Finding Experts, Sources And Contacts For Your Next Article or Book

I was asked to write an article on a short deadline. No problem, I thought. Then I got the article specifications which included quoting several experts in the article.

Instead of giving up, I got online and within 12 hours had more experts than I needed and a finished article.

Breaking into a new writing niche is both exciting and stressful. Old contacts may not be able to help you out when you switch from parenting to nutrition, or from health to health foods. There are several options you can try, depending on the time you have to write your article.

- Ask your editor for contacts. Many times they can refer you to someone they know is available for interviews.

- Check out listservs. Do searches on Yahoogroups, Topica, and SmartGroups. Visit Google and use their "groups" search function. Join groups that seem to have professional members. Read past messages, post some questions, and see what happens.

- Email or call members of writer's groups you're associated with. While some writer's keep their contacts under wraps, nearly all the writer's I've worked with online and in person are happy to share professional contacts.

- Visit Profnet to find experts to interview in all areas imaginable. Profnet.com is an online venue that connects journalists with sources. There is no fee to journalists, but the site is used heavily by publicity firms and my experience has been that the PR pros are more excited about their clients getting press than their clients are. In other words, I've been left with a phone bill of unreturned calls. Conversely, if you want to promote your business, book or self, you can sign up (for a substantial fee) to receive the journalists' requests for information. There is also a speaker's bureau online. [Editor's Note: For a lower-cost "back door" to the Profnet feeds, please click here]

- Pull out your yellow pages and look up physicians, attorneys, dietitians, hospital administrators, and accountants to call for information and quotes.

- Read magazines. If you find a name and job title that fits what you need, call the firm where your potential interviewee works. One thing you know already: he is willing to be interviewed.

- Do a search at online bookstores for books that speak to your article's topic. Authors need to get their names in print to sell their books. Many have websites with contact information for members of the press.

- Use public relations firms and departments. Call the public relations department at a hospital to find a nutritionist, cardiologist, administrator, emergency technician. The PR department will know which staff members make good subjects for interviews and may be able to suggest related topics to include in your article or as a sidebar. The PR department at a culinary institute may be able to connect you with a celebrity chef alumna.

- There are other places to look for help. Prweb.com sends out press releases, and has them accessible on the website. IdeaMarketers.com is only one place where writers can place articles for publishers to read. Both of these sources allow writers to look for experts through their press releases and articles.

It may take a while for any of these methods to work. You may get calls and emails from experts that don't fit a particular article. Save their contact information anyway, along with all experts you interview and quote. Build your own database of experts for future articles and each new assignment will find you better connected to the experts you need to reach.

Pamela White is editor of Food Writing, an online newsletter for food writers and author of FabJob.com's Becoming a Food Writing. Visit www.food-writing.com for the most recent newsletter, how to subscribe for free, and current writing contests.


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