This edited transcript is the first in a four-part series from an interview on April 2, 2015. Dr. Judith Briles asks me about how authors can become experts and promote their expertise. Prefer audio? You can download it here or listen on iTunes. If you think this advice is valuable, share this link with your social media friends, followers and fans. Also let them know about my free cheat sheet for authors on “10 Profitable Ways to Use Email to Create SuperFans Who Help You Sell Books.”
Judith: Here’s what we’re going to be talking about today: How do you label yourself as an expert? Should you label yourself as an expert? Even if you’re a fiction author, can you be an expert?
With me is one of my favorite experts, The Publicity Hound, Joan Stewart. No one knows any better on how to do that branding, that positioning, that repositioning, that transition that gets the attention of not only the media, but just everyone out there. Joan is with us today. Hi, Joan, how are you?
Joan: Hi, Judith! Hi, everybody! It’s great to be here again.
Judith: When authors have a book out, it’s official, that you can claim that expertise. But can it be really supported? Will the media identify who you are?
How will audiences come to you? Having that expert label certainly attracts them. So what are some of the things that we should be looking at, Joan, as we start transitioning into that path of really claiming expertise?
Expertise Beyond Your Book
Joan: You and I have talked a lot about this, about authors identifying their target markets even before they start to write the book. I don’t want you to view yourself as just an author, I want you to view yourself as an author who is also going to become an expert in your topic if you are not already.
Now, I’m not suggesting that just because you’ve written a book that automatically brands you an expert. It doesn’t. But I think it’s important that you understand all the things out there that you can be doing right now, even before you put the first word on paper, to eventually be considered an expert in your field.
I see a lot of authors in some of the discussion forums saying things like, “I would never try to pass myself off as an expert because I’m not one of the people in the world who knows the most about this particular topic.”
Judith: That sounds like the kiss of death.
Joan: Exactly! You don’t have to know the most about a particular topic. You just have to know more about a particular topic than most other people do. What a lot of authors don’t understand—and this might make you feel a little better, if you’re a little squeamish about becoming an expert—expertise has various levels.
The Levels of Expertise
Joan: View it like the rungs of a ladder. If you’re an expert on the lowest rung of a ladder, you might be viewed as somebody who can speak extemporaneously about a topic for maybe 20 minutes and answer basic questions about a topic.
Then the next run of the ladder might be somebody who is actually teaching this topic, so you could be teaching it in classes, in webinars, in podcasts like you’re doing right now, and then go up a little higher. You can be publishing information on it—books, special reports, videos.
Then go up another rung on the ladder and that might be somebody who has a mountain of knowledge that’s out there that’s been published on a topic and is now starting to be perceived by other people as a recognized expert in their field. People are going to start to come to you. Media will start to seek you out, to ask you to comment for their articles.
Then the next highest run on the ladder, it might be somebody who has a mountain of knowledge on a topic, who teaches it, and who also is a mentor or a coach and is teaching others in a one-on-one role that’s more in depth, let’s say, than just standing in front of a class.
All the way to the top rung of the ladder and that would be a recognized expert who has been out there in the field for a period of, I’d say, at least 10 or 15 years and has a history—a long track record—of accomplishment, of having done a whole lot of different things with their expertise.
It’s About What You Do
Expertise is not just about what you know, what’s in your brain. It’s also about what you do with that expertise.
Does that make sense?
Judith: It makes total sense to me. I never thought of the rungs of expertise. I think it’s really a good idea to identify where you are. What I’m taking away here is that we could almost step into any rung and move up into that.
Joan: Yes, because you know this, Judith, just from the many authors who you’ve worked with as the Book Shepherd. You take on some authors who are rank beginners at their topic. They just happen to like the topic and they start to write about it and they’re at the bottom rung of the ladder. But I’m sure you’ve had other clients who already have a fair amount of expertise behind them and have done a lot of different things with their topic.
Academic Degrees Enhance Expertise
Joan: I’m going to use you as an example, because I think you’re a really good example to illustrate what I’m talking about. You have a PhD, correct?
Joan: What do you have your PhD in?
Joan: In business, OK. So that’s about what you know, what’s in your head. You had to take a lot of classes and go to graduate school and do your dissertation to get that PhD. Beyond the PhD, I can sit here until the sun sets tonight and tick off a whole lot of other things that you have done that ties into your business as a Book Shepherd. You answer questions on your topic, you’ve written—what is it now? Thirty-two books? Thirty-three books?
Joan: Thirty-three. You’re a blogger. You have copyrights. You’ve done numerous media interviews and have gotten in top media outlets. You’ve been a professional speaker for a long time. You are a guest on other people’s teleseminars and webinars. You teach classes. My heavens, just the number of events you host alone sends me into a tailspin, because I don’t host live events and I know that you host a lot of them. You are doing a lot of things just beyond that PhD. So expertise isn’t only about getting that degree, it’s what you do beyond the degree.
How to Monetize a Degree
Judith: You know, Joan, let me just jump in here because I think for anyone who does have a degree, since my two primary degrees, I’ve had both a Master’s and a Doctorate in Business Administration and so that’s where those PhDs are. With that, it really comes along and you will be able to take a section of that.
Both of my thesis eventually evolved into a book. I was working in the financial field, the thesis then evolved into a book that created several books. The doctorate was when I moved into a field that I knew nothing about and it was from a financial field that I was an expert in, personal finance, but it took me to a level because I had a partner embezzle a million dollars from me. I lost everything, ended up being homeless. Lost everything.
I went back to school because I had to step in and try to fix a mess. She stole the money from me and that my passion got ignited dealing with toxic behaviors and people and that’s what my thesis dealt with. Then I took that and I ran with it and I published a book and I became kind of the pioneer in why women undermine other women.
You can take those academic sides and really monetize them and commercialize them.
Joan: Exactly! Wouldn’t you agree, you can get an academic degree and that’s great. How many people know about that? Maybe just the people who happen to read your bio or the people who were there on graduation day, or they read your LinkedIn profile. But beyond that, when you think about the platform that an author builds as they start to do all of these different things that I’ve ticked off. When you start to teach classes, think about how many more people know about your expertise.
Judith: Oh, well, there’s not only that. You can take the controversy side of it, which I’d like to come back to and even address. How do you deal with that, Joan? How do you take that expertise—because I was really controversial, people were after me with what I was saying—and we’re going to dig into that, too, because I think all of our listeners need to understand, even if they’re contrarian, you can really roar with that.
I’m Judith Briles, my guest is Joan Stewart. We’ll be right back.