Getting paid to speak about your book is a big boost to keeping your author career financially afloat. Yet, setting and negotiating a fee can feel so uncomfortable that some authors avoid speaking altogether. Don’t let fear cause you to miss out on a lucrative opportunity. Use the following steps to navigate the process in a win-win manner:
Establish a fee based on your value
In our Western society, we tend to attribute a lot of money to items or services that provide a lot of value. For example, we perceive a new Mercedes-Benz automobile as a luxury vehicle that’s reliable and loaded with lavish technological features. Since everyone agrees that the car has a lot of value, many people are willing to spend a lot of money to purchase one. Mercedes is perceived symbol of quality, status, and comfort. Their high value equals a high price tag that thousands of car buyers are willing to pay.
In contrast, a used car covered in rust with a busted engine equals little or no value. Anyone trying to sell an old jalopy will have to settle for a low price. The lower value creates a perception that equals lower money to purchase.
This same principle applies to setting a speaking fee as an author. If you’re a recent bestseller who has sold thousands of books, your perceived value will generally be quite high. Therefore, you can command a high speaking fee. For instance, many politicians, celebrities, and prize-winning authors routinely receive $10,000 – $50,000 for an individual speaking engagement. On the contrary, authors with little book sales and no name recognition sometimes have to settle for speaking for free.
Setting the proper speaking fee requires honestly assessing your value. If you have a history of helping people solve a problem, a reputation for being an expert, or a track record of attracting a lot of people to see you in-person, then you can probably request a substantial fee, such $5,000 – $15,000 depending on the type of event and audience size. However, if no one has ever heard of you and you’re still building your author platform, you may have to shoot for a fee in the $500 – $2,500 range.
Establish your speaking fee at a reasonable fee level, and raise it as your value increases. If you become a better speaker, win an award, or get into high-demand, then increase your fee accordingly. Otherwise, start at a level that allows you to gather experience and grow your track record. Ask other authors or professional speakers that you know for a ballpark range that they think is appropriate for your level.If you get a few paid bookings and no one balks at your fee, then it’s probably too low. Lack of resistance usually means you’re leaving money on the table. Try raising your fee by 10 – 20% until you get a little resistance. Then, you’ll recognize a realistic range to request.
Get to the real decision-maker
Once you establish a realistic speaking fee, only share the number with the person who can truly respect it – the actual event leader. Normally, a gatekeeper, such as a secretary or administrative assistant, will make the initial speaking inquiry by phone or email. In those cases, keep in mind that their primary goal is usually trying to get a speaker booked quick and cheap. By saving time and money, the assistant looks good in the eyes of their superior.
However, these short-sighted goals can be opposed to your goals of establishing value and getting a fair fee. The best way to avoid this conflict is to get past the gatekeeper and talk directly with the real decision-maker. Only the true leader can share the actual event goals and budget limit. To get past a gatekeeper and find the real leader, ask questions such as:
· “Are you the person who is overseeing this event?”
· “Are you in charge of the direction for this event?”
· “Who is in charge of making sure the goals of this event are met?”
· “Are you making the final decision, or are you recommending me to someone else?”
If a gatekeeper resists connecting you with the leader, then mention that you have a policy of only discussing the event goals with the leader before you can accept an engagement. Use these statements if you need help:
· “I have to ensure that the event leader’s objectives will be met.”
· “You and I can collaborate once I’ve received your leader’s input.”
· “I require talking with the actual decision-maker to make sure that I can tailor an approach to meet his or her agenda and needs.”
· “It’s a strict policy of my organization, and I can’t consider any speaking invitation unless I talk with the event director first.”
Remember that gatekeepers usually care about saving money and handling logistics. Leaders care about investing for long-term results and life-change for their organization.