The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Working with speakers bureaus

Yesterday I had to check in with our speakers bureau to find out about some events scheduled for an author, which reminded me that a reader had written in with a question about speakers bureaus.

I actually don’t know a lot about speakers bureaus — anyone who does should feel free to comment — but I’ll throw out a few preliminary thoughts.  This might seem odd to someone who doesn’t work in publishing since both book publicists and lecture agents schedule author talks, but we don’t work together closely since agents schedule talks for a fee and publicists schedule them for free.  Typically, publicists will set up author events around the time the book is published, while lecture agents set them up at other times.

Some publishing houses like The Penguin Group and HarperCollins have their own speakers bureaus.  (Authors can have multiple lecture agents unless a contract has an exclusivity clause.)  For authors interested in signing with a speakers bureau — or for publicists looking to give advice to authors — my not very specific suggestions would be to get advice from someone who has worked with a lecture agent / speakers bureau and also to simply Google “speakers bureau” for some general information.  (And keep in mind that some literary agents double as lecture agents.)

The advantage of a gig arranged by a speakers bureau is the speaking fee, which is split in some manner (ironed out in the contract) between the speaking agency and the author.  The downside, not suprisingly, is that paid speaking events are harder to come by than free ones.  Also, host organizations are looking for engaging speakers — not necessarily book sales.  Authors who want their books sold at speaking engagements should consider having it spelled out in the contract that the host venue will arrange for books to be sold.  (The publishing house can arrange for books to be sold at talks, but depending on the venue and the size of the audience, arranging for book sales at non-bookstore venues can be dicey — check my What you need to know about off-site book sales post for more information.)  Some organizations will ticket events and the price of the ticket includes a book (or a discount towards the purchase of a book).

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Authors and publicists — Have you worked with lecture agents?  Any advice for someone looking to sign with a speakers bureau?

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April 21, 2009 - Posted by | Events |

5 Comments »

  1. I worked for a speakers bureau about ten years ago that specialized in representing high-profile clients primarily in areas of business management and technology. At that time there was a large market for professional speaking opportunities – primarily at annual meetings and other corporate events. I imagine with the economic climate the way it is, the market has grown for expert opinions and motivational speakers.

    This agency I worked for did represent some fiction authors and others who fell outside the specific interest areas (a musician, historian, baseball coach, and a gymnast just to name a few), but those talks primarily focused on setting goals, overcoming adversity, etc. My advice is to those who want to be represented by such an agency is to have this pitch well thought out. How can you contribute your knowledge to those in other industries? Often, the topic may be outside of the subject area of your book.

    When a company or group was interested in booking a speaker they coordinated with an agent and were sent bios and videos of potential matches to their needs (the client was responsible for providing the video – make it a good quality video, that can make a huge difference). While the company I worked for represented many big names across a wide array of industries, not all were particularly engaging or good speakers.

    To the contrary, I noticed that many who found success had a strong message or the name recognition that would lend more impact to a particular event. Those who were booked most often worked hard to promote themselves and build good relationships with individual agents in the bureau.

    Comment by jmdonahue | April 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Comment by Yen | April 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. My company works with a lot of authors, publishers and literary agents. We almost always require book sales and signings at our events. One hand does wash the other. The better the book sales for an author, the more marketable they are as a speaker. The reverse is true also. We are able to bridge the gap in publisher’s disappearing promotion budgets and put money in the author’s pocket– as well as our own.

    One thing to keep in mind re full-time lecture agencies vs the in-house agencies set up by publishers is that the in-house publisher agencies are more reactive than proactive– they basically follow up on inquiries, whereas the full-time agencies like mine APB have extensive data bases of lecture sponsors and aggressively call, mail, and email out to these organizations on a regular basis. Plus, we keep working for the speaker, even after the demand for book, author, publicity for the publisher, etc are gone– or the author/speaker moves on to another publisher, etc

    Comment by Ken Eisenstein | April 21, 2009 | Reply

    • Dear Ken, I am in the odd position of needing a lecture agent because my agent, Jane Pasanen, Chelsea Forum, has passed away. I am the author of THE BEREAVED PARENT, LIVING THROUGH MOURNING, HOW DID I BECOME MY PARENT’S PARENT? (all Viking/Penguin books)I do arrange my own lectures now with nursing homes but I am in great need of a professional organization. I have appeared on Donahue, Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, etc. I need guidance on fees and someone to be out there for me getting me speaking engagements. If you are that person please contact me at the above email site. My phone is 248 730 0444.

      Comment by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff | June 1, 2009 | Reply

  4. please let me know if Ken Eisenstein replies

    Comment by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff | June 1, 2009 | Reply


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