This word 'expert' comes up a lot when working with memoir or non-fiction books.
It comes from the question - am I actually qualified to tell people how to do this? It could be how to make money, control diabetes, train a dog, lose weight, make money, cope with grief. But am I qualified? Good question. Do you actually have to be an expert to write a book?
Ask yourself, would you read a book a book on managing your property written by someone who has never done it? No! You want someone who's done it, knows the tricks and tells you how. In fact you want more than that, you want them to bypass all their years of knowledge and just give you the gems.
You don’t have to be a professional, but you DO have to have YOUR area of expertise. But this can be as small or big as you make it.
I like to categorise non-fiction writers into three types of experts:
You’re a professional or role model. This one is clear-cut. The assumption in these books is that you, as the author and expert, have the solutions. You’re a chef, dietician, lawyer, pro-surfer, professional athlete, psychologist, dog trainer and you want to share your specific knowledge with others. Easy one. This can even extend into fun experts …. Money magic, dating consultants, sexperts. These books are straight-up non-fiction, and you can mix in your personal story.
You have lived experience. You had anorexia / ME for 15 years and you want to share your story. You cured your IBS with magic mushrooms. You learned how to cope with the loss of a child. You walked the Great Wall of China barefoot. This is the domain of memoirs (less so of non-fiction). This type of expert is going to tell their personal story and personal solution.
You are going to do the research. You may be a professional or not, but you are going to look at what’s out there and report back to your reader. Often these books start with a Big Idea and the writer finds evidence to support that idea. The evidence can be formal or informal – which means interviews with friends vs a journalistic approach. These can even be an ‘outlier’ concepts like The Tipping Point or the Dukan Diet.
Why is it important to know what kind of expert you are?
It determines how the publisher can sell your book and market YOU.
It gives you a clear indication of your genre.
It helps you understand how you need to structure your book to lead the reader into your story and provide the information.
If you are a lived expert you cannot offer solutions… only YOUR solution.
If you are a research expert you cannot offer solutions, only share what other found as a solution.
You may want to read How to Write a Smoking Hot Author Blurb