Tips for Publishing: Bringing Classroom Practices, Reflections, and Research to Print
By: Ann Dobie
Date: July 2004
Summary: The Teacher Inquiry Communities (TIC) Network offers tips to help teachers develop and submit materials for publishing: developing articles, preparing your manuscript, writing a query letter, contacting different types of publications, and more.
Writing has its own rewards, but there are times when writers want the added bonus of sharing with others what they have written. Submitting a manuscript for consideration by an editor or a review committee, however, can be an unnerving experience. It means handing over something precious to a group of strangers who may or may not appreciate it. In the end, though, taking that leap is important. Submissions that get rejected (and all writers receive rejections) are sometimes returned with comments, helping the writer refine his or her skills. And submissions that are published bring writers the satisfaction of discovering an audience far beyond their own front doors.
The tips below are to help you develop and submit materials for publishing. They cover how to develop articles, how to prepare your manuscript, what a query letter should look like, different types of publications, and more. Bringing your classroom practices, reflections, and research to print doesn't need to be daunting, but it will need planning and patience.
- Publishing and Research Resources for Teachers
- Electronic Journals Featuring Educational Research
- Ten Prompts to Help Turn Your Demonstration into an Article
Developing Articles for Publication
Publishing is not just what happens after a text is completed; it begins with an awareness of the possibility for publication. The suggestions that follow will help you think publication even when you don't have an article ready to be mailed out.
- Keep a "possible articles" file. Write down ideas that come up while you are working on other tasks. These ideas can be the basis for articles.
- Read journals. Stay current in your field and develop a sense of what is being published. Reading articles can also generate ideas for your own writing.
- Join or start a writing group. Participating in a writing group can provide valuable feedback and ongoing support.
- Stay alert for classroom ideas that could become articles. Think of problems in your classroom as opportunities for writing and research.
- Keep a teaching journal or log. Review your journal or log periodically for potential article ideas. In addition to specific topics, themes or threads may develop over time that you might want to explore in writing.
- Draft a program proposal or paper to deliver at a conference. Audience response to conference papers often helps presenters see where revision is needed.
- Consider reports and papers as potential articles . Many teachers write reports for work or papers for courses. Consider reworking these texts into articles.
Consider Different Types of Publishing
There are many forms of publishing, including alternative forms, that can be helpful to writers.
- Read your work at a meeting or conference . This is a good way to get feedback from colleagues, and it can help sharpen your research and writing skills for print publication. Start with small or local meetings, and branch out to larger statewide or national meetings.
- Publish it yourself. With a computer and a printer, this method is easy to do, but distribution is a challenge unless you are circulating the material among members of a small group. Nevertheless, with a little computer skill you can produce a handsome text. Although self-publishing is looked down on by some people, Chaucer , Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, and Edgar Allan Poe all did it. You can, too!
- Publish in nonrefereed publications. Some examples include newsletters, newspapers, or nonrefereed journals.
- Submit to local newsletters, journals, or newspapers.
Clubs, school departments, and other organizations often have newsletters, and their editors are usually looking for copy.
- Publish in an online journal. Although print journals are still the norm, the number of electronic journals is increasing.
- Publish in refereed journals. Seeing your name in the table of contents of a prestigious journal is one of the most professionally rewarding types of publishing. Your work will be reviewed by colleagues who can respond to your ideas; it will also place you in a professional dialogue with people who are interested in the same issues you are.
Before Submitting Your Manuscript
How you approach getting a piece of writing published will vary with the publication and the genre, but below are some general steps that you can adapt for your own purposes.
- Study the publication thoroughly before sending a query letter or article. Read articles in the publication and know what a typical article is like, not only in terms of the subject, but also in terms of length, style, format, graphics, etc. A subtle but important point to remember is that editors think their publications are special, and they want to know that you chose their publication because you know and like it.
- Check for specific publication requirements before submitting. You should check online or look on an inside cover of the journal to see if there is specific information about:
- editorial policies
- readership or audience
- length of submissions accepted (approximate word count or number of pages)
- types of works accepted
- how to submit
- the review process
- how acknowledgments and acceptances are handled
- how many copies to send
- mailing information (or online submission policy)
- documentation style used by the journal (i.e., Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association )
- any other requirements.
- Send a one-page query letter . For professional articles, one way to get out of the "slush pile" is to send the editor a one-page query letter. Don't send the query, however, unless you are ready to send the manuscript. Unlike manuscript submissions (see below), you can send as many query letters as you like at the same time.
The query letter should never be longer than one and one-half pages (preferably one page). The standard formula for a query letter is:
- first paragraph: a brief description of your article
- second paragraph: a brief identification of the article's audience
- third paragraph: a request for permission to send the complete manuscript
- fourth paragraph: a brief description of you, including your position and some of the journals in which you've been published.
If you get a positive response to a query letter, you may call the editor if you have questions or issues to resolve. Do not call if you have not received an answer to your letter.
Submitting Your Manuscript
Submitting a professional-looking manuscript is important for getting your manuscript read. Below are some tips for what to include with your manuscript and guidelines for the submission process. For submissions to online journals, check each publication's submission policy. Many request that you email your manuscript as an attachment. Unlike query letters, do not submit your manuscript to more than one journal or publisher at a time.
- Get the attention of an editor with a strong letter and article. One editor said, "A writer has to prove immediately to an editor that he or she can write well." That means the first few pages of the manuscript must be good, and all additional text (such as the cover letter) must be good, too.
- Submit a manuscript that looks professional. Whatever eases the work for the editor is helpful to you. Use black ink or toner. Use white 20-pound paper (this is the weight most photocopy centers use). Do not use onionskin, carbon tissue paper, or erasable bond paper. They tear and smudge. This may seem obvious, but clean manuscripts are submitted less often than you would think. Text should be double spaced and printed on one side only. Fonts should be no larger than 12 points. Left- and right-hand margins should be one-and-one-quarter-inches wide. Top and bottom margins should be no smaller than one inch. Make sure there are no handwritten inserts or corrections. Number all pages consecutively, putting your last name along with the page number in the upper right-hand corner (e.g., Smith p. 2).
- Include a title page on the manuscript. Center the title of the article in the middle of the page with the name and address of the editor and journal or publisher in the upper left-hand corner and your name and address in the lower left-hand corner.
- Include a cover letter. Your cover letter introduces your work, but it should be no longer than a single page.
- Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for the editor's reply. Make sure your self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) has enough postage for the return of your manuscript. It is a good idea to put your email address on the title page for those editors that prefer to communicate with you electronically.
- Mail the manuscript. Make sure to include the correct number of copies and package it so everything arrives undamaged. The U.S. Postal Service recommends any collection of paper over one-inch thick (or more than one pound) be mailed in a box, not an envelope. Priority mail envelopes and boxes are available at most post offices. Padded envelopes also work well. Make sure the manuscript fits snugly.
- Wait. Don't follow up too quickly when you fail to get an answer right away. Allow at least eight weeks for journal submissions (unless you receive notification that it will be longer) before you write to ask what's going on or withdraw the manuscript. Some publications, such as Language Arts, can take up to six months to make a decision.
Celebrate your acceptances! Celebrate your publication!
- Send copies to interested colleagues.
- Send copies to school administrators.
- Send copies to all your friends.
- Have a publishing party or reading with your colleagues.
- Have a reading, workshop, or discussion with your colleagues.
- Bring copies to conferences and pass them out to interested colleagues.
- Speak at local clubs about the topic of your article.