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What about Bureau Fees?

Bill Bruck

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My question:

What do you think of bureaus who (a) charge a fee for considering your materials (most don't, but some charge $50 to $750); (b) charge to list with them; and (c) charge a higher-than-average commission (30% to 35% rather than 25%)? I'm interested in creative ideas for working with these bureaus, rather than just "if you don't like it, don't work with them."

-- T. Scott Gross

Sorry, Bill... don't do business with folks who charge to consider your materials, charge a higher commission or a fee to list... if you are good enough for a legitimate bureau they will come to you.

-- Bernard Zick

I won't pay a bureau. I have 7 that book me and none of them asked for money. However, I will pay out thousands to do a joint mailing with a bureau. I don't mind a large fee, 35 vs 25. But if they are charging more than 25, I expect more. I will do most of the work for a 25% bureau. If you are at 35%, you can check on everything for me and run down problems instead of my office doing it!

-- George Walther

I think I fall into the "just don't work with them" category. If they say their commission is 30%, I say I'm happy to pay 25%. They always book me anyway. They need us. As for paying to be listed or considered, NEVER.

-- Scott Halford

I think one is a desperate speaker if they are giving that much away to a bureau. Our business does not exist because of bureaus. It exists because of speakers. If bureaus went away, we would still have speakers. Not true the other way around. Keep that in mind.

-- Sharon Adcock

Unless it's a very very very top-notch bureau who is charging a higher rate, I wouldn't work with them. Also I don't work with bureaus that charge me fees. That's just b.s. And I find in the long run those are the ones that are a pain to deal with.

-- Jeff Tobe

I have found a couple of ways to work with bureaus (and 70% of my business is from bureaus)...

  1. Visit them. I live in Pittsburgh and once per year I travel to D.C./New York/Philly to visit bureaus and they seem to love it (+ I bring food so they like that too). If I have an engagement in a town where I know there is a bureau I try to get to see them.

  2. Invite them. Of course, you know that inviting them to a talk is a hit-and-miss proposition but it is always worth a try in our minds.

  3. Stay in front of them. You should send a one page update on a monthly basis of what you are doing and where you have been. Worst case? They toss it, but they still have you in the back of their minds. Barry Roberts (fellow NSAer) sends a monthly promotional item to EVERY bureau with some type of catchy phrase tied to the item...he looks for the most unusual items...sometimes he does it as a contest to see if the recipient can guess what it is!!

  4. Network with them. Best of everything is to befriend them at NSA convention/workshop but don't be self serving. Some of my closest NSA friends are from bureaus with which I have never worked yet...but I will!

Later, he added:

I have never paid a fee to be listed with a bureau. Actually, I have never been asked! I have paid "marketing fees" (X% of the first 3 bookings etc.) but I get something in return, i.e. special mailings/preferential placement in the catalog or on a website. Regarding percentages, I have only paid 25% or 30% so I don't know if this is what you are facing or if you are suggesting that some charge even more?

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