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How to publish a business book

Many speechwriters have asked me how to publish non-fiction books – in particular, business books. After years of doing anonymous speechwriting, they’d like to see their own name on the title of a book.

Many professional speakers have asked me the same question. They realize that a published book would increase their profile, enhance their credentials, and (absolutely!) boost their speaking rates.

With 2014 marking the 30th anniversary of How To Write & Give A Speech (St. Martin’s Press), I’m getting more publishing-related questions than ever. I’d encourage would-be authors to start by reading this piece: “Crown Publishing group editor Matt Inman reveals how to get your business book published”

Then, get familiar with ASJA (the American Society of Journalists and Authors). Attend their conferences. See how other writers have published successful business books. Network. Become active on Twitter. (Not on Twitter yet? Get moving. Publishers see Twitter as mandatory for marketing a book and promoting the author’s credentials.)

You’ve already got the idea for a book. Now gather the gumption to make it happen.

Was that a soccer star on the big screen?

When President Barack Obama spoke in Tallinn, Estonia on Wednesday, he got the same great media treatment enjoyed by top matches at 2014 World Cup events.

Speeches seldom wind up attracting crowds with big screen performances like sporting events, but this speech did.

Right there in Freedom Square (near the medieval old town in the Estonian capital), President Obama made NATO the topic of the day.

Once again: It’s not just what you say, it’s where you say it. And saying it in Estonia made his message resonate – both locally and globally.

How to charge for a freelance speechwriting assignment

Don’t know what to charge? Very basic: Start by asking the client, “What is your budget for this?” You will learn a lot from their answer. If they state a budget range (and most good clients do), it might be for a larger amount than you were initially willing to bid. Lucky you!

If they state a budget range that’s way/way too low, you can save the time of preparing a proposal. “Thank you for your interest in my work. However, that budget range is far lower than my speechwriting rates. I wish you well in finding the right person for your job.”

If they say, “We don’t have any budget in mind” … well, that seems unlikely [read: untruthful]. They surely have some kind of budget in mind: $500? $5,000? $15,000? $25,000? Perhaps they’re just on a “fishing expedition” to find out what various freelance speechwriters charge. Consider this a red flag. You might put 2 or 3 hours into writing a professional speechwriting proposal, never to hear from them again. Press them a bit: “When you hired your last few freelance speechwriters, what did you pay?” If they won’t answer that fundamental question, you don’t have to waste any more of your time. Bow out – graciously, but fast.

The new edition of How To Write & Give A Speech has a large chapter on hiring speechwriters. What you don’t know about the speechwriting hiring process can cost you money, time and frustration.

The King’s Speech … the book, not the movie

Last week, a colleague wrote to tell me that she had read a wonderful book: The King’s Speech – How One Man Saved the British Monarchy (written by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, published in 2010, based on the newly discovered diaries of Lionel Logue).

As it turns out, I read the book about a year ago and I concur with my colleague: This book is absolutely wonderful. I keep it by my desk just so I can remind myself of the power that lives in each speaker.

If you’re a speechwriter … if you’re a speaker … if you’re a speech coach … if you like history .. if you follow royalty … if you are keen on all things British … if you just plain like to read a fine book … then do not miss this book.

How to line edit a speech

A few days ago, I was coaching two top-level government speechwriters. Our discussions covered a range of significant speechwriting issues – working with clients who have incredibly busy schedules, serving our organizations effectively, creating speeches that generate positive media buzz.

But I told them: It’s your nitty-gritty line editing skills that will distinguish you as a professional speechwriter, and it’s your nitty-gritty line editing skills that will give your speakers a manuscript they can deliver with style.

I highly recommend Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing [The one book that shows you how to make what you say as good as what you mean], written by Claire Kehrwald Cook and published by the Modern Language Association.

Study this material. It will pay off.

If it’s back to school time …

… then it’s soon time for Parents Night at schools across the United States. Every back to school program involves speeches and presentations.

As a parent who sat through years of Parent Nights, I have a few words of public speaking advice for both teachers and administrators:

1. Less is more. Don’t fill every minute of your allotted time with a PowerPoint presentation. Before you launch into your presentation, give parents a few moments at the beginning to get seated (remember, they are not used to squeezing into those cramped desks). Above all, give them ample time at the end to ask you questions! An intereactive Q&A is more important than anything you can say or show on your own.

2. More is not more. Whatever you do, don’t run overtime. Running even one minute over the established schedule will work against you. Parents want to hear you talk, and then they want you to stop talking. Give an efficient presentation that runs on time (or, better yet, that runs short). Immediately after you wrap, parents need to rush to the next room on the schedule so they can meet – and yes, assess! – another teacher. Delay parents at your own peril.

Recommended book on language and culture

Last week, I taught a 1-day speechwriting workshop in the greater Washington DC area. Throughout the day, I made a number of references to linguistics – in particular, what speechwriters can learn from this field.

One attendee asked if I could recommend a few good books on linguistics. I can. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post about several resources.

To start:

I highly recommend the way we talk now (yes, all lower case), by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg. Published by Houghton Mifflin, the book provides commentaries on language and culture.

This praise comes from Deborah Tannen (whose work I also admire): “Geoffrey Nunberg’s witty and entertaining commentaries will turn anyone into a lover of language. He shows how language can be a lens through which to view our evolving popular culture.”

Can #punctuation help sell a speech? Maybe! @JoanDetz

Did you notice the “Best Sellers” section in The New York Times last Sunday (August 17)? It opened with this comment:

“Can punctuation help sell a book? It can’t hurt!” And then the section cited these books:


The Pigeon Needs A Bath!, by Mo Willems

#GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso

I’m thinking: If lively punctuation can help sell a book, maybe it can also draw more attention to a speech. At conferences and conventions, presentations with the best titles tend to attract the largest crowds and get the most media attention.

I say: Speechwriters and presenters can learn from the Best Seller list.

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