Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Determine an Author Speaking Fee

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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped

If you thought the publishing industry was competitive, take a look at the latest amount of new titles published in 2009. The marketplace is literally overwhelmed with books. If you're an author, you owe it to yourself to improve your marketing skills in order to cut through the cacophony of new titles screaming for everyone's attention.

From Publishers Weekly:
Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped

"A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 byself-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of "nontraditional" titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.

Among the traditional titles, fiction remained the largest segment, although output fell 15%, to 45,181 titles, marking the second consecutive year that fiction production declined. The nonfiction segments were mixed with growth coming in educational and practical areas such as technology (up 11%), science, and personal finance (both up 9%). Categories that depend more on discretional spending fell with the production of cookery and language titles falling the most at 16% each. The travel and sports and recreation segments had declines of 5% and 4%, respectively. Other major categories where output rose included children's, up 6%, to 32,348, biography, up 8% to 12,313, and religion, up 6% to 19,310.

Changes in growth rates in the traditional book segments, however, were overshadowed by the explosive gains posted by what Bowker calls the unclassified titles. The category consists largely of reprints, including those of public domain titles, plus other titles that are produced using print-on-demand production. According to Bowker, the largest producer of nontraditional books last year was BiblioBazaar which produced 272,930 titles, followed by Books LLC and Kessinger Publishing LLC which produced 224,460 and 190,175 titles, respectively. The Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace produced 21,819 books in 2009, while released 10,386. Xlibris and AuthorHouse, two imprints of AuthorSolutions, produced 10,161 and 9,445, title respectively. In something of an understatement, Kelly Gallagher, v-p of publishing services for Bowker, said that given the exceptional gains in the nontraditional segment the last three years, growth in that area "show[s] no signs of abating."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April Comparison of ECPA Publishers

Check out the April, 2010 Amazon rankings for the Top 15 ECPA publishers. This research lets you see both the overall industry rankings, plus each publisher's individual top 20 bestselling book list.

Why is this information helpful to you? This is one of the few ways that authors, agents, and publishers can simultaneously see how a publisher's best books stack up against their peers. For example, Neilsen BookScan doesn't let other publishers see the competition's sales numbers (only bestseller lists). But, WildFire's free research gives ECPA publishers a way to see which titles are selling well on Amazon at 14 other houses. This data is also helpful to see which authors, topics, and genres are dominating Amazon sales trends.

Items of Interest this Month:

a. Top-Selling Overall Titles:
1 - "Lies the Government Told You" (# 32) by Andrew Napolitano from Thomas Nelson
2 - "The Five Love Languages" (# 155) by Gary Chapman from Moody / Northfield
3 - "Crazy Love" (# 163) by Francis Chan from David C. Cook
Rankings exclude the originally self-published title, "The Shack" (# 112).

b. Biggest Publisher Moves:
Crossway jumps to # 7 this month from # 10 last month.
B&H Publishing jumps to # 9 this month from # 12 last month.
NavPress falls to # 11 this month from # 6 last month.

Note: Amazon rankings do not reflect accurate sales figures and only account for a small percentage of a book's total sales. However, they can help determine how specific publishers or book titles perform over time versue their peers.

Click here for an Excel spreadsheet of last month's rankings.

For all of the previous monthly rankings, click here.

Publishing Books to Make Money...

This is a great quote from Seth Godin. I highly recommend reading his blog.

Publishing books to make money...

is a little like hanging out in a singles bar if you want to get married.

It might work, but there are way better ways to accomplish your goal.

If you love writing or making music or blogging or any sort of performing art, then do it. Do it with everything you've got. Just don't plan on using it as a shortcut to making a living.

The only people who should plan on making money from writing a book are people who made money on their last book. Everyone else should either be in it for passion, trust, referrals, speaking, consulting, change-making, tenure, connections or joy.