Interview with the Author: Dr. Vanessa Reyes Describes Her Writing Process

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

July 18, 2023

I recently conducted an interview with Dr. Vanessa Reyes, who wrote Saving Your Digital Past, Present, and Future, available now from Rowman & Littlefield. During the interview, she shared that she is working on her next book. 

I thought it would be interesting to learn about her process for writing a book. Below are her responses to my questions:

Lauren: In the last couple of years, you wrote Saving Your Digital Past, Present, and Future and are now working on a book about digital estate planning. How do you decide what topics interest you?  

Dr. Reyes: I let my research guide me in the themes that interest me. I realized during the start of the global pandemic COVID-19, I was overly concerned with managing our personal digital lives and thought about how life can be short. Given the global health emergency, I was inspired to write about what happens to our digital stuff when we die. Regrettably, we will not be able to save everything, but while we are still alive and able to make decisions for ourselves, we should be prepared to make important decisions around our digital holdings. The current book I am writing covers ways to take control of our digital estate and in this process helps readers plan their digital legacy. 

Lauren: When you start planning a book project, what is the first thing you do? 

Dr. Reyes: When planning a book project, I begin researching the market for my book. What has been published, and what are areas that need further development? This is particularly important because if the topic you are interested in writing about is oversaturated, it will be exceedingly difficult to cover what has not been done. The key is to consider what has been published and how your book will fill the gap in the area about which you are writing. You also want to write about something that informs your past work, it is inadvisable to write about something you may not be familiar with. There are several motives for writing about something that interests you and will further your area of research—you may want to do this as a collaborative process if you are new to book writing. I started my first book publishing venture after having worked on several journal publications and authoring several chapters in a multi-authored book. 

Lauren: As I mentioned in my first question, you are currently working on a book about digital estate planning. Will you describe the basic process of how the book moves from an idea to a proposal to a written text? 

Dr. Reyes: There is a process I go through when I start to think about a book. I envision what the chapters will be like, what I will cover, and the overall objectives are. Once I have that process sorted out, I write it down and start thinking of how it will be organized, what sort of content I would like to have in each chapter, and whether the topic is timely and will create an impact. Once the idea is formulated and formalized, I reach out to the editor and fill out a proposal. Following that review process, I use the feedback I’ve been given to better organize my book, and when given the green light, it is time to write.  

The writing process is by far the most difficult because you have a contract schedule that you must follow and make sure you have the book completed by a certain time. This takes discipline and setting some time aside to write it. I do not recommend authoring a book to everyone, especially those who have a lot on their plate. The process takes commitment, as far as time and discipline, and one benefits from having a supportive editor who will provide helpful feedback as the book progresses. With this book, I can be honest that I am running behind, and it is always external factors that can make you run behind. In these moments I recommend there be some extra time you take to center your thoughts and regain focus. This happens when we lose all focus. Authoring a book is no easy feat, but it can be achieved by devoting space to the book in your daily life. I am certainly taking my own advice now as I share this process with you. 

Lauren: From my experience, many writers find that writing a small amount each day keeps them motivated and moving forward. Is that your experience, or do you have a different writing habit? 

Dr. Reyes: I agree, writing lesser amounts each day helps; ideally, this is what I try to do in the beginning, and then find that designating at least 2 to 3 times a week where one blocks out 3 to 4 hours helps so much to stay focused. I also found that if you have someone you can check in with—this could be a colleague or a friend— you can share where you are, which helps keep accountability. Keeping the dedicated times blocked off on a calendar helps me also, as I know I have made time and nothing else will be scheduled for that task.  

Lauren: What tips do you have for librarians interested in writing a book? 

Dr. Reyes: If you are a librarian and want to author a book, you are the most capable! Think of what areas you are interested in and think freely about the ideal audience and the objectives of your book. Keep this idea, sit down with the classic paper and pen, and outline what this ideal book looks like, and you are on your way to your book proposal.   

Lauren: If a librarian has a topic in mind for a book, how do you suggest they connect with a publisher?  

Dr. Reyes: There are several ways to connect with a publisher. The first method I would advise is to have a list of publishing venues where you would want your book published. The idea is that the publishers you consider do publish books in your topical area. You will want to check the publisher’s Web site and see if they have guidelines for submitting proposals and contacting the editorial board. You can also ask to speak with an editor; this gives you an idea of what they publish and what the expectations are. It may be helpful to share the scope of your book, allowing the editor to assess whether it would be a good fit.  

Lauren: Is there anything else you would like to share? 

Dr. Reyes: Yes: it is never too late to start writing a book. You can start by jotting your thoughts down, and thinking proactively about how your book will impact the area you are interested in writing about. Writing takes practice, and I can tell you it was not easy since English is a second language for me, but I keep working on it and will never give up! 

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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