2019 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 5): Key to textbook longevity, preparing for the next edition

TAA Textbook AwardsA few weeks ago, we reached out to winners of the 2019 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. We had so many great responses we decided to create a six-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. The third installment focused on which pedagogical elements in their textbook they are most proud of, and what involvement they have had in marketing their book. The fourth installment focused on what they wish they had known before they started, and advice for other authors.

This fifth, and final, installment in the five-part series focuses on the more veteran authors, who share the key to their textbook’s longevity, what they have learned over the years, and their approach to preparing for a new edition.

Q: What has been the key to your textbook’s longevity?

Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5th ed.Frank M. Carrano, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5e: “Revision on a regular schedule.”

Ralph G. Carter, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, IR: International, Economic, and Human Security in a Changing World, 3e: “It’s good and it’s up-to-date.”

Dave Dillon, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Blueprint for Success in College and Career, 1e: “Uncertain at this point – hopefully will have a key in the near future.”

Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner's Guide, 2nd ed.Nicole M. Gage, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner’s Guide, 2e: “It covers a wide breadth of brain science presented by workers in the field. We take the rigorous brain science and translate it into everyday language without oversimplifying or diluting it.”

Mary Ellen Guffey, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Essentials of Business Communication, 11e: “Updated editions! With every edition, my coauthor and I (a) check every reference to see if something more current or helpful is available, (b) update graphics and examples within the chapters, and (c) prepare at least 30 percent new end-of-chapter exercises. I change at least 30 percent of the end-of-chapter.”

Social Psychology, 1st ed.Thomas Heinzen and Wind Goodfriend, co-authors of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Social Psychology, 1e: “Rewriting.”

John Hennessy, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6e: “We do a new edition every 5 years with anywhere from 40-60% new or revised material.”

Timothy Henry, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5e: “Regular updates that keep it current.”

Creep and Hygrothermal Effects in Concrete Structures, 1st ed.Milan Jirásek, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Creep and Hygrothermal Effects in Concrete Structures, 1e: “Perhaps the detailed explanation of fundamental ideas that will hopefully remain valid in the future.”

Dana Loewy, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Essentials of Business Communication, 11e: “A consistent emphasis on quality and a hands-on approach to authoring. We like to have authorial control at all stages and with all associated products, whether in print or digital.”

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: “A great collaboration between me and the McGraw-Hill publishing team and a stellar M-H sales team that puts a lot of effort into reaching out to potential and current book adopters.”

David Patterson, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6e: “New editions. Our 6th edition appeared 27 years after the 1st edition.”

Fundamentals of Weed Science, 5th ed.Robert L. Zimdahl, author of the 2019 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Fundamentals of Weed Science, 5e: “It covers the subject and is written well.”

Q: What is your approach when preparing a new edition? When do you start? How do you organize your research and files? How do you decide what needs updating?

Sociology in Action, 1st ed.Maxine P. Atkinson, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Sociology in Action, 1e: “I start as soon as the new edition comes out. Everything that is more than 2 years old from the time of the next edition needs to be updated if possible.”

Carrano: “While the book is in production, we maintain a list of changes that we want to make in the next edition. By the time the book is ready for revision and is out for review, we already have a long list of revisions. We then merge them with suggestions made by the reviewers.”

Carter: “Update examples, introduce new literature and research, consider new features”

Blueprint for Success in College and Career, 1st ed.Dillon: “All great questions. All currently evolving and in progress.”

Gage: “It is overwhelming at first. My approach is to look at the discipline of CNS and examine the key new findings over the past few years. I begin at a macro level to learn about paradigm shifts. Then I think about how to weave those findings into a new edition. Some things such as basic brain wiring remain relatively stable over the years. Others aspects of brain science such as genetics have changed dramatically in just the last few years. I focus on the important new findings and keep the basics of brain function relatively stable — although to be honest I am always looking for new graphics to better illustrate complex brain functions.”

Guffey: “My coauthor and I usually take a year to revise a book.”

The Science of Vehicle Dynamics: Handling, Braking, and Ride of Road and Race Cars, 2nd ed.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: “I collect suggestions and criticisms.”

Heinzen and Goodfriend: “New editions are always in progress, and it will become more demanding as digital innovations gradually find their place in educational communication.”

Hennessy: “We start by deciding what can be removed, what can largely stay, and what are the new topics that must be added.”

Henry: “We survey both adopters and people that didn’t adopt it to find out what features are missing and what strengths of the book are.”

Jirásek: “The book is so comprehensive that it would require continuous updating. However, I need to work on other projects. If there is a demand in the community, we can think of an updated version in a few years.”

Essentials of Business Communication, 11th ed.Loewy: “The start of a revision is usually determined with the help of the publisher, beginning with a planning meeting. We are roughly on a three-year revision cycle although this is changing. We usually have 10-12 months before the publishing date to begin. We keep abreast of up-to-date developments in the field, do research year round, and make note of any new insights that necessitate a revision. I organize my research with the help of Dropbox and Evernote, both of which are searchable and extremely portable across devices.”

Lucas: “I spend time talking to the editorial team extensively to find out what current users want and need, follow competing books, read a lot of information about the profession, and gather information and data for the book as soon as a new edition is published. By doing these things, I have a fairly good idea of what needs to be added, updated or removed from the next edition.”

Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6th ed.Patterson: “Talk to co-author and trusted colleagues, then have publisher survey faculty for feedback on proposed changes as well as what they’d like on their own.”

Zimdahl: “I regularly save relevant material well in advance for beginning to prepare another edition. That material is organized by chapter when writing begins. Every chapter must be reviewed as the science advances.”

Q: What have you learned over the years, or through multiple editions, that you wish you knew from the start?

Carrano: “Personal relationships within the publishing company—editorial, production, marketing—are important. And I learned that I could actually write a successful book!!”

IR: International, Economic, and Human Security in a Changing World, 3rd ed.Carter: “Don’t hesitate. Don’t doubt yourself.”

Gage: “It is important to negotiate up front with your publisher for all aspects of the contract including what you can expect from them in the marketing stage. Be clear on whose responsibility it is to obtain permissions, especially in textbooks such as mine where there are many journal article graphics. If you have co-authors, be clear at the onset just what and when you want from them. Be prepared with Plan B if a co-author cannot produce. Ask your readers for advice on up-coming editions — they have good ideas!”

Guffey: “Every edition takes a great deal of work!”

Guiggiani: “How to increase royalties.”

Heinzen and Goodfriend: “If it’s not fun, you can make it fun.”

Hennessy: “The recognition that doing a new edition that will live up to the quality of the earlier ones means that you have to be relentless about both removing material and writing new material.”

Jirásek: “I have learned that tuning up all details takes an enormous amount of time, but I do not wish I had known this from the start because I would not have started.”

Loewy: “I’ve learned that creativity can be an inexhaustible fount of ideas as long as it’s fed by voracious, wide-ranging reading and experience in the world, not just in business.”

Lucas: “The biggest lesson learned is that you cannot sit back and let the publishing, marketing, and sales team do all the work. As an author, you are the book. Your name is on the cover. You have to put a lot of effort into marketing and strive to continue making it better.”

View all of the 2019 Textbook Award winners

Read the first installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 1): Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher

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