Skip to main content

Where Do Writers Find Experts?

Q: I've read many articles in your magazine and others that advise freelance magazine writers to use quotes from experts on their given subject, but none of the articles tell writers how to go about doing that. Where do writers find experts? How do you approach them? How do you obtain permission to use quotes? This can be intimidating for a new writer. —Theresa Fort

A: Next to cold, hard facts, experts play the most pivotal role in providing journalists with information. They hold knowledgeable opinions that can verify and validate information in the article to readers. And, while at times it may feel like experts are as hidden as Waldo, they really are easier to find than one might think.

Experts are everywhere—universities, doctor’s offices, Taco Bell. But, sometimes you have to do a little digging. Don’t be afraid to hop onto Google or Yahoo and search your topic, clicking on the top 15 to 20 links that come up and keeping an eye out for anyone who could fit your needs.
Another valuable tool is Profnet.com, which is a free service that connects journalists with sources. How it works: You propose your question and Profnet sends it to more than 14,000 experts, attempting to find people who know your subject. These folks are typically happy to help because it gives them more exposure.

Now, when approaching an expert, it’s important to be upfront with her. In any phone or e-mail conversation, immediately state your name, your association (“I’m a Boise-based freelance writer”), your topic and deadline (if you have one). Also, let the expert know that you may use quotes from the interview in your article. If you send an e-mail, let the person know that you want to accommodate her and are willing to conduct the interview however she prefers—e-mail, phone, fax, in person (if local).

Don’t be intimidated by the interviewing process. It’s much easier than it sounds. And, at worst, the expert says no and you move on—or place a curse on him. Not that I’ve ever done that …

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

How To Research Topics Like a Journalist

How To Research Topics Like a Journalist

From in-person interviews to scouring the web for credible sources, journalist Alison Hill shares tips on how to research topics like a journalist.

Can I Have Your Attention?

Can I Have Your Attention?

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, an announcement is about to change the course of history.

Glenn Boozan: On the Funny Side of Parenting

Glenn Boozan: On the Funny Side of Parenting

Emmy nominated comedy writer Glenn Boozan discusses how a funny piece of perspective turned into her new humor book, There Are Moms Way Worse Than You.

From Script

Adapting True Crime and True Stories for Television (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with writers and showrunners Robert Siegel and D.V. DeVincentis (“Pam & Tommy”), Patrick Macmanus and Liz Hannah (“The Girl from Plainville”) who both have taken creative liberties in adapting true stories for a limited series.

Chanel Cleeton: On Reader Enthusiasm Conjuring Novel Ideas

Chanel Cleeton: On Reader Enthusiasm Conjuring Novel Ideas

Author Chanel Cleeton discusses how reader curiosity led her to write her new historical fiction novel, Our Last Days in Barcelona.

Writer's Digest Interview | Marlon James Quote

The Writer's Digest Interview: Marlon James

Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James talks about mythology and world-building in his character-driven epic Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in his Dark Star Trilogy in this interview from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Podcast Episode, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our newest podcast episode, your chance to be published, and more!

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.