Home > Articles

Mentoring a New Author

Firms that want to publish intellectual capital look around their pool of employees; if they find employees with experience, companies find ways to weave it into their publishing and knowledge management strategies. This excerpt from Publishing Intellectual Capital describes how mentoring can help get your firm's intellectual capital into print.

In many companies, publishing occurs when someone within the firm with publishing experience is willing to help others write and publish. It is rare. On the other hand, firms that want to publish intellectual capital look around their pool of employees; if they find employees with experience, companies find ways to weave it into their publishing and knowledge management strategies.

Mentoring typically develops in one of two ways: by accident or by design. As publishing becomes increasingly popular in businesses, those who have quietly been writing over the years are asked by others interested in publishing to answer questions, even to critique manuscripts, and are recruited to help place items with editors. Those firms that want to use mentoring as a process, however, approach the issue very differently.

The first step is to designate an individual in the corporation with responsibility for promoting publications by employees. The second step is to identify who in the firm already is publishing and is willing to help others, then to put in place whatever incentives are necessary to encourage the experienced to assist others. The incentives could range from setting aside time from their own work to help others, time to write more, travel budget to go to different parts of the organization to meet with would-be authors. That person could also run writing and publishing seminars within the firm. Then, management should reward, celebrate, and recognize the efforts.

What does a mentor do? The challenge for a mentor is to expose a would-be author to the tasks of writing and publishing while simultaneously passing on necessary skills and sustaining the neophyte's enthusiasm for the work until it is published. Most would-be authors know something—they are experts on a subject—but know little or nothing about writing. Sending them off to an English class at the local community college is not practical. You will have to help them start putting words on paper, showing them how to organize their thinking, maybe even coauthoring pieces with them so they see the process at work. They have to go through this drill about three times before they know enough to dispense with a mentor. Using a ghost writer can be very helpful. The mission is to teach skills and to further tacit knowledge, not to transfer facts.

Would-be writers all seem to ask the same questions—the issues the book you are reading is about—and therefore the mentor fields many telephone calls, spends countless hours in staff meetings and "over lunch" gatherings, answering and promoting and encouraging people to try writing. To a large extent, mentors are cheerleaders urging people to write and then bursting with pride when their prot__s publish. As momentum builds, that is, as people hear about the existence of someone in the firm who is willing to mentor, many will come forward. The problem for the mentor is which people to invest in. Many want to publish, few actually do. As a mentor, you will simply have to practice a sort of literary triage to determine who to invest in. As in medical triage, you separate people into categories: those who are wasting your time, those who might get some work done, and those who have the potential and determination to publish. You will spend time with all three groups, but you want to focus more on the third because those people become the basis for an expanded pool of mentors in later years. In a business environment, there is also a fourth pool that cannot be ignored, those whom you must help for political reasons. These could include your manager, who sees a way to publish by riding on the shoulders of a writing employee, those whom you are ordered to get into print, and so forth. That fourth group is usually small; you can handle them deftly by just writing a piece and listing the person as coauthor. Or, simply throw a ghost writer at the project and manage that effort as any other business initiative.

Mentors should, however, bring potential authors into research and writing projects when the other parties have something to contribute, such as expert knowledge. It is a wonderful way to write oneself and train others without skipping a beat. Mentors are in a better position, for example, to conceive of a major project—a book-length collection of chapters by multiple authors—as a vehicle for training a half-dozen or more people at the same time. Mentors themselves should continue writing and publishing, sharing their experiences while doing this, so others can see by example. Knowing and watching an author is inspirational because observing takes much of the mystery out of writing and publishing. Lifting the veil of the unknown, exposing the mystery of writing, may be the single most important act of a mentor. Once people know what the mentor knows, many will conclude that they, too, can write and publish, that they, too, have something at least as important to say as that individual.

At the nuts-and-bolts level, mentors often tell people exactly what to do, read and correct their various drafts, may call editors to place material or coach authors on how to do that, then celebrate these accomplishments. Mentors will get telephone calls on Saturday afternoon, will have to set aside time on Sunday afternoons and while on airplane rides to read manuscripts, and have to tell people very diplomatically how to improve their literary babies. Most of the material will be of very poor quality, often not suitable for publication. The mentor's challenge is to deliver that message without discouraging the would-be writer or to show an individual how to invigorate the material to make it publishable. To get closer to the latter positions, mentors should focus on several kinds of tasks:

  • Force would-be authors to outline and to understand what the key messages are and for what audience

  • Force would-be authors to write and polish, write and polish, then polish, polish, and polish

  • Force would-be authors to show their material to other experts, then fix and polish

Don't let would-be authors treat the material as if it were an extension of themselves. Be cold-blooded about the content and quality of the material from the first contact. Would-be authors need to have the detachment of a third party, like a forensic pathologist doing an autopsy on their creation. The mentor must teach them this task.

