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PRO TIP: The Difference Between Being an Expert and Being a Fan

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Have you noticed that it seems these days everyone is an expert? I use an app called ZITE on my iPad and in the morning I flip through all the stories that the app finds relevant to my interests. Out of the maybe 50 or 60 stories it shares with me, I open maybe 5 and share only 1 or 2. And I get that I'm a tough customer, I haven't "seen it all" but I have become a tad jaded when it comes to experts versus someone who is a fan. I love fans, don't get me wrong, but it's a big stretch from fan to expert and, if you're publishing a book, you should know why this matters.

"In today's content rich digital economy there are literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of user-generated content published every minute. With the evolution of social media that number continues to grow exponentially and this is precisely why 90% of the worlds data has been created in just the past 2 years." Daniel Newman, Forbes Contributor

The current count, as we've seen, is 3,500 books published each day. Now this doesn't count the thousands of eBooks that are published without a trackable ISBN. What does this mean? Well it means that if you're going to compete, you need to bring a bigger game to the table. When I speak with authors, coach or work with them, I can tell right off the bat who's a pro and who's a fan. Want to know what gives it away? The tips they create to pitch themselves to the media or bloggers or whatever. Tips are a dead giveaway and if I can tell, I can guarantee you the media can tell, too.

The other problem is that there are certain topics where you really do need credentials. Like dieting, health, anything medical for that matter, dating, finances, etc. I can't tell you how many times I've talked with authors who have a book on, let's say, finances only because they found a way to make money with a particular stock or something that doesn't necessarily translate to a general consumer market. It's great that you've figured this out for yourself, but if you're going to share this with the world and expect to sell books, you'll have to bring your A game when you start marketing.

Also, keep in mind that you will waste so much money if you don't know the difference and don't make the decision, right up front, which one you are. Why? Because if you keep pushing yourself as an expert but don't have a compelling, unique message readers will know this and you'll throw a lot of money at a whole lot of nothing. How can you be an effective, credible expert with something useful to market? Let this checklist be your guide:

  1. Open up ten articles on your topic from a variety of sources, and what do you see? Maybe you see something unique but, in many cases, you'll see the same thing. Now there's nothing wrong with saying the same thing, but you cannot say it the same way. Be different. Find a unique spin on the solution or find a new solution. Don't be afraid to take chances.
  2. If you're not an expert and you know you're not an expert, don't be afraid to say something and pair yourself with someone who can offer you insight, or perhaps you want to get an expert to co-author the book, write an endorsement or find some other way for them to be involved. If you are not an expert, your #1 goal should be to get many, many endorsements from folks who are. This will help give your credibility a solid boost.
  3. And speaking of tips, have you written any? Blogging is a great way to get a feel for what your audience wants. Some authors will say to me, "I'd blog but I don't think anyone is listening." I can tell you with utmost certainty that people will listen when you start blogging about what matters to them and say it in a way they haven't heard a million times already.
  4. If you realize you are more a fan than an expert, it's time to get serious about what you want this book to do for you. If you want it to build your expertise, a book can certainly do that but you will, in fact, need to become an expert on your topic. What does this mean? It means you'll need to read (a lot) in your market. You'll need to go to events (live or in-person) and learn from the pros who are in this and doing it for a living. If you become an expert, or if you are working towards that people will want to ask you questions and while "I don't know" is certainly an acceptable response, it should not be your go-to.
  5. Start early: When you're considering launching a book and you don't have an existing fan base, platform, blog or even any ties to the industry beyond your own expertise you'll really need some time to grow this. How much time? Well, that depends on the industry. If you're in a busy market like dieting or dating it could take a year, if not several. I don't say this to discourage you but rather to give a reality check. It used to be that if you published a book you were an instant expert, that's just not the case anymore. What you do, outside of the book, has to build your expertise.
  6. And speaking of expertise: How is your message different/unique? Are you contributing to the conversation in a way that stands out? What are you saying that's different and, most important: how are you changing the conversation? If you're an expert, you don't want to be an echo of what everyone else is saying. Yes, you may agree with many of the others out there, but you also need your unique spin on the topic.
  7. As I mentioned above, there's a lot of content online and a lot of people spouting their own ideas about certain topics. But these folks probably aren't being retweeted or interviewed for podcasts, radio or print media. If you're going to go down this path, you'll need more than just your own ideas to carry you, you'll need others to spread them because they believe you are the expert. You should be pitching yourself to the media for interviews but don't wait until you finish the book. Remember books are great but they aren't the automatic door-openers they once were.
  8. Social media, while time-consuming, is mandatory. Get out there and start the conversation, share information from others and build your virtual tribe. Savvy consumers will pay attention to your social footprint so make sure it's there.
Becoming an expert or even a very engaged fan takes work, and if you wrote a book on a topic you feel passionate about, it's important to know that without aligning yourself with the right people and the right business model, your entire message might fall on deaf ears. Deciding early on what your position is will not only help you with your marketing, but could save you a lot of money in the long run.