18 September 2007 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 23 comments

Sean Dail’s comment to last night’s post got me thinking about the whole concept of speaking to promote one’s books concept of marketing. I’ve done a tremendous amount of this over the course of the last ten years. I’ve always taken the attitude that when I speak, I have a room full of potential book buyers in front of me. Sometimes, people do buy, but more often than not, they don’t. Some groups are better about it than others, and some are downright terrible about it.

I rarely charge other than some travel money for speaking engagements for this reason. Don’t get me wrong–if it’s part of a commercial enterprise, then I fully expect to get my fair share of the pie. Conferences usually pay pretty well, which is why I readily accept invitations to participate in them. However, the overwhelming majority of Civil War Roundtables can’t afford to pay stipends, and most don’t. Most will cover travel expenses, but there are even a handful that won’t do that. Virtually all will offer the opportunity to sell books.

Over the course of the past ten years, I’ve easily spoken to 40 or 50 Roundtables around the country, some more than once. It’s enabled me to visit places I might not otherwise have gotten to see, such as my trip to New Orleans and Austin this past spring. More often than not, it wears me out. The travel is tiring, and so is the actual act of speaking. I rarely sell more than half a dozen or so books, so it’s questionable whether there’s enough of a financial reward to make it worth the while. To be honest, after nearly fifteen years of doing it regularly (literally hundreds of times), I’m beginning to grow a bit weary of the whole thing. I still enjoy the interaction with the public, but one can only get so excited about doing the same talk for the 100th time.

Stephen W. Sears does not accept speaking engagements at all. He calls it the “cannonball circuit.” I first heard that Steve doesn’t do speaking engagements in 1990 or so when I was the program chairman of our Civil War Roundtable and contacted him to invite him to speak. He has never elaborated for me the reasons why he chooses not to do speaking engagements, and I’ve never asked. I always figured that if he wanted me to know, he would have told me.

Likewise, I know that Bill Frassanito has stopped doing speaking engagements. Bill told me that in person the last time that I was in Gettysburg. Bill would prefer to sit down with his legion of fans at the Reliance Mine Saloon and enjoy an adult beverage or two, in an effort to engage in some direct sales techniques.

I am also aware that some of the academic historians who make up the core of the Civil Warriors blog have a very different philosophy about this. Brooks Simpson spelled it out well in this post.

First, I’m not a traveling bookstore. I’ve never carried with me books to sign. There are plenty of ways to obtain my writings, and frankly I think it’s somewhat embarrassing, even humiliating, to assume we are there to peddle our wares. If I want to publicize something, there are far more effective ways to reach a far larger audience.

Second, I don’t speak before general groups in order to sell books or to make money. I don’t see my appearances as a book tour. It’s flattering to have people ask me to sign books, but I don’t travel to sell books: that would be financially counterproductive. An honorarium is always appreciated, but in some cases I’ve actually helped groups out by not charging certain expenses so they can use that money to do preservation work. There are much better and easier ways to make more money in the same amount of time; if anything these trips eat into the time and energy I have for such enterprises.

Third, I speak because I suppose people want to hear what I have to say about something. I don’t have a folder of recycled talks. I do what I can to make each talk fresh and different, and the instances where I have returned to a previous talk are rare.

Fourth, although many people are very appreciative and kind, I do detect in a few members of the audience some of the traits Mark has highlighted. I don’t think a CWRT or any other group is doing me a professional favor by having me come and talk. Rather, what I’m doing is a professional courtesy. I am very surprised when people in other white collar professions treat me in ways they would not be treated, and expect me to give away for free knowledge and insight for which they would charge … and then assume that I should be grateful for that opportunity. What makes that even more amusing is to hear mumblings afterward that some people ascribe to me behavior they exhibited in my presence: some folks actually like to demean what I do by saying, “that’s your opinion,” “I know better,” or whatever. I don’t think they would take that so kindly if they were the “expert” being consulted; if you are going to treat me that way, then why have me come in the first place, and why do you show up? This said, these encounters with smugness and condescension are the exception, not the rule, in my experience. Then again, I’ve never spoken before some of the groups Mark and Kevin Levin have mentioned.

