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One of the oft-heard plaints whenever someone compares how the music industry and the book industry should deal with pirates is that authors don’t have the same ability to earn a living from “live shows” that musicians do if their recorded media stops bringing in enough money. But one literary agency thinks that may not necessarily have to be true.

The Literary Platform has an article looking at agency Conville & Walsh’s efforts to create a new revenue stream for authors and agents out of live appearances, with a speakers agency called “Hire Intelligence”. The agency has already created some events that have attracted hundreds of listeners.

“Can a separate or additional revenue stream ever be a bad thing?”asks [agency co-founder Patrick] Walsh. “An author can’t automatically assume that they will be able to live off their primary advance, especially in today’s relatively fragile ecosystem. But more than that, Hire Intelligence is a part of our wider efforts to raise the profile of the authors we work with, which is becoming crucial, especially in America. Now, at least in non-fiction, you have to sell a person as much as their project, and that’s something we wanted to take very seriously. Where we think we’re doing something different with Hire Intelligence is in focussing our initial efforts on real experts, translating their hard-won knowledge for the lay audience, and charging a healthy fee for doing so.”

Rather than the single-book-targeted book publicity tour, which Walsh calls “artificial,” the agency is focusing on booking authors to speak more generally on the subjects in which they have expertise.

While not every author will be comfortable speaking to crowds, the idea of booking an author as a speaker could be quite helpful to those authors who do have the ability to speak. And some authors do it already—Neil Gaiman can charge fairly significant speaking fees, though he usually donates them to charity. (This caused a bit of a fuss earlier this year when a Minnesota state representative took exception to a hefty fee Gaiman received for speaking at a Minnesota library.)

My friends who are authors tell me that it’s extremely rare for an author to be able to quit his or her day job. But perhaps this sort of thing could help some of them get by a little easier.

 
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