At the New York Times, Celia McGee highlights the growing number of publishers who have set up separate speakers’ bureaus for select authors. In the last two years, several major publishing houses have set up speakers bureaus. HarperCollins was the first, in May 2005, followed by Random House (which outsourced its program to the American Program Bureau rather than build its own.) Knopf and Penguin established in-house speakers bureaus in 2006, and two other publishers, Holtzbrinck and the Hachette Book Group, may do the same.
A speakers bureau “goes beyond the traditional marketing opportunities,” said Jamie Brickhouse, who heads the HarperCollins enterprise. “It’s a way for authors to continue to raise their profiles and reach new audiences. It’s great for the frontlist and for the backlist, and has brought new life to authors who don’t have an ongoing book push.” The fees charged by such bureaus for authors (like James Swanson, left) can be steep – from $5000 to $35,000 an appearance depending on the author’s status. But some, like PW editor-in-chief Sara Nelson, expressed concern with the trend, worried that it put too much pressure on authors to hone their presentation skills, potentially at the expense of their literary development. “If whether you’re able to sell yourself as a speaker is part of finding a publisher or not concerns me,” she said.