Friday, June 15, 2012

Mining for Gold

Unless you can afford to fill a huge house with files containing research for your books, articles and the like, you’ll have to tame the paper tiger before it eats you alive. So mine other sources for research information, resources like libraries that may contain what you need and have it on hand when you need it.

Begin with your local public library. Ask for a list of its periodical holdings. Keep in your personal library only those magazines the library doesn't subscribe to. Many writers subscribe to a number of periodicals, clip and file the material they want, then discard the magazines. Before you discard yours, though, take the time to remove the tables of contents, which you can easily store in a three-ring binder. And while at the library, make copies of the tables of contents of magazines they have that you may want to use in the future. Then, before you head to your library to research a project, you can look through your binder for the precise publication and date you need. The only downside to using some smaller libraries is their lack of space for expansion. Many sell off books and magazines that have poor circulation to make room for newer ones.

Also, find out where secondhand sources for periodicals and books are in your area. Make a note of the above library book sales and plan to spend some time there perusing the items that you may want to add to your personal library. Secondhand book shops, thrift shops, and flea markets are other good sources, especially if you have a specialty. And remember to ask at your doctor's and dentist’s offices and barber’s shop or hairdresser’s salon for periodicals they no longer want. Most will be happy to give them to you.

Digital recorders are great for noting ideas you get on the go or to record information and ideas you may get from listening to your car radio. This holds true during library research, a visit to a museum, or whatever. You can then transfer your audio notes to your computer or transcribe them into your word processing program.

All writers have books in their personal libraries—lots of them. But few take the time to catalog their own library. The more books you acquire, the more difficult it is to retrieve the information they contain. With a catalog of your personal library, you have immediate access to this information in capsule form, saving you lots of time rummaging through your own bookshelves.  Your personal book catalog also shows what you have for insurance and tax purposes. You’ll find free book cataloging programs on such sites as or just do a search on Google for them.

So much for the printed material. But don’t forget that you can build a network of fellow writers and other specialists easily using today’s social media. With such a reliable network you become more valuable to your clients and more efficient at finding information for all of your writing. A freelancer in another city, for instance, may be willing, for a reasonable fee or exchange of services, to do local telephone research for you, thus saving you the cost of travel. Also, don’t forget to ask public relations(PR) representatives if they know of any sources of information or experts for quotes in their field of expertise.

One of the best social networks for useful professional contacts is LinkedIn. While it’s geared mostly to professionals seeking to upgrade their positions or seek new jobs. It’s also good for making contacts with PR people and experts in specialized fields.  Remember, a social network is only as good as the people in it. Besides building regulars contacts, LinkedIn also offers discussion groups of professionals in specialized fields. Join those appropriate to your work and chime in on the discussions. You may be able to develop some great working relationships this way.

The other social media network that may be useful to building a network of contacts is Facebook. While its personal pages are more for friends connecting with friends, it’s professional pages—fan, author, and book pages—are aimed at helping writers showcase their businesses or promote themselves or their books. Work at building a good “fan” page—the equivalent of a corporate page for writers. This is an umbrella page that showcases your business. Too many writers create only author or book pages. These last two limit the type of contacts you can make.

Once you've consciously built your network of research helpers—fellow journalists, librarians, magazine editors and writers, novelists, and public relations executives—keep them informed of your needs and offer to reciprocate whenever possible.

No comments: