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