The ideal author

I’ve often been asked what makes a good author of the reports we publish. My answer comes as the result of the truth having been pounded into me repeatedly over the past 20 years (I have lots of scar tissue).The ideal author has:

  1. 10-20 years in the industry about which they will write
  2. Experience in that industry in senior management or VP/Director level roles in marketing/sales or business development
  3. Diligence research capabilities to ensure that 99% of the market is considered, not 80% or 70%
  4. Demonstrable analytical skills to prioritize the relevance of data (i.e., wade skillfully through the BS), identify important trends (besides the “aging population”), reveal opportunities (I have to force even the best to do this), and otherwise give insightful conclusions.
  5. Good-to-excellent writing skills. It doesn’t matter if they can research among the best if they can’t put it in words. I can and will edit extensively to bring out the best, but the content has to be good enough to start with so that I’m not writing reports for authors.
  6. Acceptable computer skills. It’s maddening to have an author who has skills 1-5 above, but doesn’t know how to back up his/her files, doesn’t run anti-virus software or is running Windows 95.
  7. Je ne sais quoi: At some point during my initial interview with an author, I can identify whether the author has that certain “something” that I want or has that certain “something” that I know will prohibit them from doing a good report. My instincts have proven themselves in the long run.

This is a REAL challenge. If I am going to publish studies that will command the prices they do, it’s imperative that the authors fit the bill. If I have to compromise on any of these, I know I will pay for it (one way or another) in the long run. I have therefore learned to take it on the chin and decline prospective authors when the truth is plain to me. Examples of who doesn’t fit this bill:

  1. Anyone who says, “I’ve always wanted to write. I think it will be fun.” You’d be surprised how often this comes up.
  2. Almost anyone with the letters PhD behind their name. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a couple great PhD authors, but among the worst prospects were those with this degree. The failing is simply the tendency toward ivory tower thinking and the lack of direct industry experience or relevant analytical skills in business.
  3. Anyone who says, “Now where do I get the market data to do this report?”
  4. Technical writers (convinced though they may be about how well qualified they are)
  5. Medical marketing brochure writers (certain they may be that brochure experience = report authoring skill)
  6. Anyone who has written for specific other report publishers —- [censured by lawyer].

I could go on, but it’s too exasperating to think how often I have to say no.

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