As a freelance writer myself, I know how important it is to have, and keep track of, experts to interview. Here are a few ideas on the topic:
I always emphasize to clients and seminar participants how important it is to start and maintain a "Team 100" list -- people to support you in whatever you are doing. It is also equally important to start and maintain "Expert 100" list. For a writer this is almost mandatory whether fiction or nonfiction. However, even if you are a business owner or an employee it is just as important to have this list. One of the experts might be your next employer or a friend of one.
What is an Expert 100 list? Group of people who are experts in their careers who you know a little or a lot that you feel comfortable enough to contact them if and when you have questions in their area. It doesn't matter whether the questions are for your business or for your writing.
There isn't a right way to track your list--computer or index cards. MS Excel handles the process well. MS Access offers an easy-to-set-up template that needs minor tweaking. Outlook is a possibility as well, however, the file corrupts easily. I began in Outlook, moved to MS Excel, and now use Access. Even with never using Access before, I walked through the learning curve in less than an hour.
Where to Begin Your List? Take the easy route; make a list of friends, family, significant other's parents, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else you know. What is their expertise? You also want to track what some of them might consider their hobby. I've met many whose hobby knowledge is off the chart, including a seven year old on baseball cards. Don't forget Mama favorite cooking recipes. How about your family member's friends, your parent's friends, or co-workers parents? Share what you are creating and watch them start one of their own.
What about professors or teachers? Record any papers or books they have written. Do they have a web site? Don't know any local professor or teachers. Pick up the phone and call the institution's main office, they will gladly provide you with a list of their experts who have agreed to be contacted. Call and introduce yourself and discuss their expertise--before you need them. You never know when they know someone who knows someone who knows someone that might be your ticket to fame or fortune. Yes, who you know does matter. Take them to lunch at the school cafeteria. Send them a book, article, or magazine with a topic of their interest from time to time or send them an e-mail when you come across an Internet article on their expertise. The two or three minutes now will make a BIG difference later.
Seeing this from another angle -- think of the topics you frequently write about or if a business owner or employee what you need support on from time to time. Start by making a list of those topics and then search to fill the list starting with friends and then emanating outward.
What about the authors of the books you read? Or the newspaper stories about local people? Do you belong to any groups? What experts do you know there? Place them on your Expert List. Remember though, the key is that you only want to place them on the list if you feel comfortable contacting them and know them in some slight way. If not, then you need to take the initiative.
The hero in this is that you begin and you feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a tip--people want you to ask. They are proud of their expertise, it has taken them years to obtain their knowledge, and they are proud of that. Rightly so.
If you don't know them, pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Choose to add one a week to your schedule. Explain why you are calling, what you do, and offer to exchange each other's contact information. Track the date of your contact and other tidbits they've shared. Always ask permission if you can contact them again.
Are you an officer of a group? How about a member of a writer's group? Host an Expert Party. This could turn into a yearly event. Invite experts relevant to your focus. Start with professors and teachers. Charge a fee to members to pay for the expert's attendance. Invite vendors, however, I suggest keeping the event charge-neutral (no selling).
For nonfiction articles, ProfNet (http://www.profnet.com) is an excellent place to find experts to interview. Pass the synergy around, create an Expert 100 List, and more importantly stay in touch with them. If they sell their knowledge and you are not a writer be rest assure that if you cross the threshold of their f*ree point they will tell you.
Catherine Franz is a Marketing & Writing Coach, niches, product development, Internet marketing, nonfiction writing and training. Additional Articles: http://www.abundancecenter.com blog: http://abundance.blogs.com