You have a message to share with the world, and you secretly dream of holding a microphone, facing a crowded auditorium, standing on a giant red circle, and changing their lives (or at least their perspectives) in 18 minutes? Hate to break it to you, but your odds are a heck of a lot better that you’ll make it to that TED platform if publish your book first. If you want to know how to become a speaker, we should first talk about what it looks like for a speaker to try to get hired without a book.
I’ve been on committees, where we’re vetting people to bring into speak at an event. Our committee’s job was to select a pool of applicants and present to the board the pros and cons of each applicant, including their speaking fees, talking points, and travel arrangements. A couple of times, we presented speakers to our board who did not have books published. They had videos of their presentations and audio clips of their interviews, but no book. And every time our board turned the potential speaker down.
Contrast that with the recent experience a Paper Raven Books author. Literally, within two hours of the book hitting the Amazon bestseller list, the author sent me this text:
Within a week, the author had a paid speaking gig and was officially a speaker with street cred.
So, yes, first things first, you need to publish a book, and preferably hit an Amazon bestseller list.
Note: Don’t just publish an ebook. Publish your book as an ebook, paperback, and hardback.
The strategy of publishing all three forms of your book is largely psychological. Well, first, it’s fun for you to have your book sitting on your shelf. But, also, when the reader lands on your Amazon book page, if he sees it as just an ebook, he’ll automatically know that you’re a self-published author. If he sees all three forms, he’ll likely assume that you were traditionally published. Don’t ask me why this is, but it’s true.
Having your book out as an ebook, paperback, and hardback is vital to your perceived status as an author.
And, back to that question of how to become an author, think about the people who are potentially bringing you to speak at their event. If they see you as a “real” author, with a book out as an ebook, paperback, and hardback, the board of the event is that much more likely to agree to bring you in, and sometimes a bit of an edge is exactly what you need to land that speaking gig over another speaker.
Pitch for events that your reader would attend.
When you’re pitching for events, make sure to target the types of events that your reader would attend. Look the events that promise the same sort of information or transformation that your book does. If your book is about health and wellness, find a yoga event. If your book is about money, go to a financial conference. If your book is about mental illness, find a support group that’s hosting an event.
Rookie mistake: Don’t bother with writer’s conferences or book fairs. Don’t even worry about joining a writer’s group, unless you want to for support of your actual writing process.
Bring a box of books with you.
When you speak at an event, bring a box of books with you and hand them out like candy. When someone’s asking you about what you do, if they express even a hint of, “Oh, I’d like to know more about that,” hand them a book, absolutely free, no strings attached.
If you can leave an event with 10 people who have your book in their suitcases, you may just have five new clients on your hands, and that would be pretty darn awesome, right?
Get a video of your speech.
Bring your own video guy, if you need to, but make sure you get a high-quality video and audio of your speech. When you pitch for your next speaking gig, send in this video as part of your pitch.
How to become a speaker? Rinse and repeat all of the above.
Becoming a speaker and getting paid to speak takes time. You’ll need to pitch events, receive rejections, and pitch some more. Speak at as many events as you can, but also be an attendee of events. When you’re an attendee, talk to the speakers, talk to the organizer, get to know them, ask how you can support them. Get yourself plugged into a network.
Then, you’ll find that people recommend you for speaking positions, and with a book to your name, plus a video of your most recent speech, you’ll be as good as gold for the gig.