Get Your Rear in Gear (back-cover matter that matters)

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I’ve written previously about how a book’s cover must be good. It’s got to engage and set a hook. Essentially, the cover has to make them want to pick the book up; the back cover matter has to keep it in their hand. It’s really a one-two punch that makes them want to buy your book. It’s their first peek at what you have and it’s your responsibility as an author to keep them there.

Think of your book like a house. If the outside is a dump, they won’t want to look inside—that’s the cover. A blurb is their peek through the door or window; if there’s a dead hooker lying on the floor, they probably don’t want to go in—the same goes for if it looks trashed and sloppy. Buying the book is the reader’s agreement to come inside and live in this house for a while. Nobody wants to stay in a meth-house with dead prostitutes, no matter how cheap that AirBnB might be… not again.

A lot of Indie writers make the mistake of flying by the seat of their pants on the back cover (myself included). It’s easy to look at it flippantly and think dang, I just wrote 100,000 +/- words… another 200 is a cakewalk. It is not. These might be the most difficult to write well and might be your most important. You have one short page worth of text to convince someone to take this book home—it’s got to be the best page. If you’re like most Indie writers, this will probably also be the text you have at the top of your book description on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, Smashwords, etc. It is going to be your primary ad copy so do it right.

While I write both nonfiction and fiction, I’m concentrating on fiction here on cover content advice.

What should be on my back cover?
Space is limited, so remember that this is expensive real estate and everything has to work perfectly. What goes on your back cover may be as important as what you are sure to leave off!  If you have an endorsement, it had better be a good one—someone recognized as a bona fide expert or name in the genre… anything less can become a waste of space. Make sure your short bio is written tightly and include a photo, but make it a quality headshot that is cropped neatly. A shortlist of things on your rear would include 1. Blurb/text 2. Small photo 3. Short Bio 4. One-line Hook (sometimes called a logline), single-sentence elevator pitch, or gripping headline 5. Optional endorsement.

 

Back cover elements of the primary text:
The above elements are a pretty good rule of thumb—but how do you write the actual text? Your content should be similar to the story overview pieces you might have included in a query letter to prospective literary agents or publishers. A good formula for this is to 1. introduce your characters (and any brief elements that are necessary to the environment—don’t build a world here or focus on the setting, but if it’s in the 1800’s or an alien planet, you might mention it). 2. Describe the central conflict they face and 3. highlight the stakes. Ask the question what will happen if your protagonists fail.

There are many approaches to take and many writers swear by certain elements/formulas. Here are a few elements you may want to be sure to highlight.
-keep the book “at a glance friendly.” If it looks overwhelming to a casual reader, they probably won’t wade into the text with much sincerity.
-try to provoke emotions or entice readers with questions or promises
-use a rhythm and voice that sets a tone. Think of the book as a movie and the back cover like a movie trailer—you have just a few short sentences to suck them in. Build a cadence and hook them.
-probably the most important is to focus on what your book is about, not what happens in its pages. You aren’t summarizing the plot, you are crafting a hook to the story at large

One formula you might try is proposed by author and editor Victoria Mixon (victoriamixon.com) and goes like this:
When [identity] [protagonist name] [does something], [something happens]. Now, with [time limit/restrictions], [protagonist] must [do something brave] to [accomplish great achievement]/ or [sacrifice high stakes].
Here’s what my book, Wolf of the Tesseract, looks like with this formula:

While investigating a series of strange murders in her neighborhood, college student Claire Jones is kidnapped by a handsome werewolf who claims he’s rescuing her from the clutches of an evil sorcerer. But she can’t run forever and if Claire and her companion can’t reclaim an arcane artifact to end the warlock’s reign of terror, he will unleash the dark god Sh’logath’s cataclysmic power upon the universe, shattering dimensional barriers, and devouring all reality.

Other things to keep in mind:
–The font should be readable and sized appropriately. Pick a color that stands out and is easy to read. I’ve erred here before and quickly made corrections. Sometimes it doesn’t look as nice on paper as it does on a screen; always purchase a galley copy to double check how it looks in print if you are self-publishing.
–Keep the blurb on the shorter side—it should be succinct. Think about the success of Twitter: the shorter something is, the more likely it is to be read.
–Typos, and grammar or style errors are a sure giveaway to a reader that the book was pushed out too early. I’ve found some in my own books and always go back and fix them ASAP… sometimes things get missed by editors, but it creates a huge obstacle to selling people your book. Thanks to POD, you can fix most of these as they arise, but it’s a better plan to avoid them in the first place.
–Pick a consistent voice for your text and think about your audience before you put pen to paper. If the writing comes off as pretentious or juvenile you will probably alienate readers (even if you are targeting pretentious or juvenile readers.) Some voices work, some don’t. Give it thought before you read so you can color it appropriately.

