What do you have to share?

I met an impressive man the other day.

My wife and I were buying a used motorized wheelchair for my grand-father-in-law. We found it on Craigslist and negotiated the fee and everything ahead of time by phone and drove to meet the seller, Justin.

It turns out that Justin has a business maintaining and reconditioning motorized wheelchairs. He serves about 3000 active clients. That’s an amazing number in itself.

I know nothing about wheelchairs, but Justin took about 40 minutes explaining every small detail of the chair and its features, and answered every question we didn’t even know we had.

Of course, while I listened to his presentation my thought was “he should write a book!” He was passionate about his expertise, and wanted to share as much as he could. At first, I thought he was in the business of reconditioning and selling these devices, but by the end I understood that he was in the business of helping people remain mobile and active and independent. I can think of few things more important to his clients.

Justin is a mobility expert, and his mission is about more than batteries and speed controllers. In retrospect I’m not sure there’s enough of a market for him to place a book, but his sort of expertise and passion are the same things I look for, and admire, in my clients.

As readers we often take expertise for granted and don’t always recognize what’s right in front of us. Or we may not recognize the preparation that has gone into the work before us.

On first hearing the title, you might think it’s another gimmick, but as I read the galleys of Roger Ma’s Zombie Combat Manual, I’m reminded that Roger is an expert martial artist who can write with wonderfully restrained wit about how to kill zombies using battle-axes, staffs, or various knives. There’s plenty of zombie gore, but Roger is also a credible witness and expert about mixed martial arts. Thankfully, he’s compelled to share his knowledge to help us protect ourselves against zombie outbreaks!

Likewise, every time I see an outline from Dan Gookin, I am reminded that Dan is a true expert at conceiving and organizing a book. There’s a reason that Dan’s book, DOS for Dummies, spawned such a huge and long-lasting series, and it’s obvious to me every time I read one of his outlines. Dan is an expert at speaking directly to the reader, eliminating the extraneous, and focusing on what’s really important. Ultimately, his organizational gift and unique wit have helped millions of readers learn to accomplish something that may have at first intimidated them.

What’s new these days is the ability authors have to share their expertise even before they pitch a book. Tamar Weinberg had written extensively about Social Media Marketing for several years before she pitched a book. Harold Davis shared his photos and techniques widely (and freely) on flickr and on his photoblog before he turned to books.

I can list a comparable expertise and innate helpfulness in every client I represent.

It’s really something to be an expert, and even more so to be able to share your expertise with others. If I was going to ask only one question of prospective clients I would ask “What do you have to share?”