Board Member’s Memo
Become an Expert to Boost Your Bottom Line
by MaryAnn F. Kohl
Are you the publisher and/or the author of a how-to or how-I book? Then you are a premier expert on its subject matter, and sharing your knowledge and experience as an expert will help you reach the people in your market and improve your bottom line. Capitalize on your expertise by offering yourself as a consultant, workshop leader, keynote speaker, or other kind of presenter.
Publishers with numerous authors, take note. Encouraging your authors to be recognized as experts can lead to selling more books and increase income for you and for them.
I know this from personal experience, which I offer as a starting point for understanding how to reap the rewards of being an expert.
I write books about art for children, books of activities and projects that reflect my philosophy: children benefit most by creating true art rather than copying cutesy crafts adults have made.
Because I have a focused philosophy to offer educators, librarians, and others who work with children, I am often hired to give workshops, full-day trainings, keynotes, and other kinds of presentations to share my perspective. The highlights of my offerings are hands-on art experiences with materials I bring and projects I set up.
Through my books and presentations, I have become the expert on children’s creative art education, and because of that, I am in demand around the country to share what I know. I am paid well to do so, and I also earn income from the books I sell at my presentations to back up the experience for my listeners.
How do you find consulting and speaking gigs for sharing your expertise? Better yet, how do they find you and invite you?
Facebook, of course, is one place to begin. Create a spin-off page from your personal Facebook page that is dedicated to your professional life as an author and expert. Describe and offer your services, providing full contact information and a link to your Website where anybody interested in hiring you can find your fees, speaking topics, FAQs, and bio.
Make it easy for people to contact you by email and telephone. When they do, get back to them as quickly as possible, preferably the same day. And don’t be shy about asking to be compensated.
Facebook is also a great tool for finding organizations in your area of expertise. I search for child care resource and development groups, state associations for the education of young children, state librarians associations, and so on.
“Friend” the ones that relate to your knowledge, say hello, and let them know you are available for keynotes, consulting, workshops, or whatever you wish to offer.
Then, after “friending” these organizations, offer interesting posts to their pages that relate to their field, including relevant news about interviews or magazine articles you have done and news or research results or information about events that they will find helpful or interesting. Don’t make your posts just about you all the time; use them to show that you are in the know and a great resource for them.
Then there’s Google, which I also use to search for organizations that may benefit from my expert knowledge. When you have found promising prospects through Google, send emails or letters or even just friendly postcards. Include your Website address and full contact information.
Many of my own successes have come from these “reach out and touch someone” efforts. When someone replies, I immediately send a packet or brochure or sheet about me and what I offer. Then I follow up.
One of my most successful tools is a sheet of FAQs that covers just about everything anyone might ever ask. People seem to love this easy way to learn about my presentations and workshops.
I also send them what I call my “Checklist,” which lines out who does what and what to expect at my workshops and presentations. It’s all there — contact information, tax number, who pays for the hotel, who pays for art supplies, who sets up the tables, who makes the hotel reservations, and much more. I’ve been told that this is a huge hit with the organizers of events, because it saves tremendous time in planning for both the group and the presenter.
Some author-experts have a “press room” on their Websites that clearly presents all the information bookers will want. Including a video clip can be extremely important. This one example of you as a speaker can do more to sell you as an expert than all other details you provide. A simple video made with a smartphone is good enough, just 30 seconds and you’re done!
Blogs are good tools too. Find blogs that relate to your interest area. Post comments and become involved. After a bit, offer each blog owner a free book giveaway for followers as well as an interview with you sharing your knowledge.
Use these interviews to propel yourself further along. As more and more people learn to recognize your name and your books and how you can help them in their field, blogs can become an amazing source of invitations to speak, consultant, or present.
Tweets, magazine and journal articles, online radio interviews, and other appearances will also bring you to the attention of people who will want to hire you, so keep at it.
