WRITERLY WISDOM: Chip MacGregor

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. I have been a faithful reader of Chip MacGregor’s blog (http://www.chipmacgregor.com) for a couple of years now and I love all the helpful advice he gives from an agent’s perspective. This week he answers the important question of what exactly IS our worth as a writer when we are asked to speak in front of an audience. 

 

What is a standard fee to charge when speaking?
By Chip MacGregor

 

Someone wrote to say, “I’ve been asked to speak several times since my book came out — some large venues, some very small. My problem is that I don’t know what to charge when I speak? A flat fee? A sliding scale? Is there some guidance you can give me?”
Happy to begin this conversation. Okay… start to think about creating a matrix for your speaking events.

 
First, there are certain topics you speak about. (We’ll name those A, B, C, D.)

 
Second, there are lengths of time you can do each one — for example, let’s say you can talk about Topic A for 30 minutes, for 2 hours, or for an entire weekend retreat, but you can only talk about Topic B in a couple one-hour blocks of time so you could do a one-hour or two-hour chunk of content, and Topic C is nothing more than a 20 to 40-minute casual talk.

 
So now you have some options… You’ve got A1 (30 minutes of Topic A), A2 (2 hours on Topic A), A3 (a whole day on Topic A), B1, B2, and C1, etc. Still with me? That starts to give you important ways to figure out the topic and time.

 
Third, you need to consider how many times you speak. If they want you to just show up and give a speech, that’s X. If they want you to teach several workshops, that’s Y. If they want you for a weekend retreat, that’s Z. (This will start to get confusing, but it means you’d be doing a Y Day — several workshops, where you’ll do A2, B2, and C1, for example. If you hate my numbering, create your own that makes more sense.)

 

Fourth, you need to consider the venue. The bigger the venue, the more you charge. Most speakers have one to three tiers (small setting, medium sized setting, large or arena setting). Some only have two tiers, and some have a couple tiers and a retreat setting. And my assistant Holly Lorincz, who spent 15 years as a speech coach, wants me to add that when you ask about the venue, make sure you ask who will be in the audience and what the controlling organization considers the goal of the speech.

 

Fifth and last, you need to make sure they cover your travel expenses.

 
Now when somebody calls you to speak, you or your assistant simply asks a series of questions:

 
–on what topic(s)?
–for how long each time?
–how many times will I speak?
–how big is the expected audience?
–and where is it?

 
Once you have those questions answered, it’s easy — because you have a grid you use. You just fill in the components, and you begin to see how much work is involved. Now let’s talk money…

 

The key money issue is called base pay. How much is your base pay for a one hour talk? Let’s say it’s $500 for an hour or $300 for a half hour. If you make, for example, $300 for speaking one time, for 30 minutes, to a small group, and you’ve been asked to speak several times, you just have to map out the extra costs. They want you to speak once to a large group for an hour, then lead a workshop to a smaller group, then sit on a panel. It will take an entire day. And you have to fly to Atlanta to do it. I do some quick math… $500 to speak to the big group, another $400 to do the seminar, maybe $200 to do the panel. So I say to them, “That will be about a thousand dollars, plus you need to fly me coach to Atlanta and put me up for two nights. I think we can do the whole thing for about $1600.” They offer you $1200… and you have to decide if it’s worth it to you.

 

 
I hope I didn’t over-complicate this, but that’s the basics of how to think about charging. Once you know your base pay, it’s fairly simple: Topic + time + number + venue + travel = cost.

 

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One day when he was in first grade, Chip hurried home and announced to his mother, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a book guy!” And he has been a book guy—from a high school literary magazine to bestselling books, from conference speaker to an unbeatable track record of representing renowned writers. Creating MacGregor Literary was a natural step for a book guy.

Chip has a comprehensive knowledge of the industry—from book development to writing, acquisition to production, marketing to sales. He has secured more than 1,000 book deals for authors with all of the major publishers in both ABA and CBA, including Random House, Ballantine, Crown, Doubleday, Broadway, Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books, Fireside, Warner Book Group, HarperCollins, Avon, Viking, Penguin, Berkley, Jossey-Bass, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Integrity, Baker, Tyndale, Broadman & Holman, Worthy, Crossway, Multnomah, Revell, Harvest House, Waterbrook, NavPress, Cook, and Howard, among others.

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