Getting Invitations to Speak at Local, State and National Conferences

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There are four basic ways to get gigs and be visible at local, state and national conferences such as ALA, ILA, NCTE and those that are subject specific.

• Keynote speaker: Authors who keynote at state or national library or reading conferences are either invited directly by the organizers or promoted to organizers by publishers. A publisher may choose to promote a debut author, a front-list author or a popular backlist author. Expenses are picked up either by the publisher or the organizer, and the author may or may not receive an honorarium for this appearance.

• Book signing: Authors who sign books at a publisher’s booth at national trade shows are invited by the publisher to appear. These signings are generally reserved for front-list authors from that calendar year or who are on the publisher’s current bestseller list. A publisher may offer full or partial reimbursements for travel and/or lodging to the author along with free entry to the trade show, but all other expenses are up to the author.

• Session or workshop presenter by invitation from the organizer: This gives you a special designation in the conference program and offers an opportunity to be scheduled for a book signing.

• Session or workshop presenter by proposal sent in by you: You can submit proposals to do a session or workshop at a conference by following the organization’s submission policy and deadlines. Conference registration fees are usually waived for the session organizer, but other expenses are your responsibility. This does not guarantee you will have a special designation in the conference program or an opportunity to be scheduled for a book signing.

• Conference participant: For those who keep their ear to the ground, merely being a participant can offer information about issues that the author can address in upcoming proposal submissions. It’s also a way for you to meet potential hosts and generate contacts for future events.

• Let your publishers know you are eager to speak or sign at conferences. If you have specific conferences in mind, tell them. Suggest they promote a panel of their authors to speak on a topic to the organizers.

• Make a grid of proposal deadlines and themes for upcoming conferences. (You might combine efforts with your writers group to generate this.)

• Propose a session.  You will end up expending money for this if accepted, but it gives you a great platform for meeting potential hosts. For best results, focus on state and local branches of the national organizations.

• Join relevant organizations. When you join a professional organization, you will have access to benefits such as listserv discussions, early announcements of upcoming events and reduced rates for events.

• Look for the state and local affiliates of national organizations for speaking opportunities.  For example, the ALA (American Library Association) has a list of state and regional chapters. They also have a spreadsheet showing which state library associations also have school library associations.

Here are a few parent organizations to check out:
ILA –   International Literacy Association
ALA –   American Library Association
NCTE – National Council of Teachers of English
NAEYC – National Association for the Education of Young Children
Also, look for subject-specific conferences (math, science, social studies, etc)

Understand that this is a “long-tail” investment: the longer you’re in the organization and the better you know the people in it, the more visibility you’ll receive over the long term.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

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4 Comments on “Getting Invitations to Speak at Local, State and National Conferences”

  • Excellent post, and thank you for the resources!

    I have one tip to share: Plastics.

    Just kidding. But really, with so many authors and illustrators competing for podium time at reading and library conferences, pay attention to the subject-specific conferences Alexis mentioned above. For example, when my book with an art theme was published I pitched sessions to art education conferences, and they were well-received. There weren’t many other authors presenting, so the art teachers were excited to meet me and wanted an autographed copy of my book.

    Thanks again, always good stuff here!

  • Great tip, Ruth! Last year, I did a session at the New York State Council on the Social Studies and was the only author there. Presenting to the subject-specific conferences does pay off.

  • Very helpful post once again. I’m beefing up my marketing efforts this summer and your resources will help a lot. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • Thanks, Carrie! Summer is a good time to catch up on marketing. Once school begins, life becomes a bit of a blurr. I picked up a tip from Jack Canfield (the “Chicken Soup for the ____” guy) . When he was starting out, he and his partner committed to doing one thing a day to promote their work. This makes such sense. One thing a day is easy, especially if you line up tasks ahead of time.

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