Wednesday, May 27, 2015

5 Ways to Become an Expert in Your Field

When I published my first book, Persistence of Vision, my marketing rep had me fill out a questionnaire about how I planned to market my book. Then he called and we had an hour long conversation about it. At some point in the questionnaire, I wrote that I wasn't a dystopian expert or anything, but I did know a lot about the genre. My marketing rep responded by telling me to never say that again. He said I should sell myself as a dystopian expert and think of myself that way. It would give me authority and credibility when it came to my book and help me further my career. 

Best advice I ever received!

As writers, there is an unspoken expectation from our readers that we be experts at what we're writing about. Not to mention it might  just be the most effective way to market our own work. 

But am I suggesting you tout yourself as an expert when you're not? Of course not. Even after my marketing rep's suggestion, I didn't label myself as that for a while. I didn't feel knowledgeable enough yet. Instead, I worked hard to get to the point where I could call myself that. 

So, how do you become an expert in your field, genre, or passion? There are several ways. These are my favorites. In my opinion, they produce the fastest, best results.

1) Tell yourself you already are. What we think about we bring about. Just like writing down a goal makes it more attainable, telling yourself you are something is the first step to becoming it. 

2) Do the research  

     a) Read I doubt I need to tell anyone in this community that reading is paramount. If you want to know about something, you have to do the research and learn about it. The fastest way to find out whether you really care about something is to start researching it. If you've lost interest in five minutes, you don't have much passion for it. If you stay up all night going from link to link and reading more and more...

     b) 10,000 hours - It's pretty well-accepted knowledge that to become an expert, you have to do something for 10,000 hours. That's a lot of time, but think of it this way. If you write for 10 hours a week, it'll take a thousand weeks to become an expert. The more you do, the faster you excel. But don't worry. If you really love what you're doing, you'll do it in your spare time anyway. You'll hit this hour requirement before you know it.

     c) Educate yourself and form an opinion - Being an expert is not about reciting fact or having read all of the literature ever written on a topic. Rather, it's about knowing enough to form an opinion on the issues people care about. 

Example: If you want to call yourself a vampire expert, you don't have to have read every vampire novel ever written, or be able to recite every significant date in Anne Rice's career. On the other hand, you should probably know the difference between Bram Stoker and Stephanie Meyer, and have an opinion about their different approaches to vampires. Of course, the more you do read, the more authority you have on the subject.

3) Speak it, write it, teach it - You can memorize facts until you're blue in the face, but you'll just forget them if you don't refresh every day. The fastest way to learn something and ingrain it in your own mind is to teach it to someone else. So do that. 

Example: It can be done verbally, in writing, or in a teaching environment, such as a class, conference, panel, or seminar. The great thing about the writing community is that everyone always wants to learn from everyone else's experiences. So you'll always have an audience. 

4) Blog - This is an extension of #3, but there are SO many reasons to blog as an author. You can teach concepts through writing, connect with an audience, and learn more than is humanly possible just learning on your own. 

5) Get Started! Now! - True inspiration comes after you get started, not before. When I started blogging, I was super-nervous and knew absolutely nothing about it or any other online platform. The learning curve was amazing to me. The more you do, the more you know. In a matter of months I was better-versed on blogging and online platforms than most people I know. So don't let not knowing something slow you down. In order to become an expert, you have to get started!

Are there any of these you'd like more details about? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I know I've seen enough movies to have a good handle on space opera. Become an expert - that is good advice.

  2. Alex, in my opinion movies are one of the best, most effective (and funnest) ways to do research. :D

  3. This is just what I needed to read today. I've been in a total blogging slump and unable to think of topics to write about, but now since I've written one ghost story and am working on another I can become an expert on ghosts! I really am going to give this a try, thanks for the advice.

  4. Sure thing, Julie. Glad you got something out of it. :D

  5. Good thoughts and suggestions. But I have to admit, I don't think I could call myself an expert in any sort of field. Unless you say I'm an expert writer because I've done nothing but write as a hobby since 1984. If it wasn't journaling, it was writing stories, when it wasn't writing stories, it was blogging. But an expert on any sort of field I write about? I don't think I could pick something.

  6. Jeffrey, keep in mind the 10,000 hour rule. Once you've hit 10000 hours at doing something, you're an expert one way or the other. :D So you probably are a journaling/writing/blogging expert. :D As for what you write about, apply the same rule. If you write about the same subject enough, it's bound to happen. :D Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi Liesel .. you inspired Julie - so I'm sure many of us could achieve this. I'm certain I'm on the way - but for the summer am taking a blogging break to clear everything else and leave my head straight! Cheers and so pleased Julie stopped by during the A - Z ... cheers Hilary

  8. Stopping by from Julie's blog!

    Great suggestions here. I don't know if I'd ever call myself an expert in anything - confidence, anyone? - but I do love the idea of throwing myself into research and learning about the subject/genre. Your point about not having to know everything about everything made the perfectionist in me relax a bit. :)

    1. Oh I'm glad. Thanks for stopping by Madeline! :D