Mark Grimsley makes similar points. There is a great deal of validity to what they both say.

To be honest, I’m beginning to re-think the whole strategy of promoting my books through speaking to Civil War Roundtables. Each trip keeps me from doing client work that I get paid to do, and each trip prevents me from working on my various research projects and the like. I’m just not sure how many more Roundtable talks I’m going to agree to do that require me to travel more than an hour or two for these reasons.

Let me throw it open to you, my readers. What do you all think about this issue? Please feel free to speak freely; nobody is being graded on this, and it helps me to make some important decisions.

Scridb filter


  1. Sam Elliott
    Tue 18th Sep 2007 at 10:03 pm

    I don’t think a hard and fast rule is called for. Go where you want to go, decline the ones that take too much time or where you’ve been treated badly before.

  2. Steve Basic
    Tue 18th Sep 2007 at 11:14 pm


    As you know, I recently became the VP of Programs for the Civil War Round Table of NYC, and will just post about some things on this side of the fence.

    Like you and Brooks have said, most RT’s I know of can not afford to pay an honararium. I was very surprised here as to the cost cutting that goes on, and yet they expect me to line up a slate of top notch speakers. It’s hard to understand for me, as the NYC RT is the second oldest in the country, and yet eyes rise here when I mention I have speakers coming from Ohio, PA, GA, and TN in the next few months.

    I am one of the lucky ones, as some of the guests I have coming here to speak are friends of mine, and know that they are doing me a huge favor. Brooks makes a very good point about not hawking his books around with him to sell. Before I got this job, if there was speaker appearing here, I made it a point to buy books at local stores or via the internet so I could get them signed. It’s not that hard to do.

    I have had one meeting here, and was astounded by how many members expect books to be available for sale, and one even asked me where I got my copy, and I said Amazon. 🙂

    Am sure it is the same in many of the groups around the country, that a certain number of members complain about this and that, and yet never take the leap to get involved. Frankly, I was one of those, and decided to just shut up and volunteer for the post. To be honest, I never thought I would get the job in the first place, as I am one of the younger members of the group, and I know many feathers were ruffled when I was elected to the position throughout the old guard.

    In many ways it is a rewarding experience, but I can do without the constant phone calls I seem to have gotten since I accepted the position. My first thought was I volunteered for this?? I had to remind those folks that I don’t work for them, which comes as a shock to some of them.

    As I told you after the first meeting, I knew I was not in Kansas anymore. I have sat with the same group of folks at the same table for the past 10 years, and yet there I was at the Head Table watching my friends relaxing and having a good time, and I was sitting there wondering if it would look good if I had a beer before the talk started. That’s not me at all. 🙂

    For those in my position, it takes a lot of work to schedule speakers, and I can imagine how much harder it must be for those who try to do so for the many smaller RT’s around the country. I have talked to quite a few of them recently, and I guess the one thing we all share, is the determination to do the job correctly. It has its ups and downs, but then I got a message from my very first speaker this evening thanking me for inviting her to speak in NYC, and how much she enjoyed the attentiveness of the group, and that I was a gracious host. It made me smile when I read that, and that for the first meeting I did good. 🙂

    As for your decision making on where to speak, I think Sam’s answer sums it up well.

    Hope you don’t mind me sharing my thoughts on this, but as one who is in the process of scheduling guests, I just wanted folks to see what goes on in my world Round Table wise.

    Hope all is well.

    Regards from the Garden State,


  3. Don
    Tue 18th Sep 2007 at 11:23 pm


    After reading your post and the comments thus far, I suppose the question I must pose is this: why are you talking to the CWRTs? If you’re doing it solely to sell books, then you’ve made a persuasive case that it’s not worth it. If you’re doing it for the enjoyment of the camaraderie, information exchange, and seeing new places, then it probably is. If, as I suspect is the case, it’s a mixture of the two, then pick your shots. Perhaps you limit yourself to 4 or 5 a year? I’d hate to see you hang up your round table seat, but I can easily see where too many of them would be wearying and even counter-productive from an expenditure of available time standpoint.

