I have a question for the authors out there. It has almost no bearing on my life; itís just something Iím curious about.
When asked to speak on a topic, especially one on which you have written a book, what is the protocol regarding expenses? Do authors charge a fee to the group that invited them? Is a token fee expected? Are authors/speakers expected to pay their own way and hope increased sales cover the expenses? How does a book tour work? Do bookstores invite you? Do you ask for a time and table to sit at?
I imagine that authors with major publishing houses get the publisher to cover expenses, but smaller publishers or self-published probably donít. I could be way off here.
My thoughts are that if itís local, one could speak as a courtesy, but if it involved travel of a couple hundred miles at least a tank of gas might be covered, or a per diem rate for meals and lodging. Greater distances and Iím thinking plane tickets and now we are talking real money. Further, my thoughts are that speaking engagements would not be viewed as profit generating activites.
I have given presentations at conferences (work related) and have never been compensated nor did I expect to be. I don't know why this thought popped into my head; it just did.
I have 9 books on Amazon and 2 or 3 more coming out this month. I'm in the top 2% of eBook authors on Amazon.
Nobody could pay me enough to give a presentation, so I'd do it for free. There are different ways to value a book. If a book generates $250 a year, the rights to that book are worth about $10,000. If I use this formula, I've been making $2,750 a day. I work about 3 hours a day, so my time is worth $900 an hour.
That explains why I don't come here often anymore.
If someone at the local university asked me to speak, I'd do it for free because it would be fun. My niche is building an eBook career, so I'd be a good choice for Universities.
If I were planning a hike in the Grand Canyon, I'd speak at a school in Las Vegas, which would make most of the trip tax deductible.
There are authors building a business as coaches. Most start around $6,000 a year to exchange emails. I've seen one charging $500 an hour for personal coaching.
I would teach a workshop for 2 or 3 hours a day at the community college or University for free. I would benefit more than the students, because I'd learn more information for my books.
Last decade I wrote a nautical novel back in my liveaboard sailing days, SoBe Boatees, and spent half a year doing a half-#%& job of promoting it. The only time I was ever 'asked' to speak was at a book club, and I paid all expenses, even down to the glasses of wine I was drinking during my talk.
Mostly I generated (the few) sales on the 'boat show' circuit, hawking it at a free table given by the organizers of the events, catching the eye of the few passersby on their way to the lavish Latitudes & Attitudes tent in that fantasy world created by the magazine's publisher, Bob Bitchin.
I paid all expenses to get there, no fee of course -- even for giving the free tent lectures -- but it was worth it 'cause I was given free admission to see all that boating junk and I met some great fellow boating authors, several that I'm still friends with. It was a fun experience, but in the crowded world of modern publishing, certainly not lucrative. Gershon and his discussion of electronic books are where it is at.
I hope that Wandering Daisy gives her insight, and Sarbar, too. Their hiking/camping related books certainly aren't in my 'lark' category.' I think the sales of their books to those attending an author event, who attended to improve their hiking and backpacking experience, might be the reason for those two speaking without a fee.
Have you talked to the conference sponsor about reimbursing your travel expenses? I do a variety of conference presentations (ranging from one or two one-hour presentations at a two day conference to presenting for 6-8 hours a day at one day or two day events.) In all cases, the sponsoring organization (who is charging people to attend, and therefore making money from your presentation) at least pays my travel expense (mileage or plane fare, meals, and hotels.) For half a day or longer, I am normally paid an additional fee for speaking. (I turn that fee over to my company, since they're still paying my salary and not requiring me to use vacation time to travel or present. In effect, it's no different than spending a week in another city generating audit fees from a client.) The shorter presentations I simply chalk up as reciprocation for being asked to give paid presentations, and as part of the payback to a profession that has been very rewarding to me. (When you're measuring the amount of compensation, you also need to factor in any continuing education credit you earn, since that's credits you don't have to pay to obtain. If you don't have a continuing education requirement for maintaining a license or certification, this wouldn't be a factor, of course.)
If the event sponsor won't cover your travel, you might talk to your employer about reimbursing your travel expenses for making these presentations at conferences. After all, the employer is probably getting an intangible benefit from your speaking: you are making contacts that can lead to referrals, you're building up other contacts you can use as information resources in your own work, and you're generally adding to the luster of your company's name. And, depending on who's attending the conference, you may even be picking up customers/clients occasionally. In the rare case where my travel isn't covered, our company picks up the tab for it.
Edited by Glenn Roberts (04/09/1306:24 AM) Edit Reason: additional thought on compensation
My situation is a little different than yours and I'm guessing the conferences are also. This isn't good or bad, it just is.
I work for state government so the profit motivation isn't a factor.
The conferences I attend are usually of a scientific nature and one typically applies to present. Presenting at one of these conerences is less than publishing in a peer-reviewed/referreed publication, but it is still good for one's reputation. The downside is that many private companies use the presentations more for advertising than sharing of research or ideas. There are some invited speakers and I don't know what their situation is.
Who sponsors the conference, the government or a non-government entity? If it's the government, and the primary purpose is to educate other government employees (your peers), it would seem that either your agency or the sponsoring agency should cover travel. (I would also hope they don't make you use vacation.)
If it's a non-government entity, I would not feel bad about asking them to cover the travel (especially if they charge people to attend.) However, some government agencies have conflict-of-interest rules that might preclude this (under the pretext that if the conference puts you up at a Motel 6 and buys you a Big Mac combo, they've somehow bought influence.)
Is there any kind of "slush fund" (in the good sense of the word) or other supporting funds that you could access? I once audited a "contingency fund" associated with a VA hospital. The doctors could not accept fees for participating in medical studies or presentations at conferences (it was legitimate to participate in such things, they just couldn't personally benefit.) So, they established a formal foundation, had all speaker and study participation fees paid to the foundation, and the foundation used the money to pay registrations and travel for nurses and paraprofessionals to attend seminars that were useful and relevant, but not needed to maeet minimum licensure requirements. Perhaps your agency has something similar you could access for travel?
At the very least, any business related travel you do may be deductible as unreimbursed employee expenses on your tax return. I haven't been in tax practice for 10 or 15 years, so I don't recall the exact rules; you'll want to contact a local tax preparer if it's enough to bother with.
I am very much in the same place as Glenn on this. I speak at about five-ten conferences a year. I am almost ALWAYS paid for my expenses. When the conference charges for admission, and one of the attractions is my presentation, then i also charge a speaker's fee, from $300 (for an event that I can without getting on a plane) to $1000 for a longer trip.
But I would also suggest that if you are invited to speak without any expenses covered, it still might be worth it to you---if you think the exposure to that audience might ultimately help your career.
And if you want to get invited twice, practice enough that your talk is both informative and entertaining. I think I get most of my presentations because I am entertaining as a speaker...and then cover the material!
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