Building a Book from Your Columns or Articles
by Mary Emma Allen

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Your columns and articles don't have to be the end result of your work. Instead, they could be the beginning -- of a book. I've published two such books: When We Become the Parent to Our Parents, a collection of articles on Alzheimer's disease that appeared in newspapers and Christian magazines, and Tales of Adventure and Discovery, an anthology of previously published children's stories and poems. I also write or have written columns on cooking, gardening, and writing for online publications. These, too, are possibilities for future books.

You can do the same, with poetry, essays, short stories, and nonfiction. By starting out with previously published work, you lend credibility to your book. Also, you save time, as you don't have to develop completely new material.

A Writer's Checklist

Look through your current and past writing, and ask yourself:

Organizing Your Book

When organizing your book or deciding how to structure the columns, essays, poems, or recipes, you have various choices. It's more than a hit and miss situation. You want to plan your book so that there's some sense of order or flow.

Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing, or E-Publishing?

Sometimes your work will attract a traditional publisher. In other cases, your topic may be too narrow in scope, or too regional, for larger publishers to consider.

Besides looking at well-known publishers, research smaller regional and literary publishers. Check out the types of books these smaller publishers produce and see if yours fits their categories.

Another alternative is to self-publish the material. If you teach workshops, give talks, or are involved with groups, these can be excellent outlets for your books.

You may also decide to e-publish, either by publishing the book electronically yourself, or finding an e-publisher who handles your type of book. Many self-publishers print or electronic) go on to become small publishers themselves.


Do you need illustrations? Can you do them yourself or do you need to find an illustrator? Most larger publishers will use their own illustrators, but if you are using a smaller press, or doing it yourself, you may need to find your own. If you are self-publishing, you may be able to find public-domain clip art (including electronic clip art).

Will you have an Introduction, Preface, or Acknowledgements? How about an index? Do you plan to index the book yourself, or do you need to hire an indexer?

Do you need additional information for the reader? I found two appendices would help make When We Become the Parent to Our Parents more credible and give readers places to go for further information.

Producing a book of your writings can be exciting. It can also contribute to your credibility as a writer, and open still more doors in your writing career.

Copyright © 2000 Mary Emma Allen
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Mary Emma Allen is a children's writer and teacher. She is a graduate from the Institute of Children's Literature and has had more than 200 stories published in magazines and anthologies. A number of her stories and poems, along with her illustrations, appear in her book, Tales of Adventure & Discovery. Visit Mary Emma's web site:


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