Authoring College Textbooks Denny Burzynski CSN Mathematics Ext 7566

Authoring College Textbooks Denny Burzynski CSN Mathematics Ext 7566

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Authoring College Textbooks

Denny Burzynski

CSN Mathematics Ext 7566

Process Overview

The Idea Choosing a PublisherMaking a ProposalThe ContractWorking with an EditorWriting the Book

Some reasons for writing a textbook

The Idea

• Share our ideas with our colleagues and students

• Participate in our community

• We are creative• Money• Promotion

I think I could write a textbook that is better than the current collection of textbooks.

The Idea

The Idea

Why do I think that?

What ideas do I have that current authors have neglected or have not done much with?

List and annotate themYou will need them for your proposal

Do I know who publishes in my field?

Choosing a Publisher

F. A. DavisPrentice HallWileyAddison/WesleyBrooks/ColeHoughton-MifflinMcGraw-HillWorthWadsworthGuiford

Choosing a Publisher

Most of these are now PearsonCengage

Which publisher is right for you?

Choosing a Publisher

Do you know the sales rep?Sales reps can provide you with insight as to

how your text will be sold. Does your rep follow through with his or her

commitments to you? Do you see the sales rep very often?

If not, why not? There may be a good reason. Is CSN out-of-the-way, or is the rep a slacker?

Ask your sales rep if the publisher is looking for a new textbook.

What are they looking for in a text?

Choosing a Publisher

Does the publisher have a good reputation?

What does the bookstore think about each publisher?

Will the publisher consider new paradigms? Apple Academic iBooks

Choosing a Publisher

Do your homeworkLook at all the other books each publisher has available for the course in which you are interested in publishing

How many do they have?Wadsworth --> West Brooks/Cole Then so many B/C did not even know they had my applied calculus book and didn’t put it on their marketing list

Making a Proposal

How will your book be different from the books they already have?Be brutally honest with yourself: is your difference a good difference or just a quirky difference?

Would your colleagues in your department want to use your approach?

Would other faculty want to?

Making a Proposal

Keep in mind that, like yourself, faculty are busy and changing textbooks is not at the top of their list of fun things to do. Usually they will not change if they are fairly happy with their current text.

Does your book give them a good reason to change?

Making a Proposal

Your proposal should clearly state how your book is different from the current texts on the market.Different (but really the same)New, but recognizable

Identify all the ways your book will address unmet needs

Making a Proposal


Calculus textbooks typically present example problems asSolve thisDo thisHere is the solutionThe End

Making a Proposal

My Idea for improvement

Include: Here is what a mathematician thinks when he or she sees this type of problem

End the example by offering my interpretation of the result

Making a Proposal

Making a Proposal

Interpretations by your colleagues and from faculty at colleges that might use your text – big adopters

Interviews with people well-known in the field

QuickTime videos of your colleagues or well-known people in your field offering their view of some topic.

Making a Proposal

Videos of you and your students solving problems

Making a Proposal

Write one sample chapter with a letter of introduction and a one-page document that describes how your book fits into the market

Include how your book is different and the same than those they already have

Making a Proposal

Get someone to read it with you.Alternate reading paragraphs, making notes as you go

The Contract

Ask for some advance money. It makes the publisher more committed to your project.

Publishers are not real fond of grants. They may be more open to them if the money is going toward something they would have paid for anyway. (Student proofreading, faculty interpretations, videos, accuracy checking.)

The Contract

RoyaltiesYou many see a sliding scale

Example (sort of made up)

up to 5000 units in first year: 10%

5000-7500: 12%

7500-10,000: 15%

10,000 and above: 18%

The Contract

Consider joining the Textbook Authors Association (TAA)http://taaonline.net/Contract HelpNetworking with established authorsLegal referrals

The Contract

Ask about typesetting and how they want you to submit your work

Can you use typesetting software?This has advantages during the proofreading stage

The Contract

When you start talking with publishers, you will have a lot of contact with acquisitions editors. You will likely gravitate towards the editor you bond with personally, someone who seems to get what you are trying to do and seems smart.


Keep in mind the editors, especially the young ones, tend to move around and get promoted.

Get to know the editor’s immediate manager, and if possible, the manager’s manager.If you feel they have a good sense of what you are trying to do, you have a good safety net if your editor moves on.


Try to get a sense of how your editor works with his or her assistant or project editor, since these people might end up doing most the work on your book.

If your editor is slow getting back to you during the pre-signing stage, be very suspicious. The pre-signing stage is the time they are investigating whether or not they want to sign a book with you. This should be like a courtship stage. If you are not getting timely responses at this stage, you probably never will and things will likely get worse.


Your book will go out for reviewPotential adopters

Your editor will ask you to make some or all the changes the reviewers suggestMake potential adopters happyAdd this sectionRearrange these chapters.ARG!


ProofreadingThey will have this doneYou should do it tooPay one or two students to do itPay a faculty friend to do it

ARG! There are errors in the book!How is it possible?


Try to have some influence on page layoutThey do pretty well, but you may have ideas that can help students read and understand your writing


Try to have some influence on Cover DesignThink about a cover that grabs the attention of potential adopters and that conveys a sense of calm to students


Get knownConsider giving talks at your discipline’s annual conferences

Your publisher will likely have a booth at the annual conference and your book will be displayed. Hang out at the booth.

Read the marketing material. Make sure it points out the outstanding features of your book.


Write using only your computerKeep your work separate from school equipmentYou probably do not want the college to claim ownership of some or all of your work


Can you use sophisticated writing instruments?

LaTexhttp://www.latex-project.org/High-quality typesetting, document preparation system



Your publisher likely knows of itYour publisher will pay someone to create a book design (page layout)

May pay for a TexPert to create the LaTex macros that put your writing directly into the final form


My friend Doug Campbell, Mathematics Department

West Valley College, Silicon Valley, CA

On his student evaluation form, a student wrote


“He really knows what he is talking about!”



“We don’t know what he is talking about!”

Anguish over every word and sentenceConcise, but accurate and readableThink about every wordYour writing will become more logical , clear, and effectiveTwo Examples: The words only and temperature


Only + “She kissed him on the lips.”

Only she kissed him on the lips.No one else did that, just her.

She only kissed him on the lips.Kissing him on the lips is all she did with him, nothing else.

She kissed him only on the lips.She kissed him on the lips and nowhere else.

Place the word only directly in front of the word it modifies.

Temperatures will be getting hotter.Temperatures are numbers and numbers don’t get hot or cold.Temperatures will be rising.

The weather will be getting hotter.

Anguish over every word.

Anguish over every sentence.

Anguish over every piece of art.

Time Commitment?


Thanks to

Pat McKeagueAuthor of 16+ mathematics textbooksHe says call him if you are thinking of writing a


Anne Scanlon-RohrerEditor for a long timeShe says call her if you are thinking of writing a