With so many types of media available to citizens of the 21st century, anyone can appear to be an expert in anything. Access to the internet makes everyone smart.
Or at least appear to be smart.
Fifteen years ago I searched online for the acronym LOL because I wasn’t cool enough to know what it meant. Now I know. It means “left out letters” for people in a hurry to communicate.
If you are going to write a book, extra pressure and added requirements not required of other content creators are placed on you.
You don’t need to be a world-renowned expert in economics to repost a Facebook entry or blog about current economic factors driving the markets or to comment on the latest global-trade situation.
But if you write a book about global trade, you need to be someone known for your knowledge of the field. The entry requirements are different for book authors.
Since the 20th-century media explosion when newspapers, radio, television and the internet gave us more communications options than we could ever imagine, book authors still need to be experts in what they write.
Books are important. They are almost always on big topics, asking someone to devote 8-10 hours or more of their time reading them. They better be significant to justify the price paid in time and money.
While I can find a free article online on how to get a motor-oil stain off my garage floor, it is in a book where I read about the history of the internal combustion engine. The former can be written by a person who found out how to use a two-liter bottle of Coca Cola and a Mentos mint to clean the floor. (Does that work?) But the latter needs to be written by an industry insider.
Often, when reviewing a proposal for a nonfiction work, I try to imagine an author interviewed on radio or TV. When introduced, I wonder if their credentials would leave a positive impression on the host and the listeners.
Sometimes the answer is no.
I’ve stated this before on this blog and in various workshops I’ve taught: One of the most frustrating aspects of Christian publishing is knowing the message of the Bible is understandable and accessible to any true follower of Christ, yet still requiring authors of books with Christian themes to have a broadly recognized and impressive set of credentials, both education and experience.
They need to be experts.
Competition. Publishers want the highest qualifications for their authors, so agents search for them as well.
Readers also decide where they will apply their money and reading time, and authors with credentials are considered before someone without them. I suspect many of us have looked at the author bio before buying a nonfiction book. As Steve Laube likes to say, “What right do they have to write this book?”
Books are important and written by experts.
The world of easy access to media—social media, blogging, YouTube videos and, of course, author-published books—gives the impression content-creators just need to post something or make it available to the world.
But access does not mean accuracy. As a matter of fact, universal access to the media creates a substantial potential for error to be spread.
Availability does not mean credibility.
Not every Christian book published by traditional or author-managed publishing is a perfect reflection of scriptural truth. But at least traditional publishers and many self-managed authors put the manuscript through multiple stages of review, looking for error, and not only the spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Still, you don’t write a book to become an expert in something; you write a book because you are an expert in something.
Finally, not every message needs to be held hostage in a book. Books are a slow and expensive (both time and money) way to get a message out to relatively few people compared to other media options.
Other media are much better for things that must be made available quickly to a wide audience.
But if you still want to write a book, be an expert in what you write. You’ll be asked to defend the content, and your responses need to come from a deep well.