Does Public Speaking Help You Sell Books (and Vice Versa)?

Updated on May 22, 2020
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert; author of books, eBooks, and audiobooks; and former trade newspaper editor.

Does a self-published book help you land public speaking gigs—and do those gigs help you sell your book? The answer is both yes and no!
Does a self-published book help you land public speaking gigs—and do those gigs help you sell your book? The answer is both yes and no! | Source

Does Writing a Book Help You Get Speaking Gigs? Do Speaking Gigs Help Sell Your Book?

One of the myths pushed by online business coaching programs is that if you have written a book, whether traditionally or self-published, you will be able to get public speaking gigs. On the flip side of the equation, there are those who suggest that public speaking will help you sell more books. I'm here to tell you that they're both right and both dead wrong.

True, having a published book on your professional resume can give you a bit of clout and make you more palatable to event organizers who hire speakers. It is also true that having a book, especially if self-published, can offer book sales opportunities at events where you are the featured speaker.

But that's in the theoretical sense. In today's real world of networking and technology, these time-honored perks of publishing and speaking are not the drivers of book sales and speaking fees that they once were.

Publishing Isn't What It Used to Be

Though authors who attempt it may disagree, self publishing today is so much easier than it's even been in history. And even though they may still respect the work of an author who speaks at an event, event sponsors and organizers know that becoming a published author isn't as herculean an effort as it used to be. The only exception might be for traditionally published authors (who also have additional marketing challenges as we'll discuss later).

Plus, event organizers and sponsors are not regularly scanning the publishing universe for new authors, either traditionally or self published, to hire as speakers. There's just too much being published to review! Getting speaking gigs still requires a significant sales effort.

So, depending on the event host, touting an author status may not be the ticket that leads to a speaking opportunity.

In-person networking events have been attracting fewer people in recent years.
In-person networking events have been attracting fewer people in recent years. | Source

Lower In-Person Event Participation

With some exceptions, over the past decade, it's been my observation that live in-person networking and events are attracting less and less attendees on a regular basis. This reduces both speaking and book sale revenue potential. If there are less paid attendees, there are less funds available to hire speakers. And with lower actual attendance, there are fewer opportunities to sell books or even build an opt-in email marketing list.

"I'll Get It On My Kindle."

EBooks are fantastic... except when you're trying to make book sales at an event. Selling books at events necessitates having a print edition so as not to lose out on impulse sales. While that does expand sales opportunities for print books, it can also increase costs since the author must have a stock of physical print books at the event.

Then the next issue authors face is how many books to bring. It's been my experience that maybe 5 to 10 percent or less of the in-person attendees will actually buy the print book at the event.

Lowering the on-site print book sales is the "I'll get it on my Kindle" eBook reading attendees. Will they actually buy the book after the event? My experience is that I haven't seen a significant bump in Kindle eBook sales afterwards. Some of these attendees are just trying to be nice by saying they'll buy the eBook later.

Plus, there's the issue of Kindle Unlimited. Some of the eBook reading attendees may be subscribers to this Amazon program that allows unlimited monthly access to participating Kindle eBooks. The author will only get paid for pages read (and usually only for a portion of the total eBook's pages) if he has enrolled his book in the KDP Select program which requires exclusivity on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing self publishing platform.

Getting "Paid" in Book Sales

To save on budgets, some event organizers recruit authors to speak with the carrot of book sales opportunities at the event. Some events may offer author speakers an honorarium. But, more often, they're hoping that the author speaker will be content with gaining book sales from attendees at the event. There are a number of problems with this arrangement.

First, as noted earlier, very few attendees may actually buy the book after the event. Plus, it's chaotic trying to answer attendees' post event questions while trying to complete book purchase transactions. Some impatient attendees just give up and don't buy. Others may surreptitiously swipe a copy of the book without paying.

Next, again because of the low book sales potential, the meager amount of book revenues will not equitably compensate the author speaker for their time and travel.