One of the better articles I’ve read about this from fellow bloggers can be read here:
https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/05/casey-demchak-back-cover-copy/

 

 

Are We There Yet? Plot Your Roadmaps.

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I’ve written before about having a plan. It’s important to have at least some sort of a plan for marketing, promotion, and also writing. I’ve been both a seat-of-the-pants writer and also an outliner when it comes to my manuscripts. I strongly recommend some kind of written track to help you get from the beginning of the story and to the end; having an outline, or at least some sort of well-rounded chapter summary will help immensely when you are editing.

This week we are talking about Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Perhaps this is the most important kind of story to have a map for your plot arcs. I read a great article recently about building a story map for CYOA storylines. As a teenage fan of them, I’d always wanted to write a CYOA… and maybe I will do just that in the near future.

In the meanwhile, I’d recommend that you check out this interesting article over here:
http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/cyoa-choose-your-own-adventure-maps

My advice for this week is to play with maps that trace out the story plot arcs. It helps keep your main focus pointed and allows you to interweave your subplots seamlessly around the primary arc and then tied them altogether in a succinct way that will have greater impact to your reader. It will also let you know where you are in your story progression so you can properly build a climax and denouement, etc.

Whatever works for you is great–just make sure that it actually works and your not just avoiding the extra work of writing an outline (but, like I always say–writers write… so when I’m playing with my thoughts and putting them on paper so I remember my ideas it’s just a matter of reorganizing them into an outline, anyway). I’ve found it’s easier and quicker to get where I’m going when I know the way there.

Book Piracy Survey

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I was selling books at my booth at a comicon and had been discussing my stories which were of interest to someone I was pitching to. He actually had the gall to simply tell me he would read it after he pirated it from the internet. It kind of took me aback for a second, but we had a chat about ethics and piracy and how some of my stories have made more money for internet pirates than they’ve ever generated for me. In fact, one of my books was reposted under a new author with the same summary description and a poorly edited cover with an altered title and my name covered with a black box and new name over it.

In retrospect, I don’t think he “had the gall” to tell me his intentions. I think I had a good enough rapport with him that he was just being honest and it kind of slipped out. When I think of books and publishing, epiracy isn’t usually something I think about right away… I always think of movies and music as being the target of pirates because our culture has told us so much about it via the media… pretty much every video since the 1980s has had some kind of FBI warning giving us consequences for intellectual content violations and the Napster scandal of the early 2000s told us that Lars, Metallica’s drummer, would personally show up at your house and beat you with a wooden shoe if you downloaded music illegally. Nobody has really talked about books… I mean, pirates can’t even read, right?

Interestingly, Nielson’s did a study on book piracy, as reported in the NYT in March 17. “E-book piracy currently costs U.S. publishers $315 million each year in lost sales.” I know this sounds pretty benign as an Indie/self-published author… but when you look at it realistically, it means that YOU are a U.S. publisher—so this has a direct effect on you.

Here are some of their findings.

  • The majority of illegal downloaders are 18 to 34 years old, educated and wealthy (the digitally savvy generation).
  • Roughly 30% of illegal downloaders either obtain their content from friends via IM, email, or flash drive or from downloading from public/open torrent sites.
  • Illegal downloaders acquire, on average, 13 to 16 ebooks per year—only 3 to 7 of these ebooks are acquired illegally.
  • Men are more likely to pirate a book then women (66% of illegal downloaders are male).
  • 44% of illegal downloaders surveyed reported that they would be much less likely to illegally download ebooks if they believed it harmed the author.

What I found in my conversation was that this data is absolutely true: almost half of these illegal downloaders simply don’t understand how obtaining an ebook illegally affects an author. That 44% doesn’t realize that they directly impact the writer’s bottom line. The craziest thing is the mental disconnect between the wallet and the internet: “The most common age-range of an e-book pirate is between 30- and 44-years-old with a yearly household income between $60,000 and $99,000.” Heck, if I could make 60k annually from my books I’d do this full time!