  4. Dave Smith
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 8:42 am

    A couple of comments about not only Eric’s blog post, but the responses so far.

    I haven’t spoken to as many RT’s as Eric, but the number is probably 20-25, and geographically is probably as diverse. And I only have one book published, so perhaps my view is colored a bit by that fact.

    If I drive to a speaking engagement, I take a box of books. By and large, unless the person who invited me, or the person who introduced me, says I have books for sale, I don’t mention it. I’ve never gone to a speaking engagement, other than one at a Barnes & Noble, where the purpose was to hawk books. My attitude is that if someone is interested enough to want to purchase one, I’m interested enough to sell them one.

    Steve, I was program chair for the Cincinnati CWRT for over ten years, and I hear your pain, pal. It is, without a doubt, the most thankless job an RT has, including newsletter editor (which I did, too). We all approach the position with our own Civil War biases and interests, which are going to clash with those of other members. Just remember – they can have the job, any time they want it. Trust me, they won’t.

    Why speak at a Round Table? For me, it’s simple – I have a good time. I like to do it. I don’t speak as much as I have in the past; divorce, re-marriage and other intersts have an amazing way of changing things. It’s kind of neat to have the opportunity to have a group of people interested in what you have to say. In the case of the Pemberton book, it’s a somewhat unique story and talk, so it’s fun just on its own.

    Eric, I feel your pain, too. I don’t buy, but respect, Sears’ view of the whole thing. But it works for him, and hopefully he balances other aspects of his life with it. But I do understand, having been on Steve’s side of the game, how difficult it is to be a program chair, so I have respect for his side of the talk as well.

    From my perspective, you travel more than I’d want to. If you decide to cut back, I’d totally understand.


  5. Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 9:22 am

    Good comments from all.

    As one who has a thimble of experience doing this compared to you Eric, I will say this… I’ve done book signings and I’ve done speaking engagements but NEVER both at the same time. In my opinion, when people come to see you speak – you are there to speak – and when they come to get your book signed… In other words one can ultimately interfere with the other. However, I think its perfectly fine to have some books on hand IF people ask after you’re done.

    Personally, my speaking is more of my way of using my time and talents to witness, and I don’t do it to ‘move’ books. That said, people always ask where they can get some and a sale is a sale after all. Think of it this way – one can also feed the other – more book sales can lead to more talks and vice-versa.

    I also totally agree with the statement “I speak because I suppose people want to hear what I have to say about something. I don’t have a folder of recycled talks. I do what I can to make each talk fresh and different, and the instances where I have returned to a previous talk are rare.” – I had so many people ask for the transcript of my talk last weekend that it is now posted on my website. Now I can’t ever use it again in that format – and that is good. Canned presentations can be somewhat disingenuous at times.

    I’ve seen you speak Eric (Gettysburg panel on Cav Ops) and your very good at what you do. Keep doing it.

  6. Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 10:05 am


    I used to go wherever I was invited–I once drove six hours and paid for a motel room to speak to five people. It actually was a pleasant evening. But as I approach the big 5-0, I’ve settled into a new policy. I speak to local groups because Auburn strongly stresses outreach to the Alabama community, as it should. And I fly to interesting places I’d like to visit. That’s it. But wherever I go, I don’t take books, simply because university publishers don’t provide lots of books for direct sales, and I simply can’t get a lot of books on a plane anyway. The best thing round tables could do for speakers is to contact stores or publishers ahead of time and have several copies there on consignment. Steve Basic’s wonderful CWRT did that for me a few years ago, for example, and it was a great help (and a great weekend in NYC and CT).

    I’ve spoken to over two dozen round tables, in addition to many other groups, and Brooks does raise some good point, in my opinion. All RTs are very different, it’s really a fascinating phenomenon. Steve and Dave Smith represent two of the friendliest. But I’ve also been asked to speak while people were eating, or jammed into a corner next to the bar so that I could have the “privilege” of signing books. That night I think I sold one book and two scotch and sodas. That’s no way to treat a guest, and I would not go back there.