As the process of mentoring develops, it will become clear who is going to write and publish and who is simply talking a good game. Winners are those who have something to write about and invest the time to put their thoughts on paper. Spend a great deal of time with those people because they will deliver results. I define results in this case as publications sitting on my bookshelf. Read their papers, really work them over to show how they can be improved and polished. Personally introduce your winners to editors, engaging them in the process of selling their material to a publisher. Once they have had a taste of success, push them to do more. More in this case means additional articles, sometimes with multiple writing projects going on simultaneously, and then, ultimately, a book. Set expectations for additional performance from your stars and cheer them on, reinforcing their confidence. These activities are very much what a good professor in graduate school does with a star pupil writing a doctoral dissertation. You see the same kind of behavior in a skilled craftsman teaching an apprentice, a carpenter bringing a would-be colleague along. It is showing, correcting, congratulating, and doing more of the same, and forcing a prot_ to do as the mentor does until the skill is mastered. Mentoring frequently involves a multiyear relationship with an individual, cutting across jobs and career changes. There is no other way—it just takes time to train new writers and to get them published.

Momentum creates its own opportunities. For example, editors constantly solicit experienced authors to write articles and books. Somehow, good writers wind up in the Rolodex files of many editors, including in those of journals and publishers they have never worked with before! If busy, the good author normally declines the invitation. A busy mentor might say to the editor, "I don't have the time," or "I am not as qualified to do this work you want," but then adds the phrase, "but I know someone who is qualified and does have the time. And I'll work with her to make sure the manuscript meets with your satisfaction." Then, you talk the would-be author into taking on the assignment, with you as mentor to make sure it gets done right.

Over time, your relations with authors change. As they gain confidence, experience, and enjoy publishing successes, they will need less nuts-and-bolts help than before. Like peers, they will seek out your advice on messages and content and less on writing and publishing. It is then that you have to teach them to mentor others in the firm, bringing those others along the way you did them. Otherwise, your phonemail will remain clogged with messages from wanna-be's. It is in your self-interest as a mentor to expand the pool of like-minded mentors. This is particularly true in very large corporations, such as at my IBM, where a lot of really skilled people with lots of energy and ambition want help getting published. The same circumstance exists at such other firms as Philips, Citicorp, AT&T, General Motors, Mobil Oil, and so many others. In the companies just mentioned, employees have not hesitated to call me for mentoring. So, if the word gets out, a good mentor may be asked to help others in other companies! Recruit additional mentors!

A Case Study: A Factory Unto Himself

James Martin is one of the most prolific authors in American business history. In 1996, he published his 100th book, Cybercorp. All his books have been on business topics, in fact, all on various aspects of information processing. Some have been technical books for IT professionals, others for business management, and some for folks like you and me.

James Martin began writing books on computing while an employee at IBM in the 1960s. His early books on database management and telecommunications became instant classics. He later published books on programming methodologies and application development. The company supported his work and eventually, after nearly two decades at the firm, he went out on his own. He continued to write books and eventually started his own consulting firm. Life has been good for James Martin.

But what made him a successful author that his publisher, IBM when he was there, and now the man himself can take pride in, was his burning desire to write and publish. He proved willing to do it within the realities of working within a corporation, in terms that made sense to the reading professional, and later in support of his consulting practice. The moral of his experience is that authors can be highly successful both out on their own or as part of a corporate structure. Employers, an industry, and publishers can all benefit from having a James Martin working with them.

Author vs. the U.S. First Amendment

In the United States, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens freedom of speech against political suppression. Lawyers will tell you that First Amendment issues are between citizens and their government. Authors, however, feel it is always an issue between them and anybody who might want to constrain their expression—governments, religions, or corporations—and thus sometimes are at odds with their employers, talking at one level while the lawyers are on a different point. Authors have a tradition of cherishing the First Amendment, and so it becomes the source of contention when some organization attempts to constrain (authors say, censor) their ability to express themselves. The problem is not absent from the business environment.

The Key Issues:

  • Ability to express one's opinions on any issue without fear of censorship or recrimination by the organization one works for

  • Ability to write and speak on any topic

When This Right Creates Tensions:

  • The firm might be harmed by revelation of sensitive or competitive information.

  • The firm feels it must control what its employees say and write outside the firm.

  • The firm is in danger of being exposed to criminal or civil suits or to competitive attack.

  • The firm attempts to retain possession of its intellectual capital.

How Firms and Authors Deal with the Issues:

  • The firm defines clearly what its publishing policies are and gains commitment of employees to adhere to them.

  • The author uses common sense, understanding that it is not always in everyone's interests to give away intellectual capital, embarrass the firm, or reinforce competition.

  • Authors and companies discuss potential publications, coming to an understanding on a case-by-case basis on what and how things should be published.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020