Keller Media Blog

howtogetpaidtogivespeechesBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Professional Speaker

It’s easy to find places that will let you come in and speak for free.

But how do you turn public speaking into a career move – one that makes you money?

There’s an unending need for knowledge in the world.  If you’ve got something to say that is valuable to other people, and you’re not currently getting paid to share it, something is awry.  This short article will give you 3 ways to move from “free” to “fee” speaking.

Point One:  The reason you’re speaking for free is because you are packaged wrong.

Sure, some individuals speak for free because that gets them in front of prospects, or they’ve got something to sell in the back of the room.  But many more people end up speaking for free because they just don’t know how to ask for – and get – more than a few bucks for their time and for sharing their subject matter expertise.  It doesn’t have to be that way for you!

Paid public speaking (called “professional speaking” whether you do it full or part time) is a highly image-based business.  If you look like the kind of person who commands higher fees for your speaking, you’re 50% of the way to getting them.  This doesn’t just mean your clothes and haircut. It means your website, your business cards, the demo video on your website, sometimes your social media presence, etc.

I’ve been training speakers since the late 90s and I assure you that this is a “fake it ’til you make it” industry.  Look the part, deliver on the platform and you will command the fees.

Point Two: Deliver on the Platform

If you are an average speaker, people will line up after you talk to tell you how great you were and sometimes, how you changed their lives.  Every time a new speaker tells me they “always” hear this, my eyes want to roll.  Only very bad speakers DON’T get told that.

Unfortunately, unless the people telling you how wonderful you are happen to be meeting planners (the people who hire speakers), the opinions of the attendees can make you feel good but have no economic value.

To get paid, you need to be more than average. You need to be fabulous.  You need to be entertaining, informative and inspirational.  When you are fabulous, it shows up on your demo reel. (The short montage video of you being terrific in front of live audiences that you use to promote yourself.   The audience needs to believe 100% that they can create the results you just inspired them to strive to attain.

I’ve worked with some of the greatest speakers of our age.  I can tell you that every one of them is committed to self-improvement. They take voice lessons, acting lessons, improv classes. They hire image consultants and top level website designers. They practice their content in front of a mirror.  They use the best marketing strategies. They know that they are the product and they are committed to improving the product constantly.

If you are willing to admit that even talent such as yours could be improved upon, you have a high probability of becoming a very successful paid professional speaker.

Point Three:  Prepare to Market Yourself

Unless you are a celebrity, sports star or have some incredibly unique act, until you are consistently earning $5000 or more per engagement and booking about 20 times a year, you are not going to be all that interesting to speakers bureaus. They’re the people who book successful speakers into venues.

That means that you have to commit to marketing yourself.  It’s not something you can pawn off on your assistant!  You’ll need to create, prepare and implement a marketing strategy, execute it, modify it, and keep moving.  It is a lot of work, but the payoff is astounding.  (This is my specialty!)

Most speakers who come to me talking about representation hate marketing. They want to be recognized for their amazing talent on the platform, or they think the hokey package they slapped together will carry them to success.  I hate bursting their bubbles, but this is a competitive industry like every other. There are steps to take to move away from the $250 honorarium level of speaking to even the $5,000 entry level.

There’s a tried-and-true way to start getting paid (or paid more) as a speaker. People insistent on reinventing the wheel either get there late or give up along the way because it is “just too hard”.  Like everything, a coach or consultant can be enormously valuable.

For those with a passion for speaking and some natural talent, this can become an incredibly lucrative business. It can give you the ability to share your messages with thousands of people every year, and truly and sincerely change lives for the better.  There are many people who call themselves “professional speakers” right now, but in my long experience of this industry, I can assure you of this: cream always rises to the top.  If you want this dream, it is simply a matter of committing to the steps to attain it.

useabooktobuildyourbusinessBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Business Owner

A book is a GREAT calling card…

…but only if you use it to “call” on people!

Are you published already? Have a book in the works or in your head?

For a few hundred dollars, anybody can self-publish a digital book. Add a few bucks more, and you can get paper copies printed. A few lucky readers will have done it the Old Fashioned Way and found a literary agent (like me!) and gotten a traditional publisher – Penguin Random House, McGraw Hill, Simon & Schuster, etc. But if your intention is to build a business by leveraging your book, good luck with that!

 Very few books manage to swim to the surface in the tsunami of books published in the USA every year.

You’ll need to be both clever and motivated to make yours DO something for you – produce results. A “calling card” is useless unless you use it to call attention to yourself, your product or your service.

Here are 3 Ways to Use Your Book to Build Your Business.

Give Copies to Your Best Prospects or Customers  Seems self-evident, but many of my author-clients hope people will buy it and then invest in their product or service.  It may or may not work for you to give free copies to everyone, but certainly to your best people.  In the case of existing customers, present it with a personalized note thanking them for helping you learn what’s important to customers/helping your business grow to this point/giving you referrals/etc.

Get Yourself on Local Radio or TV Shows  If your book is in physical format, and has been published less than a year, use it to wriggle onto local media.  Then put links to your interview on your website; email it to all the customers/prospects on your mailing list; frame a big photo of you in studio or smiling next to the host and put it in your reception area; etc.  Create a relationship with the host while you’re there, and think up some creative ways to keep in touch, help them achieve their own goals, or hire them to do a promo at your next live event, etc.  The ideas are limitless!

Start a Blog or Newsletter On the Topic of Your Book  Send a newsletter out once every 3 weeks and/or blog 2-3 times a week on the content topic of your book. (If you have a traditional publisher, you need to get permission to use excerpts, but otherwise, you can have someone on your team post small pieces of the book online or into the newsletter).  Tell stories about people who did/didn’t use your advice.  Put your URL at the bottom of every page. Make a goal of increasing by 10% per month the number of people on your list who see your blog or get the newsletter. (Note: you can’t just put people on a newsletter list.  Ask permission first, especially in Canada where there is a hefty fine for “spamming”.)

wanttogetpaidtogivespeechesBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Professional Speaker

Got something interesting and valuable to say?

Want to share it with the world?

Could speaking grow your business, your reputation or your brand?

If you fancy yourself getting paid to give speeches, here are TEN important questions that will help you get your goal faster.

  1. What will other people get from listening to you?  List the benefits.
  2. Can you make your content appeal to a corporate audience?  That’s where the money is in speaking. Even if your topic is self-help oriented, can you skew it a little and at least speak to corporate to pay the bills?
  3. What other successful speakers or books are out there on your same topic? What do you advise that they don’t? How are you different and unique?
  4. How comfortable are you on the platform?  Take a improv or a comedy class. Take some acting or voice lessons. Volunteer for Open Mic Nights at a comedy club. Sign up for Toastmasters.
  5. What kinds of people do you ideally want in your audiences? What are their problems, fears, goals and dreams? Write it down.
  6. What companies, groups, organizations are most likely to contain those kinds of people?
  7. What kind of fees are similar speakers getting – and why are they getting them?  You can expect to get between $3000-$5000 per speech within the first year (maybe more) if you begin with the right steps.
  8. What do you need to do to prepare to win the engagement over other speakers competing for that same microphone?
  9. Is there any research or other documentation that supports your premise, thus giving you third party credibility?  Find it and cite it.
  10. Can you write a killer speech, complete with emotion, humor, facts and stories in a way that compels people to listen to you with full attention?

Success as a speaker happens when you are sizzling while you’re on the platform, because doing a great job generates word of mouth referrals.

Yet if you can’t get the opportunity to strut yourself, you can’t soar.  Building an effective marketing system that displays your talent and your content to best advantage is where you must begin.

useabooktobuildyourbusinessBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Business Owner

If you’ve got a book inside your head or your hard drive; in print or in digital form; published or self-published…and you also own a business, this article is meant for you:

Getting published is the best way to leap into the minds of your prospects, customers, clients or patients.

My clients who seem to benefit most are in these professions:

  • Small business owners – purveyors of products or services
  • Attorneys, doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists, CPAs, CFPs and other independent professionals
  • Speakers, coaches, seminar and workshop leaders and trainers
  • Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, MFTs and social workers
  • Scientists, academics, researchers and innovators

Here are just 3 of the many ways your book will help you differentiate yourself as a leading professional in your industry:

  1. It will open the door to the VIP suite – allowing you to “rub elbows” with the most important people in your industry…as a peer.
  2. It will get you media – print, radio, television…eyeballs…as much as you want (when you leverage the content of your nonfiction book to that end).
  3. It will position you in the minds of your current and future customers, employees, peers, investors, etc.

Nowadays, about 425,000 people self-publish each year in the USA. Most of these are what my father would call “schlock” books, because the authors went sideways with the content, didn’t write it well, didn’t think the book through at all, didn’t use an editor, whatever.

The #1 reason a nonfiction book does NOT produce the author’s desired results like 1-3 above?

Because the author simply doesn’t know how to use their book to its best advantage.

Q. The #1 reason a nonfiction book does NOT produce the author’s desired results? 

A. Because the author simply doesn’t know how.

That’s where I come in.  ((Insert cape flourish here))

Ideally, before you even publish, you want to have a simple, strategic plan to implement to get your results.  (If you’re already published, it’s not necessarily too late, but it may be a bit more work).

That’s why the first question I always ask any prospective author who comes to me for representation is this: “What do you want the book to do for you?”

Most of the time, the person says, “Oh, I just want to save the world” or some variation on that.  Eventually, I repeat myself and make it clear: saving the world won’t lead us to a tangible way to derive benefit TO YOU from the experience you’re about to undertake.

So the #1 question to ask yourself, right here and now, whether you are already published or not, is this: “What do you want your book to do for you?”

whyyourbookisntsellingBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent

It’s pretty sad when you put all that time, thought, effort and in some cases money into creating a book and it doesn’t sell.

Thousands of people will have a book release from a “legitimate” publisher and more than 75% of them will under-perform.

More than 400,000 people will self-publish this year. Those people are really in for a surprise, because the average self-published book sells only 117 copies!

I’m a literary agent. My role is to sell good books to good publishers – the kind of publishers who give the author money for the honor of producing your work.  Here’s what I know [spoiler alert!]

The reason most books don’t sell is because the authors do not know how to find and connect with their audience.

I’m aware that’s harsh, but hold on! The secret to your book’s success is in that truth, even if you’re already published. YES, the time to grow your audience (called a “platform”) is BEFORE you go to press, but it isn’t too late to start now.

If you can find your audience and connect with them, your book can start selling. In some cases, even years after it was first published. (Note: if your book is “The Best Guide to Success on MySpace” or “How to Use a Microwave Oven” or any other obsolete subject, the following advice won’t apply to you).

There are, in fact, a lot of ways to get your book selling.

  • You can get active on social media (which authors often tell me didn’t work.  I know that means they did it backwards. There are unique strategies specific to authors that most don’t realize).
  • You can start writing articles for niche magazines online and in print.
  • You can start doing speeches, workshops, webinars or seminars (for free or for a fee – to grow your business exponentially and thereby the number of people who are eager to buy your book).
  • You can start getting real media – radio, print or television. Really!
  • You can get companies that serve your readers to cross-promote, co-operate or even sponsor you/your book.

Here’s what I do know after a lifetime in publishing: When authors give up, or they do nothing and wait for the angels and fairies to move their book to the top of, nothing happens.

Failing to promote your book after it has been published is like stopping at third base to take a nap before you finish a home run!

marketingyourselfasaspeakerBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Public Speaker

Got something interesting, valuable or meaningful to say to the world?

Good for you!

You have decided to add “paid speaking” to your list of accomplishments.  You have an idea for a speech – or maybe even a speech written. Now what? How do you find the people who will pay you to come in and share your message with their audience?

Your best play for becoming a successful speaker comes in 3 acts:

Act 1: Get your content assembled and polished

In almost 30 years of working with new, intermediate and advanced (famous name) speakers, I can tell you this: this first part is where the magic is!

Without a strong message, laden with value for your potential audience, you won’t get far.  Solution: build a strong message from the ground up.

Some sneaky ways of finding out if what you’ve got is going to be popular in the way you’re positioning it:

  • Spy on your topic at  Are there any books with a similar message?  How well are they selling?  (Hint: Scroll down to the middle of the page where it says “Product Details” and look for a ranking number. Numbers higher than 200,000 aren’t selling well at all.)
  • On Google, simply append the word “Speaker” to your topic niche. Not “inspirational speaker” or “business speaker” but “personal finance speaker” or “depression speaker” or “customer service speaker”.  Who else is talking about your topic?  You want there to be at least a few!  That shows that when you customize your message, there will be a market for it.
  • Again on Google, add the word “Study” – as in research study.  Are there any new, interesting, cool studies being done that prove your perspective on your topic is validated by third party research?  Get a copy of those studies and use them to bolster your credibility when you pitch your speech and when you develop it.

When you get the First Act right, your marketing progress will be a breeze!



Dear Literary Agent,

I always hear people going on and on about how we authors need to be building platforms.  I also always hear agents and editors saying that self-publishing is a bad choice for writers like me.  I’ve heard stories in the news about self-published authors who have made it big, though – Lisa Genova’s book even got made into a movie!  Is self-publishing really that bad?  Do I even need an agent?


Tired of Rejection Letters


Dear Tired of Rejection Letters,

Judging by your name, I am presuming you’ve haven’t struck gold yet in your quest to be published.  Keep with it!  Make sure you are constantly evaluating what is working and not working – can you tweak your query letter?  Are people requesting your proposal or manuscript and then rejecting after that (perhaps your first few chapters are lacking something)?

Self-publishing can be such a heated topic to talk about.  Authors feel like the underdog no matter what, and that is understandable.  The most important thing to remember is that you need to be an informed consumer.  No matter which type of publishing you decide to pursue – traditional or self – you need to keep in mind that you will be a very small fish in a very small pond.  You just have to decide which pond you want to be in.

If your book has a very “niche” topic (i.e. “Growing Chrysanthemums in North Dakota” or “Tuning Your 1984 Steinway Piano”) or would attract a smaller audience (i.e. a collection of your grandfather’s barbecue recipes or a collection of letters sent between you and your husband) self-publishing might be the best option for you.  If you are a professional speaker and are planning on selling your book in the back of the room, self-publishing might be the best option for you.

However, you need to make sure you understand what you are getting into.  Lots of self-publishing companies promise authors many things that they are unable to deliver on.  No one can make you a New York Times bestseller, unless they are personally planning on buying thousands and thousands of copies of your book.  They may advertise your book, but it may be in a teeny tiny ad with several other books.  Just as you would want to choose the best agent for yourself, you want to make sure you choose the best self-publishing company for yourself.

You need to also keep in mind that the reason you heard about a self-published author hitting the big time is because it is a newsworthy – meaning if this happened all the time, you would not be hearing about it on the news.   Most self-published authors sell fewer than fifty books in their whole lifetimes.

What does an agent do?  An agent is your advocate.  An agent takes your project and pitches it to a very carefully curated list of editors.  An agent gets the right pairs of eyes on your project.  An agent also has publishing industry experience, and can help you polish your manuscript until it shines.  Self-publishing companies make money no matter how well your book sells; we only make money if your book sells (and then sells well).

At the end of the day, you need to weigh your options and be honest with yourself – which path is right for you?  We wish you the very best of luck on whichever path you choose.



Megan Close Zavala and the Team at Keller Media


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