Publish, don't perish – Instalment 19
Well, don't just take my word for it...
We learn best in community and from one another. Yes, I do tend to say this a lot… but this principle lies at the heart of why we write. Beyond sharing your words with the larger library community through writing for publication, though, you can also learn from your community through sharing others' thoughts and experiences. Following, find some insights from colleagues who have been there.
By the blog
Several blogs have taken up the publishing theme lately. Bloggers who also write for professional publication have a unique perspective, as both self-published and traditional authors. (Find insights on the intersections between librarianship, academia, and blogging through the links in "Why do academics blog?" at mamamusings.)
On Free Range Librarian (FRL), librarian, writer, and MFA student Karen Schneider weighs in with a great list of numbered tips in "Being able to write: lessons from other writers, new and well-seasoned". (Don't miss the comments, which offer some great discussion and additional pointers.) An older post, "Librarian writers, writer librarians", talks about the importance of creating a librarian writer community. (For all FRL posts on writing, visit http://freerangelibrarian.com/category/writing/.)
Over at Information Wants to Be Free, Meredith Farkas shares her experiences and advises other new book authors in "Working on the book: lessons learned so far". Those considering taking on a bigger project should take the time to learn from her experiences.
Older posts remain equally relevant, and a 2005 discussion on how well library schools teach research skills highlights the way the biblioblogosphere facilitates conversation. Academic librarians will particularly appreciate the comments at Blisspix, where Fiona Bradley takes up the question of "Why research?" – prompted by earlier posts on "Researching librarians" by Joy Weese Moll at Wanderings of a Student Librarian, and by Meredith Farkas' "Research phobia".
Last, on the non-library side, "Hack Your Way out of Writer's Block" at 43 Folders lists some great ideas for getting yourself unstuck.
You can also find advice in other types of online publications. Writing in Marylaine Block's Ex Libris, for example, Steven Bell provides great tips for beginning librarian writers in a two-part piece: "What works for me: ten tips for getting published" (Part 1, Ex Libris #225, September 3 2004; Part 2, Ex Libris #226, September 10 2004).
Back in 2001, Péter Jascó also talked about "Librarians as digital authors and publishers" in his "Digital librarianship" column for Computers in Libraries Magazine. His points about librarians who "have become famous via their web publications" remain timely today, although specific tools may have changed.
A publishing pot-pourri
Never discount resources and advice from your professional associations, especially if you are just getting started. Visit yours to see what it might have available, from presentation links to workshops to links to pages of advice, or begin with these sites:
- The Medical Library Association maintains a "Suggestions for publishing support" page with links and advice.
- The ACRL Women's Studies section provides a great selection of handouts, programme notes, PowerPoints, and discussion notes from a panel on writing for publication: http://www.libr.org/wss/conferences/2005program.html
A few library-related publishers – who of course have a vested interest in helping new writers get started – also offer their own guides for potential authors. These tend to offer general advice, useful to those publishing anywhere.
Start with Emerald for Authors, with Abby Day's series on "How to write publishable papers". This six-part series for academic writers follows a logical structure adapted from her 1996 book, How to Get Research Published in Journals.
Elsevier jumps in with a LibraryConnect pamphlet (PDF) on "How to get published in LIS journals: a practical guide" which contains advice from a number of authors and editors, in an easy-to-print format.
If you're an auditory learner, check out this podcast from Searcher's Barbara Quint. If you're not, check it out anyway! Take advantage of some great advice, directly from a veteran editor's mouth.
Hit the books
If the preceding links aren't enough to keep you busy, or if you just like the sensation of the printed word, never fear – there's plenty for you, too. Beyond my own The Librarian's Guide to Writing for Publication (Scarecrow, 2004), check out these useful titles:
Crawford, W. (2003) First Have Something to Say: Writing for the Library Profession, ALA Editions, Chicago.
A slim introductory guide to the process, which also includes chapters on presenting and its relation to library publishing. Great for those just getting started and those in search of reasons to write.
Gray, T. (2005), Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar, Teaching Academy: New Mexico State University.
Gray, who frequently presents workshops on the same subject, provides a concise, step-by-step guide for scholars wishing to become more prolific. Particularly useful for academic librarians, but much of the advice applies to librarian authors in any environment.
Larsen, M. (2004), How to Write a Book Proposal (3rd ed.), Writer's Digest Books.
Book proposal requirements often stymie potential authors. Larsen walks step-by-step through the most common and explains the reasoning behind them, allowing readers to create their own effective proposals. Although this is a general guide, the content is perfectly applicable to librarian authors.
OK, now what?
While this is all a lot of fun, when you finish reading about writing, realize that the point to all of this advice is to get you out there doing it yourself. Learn from the tips most useful to you at this point in your library writing career, then use them to inspire you to get up and get going!