Laying the foundation for an academic textbook: Testing for audience

It’s one thing to write a textbook; it is another matter entirely to get a critical mass of people to buy. For someone socialized as an academic, the audience for a textbook is a far less specialized one than one is accustomed to addressing. The format has to be perceived as accessible; the audience has to find it welcoming.

A website about trade books provides analytics enough to give a would-be author pause. According to Bookscan, of the 3.2 million books tracked in 2021, fewer than 1percent sold more than 5,000 copies. While I confess to find myself turning to book writing for the sheer love of the spaciousness it affords to expand on ideas, it’s hardly a wise investment of all-too limited time to a write a book that only a few will ever buy.

Don’t gloss over the glossary

Do you feel like you have fallen into the abyss when dealing with your glossary? Don’t let this problematic element overwhelm you. In his 2023 Conference session, Paul Krieger will describe the standardized process he created to improve his glossary. After doing some research and creating a clear set of guidelines for his editors to develop a master glossary for three related books, the end result was a much more consistent, complete, and user-friendly glossary.

Krieger is an award-winning teacher and the creator, author, and illustrator of Morton Publishing’s Visual Analogy Guide series. Due to the success of his first book on human anatomy in 2004, this unique book concept quickly evolved into a four-book series. He is Professor Emeritus of Anatomy & Physiology at Grand Rapids Community College and also works as a scientific illustrator.

The prelude: Preparing to write a scholarly textbook

Many think about writing a scholarly textbook years before actually picking up the pen to do so. That prelude is like musicians tuning up before a performance. It is an investment of time that is as critical to finishing a book as to beginning it. For a writer, the prelude is a time to organize notes and references. To draft and redraft a table of contents. To organize notes. To connect with potential editors. To investigate potential audiences and find colleagues who would consider adapting it in their teaching. The prelude contributes to the ease with which you can write the book and lays the foundation that there is an audience for it.

For an equitable textbook, universal design for learning is a must

Universal design for learning (UDL) is an evidence-based framework that improves and optimizes teaching and learning for all people. UDL recognizes the diversity of student learners and leverages how humans learn to improve and optimize teaching and learning.

In their 2023 TAA Conference session, “For an Equitable Textbook, Universal Design for Learning is a Must,” Laura Frost, Professor of Chemistry and Associate Dean at Florida Gulf Coast University; and Shawn Nordell, Associate Director of Graduate Career Services at the University of Arizona, provide an overview of the UDL framework, some examples of how authors can work UDL principles into their textbook writing, and discuss among the participants how this framework can be further used to enhance the equitability and accessibility of their textbooks.