Speaking Gigs as Extra Income

Do you want to increase your income and boost your writing profile as you do it?

If so, then you need to sign up with a speaker’s agency.

The education market is a great opportunity for young adult and children’s book authors. Are you a non-fiction author? No problem, because the corporate market loves you.

Writers with an existing profile are of course the most sought-after as speakers, but it’s a good idea to work on their presence before approaching an agency.

You need to do your research before signing up with an agency – specifically looking at the engagement terms. Run though this checklist before committing yourself:

  • How is the agency’s commission worked out? Percentage? Set fee?
  • How much did the agency bill the customer?
  • Who pays for insurance, and what is required? Professional indemnity? Public liability?
  • If your state requires a police clearance, who pays?
  • How is sales tax (or other local taxes) charged?
  • When does the agency pay the speaker? On the day, or only after the customer has paid?
  • Is the agency slow when paying speakers? You probably have to ask other speakers, not the agency itself!
  • If the agency hasn’t been paid, how will it collect from customers?
  • Does the agency charge per event or per head? What if attendance is lower than the customer expected?
  • What’s their cancellation policy?
  • Is the agreement exclusive or can you have multiple agents in different niches or states?
  • How does the agency choose its speakers? Do they require a trial event, and does the customer pay?
  • What’s their travel and accommodation policy? Who pays?

Remember that writers are only a small percentage of speakers of an agency roster. Writing and presenting are completely different skills but because both writers and speakers are usually articulate, there’s more overlap between the two industries than most other niches.

Writing a relevant, punchy speech is very important. If you’re looking to do speaking gigs on a regular basis, you should write a new speech for each event.

If you’re going to focus on the corporate market, some of the most popular topics include business, the economy/finance and sports.

Sometimes you’ll be asked to give a free talk, and that’s okay – but you need to know when these events will actually cost you money (either in travel, accommodation or lost income).

Doing free work also doesn’t guarantee that you’ll sell loads of books, but it can mean diluting your brand as a writer and it keeps you from actually writing.

Tips for public speaking

  • During a speaking event, have a camera set up so you know what your ‘performance mode’ looks like. Get a friend to watch it and offer honest criticism.
  • Eye contact is very important and you need to learn techniques to maintain it, especially since your audience can be 200 plus people.
  • Understand that depending on the audience size you need to vary your voice and how you use it.
  • Understand how and where to stand – Practice makes perfect!
  • Learn to control arm and body gestures
  • Get used to the technology you might be using (overhead projector, laptop, etc.)
  • Practice! After committing your speech to paper, you need to practice delivering it as a presentation. Do it a couple of times by yourself then do it for a friend (a professional coach is even better).
  • You need to evolve: Keep improving your speech so it doesn’t get stale and keep recording it. Talk to your audience after to see what can be improved.

Suggested public speaking rates

Speaking and teaching (such as at literary festivals, residencies, writers’ centers and other public events which aren’t schools)

  • Whole day (max. 6 hours): $800
  • Half day (max. 3 hours): $500
  • Per session (max. 1 hour): $300
  • Keynotes: $1,000 (print and online publications to be negotiated separately)
  • Weekly rate (max. 5 days – average 6 hours a day): $3,600


  • Whole school day (max. 3 sessions): $600
  • Half school day (max. 2 sessions): $450
  • Per school session (max. 1 session): $300
  • Weekly school date (max. 4 days – average  sessions per day): $2,500

Public speaking can be competitive but it’s also exciting for writers to get out there and generate some momentum.

List of Literary Agents PodiumHave you completed your book and are ready to submit to literary agents? You need to get yourself the list of literary agents, a compiled list of every literary agent in the US.

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