Publishing your book may feel like crossing the finish line. But when you want to publish a book to build something bigger as a business owner or a thought leader, launch day is just the start of the race. A common goal for authors is to turn a book into a speak career.
Becoming a speaker can change your career trajectory, increase your income, and make your name known. And it can all start with your book.
If you’re wondering how to build a speaking career from your book, stick around! This article is for you.
Why Build a Speaking Career With Your Book
Speaking engagements are worth the butterflies and stage fright you might face at the thought of standing in front of a big audience.
They’re an effective way to make more money, sell more books, and boost your reach and influence as an author and thought leader.
But landing those first speaking gigs that create a foundation for your future as a speaker can be challenging, especially if you’re not known well within your industry or are just new to speaking on your subject matter.
I said challenging, not impossible. To help you out, I asked our wonderful book marketing manager, Sarah Bean, for her top tips and tricks for landing opportunities as a new speaker.
So let’s get right into it; we have a speaking career to build, after all.
7 Tips On Building A Speaking Career Out of Your Book
Tip#1: Find Out Who You’re Addressing and How to Help
If you’ve never spoken before, you need first to figure out who you’re addressing and how you can help them.
Whether business owners who need to level up their company growth or parents looking for solutions to problem teens, know who your audience is and how listening to you and buying your book will solve their problems.
Be specific and know that there are organizations out there for pretty much everything.
Tip#2: Build Your Unique Topic and Brand
Once you’ve figured out your value proposition and your audience, create one or two topics or abstracts that directly help that audience.
You’d want to make sure to be able to adapt those topics on the fly for different audiences.
Right from your talk title, you want buyers to know who you’re addressing and what they can take away from it.
Practice those topics and prepare well in advance when an opportunity comes knocking.
To give you an idea, one of my standard talks is “Five Tips to Write a Book that Sells.”
I cover fundamental principles in every talk I give on that subject. But this week, I gave that talk to a group of entrepreneurs. So I adapted it to be “Five Tips to Write a Book that Grows Your Business.”
A lot of the same material goes into it, but I changed the examples and drove the points towards business benefits versus selling books.
Tip#3: Have Your Materials Ready
Perhaps the most vital material you’ll need is a speaker’s reel. Even unpaid engagements will ask for this if you don’t have a reputation as a speaker already.
They want to put somebody who will entertain and educate their audience, so they’ll definitely check up on you.
You’ll be asked for samples before they invest in you for their event. So put together a video, a reel, or a speaker one-pager at a minimum that shares your topics.
Your speaker reel is ideally a combination of different talks you’ve given, showing the audience engaged and clapping and laughing.
But if you’ve only given one talk, that will have to do. Maybe you showcase the whole thing or just take a clip for your reel.
In the future, you want to collect as many videotaped talks as possible to create a robust speaker’s reel.
Next, create a speaker’s one-sheet that showcases the topics you can talk about. You’d also want to create a list of past client engagements to showcase your expertise.
I would ideally ask for recommendation letters from some of the key talks you’ve given, so I can include those as referrals in your speaker’s package.
You also want to create adaptable abstracts in advance with three to five audience takeaways. And lastly, remember to make sure your materials are on-brand for you to stand out from the competition.
Tip#4: If You’re Brand New, Start Small and Local
That $25,000 keynote opportunity doesn’t usually magically come along just because you’ve published a book. You have to build up to it. Besides, it’s better to move up gradually.
When I started speaking, I went from my first talk being in front of an audience of, I think, about 12 people at a local meetup to an audience of 600 people on a large stage in Toronto, Canada.
I was so nervous; I didn’t even remember the talk. So I suggest you practice your material as a comedian would.
Go to, you know, the equivalent of an “open mic” and test your material on small live audiences. For me, those are usually local meetups or local association education sessions.
Doing that can organically lead to bigger opportunities anyway while you get more comfortable with your material.
And those local events can actually sell a lot of books while garnering you and your book with local support.
