Q&A: How can I get started working on textbooks?

Woman writing and working on laptopIn a recent post to the TAA LinkedIn group, Dr. Anna Bucy, a humanities instructor with over 20 years of teaching experience, asked the question, “How can I get started working on textbooks?” A simple question to which several group members shared their professional advice.

Professional editor of textbooks and scholarly articles, Ann Greenberger: “Are you thinking of elementary-high school textbooks, or college? If college, then you might look on LinkedIn for college textbook publishers and acquisitions editors in your field (education). Sometimes they need content specialists to write or edit supplements such as testbanks or instructors manuals. That is just one route to go, but would get you started.”

Accounting professor and author, Wendy Tietz: “I agree with Ann. Reach out to your publisher’s sales reps on your campus too; they can connect you with the acquisition editors. Working on supplements is a great place to start – you will prove that you can meet deadlines, that your work is of high quality, etc.”

Louis Johnston, Professor of Economics at College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University: “That is how I got into the industry. In particular, doing reviews of current books (and making clear how you would change things) is very useful to editors and puts you on their radar.”

From personal experience, I’d echo the thoughts above in stating that you need to be recognized, be willing to work, and build strong relationships with the publishers at every level.

1) Start with who you know. As Wendy mentioned, reach out to the publisher’s sales reps who are already working to build a relationship with you. They are the front-line connections for the publishing company.

2) Offer feedback and insight. Shared by all three contributors, through voluntary (and sometimes paid) review of current books that help to develop new approaches to a subject, or by enhancing current titles through development of supplements for existing textbooks, you demonstrate a greater interest and contribution to the industry than the average book adopter.

3) Engage with the publisher. My best opportunities to engage have been at conferences and workshops, so I offer this advice – if invited to publisher events, go! Be active. Network. Share your insight and ideas. Build relationships with the acquisition editors and other authors. Accept opportunities to demonstrate your writing ability on single chapters and supplemental materials. Ultimately, as the relationship grows and your ability as an author is demonstrated, more opportunities will present themselves.


Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.

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