How to Find and Approach Experts for Your Story
Experts can lend authenticity to a novel or narrative nonfiction book, provide insight into the subject, and help you round out your story.
How to Find Experts
Book authors. Anyone who has authored a book in the same field as your subject is an expert. Review complementary books on Amazon. Most authors have a website with their contact information or may be contacted via their literary agent (often listed on the book’s Acknowledgements page).
Experts quoted in magazine and online articles. Some experts also author articles and include a byline with contact details.
ProfNet is an extensive resource for contacting leading experts and public relations professionals. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for, send a query and the staff will help connect you with an expert.
Findlaw provides connections to legal experts. You can also ask a question in their FindLaw Answers section and a lawyer will provide the information you request.
Expertise Finder is a search engine designed specifically for locating experts.
Help a Reporter Out allows you to submit a query (with your contact information and details about your project) that is emailed to experts who can then choose to connect with you directly.
4 Tips for Approaching Experts and Requesting Interviews
Contacting an expert for an interview doesn’t need to be an intimidating process. Most experts, whether they’re historians, professors, historians, or scientists, are often eager to share their expertise and many are used to granting interviews and fielding questions from the media.
1. Be professional. If approached professionally, most people will be happy to grant an interview. It’s appropriate to address a source by his or her formal title (Mr., Professor, Dr., Colonel) until you are given permission to be more casual.
Provide a brief overview of the project, provide your name and background (if pertinent), describe the book topic, explain why you wish to speak to the expert, and the expected length of the interview.
Inform the expert you will work around their schedule and preferred interview method (email, telephone, or in-person, if feasible) and suggest a few dates and times for the interview (keeping your research deadline in mind).
2. Be transparent. Provide the name of the publisher or mention that you are self-publishing. If you are emailing your interview request, include links to your website or blog for the expert to verify you are legitimate.
3. Be prepared. Do your homework. Know the expert’s background and area of expertise, as well as the topic you will be discussing. Be prepared for the interview to take place right then-and-there. Many times, I’ve contacted an expert to set up an interview and received the response, “Let’s do it now”. Don’t take the chance of losing the interview. Prior to the initial call, know what you want to ask and prepare a list of questions.
4. Squash their fears. Many experts fear being misquoted. If their quotes or comments could potentially be used in your narrative nonfiction book, you can remove their fears by explaining that you record telephone and in-person interviews to ensure accuracy. If necessary, give them the option of emailing their answers to your questions, which allows them more time to consider and formulate their words.
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