  7. Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 10:25 am

    Dear Sir ,
    As a veteran of the Chicago and South Suburban ( Chicago ) , Civil War Round Tables it is my opinion that “the important author speaker ” venue is seldom rewarding for anyone since most authors are not good speakers and most Round Table members are non-supportive tightwads ( unless they spend $3,000.00 for a Spencer Carbine ) . I feel a Round Table ought to encourage discussion amongst its members and not have to be constantly entertained by wandering authors , many of dubious talent .
    Curiously , when I first joined a Round Table , members discussed books ; now it is videos .
    all for the old flag ,
    David Corbett

  8. Mike Peters
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 11:38 am

    Mr. Corbett,

    I would disagree with your “most suthors are not good speakers” statement. In my tenure as “Historian General” of the Central Ohio Civil War Round Table, the authors have been fabulous. I do, however, agree that many RT members do not want to “get involved” yet are very suggestive of who you should get to appear. Steve & I have talked about this in multiple E-mails. I recently received an E-mail, from a nearby RT, in which the “Programs Chair” is literally begging for help because he can’t do it all.

    I am very honored when an author speaks to our group & I try to treat them accordingly. Eric you have raised another issue that I need to consider.


  9. Brooks Simpson
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Eric’s printed my comments, so there’s not much to add. I’ve enjoyed several of my RT trips (Dave at Cincinnati –twice; Jim Epperson at Ann Arbor; New Orleans, Austin, St. Louis, Ft. Worth, and Dallas come to mind). I suspect one reason Dave and Jim do such a super job is because they are speakers, too.

    Of course, Steve, I am coming to NYC in late March. 🙂

    I used to do tour work with the Blue and Gray Education Society, but I’ve done none in years, and I expect I’ve fallen off the list.

    Finally, academics have a somewhat different reward/risk structure in terms of speaking opportunities and professional obligations.

  10. Russell Bonds
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 3:27 pm


    Great comments by all. As you know, I’m a first-time author and am still, quite simply, flattered to be asked to speak. I promised myself when I got the book published that I would do my best to support it, and that includes speaking–not only to Round Tables, but also historical societies, etc. I’m too new to have established any firm rules, but (like the movie says) here are a few emerging “guidelines”:

    1. I visit RTs to share what I think is a compelling Civil War story; if I can sell some books along the way, that’s great. I differ from Prof. Simpson on that point–I don’t find it humiliating to “peddle my wares” and am surprised how pleased some folks are to get a book signed or to chat with the author for a couple of minutes. Locally, I toss a box or two in my car; out of town, I try to put the RT in touch with the publisher in case they want to have books on hand. It’s purely up to them. Results vary: I’ve sold one book; and I’ve sold out of books.

    2. I certainly don’t expect to be paid or to receive any honorarium, but a non-local speaking engagement is usually costing me (at least) a vacation day, so it’s difficult for me to accept speaking offers unless travel expenses are reimbursed.

    3. I show slides and speak without notes to keep it fresh, and in general have had good experiences. A couple of times I’ve had a questioner wanting to demonstrate that they know more than me about this or that (last week at a railroaders’ group, someone held forth on their encyclopedic knowledge of the Confederacy’s various track gauges, which was nice for them), but most of the time I enjoy the Q&A very much.

    4. Scheduling is very difficult. As you know, most RTs schedule many months or even a year out, and–given the uncertainty and travel schedule that my “day job” often entails–it’s difficult to commit to a weeknight months in advance. I do the best I can–check with my wife, be sure there’s no school calendar or vacation schedule conflicts, and then set the engagement down just like I would any other business meeting.

    5. I agree with Eric that a great fringe benefit is the opportunity to travel to various destinations. In November, I’m fortunate to be the guest of Steve’s excellent RT in New York and am tagging on a few days afterwards to show my daughters the Big Apple. If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.