If you want to read someone’s book and make over 30k per year, you should probably pay the man. If you really can’t afford it, probably just ask him or her on the condition that you will refer all your friends and leave a stellar review online! I can’t think of a time I ever turned away someone who wanted to read my stories… if you REALLY can’t afford to get it, here’s the best way (and it even helps the author)… ask your local library to get a copy. If it’s not in their network they will purchase it!

 

 

10 low-key nonelectronic marketing ideas

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Here is an interesting graphic from the folks over at christianpublishers.net. Some of these may seem a little outside the realm of normal marketing tactics, but I’m all about finding something new. Too many people get caught up in doing the same thing everyone else is doing.

Sometimes what everyone else is doing is what has been tried, tested, and true, but often it’s an easy way to get lost in the crowd and Indies desperately need to stand out. While I can’t swear to all of the efficacy of all of them (especially since I live in a rural area and half of them aren’t even possible for me [no HOAs or local XN papers,]) anything to set you apart is worth a shot, provided its positive and well done.

A week ago I wrote about some advice given by a venerable author and linked to his blog. If you read it you may have noted his distrust of “blog tours.” Honestly, I do share that same reticence. It’s good to do it when it presents itself, but I’ve not seen much success with it for the reasons he pointed out: it seems like everyone does them and there’s not much quality control… blog tours seem an easy way to got lost in a flow of low quality stuff. Separate yourself from the noise when possible and be creative; use your ideas to highly target your audience (like my comic book I had produced as a promo vehicle for my novel, Wolf of the Tesseract.)

I particularly like the bathroom stall and cable TV ideas, especially if it helps target your niche market… does your book apply to an older generation or have localized interest? Cable TV is great (and probably free). Is it sports centered or appeal to guys especially? Many advert services provide space right above the restroom urinals where guys’ eyes are going to be locked for about 45 seconds.

10-book-advertising-ideas.png

How to Protect your Pooper

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I feel like I might be late to the show by rebroadcasting some great, recent advice on the business side of the writing world. Stumbling onto this article was my first introduction to Chuck Wendig… and I’m now a huge fan.  He offers some great advice in his blog post: A Hot Steaming Sack Of Business Advice For Writers. (He writes an awful lot like me—or maybe just how I aspire to be—and I thoroughly enjoyed his uncouth cuppa advice). I guess the blog title has little to do with my notes today, but it’s a pretty great line from Wendig’s post.

I’d recommend you go to his site and read it for yourself (budget a little time—it’s a long article), but wanted to highlight a couple key points, which really parrot what I’ve been saying for a long while. Perhaps his best advice (at least IMO) was his thoughts on marketing:

You Are Not A Marketing Plan
Some publishers want you to be. Or they claim you should be. But you’re not. What I mean is this: I think when social media became such a big damn deal that some people inside publishing were quietly cheering — first, because it genuinely provides a new axis of access for book discovery, but second because the writer can shoulder the burden…
A publisher who pretends you’re their only marketing plan is a publisher who isn’t spending money on your book, and your book will succeed more by happenstance and luck than by any engineered effort on their part. (Also, if they’re acting like you’re their marketing plan, might I suggest billing them for marketing hours, because that’s very seriously supposed to be their job, part and parcel of the relationship you enter by signing with a publisher… It’s best to demand that they actually have some plan in place, and ask to see that plan. You can even ask before you sign the contract. And you should.
if you’re the only one drumming up those opportunities and the publisher is simply cheering you on: they’re not doing their job, because you’re doing it.

Don’t work for free. Rarely worth it. Exposure is something hikers die from, and authors can die from it, too. If you do work for free, know the concrete benefits, and be sure to control the work — as I am wont to say, if you’re going to be exposed, then goddamnit, expose yourself. Not like that. Put your pants back on.

“What you do has value, so claim value for what you do.”

 

I work pretty dang hard doing the things that a publisher ought to do at times… which was my expectation as an Indie author. I’m recognizing that a publisher will want to see a strong platform and so I am pursuing that—but the trick is not to devalue yourself in the process. Remember, as an Indie author you invested in this story you wrote—it’s a piece of your heart. Don’t give it away  like it has no meaning or value (not saying never give your story away… I’m saying you are valuable and don’t forget your worth, however you decide to market yourself.)

How High is Your Rejection Pile?

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I got the idea for this blog from a fellow author Hannah Ross who wrote on the topic recently (check it out here)

While I mused on the idea of the topic of rejection, one thought popped into my mind. “Hold onto your butts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” Sharing yourself—whether it’s your stories as an author, your graphics or music as an artist, or yourself as a human seeking relationships will all incur rejection of some sort or another. Not everyone will like you or your products. Truth be told—those things are probably not ready when you think they are… think about it in the dating context: were you a good fit to marry when you first began dating? Probably not.

