How to show your authority
When I teach my Definite Articles and Release the Book Within courses I introduce my students to what I call ‘The 8 As’ they need to follow in order to write effective content that other people want. One of those eight As is authority.
You need to be able to prove your authority on a matter in order to be a credible writer on the subject. When I wrote the first edition of A Career in Your Suitcase back in 1998 I felt I had enough authority to be able to write such a book on portable careers. I had lived in four countries and maintained and grown a career as a writer and teacher while being an ‘expat wife’ and a mother for ten years. I thought that was enough. And, maybe back then, because my book was the first of its type, it was.
So, a reflexologist could write about reflexology. Someone who has run their own business for a number of years with a degree of success could write a book on entrepreneurship. Someone who has had triplets could write a book about having triplets and so on.
However, these days, just having ‘been there, done that and got the tee-shirt’ isn’t enough to convince a publisher or discerning reader of your authority. You need to be able to prove your theories are credible and back up your arguments. You do this by asking really established authorities or experts to say something about the topic in question too. You need to be connected to the experts in your field and know them well enough to ensure a response to an email. You are going to need to ask some of them to write a back cover review or a foreword to your book some day.
Now, the new author reflexologist can reach out to a reflexology teacher perhaps. An entrepreneur can reach out to an author business owner with a bestselling book of high-renown who lives in their town. The mother of triplets can ask a TV family psychologist she once went to school with for comment. But even that may still not quite be enough to convince a publisher.
Show the reader that what you say is not a load of subjective tosh by adding statistics from recent surveys or short quotes from leading newspapers that prove you may be right.
You also need to prove you know what you talk about with case studies, stories of people you have worked or interviewed personally who have experience of the concept you introduce in your book or article.
Four steps to authority
I advise my students and new author clients to ensure they show their authority in what they write by including the following four elements:
Follow this pattern and reach out to others with proven and authority for their own expert opinion and in so doing you prove you too have authority in the subject and have a right to be writing a book or article on the subject.
So, reach out, make connections, ask your contacts for referrals, use LinkedIn and ask. Most experts are flattered that you thought of them.
A surprising learning
You will have heard me talk about how much I learn when I teach or mentor others. Just as our kids are our greatest teachers, so too are our students and mentees. However, at the start of August I found myself in the unique position of judging the Lindsay de Feliz Award for Expat Memoir. This is a one-time award that Jack and I are holding in honour of a wonderful author, based in the Dominican Republic. Lindsay had worked with us towards the publication of two great memoirs – What About Your Saucepans? and Life After My Saucepans. Then, last December, she was found brutally murdered, lying in a shallow grave outside her own home. The award is our tribute to a great writer who met a tragic end.
The deadline for submissions was 31st July and so our month began with sifting the entries so we could make a shortlist to present to our panel of judges: writing friends of Lindsay, Ilana Benady and Grace Olivo; expat author and publisher, Robin Pascoe and expat author and award-winning blogger, Mariam Ottimofiore.
Doing so presented a new learning experience for me, or rather a ‘hammering home’ experience. We created a set of criteria by which we were giving entries marks out of five: the five elements of SPICE, of course (specifics, place, incident, character and emotion) in addition to plot, pace, writing ability and sales potential. Then I added two more critical categories, elements that have me closing a book after a few pages if it is not holding my attention: was I hooked by the first paragraph and did I want to read on after the first chapter?
As I read through the entries it took a frighteningly short amount of time to get a sense of whether the book ‘had legs’ or not and while I spotted when those crucial elements were present, it was when they were missing that I was most struck. I expect it’s pretty much the same with relationships. We notice a person’s flaws more easily than their qualities. Once we have noticed the flaws it’s hard to move beyond them.
Reading the entries was a great reminder to me of what matters most in a memoir, what keeps me reading, makes me care about the protagonist and able to picture the action and characters for myself.
Should the opportunity ever present itself for you to be able to review a new book, judge a writing competition or work through submissions to a magazine or publisher – grab it.
I would now like to take this opportunity to congratulate our shortlisted winners:
The winner will be announced in September and will be published by us in 2021 at Summertime Publishing (expat family) or Springtime Books (other genres).
Jo Parfitt's Monthly Inspirer