APA2016 in Denver — A Symposium on Publishing Books in Psychology

Today I had the honor and privilege of chairing an APA symposium in Denver, titled: Publishing Books on Psychotherapy: Insights and Strategies from Psychologist-Authors

The cool part was that I got to listen to and comment on Melba J. Vasquez, Derald Wing Sue, and John C. Norcross as they shared their ideas about how to publish books. The other cool part was that this symposium was attended by most of the other people I know and recognize at this APA conference: Nick Heck and Nick Livingston (both grads of the U of Montana’s doc program in clinical psych) and Jerry and Marianne Corey—who just happened to drop by.

In addition to listening to three amazing authors talk about publishing, I also had a short presentation . . . and so here it is:

Publishing Books on Psychotherapy: Tips from John Sommers-Flanagan

Tip 1: Get your Writer Identity on: Writing as Professional Identity. It’s a good idea to have excellent writing role models. That’s the whole point of today’s symposium. Melba Vasquez, Derald Wing Sue, and John Norcross are perfect examples of excellent writing role models. My best first advice on writer identity is for you to have at least one role model from a distance and one close to home. Even better (maybe), being in a local or online writer’s group can get you moving toward having a WRITER identity.

One way of thinking about identity is the concept of intersectionality. The old magic 8-ball can be a useful metaphor. For most of us, many different parts of our identity are “present” most the time. There could be LGBTQ, ethnicity, familial values, age, ability/disability, occupational components, etc. Usually one or two of these “pop” up and guide our behavior. As Mary Pipher wrote (paraphrasing now)—if you want to be a writer, you need to begin thinking of yourself as a writer. That means one of the sides on that multidimensional or intersectional piece of your personal identity 8-ball should say: “Writer.” For me, one way I’ve embraced this idea is to ALWAYS (as much as I can) act like a writer. That means I proofread EVERYTHING I write, even emails! Check out this link to my blog for two readings on writer identity: https://johnsommersflanagan.com/2013/09/08/on-being-or-becoming-a-writer-again/


Tip 2: Face your Fears: Writing as an Act of Courage. Rejection sucks. This is true for nearly everyone. The sort of rejection that especially sucks is the rejection that comes when you’re feeling vulnerable. And writing, because it can be very personal and something you deeply identify with, can be a BIG place of vulnerability. The great writer, Cynthia Ozick once wrote that writing is essentially, “an act of courage.” So make a plan for dealing with your fears and bolstering your courage and keep on writing. Feedback can be hard. But without feedback, it’s harder to grow and develop as a writer. If you like, check out this blog post on rejection:  https://johnsommersflanagan.com/2016/05/13/professional-writing-101-dealing-with-rejection/

Tip 3: Say What You’ll Do and Do What You Said: Writing as Professional Discipline. The most popular mantra for writers is: “Writer’s write.” Well okay. That’s a good idea . . . but it’s hard to find your destination without a plan or a map. So let’s be good behavioral scientists and make a clear plan (including positive reinforcements) for how to achieve that general goal. When will you write? Where will you write? What time of day is best for you? Standing, sitting, coffee shop, private space? How will you reward yourself after or during an excellent writing day? One of the best goals for writers who want to write is to set a 300 words a day goal. That way you write at least a bit every day, and can always write more on good days when the opportunity presents itself or the muse is with you. Another part of being a disciplined writer is to be good at the grammar part of writing. Don’t forget to consult Grammar Girl, a positive online resource. Here’s a blog that touches on APA style. https://johnsommersflanagan.com/2013/09/23/the-active-voice-in-writing-an-apa-style-blog/

Tip 4: Choose with Whom You Schmooze: Writing as Relationship. If you’re at the APA conference (today) or any other national conference (in the future), you’ll find the exhibition hall is filled with book publishers. If writing a book in psychology or counseling is a goal for you, now is not the time to be shy. Many book publishers are looking for new authors and book proposals. They all have their own particular book-writing guidelines. When you’re at a conference, go to the exhibit hall, hang out, schmooze, see what different publishers are looking for in a proposal, and talk about your excellent ideas. In most cases, you have a better chance of publishing a book if you know the publisher and the people who represent the publisher.


John Sommers-Flanagan is a Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Montana and a clinical psychologist. He is coauthor (with his wife, Rita) of the following books published with John Wiley & Sons: Clinical Interviewing (2017, 6th edition forthcoming); Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice (2012, 2nd edition; 3rd edition forthcoming in 2018); How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen (2011); and Becoming an Ethical Helping Professional (2007).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s