Most of us begin querying agents and publishers long before we are ready. Sometimes we query a market that has been exhausted with similar stories or a story is simply not interesting to the buying market at that time. (I’m going to just leave this comment here and then assume this is not you… most people who experience a small amount of rejection and then go to self-publish do so because their writing wasn’t refined enough yet. They didn’t hire editors, pour blood and sweat into multiple drafts and so the end result wasn’t up to snuff—when they sought out feedback or asked readers “what did you think?” it was clear that the only answer they wanted was “I loved it—don’t change a thing—you’re a literary genius. I’m sure that’s not you; those people aren’t real authors, they are attention seekers who want a badge with the title “author” without the real effort that it requires. Again—I’m sure it’s not you, but it’s worth the gut check because taking your ideas out into the literary world is not for the faint of heart.) MAKE SURE THAT YOUR STORY IS READY BEFORE YOU PITCH IT! And, especially if you’re a nonfiction writer, make sure there is an audience for it!

I wrote a lot and I’m not even started yet. So, here goes: I’ve been with my current nonprofit employer for 5+ years; for several months prior to that I used my sales experience to take a pretty tough sales job—this company specialized in pitch work and had extremely high demands and quotas (I’ve heard they are toughest company to get hired on at as far as their field sales reps go) and I got it. I really hated travel and time away, and so I got out six months later. However, their intense sales training (which included some great psychological studies on salesmanship) was beneficial. One of the things they drilled into their teams were that rejection happens all the time. Reset immediately. Forget about it. You could’ve been on the verge of a sale and gotten emotionally invested in a customer when they pull the pin or bail on a promise they made to you. There’s another customer around the bend. Forget it and immediately get out there again—the product is great, everyone needs one, and you do them a disservice if you don’t try to make them buy it. Shake it off. Most of their sales force worked in high-stress, loud environments busy with people who weren’t there to see you. The trick to selling, besides having a good product and the ability to physically perform, is the grit to take rejection over and over and over. Literally, hundreds of rejections per day—thousands over the course of each pitch tour. If your sense of self-worth is tied up in someone else embracing you and your product (your book in this case) then you’re going to have a tough time.

My rejection pile is at least as big as Hannah Ross’s. I’ve had identical experiences with both form rejections and excited agents who just aren’t quite ready to sign me. She is right about compartmentalizing. Understand that this is a business and you make a product—make your query process mechanical to a degree where you do it because it’s on a weekly agenda. Do it even when your heart’s not in it (but write the query when it was).

Don’t stop there. Take a class on it and even pay for professional feedback and guidance. I paid a fee to have Chuck Sambuchino (of Writer’s Digest books) give me feedback on my current SF (it also pays to be selective and research who you send it to.)

Grow thick skin. You have preferences. So do agents and publishers. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who are your cheerleaders… but if all of your beta readers think something needs work (or if you haven’t told them to switch lasers from stun to kill) then you should still be at the drawing board, not dropping manuscripts at the post office.

You got this. Keep writing. Keep editing. Keep querying.

Blog With Purpose

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I almost titled this the Purpose Driven Blog, but I hear Rick Warren’s lawyers are really good. I pulled some good advice from an interesting blog post titled Using a Blog to Reach Your Readers: http://cayceberryman.com/using-a-blog-to-reach-your-readers/

I was intrigued by the author’s comparison of a blog to a restaurant. “Let the sign guide them” is a good idea. Someone who’s in the mood for a cheeseburger doesn’t usually walk into a sushi joint—if they do, you can believe they’ll leave if they don’t have something to hook them immediately.

She talks about incentive and notes how bloggers don’t want to write stuff that nobody is ever going to see, hence the need to provide something that meets a need or interest of the reader:

If your book has vampires, I bet you can snag a list of 10 must-see vampire movies before you read my book. I bet, if you write about zombies, you can create a zombie-hunting toolkit (with a list, not physical stuff). If your fantasy world is new and complex, you can create a guide to navigating a world with rogue spirits or even something very narrow like 20 secrets a telepath won’t tell you.

