Finding Experts to Help You with Your Research - article

When you are researching your book it can often be very beneficial to speak with experts. This is true whether you are writing a crime novel or a gardening book or anything in between. 

Most experts are easily accessible by email or phone, and may even be willing to share their acumen in person. When approaching them, remember that you rarely have to pay for this access. Many experts offer this type of help because it enhances their own reputation and credentials (see tip 5 below).

Before you seek the help of “experts,” make sure you define the exact expertise your project requires. If you don’t, you may waste a lot of time barking up the wrong trees as your project moves forward. When you meet with the local police chief to research your crime novel… be prepared for the discussion. Here are some tips:

1. Have your questions defined ahead of time.
2. Only ask what you cannot easily discover elsewhere on your own. Use this visit with the expert for the hard-to-find specialty information you need. For instance, if your expert has written research reports, white papers, books, or how to guides.. be sure to read them. You might find your answers there. But at the very least, you don’t want to ask them something they’ve already answered elsewhere if you can avoid it.
3. Respect their time. Like all of us, they have busy lives and other obligations. Especially if you are not compensating them, try not to be too demanding of their time. That means limiting the number of times you contact them for help and limiting the amount of time you spend with them during each session.
4. Be grateful for all the information you get from the expert. Thank them for their time and expertise.
5. Be sure to give them credit if they offered extensive or critical help that you used in your book.

Going to conferences and meeting expert presenters can also be effective. An author of a personal training textbook told the story of how she once contacted one of the pre-eminent experts in the field of strength training (she’d met him at a conference where he’d been a featured presenter) and asked him to read her manuscript. Not only did he do it, he offered numerous tips, which she incorporated. When her manuscript was finished, he wrote a glowing recommendation to one of the leading fitness publishers. As a result, her book became a best seller in the field and is now well into its second edition.

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