Help With Publishing Can Keep You From Perishing

ACRL’s New Publications Advisory Board and the College Library Section co-sponsored the “Publish, Don’t Perish: Helpful Hints for Authors” program at the ALA Annual Conference. I attended along with several College Library Section colleagues as we were graciously invited to briefly describe the Your Research Coach program. I spoke for just a few minutes on my experience as a research coach, explaining how I’ve helped the partners with whom I’ve worked. There was lots of good advice and practical strategies from the speakers (Marie Radford, Rutgers University, Tony Schwartz, Florida International University, and Patricia Neal-Schuman, Neal-Schuman Publishers). Their suggestions for would be authors included starting small but thinking big, creating time for writing, dealing with rejection letters, communicating with editors, and much more.

One of the common themes among the speakers was the need for and value of seeking out help from others. Perhaps Tony Schwartz nailed it when he said “writing is a social interaction”. In other words, authoring, even if you are writing solo, involves others. Less experienced writers may be intimidated about asking for help, but the presenters’ message was that your colleagues are often glad to provide help – and help can come in many forms.

Even more could have been said about the essential importance of having a good, workable idea. As Walt Crawford wrote, “first have something to say”. You need a good idea to write about before you start writing anything of substance. If an idea is not well focused or too far a field from your expertise the writing process is bound to become a struggle. The intangible factor is passion. Passion for your topic can make the difference between hitting a wall during the writing process and getting to the finish line. Attendees were clearly challenged by getting started, and several questioners wanted advice on good ways to kick start the writing process. In almost all situations where help is needed the source is likely to be a colleague (although Tony recommended seeking colleagues outside your institution who are not your friends and much more likely to provide realistic feedback). For those who need or want to publish or present more regularly – or just want to get that first professional article or presentation under the belt – the good news is that there is help out there, both in print and from colleagues.

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