Monday, June 26, 2006

Publish, Don't Perish: Helpful Hints for Authors

The final program of the day was Publish, Don’t Perish: Helpful Hints for Authors. The program was sponsored by the ACRL New Publications Committee and the ACRL-CLS [College Libraries Section] Research Committee.

The programs speakers included the following:

-Tony Schwartz, Associate Director for Collection Management, Florida International University

-Mary L. Radford, Associate Professor & Library Consultant School of Communication, Information & Library Studies Rutgers University

-Patricia Glass Schuman, president of Neal-Schuman Publishers [2 things of interest here--#1 she’s an alum of the Univ. of Cincinnati, and #2 this publishing house should sound familiar to you if you are part of KSU’s SLIS program. Why? Because our director’s book, Foundation of Library and Information Science, is published by none other than…[you guessed it!]

-Steven Bell, Director of the Library, Paul J. Gutman Library, Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, PA

Tony started the program off by indicating the audience was in either one of two camps. The first camp was tenure track professionals who needed to publish to keep their job. The other camp was members of the academic library community that enjoyed researching and writing and did not have the peril of perishing. He said that by understanding which camp one belonged in will determine the type of publishing that one should do. The first camp should look towards publishing in bulk. Furthermore, this camp should focus on making minor increments to an already well researched idea. On the other hand, the second camp should focus on highly original works which require large sums of time to complete. For both camps he gave the following suggestions:

1. Always has a very strong first paragraph in order to pass the “so-what” test
2. Innovation must be tempered by tradition. Going too far outside the mold will make your work in most cases unpublishable
3. Match your subject with the appropriate journal. You can do this by looking at last year’s issues
4. Fashion your manuscript style to emulate the journal’s style
5. Don’t give your work to friends/family to evaluate
6. Give your manuscript to someone who has already published in the specific journal of interest to you

* * *

Mary Radford was witty and energetic speaker who fashioned her own set of rules for publishing. They are the following:

1. Fine Time! Sharpen Time Management Skills
2. Put 1st Things 1st (This is actually from Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)
3. Find Your Rhythm (what works for you?)
4. Collaborate
5. Synergize [if you’ve already started a project, see how it relates]
6. Work to Strengths and Interests (Focus)
7. Break into Incremental Steps
8. Set Target Dates (personal deadlines)
9. Capture Ideas (writing notebook)
10. Create a Plan (get specific)

Besides these tips, what really stuck with me was that Mary emphasized writing everyday—even if it’s just 30 minutes. Writing everyday will continue the ball rolling. Your ideas will not be shelved and gather dust, and it will make you deal with any related issues in the present versus in the future when you might have precious sabbatical time.

* * *

The next speaker was Patricia Schuman. Schuman seemed very down-to-earth and pragmatic. She discussed how writing for her is a challenge, but one she’s conquered by “practice, practice, practice.” She suggested to authors the following:

1. Make sure you’re up-to-date on current literature
2. Talk to publishers before starting down the long road of research
--a. Problems of relevancy may be avoided and other ideas may come to fruition
3. Have a clear idea of what makes your topic unique
4. Give yourself 9 months to a year to finish your work
--a. If you haven’t finished within this timeframe, you’ll probably never finish
5. Use non-librarians to evaluate your work
--a. This will help you reduce Jargon
6. Write 2 chapters and then propose
7. Know your copyrights!
--a. Do you have the right to reuse your material?
--b. Do you have a right to know when your material is republished?
--c. If & when a publisher may re-write your work [i.e. “editorial revisions”]
d. Do you still carry rights on your work after foreign translations?

* * *

Finally, Steven Bell gave a very brief description of Your Research Coach, a writing service for academic librarians. Not only will this service help you with the mechanics of writing a polished & publishable work, they will help authors find publishable ideas and even act as trainers to keep authors motivated. Furthermore, it’s a free service based on volunteers like Mr. Bell. As an aspiring academic librarian, I can’t think of a more useful service.

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