Non-Fiction Writers and the Importance of Credibility

We’re all “experts” in something. My husband might say I’m an expert in “shoe shopping.” I’d say it’s more like I’m an expert in “the fine art of amassing a collection of colorful shoes obtained for a bargain at maximum enjoyment”! I have a lot of shoes (is 150+ pairs really a lot?), and I shop at many shoe stores, but does that really make me an “expert”? That’s up for debate.

When you’re writing a book, your credibility on the topic you’re writing about really counts, because it will come into question. Whether it’s by agents, publishers, potential readers, other authors, or members of the media, you’ll be the subject of potential scrutiny by many. But if you’ve written on a topic that’s truly in your area of expertise, then there’s no need to worry, right? Well, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be prepared.

  • Get your facts straight: Go through your resume/bio and double-check everything to be sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, and most importantly, honest. Polishing your resume and bio is one thing, but adding things that aren’t true is another.
  • Be prepared for the tough questions: You may be asked directly by the media, an agent, or anyone, “What makes you an expert?” or “What makes you qualified to tell others what they should do?” Do you have an effective answer ready for this question?
  • They may research you: Fact-checking does happen. Past employers, colleagues, friends, literally anyone who has had a known connection to you could be called and asked about you at any point. That doesn’t mean you need to be worried about every traffic ticket you’ve ever gotten coming to light, but if you have dirty laundry, it could be aired out.
  • Consider the legal ramifications: It’s cliché, but remember, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” The same is true for what you write in your book. If you give advice that you’re not fully qualified to give and maybe that you cannot defend later, you may risk being sued, or held liable, for that advice if someone feels it has caused them harm or damage in some way.

The editing process is a great time to fine-tune and maybe take out material that may put you at risk, so keep these things in mind when you work with your editor on the manuscript. Ultimately, you want to produce a book that you are proud of and that is the best reflection of you both personally and professionally!