Many people want to call themselves public speakers. If I had to guess, it has to be one of the most desirable professions. For many people, it's probably up there with sports broadcaster and reality TV star.
It stands to reason, then, that ambitious types want to know how to get paid for their thoughts in public settings. One effective arrow in the quiver: penning a book. You'll get no argument from me on the benefits of publishing a full-length text (or seven), but all too often would-be authors make a critical mistake. That is, they think that just because they can now call themselves authors, paid public speaking gigs will fall into their laps.
Almost without exception, though, nothing could be further from the truth.
Tim Ferriss: The Exception that Proves the Rule
Sure, occasionally first-time authors write books that go viral. For every Tim Ferriss, there are thousands of authors who struggle making themselves known. (Note that 25 publishers rejected Ferriss' first bestseller. So much for traditional publishers and acquisition editors being able to accurately predict the future.)
For everyone but Malcolm Gladwell and their ilk, paid proper speaking gigs are usually few and far between. Still, it's hard to underestimate the benefits of writing a book, even for rare speaking gigs.
Think of it this way. Consider two authors:
- Author A: Dynamic speaker with professional website and a respectable following. S/he has not written a book.
- Author B: Dynamic speaker with professional website and a respectable following. S/he has written a professionally designed book.
Writing a book is neither necessary for sufficient to work as a public speaker.
All else being equal, who's more likely to land a high-profile speaking gig? Who's going to be seen as more credible? Who will probably command more respect on stage, especially if each audience member receives a copy of Author B's book? Moreover, inasmuch as competition for paid speaking gigs is usually fierce, not having written a book may effectively disqualify you from the start.
Writing a book is neither necessary for sufficient to work as a public speaker. You don't need to write one to do it -- and having written one guarantees nothing. Make no mistake, though: If the ultimate goal is to make a living speaking to the masses, writing a book certainly helps.
What say you?
For more thoughts on the business of publishing, check out the Motion Publishing blog.