Some authors shy away from non-fiction because they don’t like research. Perhaps they missed their elementary school’s field trip to the library. Maybe they get frightened by the daunting task ahead. Even if you only want to write fiction, research is a vital tool that must be tackled if you want your writing career to flourish since you may need to research a location of a story or an occupation for your character.
Libraries aren’t as scary as they look. Go make friends with the research librarian and he/she would be happy to walk you through and show you all the great tools available at your fingertips: statistics, census data, government documents, newspaper archives, magazine archives, almanacs, atlases. The lists are endless. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Your new librarian friend can suggest ways to help.
Sometimes you already have a list of books you want to research, but your local library doesn’t have a copy. Go to www. worldcat.org, type in the title of the book, enter your zip code, and it will show you the nearest library that has a copy.
I have found that my local library is limited on some of the topics I’m looking for, so I researched the colleges and universities in my area to see if any will extend loan privileges to non-students. I had to pay $50 for the year at one university (some are higher), but it was worth the cost to check out books that I would have otherwise not been able to read. Worldcat was vital in this determination also, since I was able to see which university had more of the books I was looking for.
Need to do a market analysis to show what other books are similar to yours? Go to the Library of Congress at www.loc.gov, click on Library Catalogs at the top, and you can do a subject search on your topic. Make sure to read the instructions carefully to narrow down your topic so a gazillion books don’t pop up when you hit the “Search” button.
Research isn’t as frustrating as it used to be. Take advantage of your library, local universities, and the internet to find valuable information in a record amount of time.
Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio