Posted on

How to prepare for the next textbook edition

Rebecca and Jean Paul Valette
Rebecca and Jean Paul Valette

The thought of updating a textbook for a new edition can be daunting, but for James Kalat, author of Biological Psychology, now in its 10th edition, the trick is to think about revisions well before you need to start working on the next edition.

“I am constantly thinking about revisions,” Kalat said. “I subscribe to a lot of journals and magazines and I try to stay up-to-date on them.” The academic journals keep Kalat current in the field, and relevant magazines often yield useful examples to illustrate important points. Kalat takes notes as he reads, recording anything that he may want to refer to in the next edition on index cards that he files away for later use.


Kalat also keeps a filing cabinet where he stores articles he gets online that he will read at a later date. Each interesting article gets filed in a folder labeled with the chapter in which he thinks that information could be useful. To ensure that the next edition of his book will be up-to-date, Kalat makes a point to investigate sections of the book that haven’t been updated recently: “I find out who has cited the articles I used in the last edition to find a more recent reference or find out what people are saying in response to the information to see if it’s still current.”

Husband and wife author team Rebecca and Jean Paul Valette, authors of Contacts: Langue et culture fran?aises, now in its 8th edition, also collect articles and other useful information about French language and culture that will be used in the next edition. To stay organized, they have dedicated a copy of their textbook to the role of filing cabinet. “When we find useful information,” Rebecca Valette said, “we have one copy of our textbook that we slide things into to keep them where they need to go.” That way, new pieces of information or examples are kept with the chapter—and perhaps even on the very page—where they will appear in the next edition.

To give their revisions direction, Valette and Valette attend regional and national conferences and spend time at the publisher’s booth so that they can speak to teachers about what they like about the book and what they think can be improved. In addition, Valette and Valette also get feedback from sales reps, questionnaires, and focus groups. They also find it helpful to send textbooks to teachers who have adopted their book and ask the teachers to write comments directly in that copy of the book to guide their revisions for the next edition.

“Getting input from users is very important,” Rebecca Valette said. “They can tell you which exercises they like, which they never use, and how they think they can be improved. They also make corrections for you to clean up in the next edition and can provide alternate answers for an answer key.”