where the writers are
How to Turn a Writer Into a Speaker

One of the most time-tested ways to build an author platform involves good old fashioned speaking. By that I mean getting up in front of an audience and talking about something related to the topic of your book. This remains a great way to develop expert status and to connect with people who will one day purchase your books. In fact, if you already have books, you can sell them “at the back of the room,” as they say.

Today, many ways exist to speak. You can become a keynote speaker, offer workshops or seminars, or even speak from the comfort of your home by offering teleseminars or doing podcasts. The “real deal” remains getting up on stage and picking up a microphone—something many writers (and millions of Americans) possess a terrible fear of doing.

Yet, writing and speaking go hand in hand, and not just because authors are expected to take tours after their books are published. The two forms of communication—written and spoken—simply have a lot in common and offer a host of opportunities for savvy writers. In fact, some of the best known authors actually run successful speaking businesses in conjunction with writing and selling books.

That’s why I decided to ask one of the best known experts in the speaking industry to offer some advice to writers on how to become speakers. I was so pleased when Jane Atkinson, author of The Wealthy Speaker and coach and consultant to professional speakers, agreed to answer my questions. Here’s what she had to say:

Most writers don't consider themselves speakers. In many cases, they are more comfortable hiding behind their computers than appearing in front of an audience. Can you offer these aspiring authors three tips that might make it easier for them to transition from writer to speaker?

The first tip is definitely having the “desire” to speak.  If you don’t have a desire and passion to speak on your topic, then stick to the writing. That’s cool!  The business end of building a speaking career is tough.  It’s like starting any business, and you are going to need to tap into that passion from time to time.

Second, I would recommend you spend time and energy crafting your presentation.  As writers, you may have an easier time putting your speech on paper than most.  The goal is to know your speech so well that it comes out like a conversation.  You don’t want to be all up in your head thinking, “Where do I go next?”  Know your material inside and out.  Spending time crafting on the front end will pay off heavily because there is no better form of marketing than a great speech.

And that leads us to the third tip, which is being an expert.  Non-fiction writers with one topic area have the easiest time.  If you are called to write pieces on many subject areas, picking a lane (an expertise) might be more difficult.  Asking yourself the question “What do I want to be known for five years from now?” can help lead you in the right direction.

Can a writer to use his or her ability to write to enter into the speaking business? In other words, does that ability translate into the ability to craft a speech or to tell a good story?

As I said before, writers have a definite advantage. Think about building stories into your presentation that help paint mental pictures for your audience. How you do that on paper is similar to the way you do it in a speech.  Consider using $1.00 words rather than nickel words.  For example, “his fire engine red convertible” vs. his “red car.”  This is stuff you guys already know.

As aspiring authors begin speaking to build platform, they basically start a speaking business in conjunction with their writing or publishing business. What three essential things do they, therefore, need to know about starting a speaking business?

Take it seriously; it is a business not a hobby. Set aside cash flow for start up. And develop a business plan and strategy.

The strategy I follow is “Ready, Aim, Fire”:

  • Ready is where we get crystal clear on what we’re selling.
  • Aim is when we roll out that clear message into our marketing materials (i.e: website).
  • Fire is then rolling that out to our target markets.

Many people skip right to Fire without knowing what they are selling or how that will benefit their audiences.

Besides building an author's platform, what are one or two reasons why a writer or author would want to combine the ability to write with the ability to speak?

Well, imagine getting paid $10,000 for a one hour speech. Need I say more?  When someone helps people or companies solve a problem, they get a pay check. They aren’t paying necessarily for the one hour of time that you spend with them, but the 20 years of expertise that you bring to the table. So, ask yourself, “What problem can I solve that people will pay for?”

A lot of people get a big kick out of standing up and speaking in front of an audience.  It’s a rush.  If you can have a job doing something that is so much fun, then why not?

Did you self-publish or traditionally publish you book, and did your speaking platform help you with this in any way?

I self published my book and then took it to a hybrid-style publisher (Greenleaf) for distribution to the bookstores.  I’m approaching about 7,000 copies, which is pretty good considering my market is so small.  I have a really strong online presence, which has continued to gain momentum over the years. When I speak, I can usually sell 25-50 percent of the audience a book or a package.  

Having your books at the back-of-the-room is key.  If they like you, then people want to take a piece of you (your message) home with them.  This is especially true if you can help them solve a problem, or in my case, make them money.  I think people need to keep that back-of-room excitement in mind when considering publishing an e-book.  I think they’ll miss out on some business.

About the Author

President and CEO of Speaker Launcher, coaching and consulting, Jane Atkinson has more than 20 years experience in the speaking business.  Her book, The Wealthy Speaker, has been touted “the bible of the speaking industry.” For more information and Jane’s Blog, go to www.speakerlauncher.com

Don’t forget to sign in as a WNFIN participant here. Log into the WNFIN Forum here. Or check out the Facebook page.