?” I cannot tell you the fear that hit me when people started approaching me about speaking after I published my first book – and even after my next! I got through it and grew to appreciate and enjoy the practice. Now I look on with a lot of excitement whenever I get the chance to give talks.

  • Douglas Brown says:

    And – if you have a physical version of the book – make sure you have some on hand for that unexpected speaking gig. If you’ve only got one left, make it a giveaway raffle prize for those who sign up on the list (naturally, with their e-mail addresses!).

  • Great post, Chandler! This is something I’d love to try out; although I give presentations on business topics [because it’s my job] it would be a great opportunity to do this on a topic you love: self-publishing or your book!

  • Fabian Markl says:

    Thanks for the awesome guideline. I live in Germany, but write my books in English. That’s why starting local is not an option for me. I practice my message by publishing several videos per week.

    My goals is to go global from day one. I basically speak for free to everywhere in the world – the host would only have to arrange my travel and accommodation.

    Yesterday, I thought about adding a “talk” to my speaking page that I record in my home.

    Do you have any advice on how long this should be? 8-min? 16-min? Or, longer?

    Thanks Chandler and have a nice weekend 😉

  • Ruth Grunstra says:

    Ok Chandler…you have convinced me! I’m totally on board with writing my first book…now. Since my husband and I have 8 kids, who are ages 13-31, I decided to niche in parenting…lots of pain points there…and start with a parenting website, which unofficially launched last November. “Unofficially” because I got it built with several articles (blog posts) which I sent to my kids for perusal and they posted on Facebook. Was not ready for that. But it’s fine now, just pushed me a little. Then, three months ago I offered parenting classes, at my husbands request…he’s a pediatrician and wanted classes available for his new moms and dads. But that only attracted 2 people..one who wasn’t pregnant yet and another with a 15 year old. ? Finally, last month I was invited to speak at a local homeschooling support group on training children. And IF I had had a book available to offer at the end of my talk, I could have sold a bunch.
    So I’m outlining, chapter titling and organizing my material.

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