chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
February 11, 2022

7 reasons why you should write for ABA Publishing

Ever dream of writing more than memos and legal briefs? You can make that dream a reality by writing books or articles for the American Bar Association.

Staff leaders of the ABA publishing arm shared tips and insights at the “2022 Author Forum: Getting Started with ABA Publishing,” sponsored by the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division at the ABA Virtual Midyear Meeting.

“We are the voice of the profession” when it comes to publishing books, said Donna Gollmer, director of ABA Publishing. The division publishes 100 to 110 titles a year in all practice areas, “from broad topics to niche topics,” as well as thousands of articles with the goal to help make better lawyers. “We try to meet the customer where they are,” both members and the outside world, she said.

ABA authorship is an elite club but not an exclusive one. Here are seven reasons why you should consider a leap from wannabe writer to author at ABA Publishing:

A chance to dip your toe in the publishing water. Writing a book can be scary, said Robert Salkin, editor of ABA periodicals. Instead, you can start by writing an 800- to 1,200-word article for one of the many publications produced by ABA member entities, such as the monthly GPSolo eReport, which showcases short-form content on a variety of topics and issues. Then you can graduate to longer-form articles for the bimonthly, themed issues of longer-form publications, like GPSolo Magazine.

An opportunity to share your ideas and expertise. “We are conservative in our approach to acquisition, but we are willing to take risks,” Gollmer said. Editors are open to anything, from how-to guides to books about pet custody. The key is to identify a gap in what’s available in general resources and provide something that immediately aids legal practitioners, said ABA Publishing Editor Lorraine Murray. “Handbooks and practice guides are our bread and butter.”

A ready-made staff of editors and publishers at your fingertips. “We’re there every step of the way with you,” Gollmer said. Experienced editors, marketers, designers as well as indexers, proofreaders and production staff are available to support you and your project from beginning to end.

Exposure for you and your practice. Authors are very involved in the distribution and marketing of their books. There are opportunities to present at CLEs and seminars and appear on ABA-sponsored podcasts such as “Hot Off the Press,” a GPSolo program that spotlights new books and their authors.

Wide distribution of your books. The ABA is a publisher of amazing size and scale, said Bryan Kay, ABA division director of publishing, and there is a big appetite for ABA content online and digitally via LexisNexis. As a result, e-books are available as soon as the printed version is out, and they are easier to download. Also, there’s a more concerted effort to get e-books to Amazon. ABA Publishing is also forming partnerships with legal research platforms such as vLex, Westlaw and Fastcase to expand distribution of content.

More people will see your work. Many ABA articles are also shared with the Law Student and the Young Lawyer divisions, which means more eyes will see what you write. Authors are encouraged to write articles based on their books, which provides fresh content to disseminate to division members and draws attention to the books.

Opportunity to be more than a writer. You can also be an editor/project manager for a book by commissioning chapters from colleagues on a subject and helping to oversee the process, Murray said. By gathering your own team of contributors, you don’t have to bear the burden of writing alone.

Interested in writing? Here’s how to get started:

  • Come up with an idea. Research the market and identify recent developments in a legal area. Each ABA entity has its own book program. GPSolo has the largest and most active, publishing five to 10 books a year. Ideas for periodicals are welcome too —short pieces on legal topics, issues and trends as well as book reviews that can be turned around quickly for dissemination. Sometimes articles can be the basis for a long-form book.
  • Flesh out the idea. For books, think about how to organize the content in a way that would best serve the reader. Consider a detailed table of contents that helps readers dive into the book from different entry points. If possible, write a sample chapter. Also put on your marketing hat to think about why someone should buy the book. All these things should be included in the book proposal.
  • Submit the idea. ABA Publishing receives book ideas three ways: directly from a writer through the ABA Publishing online portal; from an entity-membership committee, which identifies a needed topic, organizes the book project and submits it to ABA Publishing for approval; and from the book board and its members.

Finally, ideas for articles can be sent to periodicals editor Robert Salkin at [email protected].