These things are customizable, of course, but anyone interested in your story genre/theme will also be interested in the incentive. I’d click on the last one for sure. I don’t need it, but if you’re writing fantasy, there are few things you can offer a reader that they need. Give them something fun. Something they want. But don’t give them something like 10 ways to die in a bathtub if your story is about a man who falls off a plane and into another dimension or something.

You can research incentives for your particular niche and see what others offer. Make sure you customize any idea to fit your needs, though. You can always offer an incentive. But after you do that, make sure you already have posts for them to go to.

It’s a well-rounded post about blogging and I’d recommend people give it a read and find something (as I did) to take away. Honestly, I need to get better at the above but always felt like give-aways and the like were hokey gimmicks. Maybe they are, sometimes… or maybe I just haven’t seen things that really get me excited enough to sign up or follow a blog (at least by way of a tangible incentive outside of the blog content… but those two or three times that I HAVE done that resonated with me: usually a free ebook about writing tips or marketing strategies. Maybe I’ll have to put together something like that based on my advice and experience column. I’m compiling it all anyway as I prepare to speak at some author panels.)

Staying Engaged

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I wrote a while back in an article about building a platform that we need to stay engaged with our readership. I also once mentioned (at least once) that people buy books from people—it’s where indie authors can really excel and fine their footing—and it’s something that Amazon and the big chains can never do. A really good article came out over at the Marketing Christian Books Blog (one of the blogs I strongly suggest read my audience follow).

Guest writer Dan Poynter asks point blank “What am I willing to commit in time and energy each day or week to keep my book alive?”

I think that it’s important that authors don’t like to themselves and realize that excitement and enthusiasm will wane during different periods—but that they should set some realistic goals (and if you’re just starting and building a grandiose plan, your actual plan should probably be less than you think it is right now…just to keep it realistic and not burn out when it gets harder to find the committed time. Poynter also points out (as has my own contact at eLectio Publishing—where I have a book forthcoming in September) that authors tend to give a great effort to promote their book when it’s been recently released but that effort slowly dwindles away until nothing remains.

He recommends something similar to what I did in my article about platform building—a list of different possible actions to accomplish daily or weekly. Here is his list:

  1. Publish a new blog post or podcast at least once a week.
  2. Share your blog post on Reddit or StumbleUpon.
  3. Send a newsletter to your email list sharing your new blog post or podcast and reminding them of your book.
  4. Comment at least once a day on your social media accounts.
  5. Send a request to a book reviewer or blogger asking them to review your book.
  6. Join the discussion on online groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads) that speak to your target audience or topic. Respond to a thread or start a new thread regularly.
  7. Write insightful comments on a blog that targets your audience or speak on your topic a couple times each week.
  8. Write articles and guest blog posts.
  9. Send a request to be a guest on a podcast that speaks to your topic or audience.
  10. Send thank you notes to people who share your social media posts, give you a shout out, air your blog post, interview you, or review your books.

I would offer a few caveats, however. There is such a thing as going to far.
#3—if you send an email every day your audience will stop reading. If you send one every week and the focus is on selling your book instead recapping a blog or special thing you are doing beyond the book, people will quit reading because it’s too salesly.
#6—don’t be too overt in steering to your book—OR too dominant as an expert…be sure to it remains conversational; it’s not a debate

Check out the full article at https://marketingchristianbooks.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/are-you-willing-to-commit

Authors, don’t pay sales tax twice!

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Not every part of being an author means I get to live in a fantasy land full of color and adventure. Many parts are boring and gray. If ever there’s an enemy to creativity it’s a tax form. To have success as an author (or, if you have any success as an author) you’re going to need to be familiar with taxes.

My journey begins on the phone with a tree nursery. I jointly own a very small Christmas tree farm and we plant less than 2 acres of seedlings every year and we’ve been doing that for a few years now when the nursery asks why we haven’t filed a form so we can get the seedlings tax exempt—which is something you can do when you produce a product for resale. It’s why farmers get tax exempt gas for field equipment, parts, etc. My grandparents on both sides farmed—it’s a wonder I didn’t think of that before.

Fast forward a month and I’m purchasing about $400 worth of books (wholesale cost) for an event when I have the thought, “shouldn’t this be tax exempt the same as buying seedlings?” Createspace did not have a ready answer for me and so I had to purchase those books and pay sales tax. The event coordinators required me to have all my tax document ducks in a row and so I began ferreting out info—especially when they announced a state tax collector will be on hand to demand tax payment at the end of the three day convention. I felt like I was in Biblical Rome…

Createspace did tell me that they have a process, but it’s up to me to know the details since it varies from state to state. Here’s their response:

Greetings from CreateSpace.