A word about free events: The more you are in the public eye, the more chances you have to be hired to offer events or consultations. Speak at your public library; offer talks at bookstores; and show up at community events, possibly with a sales table and always with something to give away free, even if it’s just balloons for the kiddies. Bring a stack of your promotional brochures about your speaking engagements. Business cards are great too, but you need that brochure so people will have your FAQs and presentation topics at hand, and won’t easily forget about them.
You may have a sense of what you should charge based on what you have paid for consultants or speakers. Or maybe you know someone doing something similar and can find out what they charge. It’s a good idea to ask others in your field what they are charging to get a ballpark figure to work from.
In my field, the fee for a full=day training that runs from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. will be between $1,500 and $5,000, plus expenses (hotel, airfare, rental car). For shorter jobs, the fees are about the same, because a day away is a day away. Be ready to adjust as needed, because different kinds of venues may set different fees.
That wide spread of fees has more to do with what the author-expert requires than it does with what the group requires. Therefore, I suggest you request fees in the higher range. If you are a little unsure as a beginner, start a bit lower and raise your fees as you gain confidence and perfect your presentation style, content, and materials.
Fees can always be negotiated, so value yourself and don’t undersell your skills. If you start high, you can always come down. You are an expert, after all. The more experiences you have under your belt, the easier it will be to estimate what you should charge.
Be sure to save a list of contacts from each engagement to use for recommendations to new clients.
Selling books before, during, and/or after your events can also generate income. Pre-event sales provide a great way to get attendees excited about your topic and your visit, and they give you a better idea of how many books to bring or ship. Offering a special price for pre-event sales is friendly and effective. The sponsoring organization can handle presales to their members or to people who have signed up for the event, and you provide the books. Sometimes a local bookstore or other retail shop will set up a sales table for their products and handle yours as well.
People love autographs, so plan to sit and chat and autograph your books at your events, probably during the lunch break (no, you don’t usually get to eat a real lunch!). If possible, ask the folks sponsoring the event to handle the sales of books you provide, and always make credit card purchases possible. (The new cubes that fit on an iPhone or other device are great!) You will be too busy to do it all, so be sure you have the sales portion of your event set up in advance.
If you have handouts or other promotional materials, always include a list of your books that tells people how to buy them. You may prefer to use Amazon only or make your own Website the preferred sales venue. Some experts route all their sales to their distributor, a wholesaler, or a local independent bookstore or other retailer. The choice is yours; but whatever you choose, make the buying process clear and easy, and include an old-fashioned order form with your handouts. Some people still like to mail in a check (yes, it’s true).
How much can you add to your bottom line by being an expert? A little or a lot. Because it is difficult to guess what any particular author-expert might achieve in one year, let’s look at one example; then you can plug in your own numbers.
Consider an author-expert who offers five strong events in one year. With 200 people attending each and with a fee of $4,000 per event plus expenses, the take is $20,000. Estimate sales on one $20 book to half the attendees for another $2,000. Deduct $2 per book to cover production and shipping costs, and $100 for incidental expenses. There you have it—$21,700, give or take, added to the bottom line for five events with one book offered.
This is obviously a very loose estimate. Book sales can be much higher if you have numerous titles. If you add more events, large or small or both, the total goes up quickly, as do the sales of your books. Piggybacking events in one location makes expenses per event lower and sales higher. And the more events you do, the more you will be invited to offer more.
Authors sometimes worry that adding all this activity will make it more difficult to find time for writing. The solution lies in being honest and disciplined about what’s possible for a busy author. Some author-experts like to space events over the course of a year, leaving room to write in between. Others like to squeeze their events close together in one big hunk of time and then be done with them for quite a while. It’s important, of course, for writers to make writing a priority. After all, that’s how writers become experts.
Ask any author-expert, “What is the best part of interacting and sharing your knowledge with people who come to your events?” Most will answer, “They inspire me to write!” And that’s the real bonus.
MaryAnn F. Kohl is the owner of Bright Ring Publishing, Inc, established in 1985, and the author of more than 20 art education books for teachers, kids, and parents published by Bright Ring and by Gryphon House, Inc. A member of the IBPA board of directors, she is a BN.com Parent Expert and a winner of numerous Benjamin Franklin Awards. To learn more: brightring.com.