Tip#5: Don’t Say No Just Because There’s No Paycheck
When we watched the Super Bowl halftime show this year with all our favorite artists from the ’90s, my husband commented on how much they must have been paid.
I said, “If I were them, I would do it for free.” Think about how much people pay for a Super Bowl commercial. And these people are getting massive exposure in that halftime show.
For many of them, it’s the best advertising they could ask for.
Well, I did a little research. It turns out they do it for free, and they do it because it’s massive exposure to a vast audience.
In their case, decades-old songs get a new life, but for an artist, it’s also a feather in your cap to be invited to do a halftime show.
So as a speaker, don’t turn your nose up just because something’s free. Some free events have enormous value when they’re the right event for you and for reaching your audience.
Before you say no, let’s look at what factors might make you want to say yes:
- It might be your first chance to speak directly to your target audience.
- The organization hosting the event might open up new channels for you.
- You could use footage of that talk to improve your speaker’s reel.
- You’ll also have a chance to sell books and drive a lot of traffic to your website.
These are all good enough reasons to do a free talk. Sometimes those are even bigger results than getting a speaker’s fee when you can’t even promote your stuff or your book at all.
Tip#6: Keep In Mind: One Speaking Gig Leads to Another
If you bring your best self and deliver value, whether paid or free, one speaking gig almost always leads to another. Never discount an audience as not big enough to be prepared.
There may be somebody in the audience who’ll want you to speak for their company. Or they may want to buy a copy of your book for everybody in their organization.
Something you say may resonate with someone enough that they’d become a new client or refer you to a whole bunch of new people.
I’ve been a speaker at events with thousands of people in the audience, only to have 20 people in my breakout room for a talk.
That can feel demotivating if you just look at the empty seats. But I usually encourage people until they move forward, so I feel like they’re a good group together.
And then, I deliver massive value to the folks there because I believe that every person showed up there for me. I’m going to show up for them and give them value.
Who knows? They might become clients, buy my book, or tell somebody else about my book or business.
You can also focus on finding one person that you can really help that day. Focus on cultivating those relationships and take advantage of the opportunity to get in front of that audience.
If you’re allowed, invite them to download your reader magnet so that you get their email address. Now you can start building a long-term relationship with them.
And if you’re allowed as well, you could have books to sell or even give away during the event.
When you’ve finished speaking, make sure to network with the organization, the team, and the audience. Don’t forget to send thank-yous. You’ll never know what connections you could make.
Tip#7: Skip The Cold Calls and Start With Your Network
If you’re struggling to find a speaking opportunity, skip the cold call and start with your network.
I started by speaking at the groups I was already a part of. Within your industry, you may have all the warm leads you need.
So start with a list of your own contacts, your network, your organization’s past or current clients, or just look at the groups you’re active in, and they might be able to introduce you to people looking for speakers for their audience.
By reaching out to these friendly contacts and seeing how you can help them with your content, you’ll probably find yourself on stages pretty quickly.
My Three Essentials to Building a Speaking Career
Now, there is no easy or fast button, but if I were to tell you the three most important things to building a speaking career from a book, it would be:
- Be prepared, have a talk ready to go on short notice, and test that material live before you go big.
- Be okay with free when it’s a good fit.
- Get your speaker’s reel and references ready as quickly as possible. Without those, it’s tough to land giant paid speaking gigs.
A book helps you open doors that put you on stage. It gives you another way to monetize your time on stage and develop deeper relationships with audiences. But it won’t happen with one talk.
Build on each talk and keep going, and looking back two years later, you’ll likely find yourself with a paid speaking career.
Were you looking for more marketing tips the #noboringbooks way? You should watch this video right here on preparing for a book signing because many of your speaking gigs will also be book signing events.
Did you enjoy this article? Here are a couple more to help you grow your audience and business as an author:
- The Ultimate Guide to Get Your Book Into Libraries
- Best Paid Book Review Site for Authors
- Social Media Tips for Authors
Looking to write a book to grow your business? Download my free workbook “How to Write A Business Book” to learn how to set up a plan to achieving your book business goals.