Author Visits, Guest Speaking, and School visits are the bread and butter of an up-and-coming author’s income. While your royalty payment per book might peak at 17%, what you make on the speaking circuit is all yours. It’s not just good for income, it’s a great way to share your message, share your writing, and network with like-minded people.
The days of BICAW (Butt in chair and writing) need to be tempered with SIFOP (standing in front of people). Okay, enough of the acronyms :) Lol. Sorry. Below is a list of steps to consider to focus your thoughts in preparation for a presentation of a school visit.
Narrow your target audience and purpose. You’ve written something, and maybe it’s published, maybe not. Either way, you have something to share with others. Or do you? Here are a few questions to consider before you take your show on the road:
1. Who is the intended reader for your book?
2. Write down the message that you can share with them. Is it in a church, a school, a business?
3. What other messages are out there that are similar to yours?
4. How is your message unique?
5. Are you an expert in your field?
In my case, the intended readership for my books are Christian families looking for stories that aren’t filled with vampires or zombies. Yeah, there are those of us who love a good story that doesn’t involve the un-dead.
My message deals with sharing stories – the premise for Unforgettable Roads. For elementary students, I offer writing workshops that parallel Frog’s Winter Walk. I also share a presentation that is a humorous look at stories, how they grew from campfire mythology to the 3-D spectacles we pay $15-$20 for at the theater.
I also talk with parents about reading with their children, how to bring books into the spotlight. This is my area of expertise as my Master’s Degree is in Education with an emphasis on reading instruction. These are my tools, not my story. I use these tools to bring my published (and soon to be published) stories to new readers.
Prepare your presentations. Obvious step, huh? This step needs to be solid before you move to step four – looking for places to speak.
• Outline your thoughts. Then write out everything you think you’ll say. You won’t use it all, but you will benefit greatly from organizing it all onto paper.
• Decide if you are in need of props, a power point presentation, etc. Know your limits or skills with technology. Stay within your comfort zone, but also work toward improving your abilities with technology, or going without.
• With a recorder, practice your presentation with your notes and then without. Practice does make perfect…or at least better.
• Once you have your presentation smooth (and it won’t be the same twice – which is what you want. It leads to a more natural approach) video tape yourself. Watch for ticks, frequent phrases, anything that makes you cringe.
On your website, narrow down your presentation to one sentence and three bullet points. Why? Summarizing the overall idea in one sentence is the flashing banner that potential schools and organizations look for in a guest speaker. The three bullet points are just a sampling of what they will receive. We all like free samples…use them.
Determine your price. Oh, how I despise this part. It’s extremely difficult for me to put a price on something I absolutely love doing. However, the grocery store has no problem marking up foods and my kids have no plans to starting eating less, so I need to charge what I’m worth.
Don’t take this step lightly. Do a google search of local authors, go to a local author event and find out what people charge. The prices will be all over the board. The second and third questions will help narrow down a comparable price for you: 1) How many speaking engagements do other authors do in a year? 2) How many years have they presented professionally?
AN IDEA! If someone charges $1000/day to be in an elementary school giving back-to-back assemblies to school children and have five years experience, he can charge that. If you want to start small, say a few classrooms at a time, consider a barter while you’re getting your feet wet – if you can sell a certain number of books prior to the speaking engagement, you’ll speak for free. If that sales quota isn’t met prior to your date, then the organization meets the difference. Anything above that, and you can consider a small donation back to them.
Note: There is much debate over how much new speakers should charge. Offering to speak for free might cause the organization to think you are not worth anything. Just be honest – let them know you are new at the speaking, but your expertise is solid. You are trying to launch a new aspect of your business and in exchange for the early practice and networking, you are willing to exchange cost for time.
I did do this and I have no regrets. I had fun, learned a great deal about speaking, asked for comments, reviews and recommendations. I decided I would do three school visits at no cost before charging a set rate. I do not include my speaking fees on my speaker flyer. Instead, I include a note that states that I consider each proposal separately and create a quote based on the list below.
- What to consider in your pricing rubric:
Milage/ Travel Time
Time spent in preparation
Time spent in presenting
Once you’ve established your message, it’s time to start talking to managers, librarians, teachers, business owners…anyone who has a group of people who would be interested in your insight. Prepare a speaker information sheet. Keep it simple, colorful, include cover art from your books, or a picture of you speaking at an event, or simply a professional head shot from your back cover.
Your speaker sheet is fun to put together. No, really! Think of it as a one page picture book about you. Be creative. Include your expertise, intended audience, photos, contact information, and links to your website. (If you don’t have any of these, I highly recommend you put it together. As a public speaker, you are now considered a business. Where do people go to check on the quality of a business? Yep. Websites.)
This is the time to play the ‘Who You Know’ card. Talk to friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, and provide them with the information you’ve put together. Couple that with a free speaking offer, and you are certain to get a bite.
A Success Story:
I offered an Author Visit to an Elementary School and three books as an auction item for a church fundraiser. A mom won it, her child’s first grade teacher eagerly contacted me, and I presented a short writing workshop to three first grade classrooms. I learned how to use some of the new technology that is common place in schools but new to me. I met almost 80 children, and had a wonderful morning.
While I was in town, I attended a breakfast event at that church and met up with my former kindergarten teacher. She still volunteers at the school and helps arrange Author Visits.
Right place + right time + who I know = networking.
I didn’t, sadly, have any business cards left, so I came across as being unprofessional. I did order 1000 more cards the very next day. That will not happen to me again.
What will you need for your presentation?
Aside from your notes, props, computer and books, you should also consider the following:
• A bottle of water
• Hot tea to soothe your throat
• Snacks or a lunch if you are working a full day
• Table cloth and possibly flowers, bookmarks, business cards if you will have a vendor table. If you don’t have a table, bring the bookmarks, business cards and speaker flyers with you in a nice looking folder. Be prepared to meet your next connection and it will happen.
• A camera to have visual documentation that you were really there ;)
• A digital recorder. Record your presentation for two reasons: One, to hear it again and make notes on weak areas, and Two, to use sound bytes on your website. Those free samples again. (True story – I’ve brought my recorder every time and have either forgot to use it or it didn’t record clearly, which is why my website is missing this feature. On my list is to purchase a microphone I can wear so I will remember to turn it on and hopefully have a usable piece. See? I’m learning.)
Ask for a review.
Provide the teacher, leader, or the CEO with a short comment and review sheet. Ask them to either fill it out right after your presentation or provide a stamped and addressed envelope so they can return it to you. This will provide you with immediate feedback and quotes that you can use on your website and marketing sheets (be sure to ask permission first).
- A few quick questions to ask:
Did this presentation meet your expectations?
What is one thing I said or shared that you enjoyed?
Is there anything I can add to my presentation to improve it?
I hope these six steps help you as you prepare or revamp how you are doing your presentations. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have more suggestions or a personal success or dum-dum story to share, please do!