Lastly, if the only benefit from speaking at these events is book sales, authors may turn their presentations into sales presentations, lowering attendee satisfaction. I've attended events where the whole premise was to have authors "sell from the stage." In addition to books for sale in the lobby, they were selling their coaching or consulting. But I think you can imagine that the presentation was a hard sell for both types of purchases.

Word to the wise: If an event intends to "pay" you in book sales opportunities, ask them to purchase the books for every attendee in advance. This helps avoid the situation of being promised a good turnout and only a few show up. (I've experienced this first hand on multiple occasions. Learned my lesson!)

Traditional Publishing Troubles

Even though self publishing has attained a great deal of acceptance over time, there is still a level of prestige attached to being a traditionally published author, especially with a big trade publisher. Can that increase the number of resulting speaking gigs?

Remember that larger traditional publishers may spend little time promoting an author after the initial book launch. It's just not profitable for them to do so unless it's a big name author. So lesser known traditionally published authors are faced with the same search for speaking gigs as their self published colleagues, even though they may be able to command higher speaking fees.

But the book sales opportunities are worse than for self publishing. Some traditionally published authors may bring a few copies to sell at events. But it's been my observation that they usually only bring a couple copies to be used as door prizes. Why? Because after the few author copies their publisher offers them during the book launch, they typically must pay full retail price for any additional copies. Since they really can't charge more than retail, it just doesn't make sense for them to offer books for sale at a loss.

I've even been at an event where the traditionally published author speaker encouraged attendees to buy his book on Amazon, but said that he'll only get about $0.60 in royalties for each copy. When one of the attendees held up her copy of the book, the speaker thanked her for her purchase. But then to add insult to injury, the attendee said that it wasn't her book because she borrowed it from the library. Well, maybe he made a royalty on the sale to the library.

So Should You Do Both Public Speaking AND Publishing?

Yes. However, realize that both efforts are public relations that could help make sales of books, speaking, and other services in the future. It's the whole book marketing versus marketing with books situation!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • Have you noticed any changes in the last year with your book sales due to public speaking?

    Now that almost all of my business is done online, I'm doing almost no in-person speaking. However, I am doing more "speaking" with my podcast (audio and video). My total book sales for this year are pretty similar to last year, except that the mix of formats is different. Last year it was only print and eBooks. This year, with the introduction of audio editions and the podcast, a sizable portion of the book sales are now in audio. So I think this speaks to the point that the venue or audience could have an impact on sales. People who listen to a podcast could be good prospects for audio books.

    Does having books help me get gigs? Well, it used to years ago when I would speak to groups. Now that I've built my own speaking platform online, books don't help me get gigs.

© 2017 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Billybuc, I've got to admit that I have somewhat of a love-hate thing with speaking, too. I love speaking and connecting with people. But all the brouhaha surrounding it? Not so much. Glad you enjoyed my straight shootin'! Have a wonderful day!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    3 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I have this love-hate thing going with public speaking. I'm good at it, but is it worth the internal anguish leading up to it? As always, great information....very realistic, you shoot from the hip and tell it like it is, which I love.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Laura, it is truly an uphill battle! Glad this gave you some perspective to help make decisions about your upcoming endeavors. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, I feel their pain, too! So authors and speakers really need to do some serious cost-benefit analysis before they launch headlong into a speaking strategy. Thanks for your compassion! Have a great day!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    3 years ago from USA

    This makes me feel so much more empathy for authors in the circumstances described. It's bad enough to receive little compensation for your intellectual property but I had no idea that traditional authors may have to buy extra books at the retail price if they're going to be offering them at events. What a let down.

  • Laura335 profile image

    Laura Smith 

    3 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

    This has helped to answer a lot of the questions I've had about public events. I'm about to publish my fourth book, and I will most likely self-publish again. I've been looking into author visits/events, and it seems like it's just as much of an uphill battle as any other method of marketing. Thanks for the tips!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)