Does writing for a peer-reviewed scholarly journal seem too intimidating? Want to expand your focus beyond library publication? You can still indulge your desire to publish by writing for a general interest or non-library-specific journal, magazine or newsletter. Not only can this can jumpstart your writing career and provide you with the experience of writing for publication, but it can also provide great public relations for your institution and for libraries in general.
Start by looking around your office, on your desk or in your living room. What publications do you read that might publish a library-related article? An academic librarian in an architecture library might write a book review column for the newsletter of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects or an article about recently published monographs in a national architecture journal.
Since public and school libraries tend to have many interested stakeholders in the community, librarians in these institutions can especially benefit from writing in publications beyond the professional library literature. A YA librarian in a public library might write an article about her Teen Book Club for the local public school’s PTA newsletter, then integrate statistics concerning recent literacy trends into the same article for the local newspaper, and then survey other teen book clubs around the country for an sent to a mass-market teen magazine.
You can also adapt your own interests or hobbies into pieces that draw on your professional knowledge as well. If you love cats, write an article about the best reference works on cat breeding for Cat Fancy. If you like photography, suggest writing an article about biographies of famous photographers for an online journal in the field. You could also relate how the use of a digital camera has transformed your library in the “Technology” section of your local newspaper. Or maybe you could submit a piece to the local school district’s newsletter about the best beginning photography books for high school kids. The possibilities are almost endless.
The best thing about writing in unusual markets is the marketing potential. You are letting the world of non-librarians know that librarians have something to say that is important to the rest of the world. So get creative and get writing.
Newsletters are almost always looking for articles so they are a great place to start. Writing for newsletters usually involves small pieces, generally not more than 250 words. Look through your own mail for newsletters from associations or organizations of which you are a member. Think of community organizations, PTAs, garden clubs, Rotary, co-ops, etc.
Bivins, T. H.. Fundamentals of successful newsletters: Everything you need to write, design, and publish more effective newsletters. Chicago, IL: NTC Business Books, 1992.
E-zine Universe—Email Newsletter Directory
Newsletters in print. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc. Printed annually.
Look to your local newspaper for publishing opinion pieces or informative articles. Newspapers will also often have a special “Book” or “Technology” section once a week that could be an appropriate forum for a librarian-penned piece.
Friedlander, Edward Jay, and John Lee. Feature writing for newspapers and magazines : the pursuit of excellence. New York : Longman, c2000. 4th ed.
Newspapers: A Great Source of Freelance Opportunities
Internet Public Library—Newspapers
Newspapers US & Worldwide-Refdesk.com
LOCAL & NATIONAL MAGAZINES
Writing for a local or national magazine could mean a short 100 word blurb, a book review, or a feature-length article. Make sure to read the publication’s writer guidelines and read some back issues before beginning. Most publications will also expect a query letter for the article that you wish to write. Check into local writing groups or clubs for more information on writing for magazines.
Tips on Selling Your Work to Magazines
Writer's Digest - Guidelines
The writer's market. Cincinnati: F & W Publications. Published annually.
Writing Groups—Google Directory
Freelance Writers How Tos, Samples and Tips
Contact: Amanda Etches-Johnson, Committee Chair
Last Update: April 2004