From success stories just waiting to be shared to important lessons learned from navigating complicated project implementations, making the transition from reader to writer is an opportunity for HIM professionals looking for a new way to contribute their knowledge and experience to the profession. By writing and publishing articles that share your expertise and insights, you can both contribute to and distinguish yourself within the profession.
Taking the first steps toward seeing your idea in print can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This article discusses tips for the process of getting published, from developing your draft to preparing a submission and working with an editor.
Choosing Where to Submit
Before your article can get published, you need to figure out where you want to submit it. Identifying potential homes for your idea is an important step in the publishing process. Aspiring authors should take the time to research publications that would be appropriate for both their idea and the type of article they want to write. For example, your chances of getting a research article on different electronic health record implementation methods published on a privacy and security blog are slim. And even if the article did get published by that blog, it likely wouldn’t reach the intended audience and thus presents limited benefit for both the author and readers. It’s a good idea to review recent issues of any publication to which you are considering submitting your article. Read several different articles to get an idea of both the topics represented and the style and tone of the publication.
As you begin your search for potential publishers for your work, keep in mind that AHIMA circulates several different publications you might want to consider. The Journal of AHIMA magazine and website accept original, unpublished manuscripts about current issues and best practices in health information management. The Journal seeks articles that present new knowledge, are grounded in experience or applied research, and represent the diversity of new roles in the field. The scholarly journals Perspectives in HIM, focused on health information-oriented research articles, and Educational Perspectives in Health Informatics and Information Management, focused on HIM education-related research, are both published by the AHIMA Foundation. AHIMA also publishes several different e-newsletters on various topics (see a full list here).
Developing Your Idea into a Draft
Before you begin your draft, it’s important to know what you want to write about—and what you want others to take away from reading your article. Many first-time authors are inspired to write as a means of sharing project implementation success stories, innovative approaches to common challenges, or an important lesson they have learned as a result of their experience in the HIM field. Others have a general idea of the topic they want to write about, but might not yet have a definitive focus developed. Taking the time to write an abstract or thesis statement for your article, defining what you want to say, why it is important and valuable for the health information management field, and the takeaways for readers, can be a helpful step to take early on in developing your draft. Having this focus from the beginning will make outlining—and writing—the rest of the article more efficient, helping ensure everything you include functions effectively to support the message you want to convey.
Spending time reading industry publications and articles by different authors can help you get a feel for what kind of information is already out there, and identify what hasn’t been said yet that you think is important to add. You can also get a sense of the different article styles and tones, and which might best suit what you have to say. Some topics are best suited to a guest blog post or a magazine feature article, while others are better served with research- and academic-style articles.
Preparing Your Submission and Working with Editors
Once you have defined the topic and focus of your article, decided on the type of article you want to write, and identified the publications where you would like to submit, the next step is preparing your submission. Reviewing the submission guidelines posted by the editors of those publications is an important step in the process of getting published. These guidelines are typically available online, and will let you know what the editors are looking for, whether they accept unsolicited submissions, and other answers to frequently asked questions. You can read the Journal of AHIMA’s submission guidelines at https://ahima.wpengine.com/submission-guidelines/ as an example.
Some publications prefer to receive abstracts, while others ask for completed drafts. The preferred format of submission varies from publication to publication. Some might be more focused on certain topics than others. Some only accept submissions that are not currently being considered by other publications. The submission guidelines are your first stop for getting these questions answered, and they might even offer additional submission tips and suggestions. You can always reach out to the publication’s editors if you’re not sure if your article fits what they are looking for, but be sure to review the guidelines first.
After you submit a piece, if it is accepted you will be working with the publication’s editors to usher your article through the rest of the publishing process. The editors will work with you to make sure the article clearly conveys your message and fits with the needs of their publication. They may request you make revisions prior to formally accepting your article for publication, or send you questions about the content with additional suggestions for changes. It’s important to remember that editors are working on a deadline, so keep responses prompt, and if you are unable to make deadlines let them know as soon as possible.
Spread the Word
Once your article has been accepted, edited, and sent to the press (or screen, in the case of web-only publications), it’s time to share your hard work. Ask for copies to share with colleagues and friends, or a URL to share on social media. Congratulations are then in order for contributing your unique voice and perspective to the profession; hopefully you’ll also be inspired to keep writing.
Sarah Sheber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is assistant editor and web editor at Journal of AHIMA.