Everybody knows that a successful book can launch a career as a public speaker. But what is less widely understood is how publishing a book can turbocharge an already successful speaking career.
Here’s the problem. Every professional public speaker will eventually hit a plateau. The market gets saturated, or everyone has heard your speech, or the event planners seek a new topic, or the conferences evolve. If you are a professional speaker, you must practice continuous self-reinvention. I know this because many of the authors we work with at LifeTree Media are professional public speakers, and as their publisher, we’ve had a front row seat on their career growth.
The most successful public speakers use every trick at their disposal to manage this process of self-reinvention and maintain visibility. It’s a constant effort, and we’re all familiar with the tools. The best experts continuously generate new material in articles, blog posts, podcasts and social media.
But there is one strategy that is far more powerful than any of the above: writing a book that can do double duty as a tangible vehicle for your ideas, and a brand ambassador for your public speaking.
If you want to raise your speaking fees from $10,000 to $20,000, or from $20,000 to $40,000, as we have seen our authors do, then your book must meet certain strategic objectives. Here’s how to achieve some of the most important credibility indicators:
1. Work the bestseller lists
Bestseller status is undeniably the most persuasive proof that your book is serious and important, and therefore so are you. But not all bestseller lists are equivalent. Hitting the New York Times, Washington Post, or Globe and Mail bestseller list is still the very best way to signal quality and credibility. Those rankings are based on sales data collected from brick and mortar booksellers as well as online retailers, so the only way to get your book on them is to sell a heck of a lot of copies – clearly, something that every author hopes for.
But if your book doesn’t make those highly competitive lists, there are other ways to earn a meaningful bestseller distinction. Amazon’s bestseller lists are calculated by algorithms, and are based not on the number of units sold, but the pace of sales relative to other items in that product class from one hour to the next. Because those product categories are sliced into incredibly narrow niches, it can actually be fairly easy to get onto the Amazon bestseller list, if only for a brief flash, by coordinating a flurry of purchases at an odd hour of the day.
It may not carry quite the same weight as being on the NYT general nonfiction list, but ranking on a niche bestseller list can actually be almost as beneficial for public speakers who lecture on a highly specialized topic. To make this pay off, you must understand exactly what your brand is, and your book must be in perfect alignment with your speaking message.
2. Get your book in stores
In publishing parlance, this is called being in “the trade”, and it is where all the action and attention are. Aside from the obvious benefit of being available to book buyers, in-store distribution is essential to your marketing. You’ll never get a book review in mainstream media if your book is not in stores. It really is that simple.
This is an important consideration in working out your publishing strategy. Self-publishing a book can be beneficial in a number of ways, but getting you onto store shelves isn’t one of them. To do that, your book must be sold through an established distribution channel, and no distributor will work with a self-published author with a single book. They want volume and consistency in their supply, so they work with publishers who can guarantee a steady stream of saleable titles every season. This means that, aside from exceedingly rare exceptions to the rule, there are just two ways to get distribution: either you sign on with a traditional publisher, or you work with a reputable hybrid publisher that has full-scale nationwide distribution.
3. It helps to win an award
The most prestigious and credible awards are those that are peer-reviewed or juried by a professional panel of experts or editors. Of course, winning an award like this is largely beyond your control. (That’s why they carry so much more weight than awards to which authors pay a submission fee.)
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get on the judges’ radar. When we were doing the media campaign for Vaporized by Robert Tercek, our publicist Jane Wesman submitted the book to the editors of getAbstract, a kind of Readers’ Digest for business books. One year later, we were on stage at the Frankfurt Book Fair with the author to receive the getAbstract 2016 International Book Award, having been selected from a field of 10,000 other business titles by their editorial team.
Tercek now tells us that that award has done more to boost his public speaking business and speaking fees than the rest of his PR and media campaign activities combined. It also prompted Wiley Germany to pick up the book for publication in the German-language market.
4. Focus on quality
It should go without saying that quality matters, but it bears repeating: the most important determinant of your book’s success is the strength of the work itself. Don’t view it merely as a calling card, or a necessary but burdensome piece of content marketing to be cranked out as quickly as possible. To make an impact, your book must be one that real readers will enjoy, benefit from, and recommend to others. Plan your book carefully with the support of a strong developmental editor. Invest in it meaningfully with your time, attention and resources. If you take your book seriously, others will too.
Ready to boost your speaking fees? Contact us today.
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