    For all these reasons, I agree with Don’s point–speak to Roundtables, but pick and choose those that are most appealing to you and fit best with your schedule. I think a small handful in a year are plenty–unless one is in full-blown newly released book promotion mode, in which case you can surely find me at every Kiwanis and Rotary Club luncheon in the Atlanta area. Not to mention the SCV. [insert Rebel yell sound effect here]

    Thanks much, and kind regards,

  11. Jim Morgan
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I rather like “the cannonball circuit.” I’ve been doing programs for 20 years or so – CW music programs for a long time and, more recently, programs related to Ball’s Bluff in some way – and I find them very enjoyable.

    I generally bring some books to sell and don’t see that as a problem. Indeed, it people express an interest in my one book, seems to me I should help them out by having some there. Besides, isn’t it best to strike while the iron is hot? Their interest might wain if they don’t actually order a copy within a few days after the RT meeting. Helps them, helps me, though I’m not making, and never expected to make, any grand sum of money on a Civil War book about one small battle.

    Right now I’m scheduled to do programs in Richmond and Pinehurst (NC) in October and in NYC for Steve Basic’s group in December. Also have two other tentative invitations on which I’m awaiting confirmation. As long as the group will cover my travel expenses if the trip takes me somewhat far afield, I see no reason to ask for or expect any money beyond that. As others have noted, most RTs aren’t flush. Certainly, my own in Leesburg isn’t, though we do all right.

    I think Sam’s advice sums it up well, Eric. Accept whatever engagements you want to and don’t accept the others.

    Jim Morgan

  12. Brooks Simpson
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Someone remarked:

    “I differ from Prof. Simpson on that point–I don’t find it humiliating to “peddle my wares” and am surprised how pleased some folks are to get a book signed or to chat with the author for a couple of minutes.”

    Let’s recall exactly what I said:

    “There are plenty of ways to obtain my writings, and frankly I think it’s somewhat embarrassing, even humiliating, to assume we are there to peddle our wares.”

    There’s a significant difference. I have no problem signing books, but I’m not a travelling bookstore, and no, I would not care if someone saw my appearance at a RT as an effort by me to sell books. They would be wrong. Let’s not confuse motivation with consequence.

  13. Paul Taylor
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 9:10 pm


    I guess it all comes down to the motivation and reasons for doing it. The answer to that can help dictate whether an author feels it’s worth it or not. The number of talks I’ve given to roundtables could probably be counted on two hands, simply because I never really sought out opportunities. Usually, a reasonably local roundtable has sought me out, though I’ve pondered the idea of expanding that when I’m in a more “retired” state. 🙂 Assuming, of course, that it’s not a hassle or financial drain.

    That said, it’s still a new enough experience for me that I’m flattered and honored when asked to speak before a group. For me, this is an avocation and I guess at this point it’s still mostly about trying to get my name out there. The opportunity to sell a few books after the talk is secondary. I’m sure any author who has responded to this post will agree that it’s always good for the ego when someone is willing to pay full retail for your work and seeks out your signature in the process.


  14. Steve Basic
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Just a few more comments on this…

    Dave Smith…10 years? Now that deserves a medal. 🙂 Not surprisingly, I have already told members here who have complained that if they think they can do better, you can have the job. No takers yet. 🙂 Some have actually questioned me as to why I will be having 2 female speakers this calendar year. Some attitudes never change, I guess.

    Ken Noe’s talk here was one of the better ones we have had in my 10 plus years as member of the RT. Main reason why is because it was on a topic that is rarely discussed here, being the War in the West and of course the Battle of Perryville.

    David Corbett, Your point is well taken, and have asked members to talk about certain subjects, and all say no, as in they don’t have the time etc.

    I am very grateful to have the chance to talk to folks like Mike and others as to how their RT’s work and it has been helpful to network this way. Mike and I have talked quite a bit about getting speakers. Good way to blow off steam as well. 🙂

    Thanks to all for the kind words, and I look forward to having Russ and Jim speak in NYC in the next few months.

    Regards from the Garden State,


  15. Russell Bonds
    Wed 19th Sep 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Prof. Simpson:

    I apologize if I misquoted or misinterpreted.

