WHAT WORKS FOR ME: 10 TIPS FOR GETTING PUBLISHED
Part 2 of a two-part article by Steven J. Bell, Director of the Paul J. Gutman Library at Philadelphia University, [email protected] The first installment is available at http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib225.html
Tip Six - Finding a MentorFinding a mentor is easier said then done, but if you can find one it just might be your ticket to getting published. Breaking the ice with publication is a challenge, and having someone experienced to guide you through the process can offer innumerable tangible and intangible benefits.
A mentor can be the person to help you shape your vague idea into a more concrete proposal for an article. A mentor can be a proofreader, someone to steer you towards the right publication, or just the person who does what your mom used to do - let you know that if anyone can get the job done, you're it.
Most of us are fortunate enough to discover a mentor, naturally, in our workplace. Those "Research and Writing Workshops" that larger academic libraries are organizing may connect mentors and protégés. Others may find one through a local or national association. If you're bold enough you might even send an email to a librarian whose work you admire, asking for some advice. Who knows what might develop?
Tip Seven - Try a Co-Authoring RelationshipThis is related to Tip Six. Most of us discover our first mentor by getting involved in a co-authoring relationship. My first such relationship came about because I wanted to write about a topic I knew would require some statistical crosstabulation, which I didn't know how to do. So I presented the idea to my future co-author, who I knew had these skills, and the rest is history. I got the first author credit - well it was my idea - and my co-author helped me learn a few tricks of the publication process along the way.
Co-authoring, however, requires you to give up some of your independence as an author. Your co-author may ask you to delete some of your writing, or heavily edit your wonderful writing. The relationship will require you to see it someone else's way, and be willing to give and take. If sacrificing some authoring autonomy is going to present a problem, then co-authoring may not be for you. But you may be passing up on one of the great pleasures of professional publication - teaming up with one or more colleagues to create one great thing from two (or more) minds.
Tip Eight - Try A Conference Presentation FirstIf you have had some good ideas but found it difficult turning them into articles, you may get better results by first presenting your idea at a conference. If you can create an outline, add a few key points about your idea to each main outline item, add an audience awakening beginning and end, then you're practically there. As a result of preparing your presentation, afterwards you will find it forced you to really think through your ideas and develop a more structured approach to sharing it with others. Attendee responses can also be helpful in forming an article, and giving you confidence that your idea is a good one.
In March of 2002 I was profiled in Library Journal's Movers & Shakers issue. I'm not bragging - there's a point here. The tagline they gave my profile was "'passion for the profession". A librarian read that and asked me to give a talk on this topic at a state library association conference.
I had never written about my passion for the profession and never contemplated doing so. I didn't even come up with that idea. But I didn't have to write an article - I only need to prepare a 50 minute keynote presentation. That made it much easier to organize some key ideas - four areas where passion is concentrated. I got some quotes, came up with some anecdotes to share, found a few web sites that gave examples of what passionate librarians are doing, and the presentation was done in October of 2002.
After that, I realized I had all of this material and thought I could probably write an article about this. And it was much easier because I spent so much time thinking about it for the conference. The resulting manuscript was accepted and eventually was published in Portal: The Library and The Academy in October, 2003. But if I hadn't done that presentation first, it would never have been written.
I do realize that for some librarians the fear of a conference presentation may be far greater than the inability to turn an idea into an article. The good news is that there are many conference opportunities, and few of them carry high-pressure stakes or attract hundreds of attendees. Start with a local or regional conference, and work through any presentation fears. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal - turning your presentation into an article.
Tip Nine - Where To PublishIf you are being aggressive about keeping up with the journal literature, either by creating your own Table of Contents alerts (you'll find most of the e-journal collections to which we subscribe allow you to create alerts) or with a subscription to Informed Librarian (a library and information science journal TOC service) you will begin to get a good sense of the journal literature, and become more aware of what is being published.
That will also tell you what isn't getting published - and that's where you want to be heading. If you're just getting started you can certainly aim for the stars (e.g., the most selective peer review journals) but you may want to consider other options. Publishers such as Haworth and Information Today offer quite a few journals, and the barriers to getting published are less considerable than most scholarly journals, particularly if your article is more of a case study than a quantitative analysis. If you have an article idea and you're not sure what publications might be appropriate, that's where a more experienced mentor can help.
Finally, don't limit yourself to library journals. Depending on your idea, give some thought to publishing in the information technology, instructional technology, or the higher education area. I've published in TechTrends and Educause Quarterly.
Sometimes you can just re-work an existing idea into a new paper geared to a different audience. More than once I've published a similar paper into the publications of two different fields. It will require some re-writing and re-focusing on the new audience. If you've got a crossover message, make sure it reaches all of its possible readers.
Finally, when thinking about where to submit one's first publication, setting the sights too high may only serve as an impediment to getting published. Instead of the established, mainstream library journals, consider some alternate possibilities. My first choice for this article was Ex Libris. I know that the editor, Marylaine Block, is open to publishing the works of other authors, the style is flexible, you can get published fairly quickly, and most importantly, you'll reach a good audience looking for both practical ideas and challenging opinions.
Other library e-newsletter, such as LLRX.com and LISjobs.com (and their Info Career Trends newsletter), are looking for author contributions. Sure, they aren't prestigious library journals, but people actually read them, and you'll enjoy seeing yourself published in any of these publications just as much. [editor's note: And they'll show up in search engine results!]
You can also publish much shorter pieces in case you haven't yet developed that great idea into a full length journal article. I'd also recommend that you subscribe to two weblogs that provide news and information about publishing and conference opportunities. One is The Library Writer's Blog <http://librarywriting.blogspot.com/>, which has a companion web site called Resources For Library Writers <http://library.utoledo.edu/userhomes/cseeman/writers/>. The other is Beyond The Job <http://librarycareers.blogspot.com/>, which provides news on all sorts of extracurricular activities for librarians.
Tip Ten - As You Travel The Road To SubmissionIf you haven't already done so it may be a good idea to exchange a note with the editor of the journal to which you plan to send the article manuscript. Just confirming that the editor is interested in seeing your manuscript can save time for everyone and give you an added incentive to get the article written. I've found most editors are willing to provide this information. Depending on the journal an editor may even be open to giving a manuscript a quick review. If things don't work out, an editor may be able to suggest a publication that is appropriate for your article.
I can't say enough about the importance of getting your manuscript proofread before submitting it to any journal. A good reviewer can make all types of suggestions, from the significant substantial matters to correct spelling and grammar. If you can find more than one person to proofread your article, that's even better. My advice is to avoid worrying about word limits when writing. The critical thing is to get the words down. You may write 5,000 words and then realize that 500 of them deliver the core of your article - and that the rest can be discarded or re-worked for another project. That makes cutting text necessary, and it can be quite difficult to cut your own writing. That's where a good proofreader is invaluable.
ConclusionIf some or most of this seemed like common sense, you are probably right. I have no special tricks or tips that will get you published. Just some advice about what seems to have worked for me. Perhaps the tough news I relate is that writing for publication is hard work. It takes considerable effort, even when you are excited about a topic, and the words just flow. In the end, it has to be readable, only hard work will get it there, and there's no escaping that it takes away from what little valuable time you have. I realize that what works for me may not work for you. But if you are able to take advantage of anyone of these tips and it helps you to get published then this was time well spent.
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The web has enabled many new voices in our democracy – and globally – to be heard: advocacy groups, artists, individuals, non-profit organizations. Just about anyone can speak online, and often with an impact greater than in the days when orators had to climb on soap box in a park... If we’re not vigilant the wide-open spaces of the Internet could be transformed into a system in which a handful of companies use their control over high-speed access to ensure they remain at the top of the digital heap in the broadband era at the expense of the democratic potential of this amazing technology. So we must fight to make sure the Internet remains open to all as the present-day analogue of that many-tongued world of small newspapers so admired by de Tocqueville.
Bill Moyers. "Our Democracy Is in Danger of Being Paralyzed." Keynote Address to the National Conference on Media Reform. http://truthout.org/docs_03/111403E.shtml
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