10-second review: Tips on publishing in professional education journals. To query or not to query; peer reviews; payment.
Title: “How to Start Writing for Publication.” RayS. Teaching English, How To…. 2004. Xlibris. pp. 273-278.
To Query or Not to Query
Most articles about writing for publication will suggest that you send query letters, but not the complete manuscript, asking the editor if he or she would be interested in an article like the one you are writing. [In writing a query letter, address it to a specific editor. You can find that information in the magazine’s instructions for publishing. A query letter should include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.]
In your first paragraph give the title of your article and the reason for writing. Second paragraph should contain a short summary of the article. Don’t make it a “tease.” State exactly the main idea of your article. Your third paragraph should give your credentials, prior publishing history, professional memberships. Conclude by thanking the editor. Request a prompt reply. Try to keep to a single page. A query letter is not much different from the cover letter that accompanied my article on involving the public in reading and writing, but is sent without the complete article.
A Note of Warning. Submitting only an idea for consideration to a commercial publisher can lead to your idea’s being stolen. For example, “Would you be interested in a book that shows how to connect grammar and writing through sentence combining?” An unscrupulous publisher can reject your idea and then assign it to someone else within the publisher’s organization. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Only works can be copyrighted. Be sure your idea is being or has been already incorporated in an article or book.
NOTE: Most publications in education will require the complete manuscript. You should read in the journal itself, or on its Web site, individual requirements for submitting articles for publication.
Many professional journals are “peer reviewed,” meaning that copies of your manuscript will be sent to two or more professionals who have expertise or special interest in the topic about which you wrote. These professionals could be primary or secondary teachers, depending on the level at which your article is aimed, or professional educators in colleges and universities.
The judgments of the peer reviewers will be most influential in the editor’s decision to publish or not to publish. However, in the case of my first published article, although the reviewers were less than enthusiastic about the article, the editor suggested some revisions and promised to consider it again if I resubmitted. I made changes because of the reviewers’ criticisms and followed the editor’s advice, resubmitted, and she decided to publish.
Sources of Topics for Publication
If you wish to write more substantive articles, beyond those on successful teaching techniques, you should consult the journals for “Calls for Manuscripts.” For example, a recent English Journal called for manuscripts on the following topics: “Talking Literature,” on discussing literature; “Being and Becoming a Teacher”; and “Popular Culture.”
Beginning Your Full-Length Article
Most full-length articles will require background information summarizing other articles that have been written on the topic. In writing your article, you need to lay the groundwork. In effect you are saying, “Here’s what has been written about the topic up to this point, and here is how my idea improves, modifies or extends what we know about the topic.” To find previous articles on the topic, consult ERIC at http://reading.indiana.edu/ where you will find summaries of articles published in the past and be able to purchase copies of those articles. You will also find access to those articles in your college libraries.
Professional publications usually do not pay for publication. They often send the writer three to five copies of the publication in which the writer’s article appears.
Writing for publication will help teachers empathize with their students. Teachers who write for publication will not only contribute to the growth of their profession, but will engage directly in the writing process and will be better able to share the experience as they both learn to write. I continue to learn to write throughout my career. In the case of my first publication, I learned how to work with people who review my writing. I also learned from my second experience in publishing that the writing process changes to meet changing circumstances. Students will appreciate knowing that their teachers are also learning to write. RayS.