Speaking at the WI

Brain Injury in women by Pauline O'Connor - an author and advocate for PKU and brain injury. www.PigPen.page
Speaking slide from Pauline's presentation.

Authors can speak at local Women’s Institute (WI) meetings for a speaker fee, and often sell books afterwards. This post will take you through how that works.

Why do speaking gigs as a traditionally published author?

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of traditionally published authors do not earn a living from royalties alone. The median earning for authors in the UK is now £7,000 per year.

There is plenty of money in publishing, but it is certainly not evenly distributed. Many authors supplement their income by speaking at events, or doing school visits to promote and sell their books.

My debut book was published by a global publisher in 2020. I dreamed of steady royalties helping me to write more, instead I discovered how much work an author is expected to put into marketing their book. (I put about the same amount of work into marketing my traditionally published book as I do my self-published title).

The WI speaker audition

The WI produces a list of speakers from across the UK, which is made available to local groups. A prospective speaker must pass an audition to be included on this list. March 2023 marked the nerve-wracking audition where I presented my narrative to WI representatives. Positive feedback on the day was much appreciated, and I was soon notified that I had passed.

The next speaker list would be produced in 2024 and my talk on brain injury awareness would be included. Despite the delay, I received several bookings from representatives who had been there on the day. Many of those who contacted me said they were pleased to be booking someone speaking about a hidden, but widespread, injury.

Raising awareness

Beyond the financial aspect, these engagements are a vital channel for me to raise awareness about brain injuries and how they affect women. Every talk I have done has revealed people in the audience impacted by brain injury: either they have an injury themselves or are caring for a family member. Often, others in their group, whom they might have known for years, have no idea.

This is the point of these speaking events for me. Opening people’s eyes to the prevalence of brain injury in our society using my story as the starting point. I am yet to sell a book after an event, but many have spoken to me of the impact of my story. The joy of raising awareness remains the linchpin, with book sales serving as a delightful bonus.

Another source of author income

To fellow authors seeking avenues beyond royalties, I encourage you to explore speaking at local groups; such as the WI or the U3A. They are a powerful platform not just for income, but for raising awareness and connecting with communities. Reach out to local groups, audition, and let your voice resonate where it matters most.

The Alliance of Independent Authors - Author Member