2019 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 1): Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher

TAA Textbook AwardsWe recently reached out to winners of the 2019 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about how they made the decision to write their textbook, how they interested a publisher, what they do to boost their writing confidence, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and more. We will be sharing their answers in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

This first installment of the five-part series focuses on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got the interest of a publisher.

Q: Why did you decide to write your textbook?

Sociology in Action, 1st ed.Maxine P. Atkinson, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Sociology in Action, 1e: “The proposal clearly indicated that the text would help teachers be better instructors and students be more engaged.”

Ralph G. Carter, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, IR: International, Economic, and Human Security in a Changing World, 3e: “I wanted a text that taught the course the way I preferred.”

Blueprint for Success in College and Career, 1st ed.Dave Dillon, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Blueprint for Success in College and Career, 1e: “I thought I had something unique and valuable to contribute that I wanted to use in my own classes that may also be valuable for other instructors and courses as well. Also wanted to address textbook affordability.”

Nicole M. Gage, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner’s Guide, 2e: “The emergent field of Cognitive Neuroscience has changed rapidly over the last decade. Our first two books on the topic were large, upper division or medical school level texts. We decided to write a briefer, more entry-level text, based on rigorous science, that would be appropriate across full university levels. Fundamentals of CNS 1e was published in 2012. In our new edition, we wanted to make the material even more relevant to our readers and ended up largely rewriting the entire text. We are very proud of the result!”

Essentials of Business Communication, 11th ed.Mary Ellen Guffey, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Essentials of Business Communication, 11e: “The textbooks then available were inferior, and I needed a better book from which to teach the class in which it was used.”

Massimo Guiggiani, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, The Science of Vehicle Dynamics: Handling, Braking, and Ride of Road and Race Cars, 2e: “The second edition pursues, even more than the first edition, the goal of approaching Vehicle Dynamics as a scientific subject, with neat definitions, clearly stated assumptions, sound mathematics, critical analysis of classical concepts, and step-by-step developments. This may sound theoretical, but it is actually very practical. Indeed, some automotive companies have drastically changed their approach on some topics according to some (apparently) theoretical results presented in the first edition of my book.”

Social Psychology, 1st ed.Thomas Heinzen and Wind Goodfriend, co-authors of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Social Psychology, 1e: “Social psychology has always been an applied discipline – and the need for its insights seems more urgent than ever.”

John Hennessy, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6e: “My coauthor and I were dissatisfied with the existing texts and the way the field was being taught.”

Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5th ed.Timothy Henry, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5e: “To provide a flexible way to teach data structures and algorithms.”

Milan Jirásek, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Creep and Hygrothermal Effects in Concrete Structures, 1e: “It was suggested by my co-author, Prof. Zdeněk P. Bažant. He has been working on models for creep and shrinkage of concrete for many decades. Our objective has been to summarize the current state of the art and point out which problems remain open.”

Dana Loewy, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Essentials of Business Communication, 11e: “I am the coauthor of an established, highly successful textbook author who started writing textbooks in our field some 30 years ago. I like the challenges and rewards of being a textbook author, providing a highly useful, contemporary guide to business communication.”

Customer Service Skills for Success, 7th ed.Robert (Bob) W. Lucas, author of the 2019 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Customer Service Skills for Success, 7e: “Having worked in various sectors of customer service with my own company and several corporations, I moved into human resource development/corporate training, speaking, and consulting. Along the way, I wrote articles on a variety of customer service and business topics. In 1995, I decided to start writing business and management books and was fortunate enough to meet the President of Mirror Press at a professional conference. He published all of my first three books and approached me in 1996 to write a book on customer service. He was interested in moving into the academic arena and liked my writing style and expertise. Shortly thereafter, his company was purchased by McGraw Hill. Since then, I have been fortunate that colleges and trade schools have found value in the book and made it the top-selling customer service text in the U.S. for almost 18 years.”

Attainable Region Theory: An Introduction to Choosing an Optimal Reactor, 1st ed.Matt Metzger, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Attainable Region Theory: An Introduction to Choosing an Optimal Reactor, 1e: “Publish a collection of work that was not highlighted elsewhere. Collect the disparate works to present a holistic view of the topic.”

David Patterson, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6e: “We were unhappy with the current textbooks, which were qualitative surveys of options in the design of computers.”

The CQ Press Guide to Writing in Public Policy, 1st ed.Andrew Pennock, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, The CQ Press Guide to Writing in Public Policy, 1e: “I saw a real need for students to learn how to write for public policy makers. Many of my students came into class without a framework for what constitutes good writing and without a process they could engage in to create good writing. They needed to learn how public policy writing differs from the traditional academic writing they do in other disciplines. That’s especially true of the genre specific forms of writing students need to master to influence public policy (op-eds, issue briefs, etc).”

Robert L. Zimdahl, author of the 2019 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Fundamentals of Weed Science, 5e: “Available books did not adequately address the subject.”

Q: How did you get the interest of a publisher?

Atkinson: “A publisher came to me.”

Frank M. Carrano, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5e: “My longtime editor changed publishers and suggested that I write this book.”

IR: International, Economic, and Human Security in a Changing World, 3rd ed.Carter: “A publisher reached out to my co-author.”

Dillon: “Originally, I had pitched proposals. When my work became more well known, some publishers approached me.”

Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner's Guide, 2nd ed.Gage: “We have been with Elsevier since the publication of our first textbook in 2007. They approached us. We have had an excellent experience with our team at Elsevier over the past 12 years. This relationship is a valued one and helps make the entire process more and more productive and streamlined with each new project.”

Guffey: “The publisher came to my office partner looking for an author in a specific content area; she refused, but recommended me. I had the right ‘pedigree,’ according to the publisher (a doctorate in the field, teaching experience in the field, a tenure position in a large school that would use the book, and a husband teaching in a related field at an elite university).”

The Science of Vehicle Dynamics: Handling, Braking, and Ride of Road and Race Cars, 2nd ed.Guiggiani: “They trusted me. I do not know why.”

Heinzen and Goodfriend: “Perseverance and developing personal contacts at conferences.”

Hennessy: “We sent an email: our names were well known, as our publisher was small and focused on computing.”

Henry: “I was approached by a co-author.”

Creep and Hygrothermal Effects in Concrete Structures, 1st ed.Jirásek: “When we had the general outline and a few sample chapters, we contacted Springer. They asked several experts for opinion and the response was convincing.”

Loewy: “My coauthor can answer this better than I can. I came aboard decades after the two textbooks were first published.”

Lucas: “I typically scour trade show venues at professional conferences that I attend for new content and ideas. They often have publishers selling books related to the conference theme exhibiting and have acquisition authors onsite. In 1995, I met the President of my first book publishing company at a training conference. After a discussion, I submitted my first book proposal. That and two more subsequent proposals were accepted and then the publisher asked me to write my award-winning Customer Service Skills for Success book, which will soon go into 8th edition.”

Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6th ed.Metzger: “Prior experience in publishing from the authors with the publisher.”

Patterson: “We contacted three or four to see who might be interested, and several were.”

Pennock: “I wrote a proposal and cold-called publishers to see if they would meet at a conference I was attending. I knew there was a competing book from a different publisher, but also knew it didn’t meet the learning goals most public policy professors have for their students. Fundamentals of Weed Science, 5th ed.The book proposal detailed those differences forthrightly and explained my approach. I also knew my publisher, CQ Press, was the leading textbook publisher in our field. Despite having another offer from a prestigious academic press, I knew that CQ Press would help me reach more of the students I wanted to help. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted.”

Zimdahl: “I submitted a proposal.”

View all of the 2019 Textbook Award winners


Read the second installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 2): Boosting writing confidence, scheduling writing time, software

Read the third installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 3): Pedagogy and marketing involvement

Read the fourth installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 4): What they wish they had known before they started, writing advice

Read the fifth installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 5): Key to textbook longevity, preparing for the next edition