09/12/2011 04:11 pm ET | Updated Nov 11, 2011

Simple Ways to Pinpoint Your True Expertise

This wasn't how it was supposed to play out. They were supposed to see the brilliance of your new book idea. They were supposed to assure you it would be a bestseller.

And yet, here you are, surrounded by blank stares, drowning in awkward silence.

How could this be? you wonder. This book is my passion project, my life's work, the pursuit that will shape my entire future.

Or is it?

It's the all too common, all too troubling question writers must face at some point.

Finding your true expertise, the topic that jives best with who you are, is an important, although not always easy, part of the writer's journey.

As an author, and someone who has worked with dozens of top-selling authors over the years, I can tell you that many writers pursue one path, only to stumble years later onto the topic that ultimately brings them success.

However tempting it may be to ignore undesirable reactions to your brilliant new book idea, doing so may unnecessarily delay your own success.

To help you avoid that pitfall, I wanted to share some simple, effective ways to find your authentic expertise as an author:

Be an outsider in your life. Many authors discover that their expertise is a skill, experience, or body of knowledge that's so ingrained in their day-to-day existence, they forget to acknowledge its real world value.

To get an outsider's perspective on your life, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What are you most passionate about? Which subject or activity makes you lose track of time? What topic do you love to talk, read, and think about more than any other?

  • How do you fill your free time? What activity or pursuit do you seek out when you have unscheduled time? What subjects do you most often choose to read about?
  • What advice or information do people consistently ask you for? Do friends, colleagues and neighbors repeatedly ask you about a certain topic? If so, is it one you're passionate about?
  • Chew On It. If you've taken an outsider's look at your life, and you're still unsure, don't panic. You may just need to give yourself (and your subconscious) time to work on it.

    Instead of pressuring yourself to find THE answer, go with the flow of your life. Notice what activities, conversations and people make you feel alive and excited. Notice what you're doing or thinking about when you feel your happiest, smartest, and most confident.

    Give yourself a little breathing room, and trust that the answer will appear at the right time.

    Talk, Test and Tweak. Once you zero in on a topic, you need to test out your expertise on friends, family, and future readers. At this stage, it's important to stay open to new ideas so you can honestly assess whether your expertise, and/or the way you're approaching your topic, is resonating with your audience.

    Starting a blog on your topic, and using social media to build a following for that blog, is a great way to get started. While it may take time to build a following, blogging is a valuable way to gauge readers' reactions beyond your trusted circle of personal friends and family.

    As you attract readers to your blog, take note of the posts that get the most comments, which is a clear sign that you're striking a chord with your audience.

    Put A Price On Passion. All the successful authors I know got to where they are today because they placed a high value on their passion. If the expertise you're pursuing isn't one you're passionate about, drop it. Without passion, your expertise has little value to you or your readers. Instead, pinpoint where your true passion lies, and hone your expertise in that area.

    Once you identify your authentic expertise, the path toward becoming a successful author may seem clearer and more attainable, which is one of many good reasons to invest your time in the process.

    Happy hunting!

    Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books.