“They can’t sell them, they can’t give them away”

kant lecturing

That’s Carlton Sedgeley, founder of the Royce Carlton lecture agency, quoted in the International Herald Tribune dismissing the notion of midlist authors supplementing their incomes with the assistance of speakers bureaus associated with publishing houses. Such bureaus attempt to find paying gigs for the authors, in exchange for a 20 percent commission.

Mr. Sedgeley is not the only skeptic. Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, patronizingly worries that such arrangements put too much pressure on authors to hone their presentation skills at the expense of their literary development. Do editors worry that their speaking gigs will retard their editing skills? Writing is an extremely tough business. If this can help, I’m for it. But I’m not sure how much of a market exists, once you get beyond the top tier authors.

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  1. Clearly, the purpose of speaking engagements is to sell books afterwards. I’m surprised, though, that publishing houses would partner in this way, given that so many authors in the “long tail” seem to bootstrap themselves already, and it’s not quality but quantity in this regard that puts money in the publishers’ coffers for everything below prime-time. Plop me down on the skeptic side of the fence, eager to be proved wrong.

  2. Thanks, Robert. A couple posts down Random House CEO Peter Olson is quoted saying “The most-profitable books are highly successful authors early in their career with a contract that doesn’t reflect their success.” Maybe the two things are connected?

  3. Seems like putting ones finger in the wrong dyke altogether, and hoping to stay dry. 🙂