We do not collect sales taxes in all states for retail orders. For states where we do collect sales taxes, your purchase is subject to sales tax unless it is specifically exempt.

If you are a reseller making tax exempt wholesale orders, please submit the appropriate Uniform Sales and Use Tax Certificate and Reseller Certificate to the email, address or fax number below:

Email: info@createspace.com, Attn: CreateSpace Direct Reseller
Fax: (206) 922-5928, Attn: CreateSpace Direct Reseller
Shipping Address:
CreateSpace
Attn: Customer Service
4900 LaCross Road
North Charleston, SC 29406

Please allow one week for form processing. For additional information, please refer to the form instructions or your state’s Department of Revenue.

If you’re like me, your eyes gloss over when you read things like the above. Luckily, I’d already been forced to get those above mentioned forms on threat of crucifixion by my state tax guy. The form I needed in Minnesota is ST3 which is the same one as I needed for my Christmas tree seedlings. It was actually easy to fill out once I had the other info like my sales/use number, etc. It’s about a page and flows kind of like a W9 or W2.

A nice lady named Dianne at the MN tax office confirmed with me that (at least in my state) if you produce something for resale you don’t have to pay sales tax on it twice and she actually told me which boxes to check on the ST3 after I explained how I bought books and resold them at conventions.

The fact of the matter is: you don’t need to let the IRS double dip on taxes and charge you twice. The difference between being a writer and being an author is that authors plan to be read by the public—as much as it’s a passion and art, it’s also a business venture. Be sure to run it as such and make sure that your paying the same fee over and over again which will eat into your profit margin (which, like most Indies, will probably just go to paying travel costs and booth/entry fees anyway). Being an author shouldn’t cost you more than you make.

Following are a couple of great articles to help guide you on researching your tax liability as an author:
https://www.thebalance.com/sales-tax-facts-for-book-authors-2799901
https://www.thebalance.com/taxes-and-the-book-author-2799907
https://janefriedman.com/author-taxes/

How much should authors charge for speaking engagements?

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This is one of those questions that always blindsides me. I’ll be sitting somewhere trying to sell books when someone in charge of a library or similar place asks me if I’d be interested in speaking some time. I rarely expect it, but the question comes, “how much do you charge to come and speak.” It may not happen to you early on as a writer, but you should have an idea in mind for a few reasons.

  1. If you charge nothing (as you might intend) people will assume you are worthless. I can attest to this personally from many experiences across the arts. We used to run youth concerts all the time and attendance always suffered when the show was “free” because the inherent, subconscious value placed on the event was nothing. If there’s no investment, there’s no commitment and there’s no value.
  2. Your time is worth something. Even if you want to donate it or do a service for someone else or an organization there are travel fees (even just fuel) which can sometimes be significant. You can do an event for free, but you should invoice the event with a figure to retain your “value.” If you would normally charge $X but do it an event for free, ask for a gift in kind letter if they are a nonprofit like most libraries. You can write that amount off on your taxes.

How much should you charge? It will vary widely depending on your area, but a good ballpark is about $200, from what I’ve heard from other authors. I ask for $200 from libraries and ask library workers to also identify one student reader who they think one of my books is perfect for but may not be able to afford purchasing—that student will receive a free, autographed copy. If significant travel is involved I would ask for additional monies to cover expenses.

There are a few articles below that might help you to further think through things like speaking engagement fees, etc. In addition to being a writer I am a musician and regularly speak/preach at churches. As is often the case in religious work people tend to say, “oh, just pay me whatever you can afford/think it’s worth.” That’s a pretty loaded position to put someone in. I recently booked music and speaking gig and gave the church director a price. She was very relieved; over the past three years they’d used a different music team who incurred significant travel each year and she never knew if what they paid even covered expenses and so they always assumed they were imposing. Setting a fee and clearly stating what you will provide puts everyone at ease.

Have an idea what you want to charge. You don’t need to be rigid, however. I tell libraries and organizations that I don’t want cost to be an issue if it means the difference between doing an event or not and that we can negotiate something if necessary.

Helpful links:
http://ask.metafilter.com/220256/How-much-should-I-charge-to-speak-at-an-event

http://author2author.blogspot.com/2012/06/what-should-i-charge-for-author-visit.html

https://writenaked.net/2014/02/24/qa-how-much-should-a-writer-charge-for-speaking-engagement/