    Best regards,
    Russell Bonds

  16. Brooks Simpson
    Thu 20th Sep 2007 at 12:58 am

    Russell — I understand that in some cases, especially when it is not always easy for someone to obtain a copy of someone’s book, that someone might want to bring some copies along. However, in my neck of the woods, that’s counterproductive in many ways, and it’s very easy for someone to obtain my books, given the publishers, etc. One size does not fit all, that’s all.

    But I think that a reply I posted in Civil Warriors to a comment made in response to a post I made and from which Eric has quoted is useful in understanding my position:

    “I think members of CWRTs are not always familiar with the lives of
    professional historians. I get plenty of opportunities to speak in public, sometimes for rather good compensation. Speaking before CWRTs forms a rather small part of my speaking schedule: currently I do it for good friends or as a professional favor. Moreover, between the advent of the internet and C-SPAN, there are ways for me to reach a far larger audience at less cost. Historians now often participate in conferences open to the public for a fee, which also has an impact on CWRTs. And there are plenty of people who do not belong to CWRTs (and many more who do belong to CWRTs) who can interact with us directly at these public talks or via the internet.

    People pay all the time for the professional expertise of all sorts of people: only when it comes to historians does there seem to be an assumption on the part of people who do not even know the historian to assume that they are entitled to the same level of professional insight for no charge. I think Mark {Grimsley}’s outlined the costs we bear in talking to CWRTs, and as an economic proposition, it’s a losing one without any compensating professional benefit (except the notion of local service).

    One question that I think needs to be addressed is why do you want us to speak to you, and how much is that worth to you? If the appearance of professional historians comes at the expense of exposing local talent, as you suggest, well, that’s a matter for the CWRTs to address. But I think those members of CWRTs who think they are doing us a favor by inviting us might pause to reconsider that premise. It’s much easier to obtain our
    books nowadays; we don’t gain in prestige among our peers for these speaking opportunities; as an economic proposition, it’s a losing one (and, frankly, an honorarium may bite into that, but it still remains a losing proposition). We come to speak because we love our work and we want to share that with you; you underestimate how much we view our vocation as an
    avocation if you think otherwise.

  17. Thu 20th Sep 2007 at 11:25 am

    As a relatively new member of the Ann Arbor CWRT, I’ve only attended a few meetings, but they’ve exposed me to new authors and different subjects. I doubt I’d ever have purchased “Intimate Strategies of the Civil War: Military Commanders and Their Wives” by Lesley Gordon until I heard her fascinating talk in June. My brother, an author who speaks at events where his books are sold, does so to (1) educate, and (2) sell his books, products that educate, thus earning a few dollars. (BTW, far as I know, the AACWRT pays all expenses of its guest speakers.)

    As a general proposition, the cost/benefit calculation ought to be positive. If its purely financial, that’s one thing. If there are intangibles (eg, satisfaction at educating those of us who still like to learn new things), that’s another. If the topic is fresh enough, that ought to inspire some of us to crack our wallets open. If I don’t want an author’s signature, online shopping is fine. But webshopping can’t beat having a book personally addressed to me by its author, especially when I’ve made a personal connection by chatting live.

    My two cents, Eric: I would hope you won’t turn down an invitation to speak in Michigan and, by some arrangement (perhaps a local bookstore would like to get in on the RT action), your books would be available for purchase and signing.

    I say this to an Ohioan even though a sign at an Indians/Tigers game this week at Jacobs Field disparaged all of our Michigan-based sports teams by comparing them to your more successful Ohio counterparts. How inconsiderate. So what if the inconvenient truth is that recent history proves the point? My consolation is the sign-holder left off the NHL. I still have my Red Wings!

  18. James Durney
    Thu 20th Sep 2007 at 11:45 am

    I am a member of a small roundtable in Florida so having national authors as speakers is almost impossible. We would love to have you speak but we cannot afford airfare. Our programs are members who can speak or discussion. When we have a non-member speaker, we try to give a gift card. This isn’t always possible and the trade off can be supporting the new CWPT fundraiser or buying a Borders card.

