Tips on Getting Published

Great question in the comments today, and my answer ended up being so long that I'm going to make it an actual post. (Thanks, Joan!)

Question: Any tips on how to get involved with publishing. I've been a librarian for 2 years now.

Hi, Joan!

Note: with many thanks to Dr. Marc Cutright and his Fall 2008 EDHE 6500 "Essentials of Academic Publishing" course.

Well, what I did was subscribe to a couple of blogs that compile librarian publishing/presenting opportunities. When I found calls for chapters, articles, or book reviews that fit my interests or job duties, I always submitted something.

Here are the two I read the most:

Book reviews are a great way to get started. They are usually short (about 1,000 words is average), you sometimes get a book for free, and editors are often dying to get someone to offer to write them. Most faculty lean toward writing articles because they often count for more toward tenure--so there is a lack of good reviewers out there.

Look up a journal online that you read a lot, or that fits your interests/job well (for instance, I chose the Journal of Web Librarianship because I'm interested in digital collections and distance learning). Find the contact information for that journal's book review editor; they are often posted, but if not, write the journal editor and request that information for the review editor.

Write up a professional inquiry letter, expressing that you're interested in reviewing a book for them. You can suggest a book you already have in mind, or they may have a list of books on the website that you can choose from, or you can simply ask if they have books that are in need of reviewing. Sometimes they will give you a free copy; if they don't have one available, you can also contact the publisher directly and let them know you're reviewing it--sometimes they will then send you a copy. (I have had both experiences.) Sometimes you're on your own, although I've written five book reviews and haven't had to pay for a book yet.

In the letter, also clearly state your professional credentials. If the journal has a particular focus, mention how that is related to you and therefore why they'd be interested in having you as a truly qualified reviewer. For instance, when I wrote to the Journal of Web Librarianship, I mentioned that I am a digital collections librarian. When I wrote to the International Journal of Comic Art, I mentioned that in addition to my MLS, I have a MA in Art History and am an avid comic reader--pointing out that I have some critical, scholarly background in the visual arts.

The cardinal rule is to never, ever, ever, send out an unsolicited book review or article in its entirety, until the editor agrees to publish it. Just send out a letter first, inquiring if they are interested. I've heard horror stories where three months go by without a response from the editor, so the person sends the review/article out to another editor, who then publishes it just as the first editor decides to publish it, as well. Huge problem. If you've just sent a letter, there's no risk of mutual publishing.

That's a huge long mess of information, and trust me, I've got more if you're interested--just leave another comment, or email/IM/tweet me. I just took a course in academic publishing last semester, so it's fresh on the mind!


This Year in Publishing

I kept wondering for awhile if any of my writing work would pay off. I've been writing and submitting things for over two years, and I'm just now beginning to see the results!

I submitted two encyclopedia articles two and a half years ago, and they are finally being published in the Facts on File Encyclopedia of American Popular Fictionm due out any day now (eee!). Two book reviews that I completed in 2006 and 2007 but had delays were also just published in the Journal of Web Librarianship, released in January at the same time my book chapter with Suzanne & Annie came out.

I've now got two book reviews pending completion--one submitted and one in the works, one for the International Journal of Comic Art, and one for ImageText. And then I'm working on two research projects, and one more on hold until summer, that I'm hoping to send out starting in May. Whew!

Presentations are certainly easier to pitch and have quicker pay-off, but I'm determined to shift my professional development toward publishing. I have a far smaller travel budget now, and even more so I simply don't have the time for traveling as much, with the course load I've got. I'm hoping to make a habit of having several writing projects going on at once, in order to produce a good body of work each year. We'll see how it goes.

I simply struggled for a long time to find things to write about. Book reviews are pretty simple (and I really enjoy them--getting encouraged to read and discuss books, what's not to love?), but my article ideas tend to require an inordinate amount of research time that it's difficult for me to commit at the moment. Two of my current research projects take quantitative analysis, and one is a qualitative study.

I'm curious to know what other academic librarians are publishing.
  • Are you writing similar research-oriented articles?
  • Or focusing on library issues and practitioner-type pieces?
  • If you have faculty status at your institution, are your articles ranked by type as far as tenure or a performance review?
  • How pressured do you feel to publish--or are you motivated to publish for your own reasons?


It's March Already?

My personal and professional blogs are both suffering from my schedule, as you may have noticed. (Note to self: after my residency for this PhD program is complete, never again register for full-time courses... or, at least not while simultaneously working full-time and commuting a couple hours a day.)

I keep thinking of blog posts but not writing them down--so here are a few of the things I'm working on at the moment:
  • fleshing out our WW poster collections page (inspired by the Northwestern's great pages)
  • adding a FAQ page to the WW poster page (we get a lot of questions about purchasing reproductions and finding information on artists)
  • uploading all those lovely CRS reports from Wikileaks
  • I finally downloaded the UNT Libraries LibX toolbar, which is quite handy for showing me which books that I'm browsing on Amazon are held at UNT
  • researching the practices of librarians embedded in online courses
  • researching the adoption of electronic reference in academic libraries, and how this was affected by a variety of factors
  • ...and a project on educational background of academic library deans with fellow librarian Annie Downey, which I think is pretty much stalled until summer
Oh, and there's something in my job description about managing digital collections and answering reference questions? Yeah, that too.

Hmmm. It is May yet?