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!


David said...

I'd also recommend Walt Crawford's book, First have something to say. An easy read, with plenty of common-sense (which is not so commmon) and good tips.

bah said...

I'm thrilled to have just found your blog! I am starting my venture into art librarianship. In fall, I'll be starting a dual program (MLS/MA in art history). Any advice you can offer me? Thanks! Christy