    Speaking once or twice a year, I can relate to the problems you encounter. In our defense, most roundtables have a member that should be kept in a cage. It is almost impossible, for us, to keep someone from spewing their theories, implying they are smarter than the speaker, asking off topic questions or just rambling on. I agree that no one should be invited to speak unless a speaking area can be provided. We will not ask an outsider speaker during the slow months because we don’t want you to see six people.

    Getting programs together is a thankless task. For many of us, getting to meet an author and getting our books signed is an event. Keeping that in mind might make the hours of travel, bad meetings and fools a little easier to handle.

  19. Brooks Simpson
    Thu 20th Sep 2007 at 11:55 am

    You can always buy a book online or at a bookstore and then have it autographed at the meeting. But I have enough books in my house already without operating a bookstore where I have to buy my own books, store them, package them, carry them around (on planes), sell a handful, repackage, restore, rinse and repeat … and the sales would not count in my publisher’s sales figures. Sorry, folks, I’m not doing it.

    Again, where bringing along one’s books is a good marketing advice for individual authors, they can do this. But you’ll have to understand that for others, including me, this isn’t how we choose to go about doing business, and given the travel time and other commitments involved, it’s financially counterproductive. That’s one of the benefits of exchanges like this: you learn that different people have different opinions and reasoning.

    I refrain from generalizing about CWRTs, because I’ve had diverse experiences. Let’s put it this way: where people treat me like a professional (as is the case with the Ann Arbor RT), they find that they enjoy my visit better, they tend to get more out of me, and I speak highly of them to my peers when we discuss where to go and where not to go. Where I’m expected to hawk my wares and bring them along and then hear snide comments, well, guess what happens.

  20. Brooks Simpson
    Thu 20th Sep 2007 at 5:34 pm

    James — It’s good people like you that explain why I speak and why I enjoy it.

  21. Fri 21st Sep 2007 at 8:34 am

    In response to Steve in NYC, I know where you are coming from, but my perspective is a bit different. For three years I have been the program chair for my CWRT in eastern North Carolina. Though we are the longest continually meeting RT in the state, we are very small (maybe 20 members and never more than 15 at a meeting). We have virtually no budget and what money we do have, the old folks (meaning, original or long-time members) are very unwilling to come off of. Still, in my three years in the position I have been able to land some great speakers and the membership has openly acknowledged that the programming now is better than ever. But they still complain from time to time, and are completely unwilling to make any sort of organizational changes, which I feel are desperately needed. I felt like I was pulling teeth to get them to agree to pay gas money for a speaker who is driving two hours from Raleigh. I’ve tried to bring in bigger names from farther away and have always been shot down, even though they agree it would be great to have such speakers to help boost our organization’s profile. They always want something for nothing. So, next month I plan to announce to the group that I am stepping down, and I will probably cut ties with the group altogether. Prior to my joining, they had courted me for a number of years, saying I should really join. They even gave me my first year membership for free. Now I feel like I’ve been used and have had no real substantial input in bettering the group for the long term.

    As for Eric, Brooks, and all the other “speakers” in this particular conversation, I really do appreciate what all of you do in giving up your time and speaking to groups like ours. In my case, especially, when our group is willing to offer little to a speaker other than their supper, your dedication enriches our learning experiences, many times at a cost to you. I do the lecture circuit here in NC myself, and I don’t mind it at all. Most of the time it is considered part of my job and so I am compensated for it in one way or another. But for so many of you, it is simply your dedication that makes it worth your while, and as a program chair I appreciate all of our speakers.

    Andrew Duppstadt

  22. Brooks Simpson
    Fri 21st Sep 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Note: BTW, this is not an effort to negotiate a speaker’s fee for a non-profit group. Sometimes, in fact, we get very nice things. I’ve already mentioned previously my Red Wings jersey. 🙂

  23. Sun 23rd Sep 2007 at 10:36 pm

    Interesting insights, everyone. I think that the answer is to keep speaking, but to be more selective about the invitations that I accept.


Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress