View Full Version : How to handle invitations to speak abroad

04-30-2008, 07:45 PM
For the third time, I have received an invitation to talk about my book outside of the U.S. The first was to London, the second to Ireland and now I just got one from Scotland.

And now, for the third time, I have to turn down such an invitation to speak. And I feel bad about this. :( I mean, I would LOVE to visit these countries and have the opportunity to talk about my book. Which...I don't even have a publisher for yet! LOL But on the other...I can't just jump on a plane and fly out there. It takes time, money, planning and the hiring of a babysitter.


I don't know if I can keep on politely declining these invitations. I'm grateful for them, of course, but they're just not doable right now. Is there any way to make this easier?

05-01-2008, 06:34 AM
Is it the time or the fact that they won't pay your expenses? If the latter, then you're not alone. I receive such invitations once in a while too. I've been invited to New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Canada, Ireland, France, Finland, and Germany, in my different capacities as a writer, cartoonist and animator. A couple years ago I was invited to speak at Oxford University! Me, a three-time college dropout! Usually these organizations offer accommodation and meals in someone's home, but no airfare or other remuneration. So while it's an immense boost to the ego to get these invitations, what it boils down to is they're looking for a free speaker. In some ways you have to look at it the same way you look at a publication looking for a free writer.

I normally respond very politely and professionally that I require (yes, require is the word to use) all travel expenses and hotel accommodation, as well as the permission to bluntly sell my books and/or a speaker's fee. In the case of Oxford, I told them I'd pay for it all myself if I got an honorary degree out of it (I said it tongue-in-cheek, but they took it seriously).

To their credit, every one of these organizations responds with respect and often try to meet me half way. But a few times they came back with everything I asked for. Then it was simply a matter of whether I had the time or the will to do it. And I had some wonderful experiences in Tokyo, Singapore, Banff and Dublin as a result! Others I ended up turning down because of scheduling conflicts. The Oxford contact actually put in a query about an honorary degree for me, but not surprisingly their board nixed it. Damn! Would have made my mother ecstatic.

The moral of the story is: it doesn't hurt to ask. It's a negotiating game like anything else. If you're not a big star, they'll always ask for free first. Don't automatically turn them down. You might be surprised how much of a budget they can magically come up with when they want a speaker.

05-01-2008, 07:24 AM
I'm sure I'm missing something. You got three invitations to talk about your book outside the US and no one offered you a payment arrangement - a fee, airfare, lodging, meals? Who made these offers to you?

05-01-2008, 04:09 PM
What doesn't make sense to me is that you don't have a publisher. Why would you go talk about your book if you can't even sell your book? And if the book is not published, how do these places that are inviting you know about your book? Talking about your book makes more sense when there is actually a book to promote.

05-02-2008, 04:53 AM
Billings: Thank you for your input on this. I never thought of that! Yeah, mostly the money thing is the problem. I'd also need someone to watch my kids for me. As attached as I am to them, I just really think they are too young to be travelling that far from home. What a downer that you didn't get that degree, though. Darn!

scope: They are charities working for the disabled. In a couple of cases, for the deaf. (My book is for the deaf crowd.) I don't think they would be able to afford paying to have me come out there, anyway.

What doesn't make sense to me is that you don't have a publisher. Why would you go talk about your book if you can't even sell your book? And if the book is not published, how do these places that are inviting you know about your book? Talking about your book makes more sense when there is actually a book to promote.

Yeah, it's not even a book yet! Weird, huh?? I contacted them to see if they'd review it, because a publisher I was submitting the partial to wanted some names and contact info of prospective reviewers, so that's how they know about it. To be honest, I have not been as vigorous as I should be in trying to find a publisher for it. It's been rejected by the three publishers I have sent it to so far. Right now, it's in beta mode and I've got some fixing up to do with the manuscript before it goes back out again REALLY soon. I am going to take some time this Saturday to REALLY try to find some other publishers to query/submit for this book. Hopefully I'll find some more who publish this kind of book! :D

05-02-2008, 07:46 AM
My two cents...I've worked at nonprofit organizations for years. I've also been approached by dozens of groups to speak at their functions. In my "old" job my time was covered by grant money but now that I am on my own, as a consultant, it isn't. I am moving away from free speaking engagements and moving away from the guilt (I enjoy helping underprivileged students) and truly only accept events that are mutually beneficial. Some people will say, "But you can promote your book!" Yes, but what about being out of the office (billable hours for me, time away from clients), daycare for the kiddies, travel, etc. There are no easy answers but selling twenty books is not going to cover my expenses...let's see that might be about 20 bucks. Okay, enough negativity, here's my positive outlook:

The book might get me in the door but my expertise is worth a lot more. I counsel nonprofit managers on how to develop their programs, I help donors design good scholarship programs, I assist schools in reaching out to scholarship sponsors. Yes, my book is about helping students win scholarships but my expertise is far beyond that. For Greenwolf and others, why not start pitching your expertise (not your book) and as Billingsgate said, at minimum, have a bottom line policy. Airfare, hotel, food, parking/transit and a speaker's stipend - they do not have to know that you are using it to pay for daycare and if I were you I wouldn't mention that...it's irrelevant. Whether you are single, married, have kids or not, you should be compensated for your time...unless there is a mutally beneficial reason for you to be there. In business, this is called opportunity cost. You go for a low rate because the opportunity to meet certain people, close a deal, etc. outweighs the cost. At minimum, your basic costs should be covered and you should not go in debt just to attend the event. I have presented at many wonderful events and because I was a member, my employer paid for it. That was part of my professional contribution for the year....however, like I said, I am now self-employed and that is not financially viable option.

Another idea is to ask if there is a potential sponsor who has an affinity for your subject. Suggest that they find a sponsor for your session. In the program it could say "sponsored by....."

I only offer this advice after doing hundreds of workshops and seminars and the lessons I've learned.

I know it's very flattering to get those phone calls but think carefully about the opportunity costs (time, money, missing family) and benefits (networking, connections, credibility, etc). Good luck!