Part 1: A Perspective Publisher’s Kick Start Guide

Publishing papers in different venues (book, magazine, journal, etc) is something many of us dream about. Where as some people can do it voluntarily, those in academia are typically required to do it. Unfortunately, the art of writing for publications does not come naturally to everyone.

Fortunately, everyone can learn. It was with this mind frame that I attended “So They Say You Have to Publish” at the Special Libraries Association’s Conference. The session had four (4) speakers in total–Anita Ezzo, Lisa O’Connor, Tony Stankus & Leslie Reynolds. Their presentation talked about everything that goes into writing, from ideation to submitting for publication. I am going to go through some of the advice about how to get you started. Since there is much to talk about, I’ve decided to break this up into a part two (2) part series. So let’s get started.

Getting Started

  • Read, Read, Read: Being able to write effectively requires one to understand how ideas are expressed on paper. The best way to accomplish this is to read. Read for more than the sake of reading. While reading, pay attention to how the paper is set up–How does the author present their arguments, is the paper using a lot of jargon, is the writing clear, etc. Paying attention to these things will help you understand how papers in a particular venue are supposed to look and become familiar with what has been written in a particular area.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk: Conversations have the ability to spark ideas. So, be sure to talk to your colleagues about your ideas. You will find that talking with people helps work out the kinks in your ideas.
  • Define what are the REAL needs and address those need incrementally: Part of being a successful writer is writing what others have not wrote about. One way of doing this is to identify gaps in the literature and filling those gaps with your writing. You don’t have to do it all at once. Do it slowly, do it well.
  • Come up with a concrete idea before you approaching an editor: So you’re really anxious to write and have identified some potential venues. Great! Before you pitch your idea take some time and map it out. What is it that you are going to write about? What is it’s value? Why did you select that particular venue? Are their other potential places to publish it? These are just a few questions you want to ask yourself before you approach an editor. Chances are they are going to ask some of those questions, make sure you can effectively articulate it.

Doing the Research

Every good manuscript will be methodologically sound. Whether it’s a newspaper article or a book chapter, this will always be true. Putting a paper in any venue that uses questionable methods can negatively impact the publication you decide to submit it to. As such they will probably send you a rejection letter. What you need to know:

  1. Spend time thinking about your methodology: There are many ways one can collect data. Be sure to employ a way that will help you get the most credible results. If you are doing a literature review that be sure to review enough works to represent the depth and breath of a particular area. If you are doing a survey, make sure your survey is measuring the appropriate things.

Writing

Opportunities for writing come in many sizes and styles. This includes blogs, poster sessions, newsletter, bulletins, journals, and books. Look out for requests for manuscripts. When you see calls, RESPOND! The only way you will get better at writing is to practice. Try a little of each & see which ones fit you best. Now for some tips.

  • Rule number 1, 2 & 3: Write about what interests you. If you don’t you’ll cry during the whole process.
  • Don’t know where to start? Start small, perhaps with a library newsletter or blog.
  • Don’t think you have ideas? There are many places you can start your writing from. Perhaps you have a poster lying around, recently presented at a conference, or have played around with some new technologies. Those are great starting points, build on it.
  • Do you suffer from writers block? Then just write, write like there is no tomorrow write what ever comes to mind. DON’T get caught up in trying to make sure it sounds good. Not yet! Just write! When you go back and start smoothing things out, you’ll have lots of fun with the backspace key.
  • Do larger writing tasks intimidate you? Take a step back and devise a strategy & stick to it. Establish a minimum number of words you will write each day and stick to it. Before you know it, you’ll have a draft completed and ready to be edited.

Finding calls for papers (CFP)

Listservs are a great place to start. Your listserv not that active? Try the following resources.

  • A Library Writer’s Blog: This site will help you identify publishing and presentation opportunities in Information Science, as well as other related fields.
  • Dolores’ List of CFPs: In addition to sharing calls for papers and presentations in Library Science, Information Science, Instructional Design and Technology, and Education this site also provides insights on writing, publishing and presenting.

While we are on the topic of places to publish, do not limit yourself to popular library science journals. Look for calls in other disciplines/industries (agriculture or Business journal about information literacy or reference, etc.

This should be enough to get you started! Part two (2) will provide you with some tips on dealing with the one person that can make or destroy your attempts to publish, editors.

If you have any questions, comments or want to share something I left out use the comments section below.

Until then, have fun.

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