Should I Only Accept Speaking Engagements That Pay?

Monday, August 05, 2019
by Pictures of Money on
Warning: Controversial post ahead...proceed with care.

I'm getting ready to teach WOW!'s new school visits and author talks class (starts tomorrow--you can still sign up!), and there's one point that always comes up when talking to writers about doing speaking engagements.

Should I require payment? (or Should I NOT do the author visit if I don't get paid?)

Some children's writers, especially, will answer that question: should I require payment? with a resounding yes. There is no doubt--they say: if you don't get paid, don't do it. These writers argue that if we do author visits without pay, then we are setting the bar low, and it's harder for them to get paid (of course--because they aren't budging). I see their logic, and I wish it were that simple. But is there anything in life that is this black and white? No.

I've done school visits and author talks without any fee. I've done some for a small payment. And I've done some for a large stipend. Yes, my time is valuable, and yes, I enjoy getting paid to speak. But--I look at each opportunity I am presented carefully before I say yes or no based on payment. Here are some of the questions I ask myself if the payment from the organiziation or school is low or non-existent:

1. Do I know the person who is asking me to speak? (Is it a friend or family member?)
2. Will I have an opporunity to sell books--will teachers or parents be there?
3. How much time and travel is expected?
4. What is my career goal at this time?
5. Do I already have a presentation I can use--where I won't have to spend hours preparing?
6. Did I ask if there are any grants or PTO money, etc that could be used?
7. Can I claim my regular fee as waived and then as a donation?

Most of these points above are self-explanatory, and so I won't go into grand detail about each one. But if you have a specific question about why I ask myself one of those questions, put it in the comments, and I'll be sure to follow-up.

So let me give you an example of a speaking event I did for no fee. My old school where I taught fifth grade had a reading night. They had already invited me to their school to do an author assembly during the day, where I was paid a nice stipend and sold books. This reading night was a separate event. My friend asked me to help out at it and said I could sell my books to parents--they would even have the teacher who was introducing me encourage parents to come up and purchase an authographed copy when I finished speaking. So, I said yes.

I knew the person who was asking me to speak (and they had paid me quite generously for a previous talk). I had the opportunity to sell books. It was not far from my house, and I just had to give a general talk about being an author. My career goal at the time was to get in front of as many kids and parents as I could and let them know about me and my books. Saying yes to that was a no-brainer.

It's not always that easy. And it is an individual decision--this is one time where you have to listen to your gut and do what you think is right. Don't be bullied either way--into requring a fee or not. Because I've heard the flip side from community members and non-authors/non-school types: "These authors expect to get paid to speak? I speak to women's groups, Sunday school classes, etc all the time for free."

Do what is right for your career and your family after you've given every speaking engagement you're offered careful consideration. It's up to you to choose what works for you.

Margo L. Dill is always happy to help authors decide what is right for them. You can email her at margo (at) to ask a simple question. This topic is just one of the various things covered in the upcoming author talk class, which you can register for here. And if you need a longer discussion, she offers writing coaching which you can purchase on her website here.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I imagine that--when the time comes for me to start setting up speaking engagements--I will do lots for free. Since that will be when I am a novelist newbie, I'll do them for free in my eagerness to get my name (and book) out there. It's also in my nature. In my opinion, teachers have a "mission" mentality and are often willing to donatedonatedonate their time and resources.

The #7 on your list--I hadn't even thought of that. Your sixth one is one I hadn't considered, either.

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