A few weeks ago, I reached out to winners of the 2017 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. I had so many great responses I decided to create a five-part series to share them. The first installment focused on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got started. The second installment focused on what they do to boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use.
This third installment in the five-part series focuses which pedagogical elements in their textbook they are most proud of, and what involvement they have had in marketing their book.
Q: Which pedagogical elements in your textbook are you most proud of?
Paul Battaglia, co-author of the 2017 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, AP Calculus, 1e: “I really think our use of QR codes to bring the material closer to the student will certainly prove to be cutting edge. I’m already hearing from teachers and students who have found that feature invaluable.”
Russell Grimes, author of the 2017 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Carboranes, 3e: “The introductory chapters that provide basic information; the hundreds of molecular structure drawings and figures (including those on the cover, in color); the extensive tables listing information on many thousands of compounds; and the more than 6,000 references to published work. In addition, Elsevier maintains a Carboranes Third Edition website on which I provide information on new publications that have appeared since the book was published.”
Karen Hardy, author of the 2017 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Enterprise Risk Management: A Guide for Government Professionals, 1e: “The compilation and inclusion of primary survey data. I conducted a survey on my community website and was able to share some very insightful feedback that I structured into action plans in my book. People enjoy reading fresh and original information within a book.”
Robert Lucas, author of the 2017 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Customer Service Skills for Success, 6e: “As an adult educator and trainer, and author and expert in brain based learning, I incorporate activities that tie into the latest scientific research on adult learning. The activities include individual effort and group collaboration.”
Jonathan Pinder, author of the 2017 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Introduction to Business Analytics Using Simulation, 1e: “The use of decision trees and simulation throughout the book provides students with a motivation (decision making) to use (and hence learn) probability and stats. Simulation shows them real variation in data and what that means – it provides a surrogate for the experience with data they lack. Real data is often too idiosyncratic for them to understand. Simulation provides a better introduction to how and why data varies. Then they can use that understanding of variation to make decisions.”
Kenneth Saladin, author of 2017 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Anatomy & Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function, 7e: “I write a broad variety of pedagogical elements into each chapter, ranging from stop-and-think sorts of questions dispersed through the chapter body, to review outlines and questions at the end of each chapter. I suppose the ones I feel best about are questions that call not just for recall of terminology and facts, but the more analytical questions that require students to think about the implications of what they’ve read. The market growth of my books, however, has been stimulated especially by adaptive learning products such as McGraw-Hill’s LearnSmart, written by colleagues who work on my team as digital authors.”
Timothy Slater, coauthor of the 2017 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Lecture-Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, 3e: “Illustrations. I spend much more effort on the illustrations and diagrams than the narrative text.”
Michael Solomon, coauthor of the 2017 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Social Media Marketing, 2e: “We organized the book around a framework that we devised; this is now used in other treatments of the topic as well.”
Todd Swanson and Jill VanderStoep, coauthors of the 2017 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Introduction to Statistical Investigations, 1e: “Three pedagogical elements that I am most proud of are our spiral approach, example and exploration design, and computer applet simulations.
- Using the spiral approach, we don’t discuss a key concept once and then never cover it again. We keep repeating the coverage of these topics again and again using different data types. This allows students to keep building their knowledge of key statistical concepts over the entire semester.
- All of our sections have an in-depth example that allows for an instructor to lecture on in class or allows for the students to read about before class. Each section also has an accompanying exploration which consists of a series of questions that guide students through the same concepts that are covered in the example. This allows an instructor the flexibility in how the material is presented, anywhere from a lecture to guided student discovery or anything in between.
- Our accompanying computer applets allow students to see and explore key concepts of statistics that not only give a p-value, but visual show them what a p-value means. They also include animations so students can better understand certain key statistical concepts.”Alan Trujillo, author of the 2017 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Essentials of Oceanography, 12e: “Definitely the ‘Students Sometimes Ask…’ feature, which contains real student questions about course content along with my answers. Some of my favorites are ‘Do the phases of the Moon influence human behavior?’, ‘Is dilution the solution to ocean pollution?’, and ‘How do whales–you know–DO IT??'”
Jerry Westerweel, coauthor of the 2017 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Turbulence, 1e: “I think the book is really suited for Master students. Other books are much thicker and discuss topics in more detail, but this are more suited for Ph.D. students.”
Q: What involvement have you had in marketing your textbook?
Battaglia: “Larson Texts and Cengage have allowed me to be front and center by supporting my presentations at national AP and Math conferences. I have also been able to interact with teachers on exhibit floors and walk them through the many features of our book.”
Grimes: “The publisher solicited input from me on where to direct publicity about the book, including both individuals and organizations. I also provided descriptive material that outlined the content and features.”
Hardy: “LOTS! I think my book is the best thing since sliced apple pie! I started a blog on BlogSpot; a community website using a membership platform, started a Twitter account and am on Facebook. It sounds like a lot, but once you connect all of them together, it is much easier to manage. Also, I work hard to get my book integrated into other systems, like continuing education courses and more college programs.”
Lucas: “I make visits to various academic sites with my publisher’s sales staff to give presentations on customer service topics.”
Pinder: “As little as possible – that’s what the publishing professionals are supposed to be good at.”
Saladin: “Especially in the early years (the first three or four editions), I traveled a lot to meet with regional sales representatives, visit campuses, give presentations on the book, and build personal relations with instructors in my field. I provide my email address in all of my books and correspond frequently with instructors, and with students from many countries, who send me feedback—compliments, questions, corrections, suggestions, and requests to cite the original sources of my information. I also frequently prepare emails by request from my marketing team to address the needs of instructors at a specific college where we hope to win a new adoption or keep a rollover adoption. Not every author and publisher is so responsive to user queries, and I try to maintain an edge over the competition in this way. I often receive surprised replies from colleagues who say I’m the first author who’s ever responded to their input, and from students who are astonished that the author would actually write back to them. All of this is, to me, an important element of marketing and client relations. The job doesn’t end when a book is published; it goes on, and entails much more than just writing.”
Slater: “Nearly 100%. I thought that the textbook companies would carry most of the load for marketing, but I was mistaken. People adopt books written by people that they know, so my marketing was to do as many campus visits to other campuses as possible.”
Solomon: “We try to maintain contact with adopters and potential adopters but leave the selling to the salesforce.”
Swanson and VanderStoep: “Different subsets of the author team have had opportunities to hold workshops on teaching with simulation-based methods. We use many examples and explorations from our textbook at the workshop as well as the accompanying applets. This piques the interest of the participants and gets discussions started on how they might go about changing their courses to incorporate these simulation-based methods.”
Westerweel: “We attended a meeting/conference related to the topic of the book and had a flyer distributed among the participants.”
Trujillo: “Actually, very little. My publisher has a whole Marketing Department that takes care of most of that. I do, however, post materials about my work (such as a list of improvements for each edition and a ‘Letter from the Author’) at my Website.”
Read the first installment in the series – Textbook award-winning insight (part 1): Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher
Read the second installment in the series – Textbook award-winning insight (Part 2): Boosting writing confidence, scheduling writing time, software