View Full Version : Any advice for breaking into the textbook business?

08-23-2005, 12:05 AM
Hi there! I'm new to the board and was wondering if anyone could offer some advice on how to break into the school textbook business. I'm interested in exploring copyediting, proofreading and editing positions, and would also like to know how textbook companies assign different editions of school books to writers.

I have a BA in Education and an MA in Literature and have worked as an English tutor, writing instructor and graduate student copyeditor, but my knowledge of how textbooks are assembled (and how one can break into this business) is still quite limited. Any help would be much appreciated.

08-23-2005, 01:53 AM
I copy-edited college texts in the social sciences for several years. For proofreading, copy editing, or indexing, find the publishers and ask whether they use freelancers. If they do, they'll take it from there. In my experience, one takes a written test, a sample of mistake-filled prose to edit or proofread. The résumé isn't very important; they're concerned about how well you perform. You don't need to know much about putting books together. They have production editors for that.

I don't know how they assign books to writers. In academic publishing generally, writers approach publishers, not the other way round, but there may be exceptions, as when a publisher does a series of books on related subjects.

08-23-2005, 02:08 AM
Hi, Spidercat, and welcome! I'm going to move your post to the nonfiction books board because that seems to be the right spot for it.

Tish Davidson
08-23-2005, 05:22 AM
Check out my post on the Textbook Authors thread.

08-23-2005, 07:30 AM
Thank you all for your advice -- and you Tish for that informative post in Textbook Authors! I have a couple more questions if anyone can answer them -- is there any particular editing style textbook publishers gravitate towards? (I usually write my nonfiction under the MLA Guidelines, but I know that some publishers prefer Associated Press). Also, are freelance positions in the textbook business frequently filled by telecommuters?

Thanks again!

Tish Davidson
08-23-2005, 09:36 AM
Most of the people I have worked for follow Chicago style or a modified version of it. I haven't found it much of an issue as a writer. Sometimes the publisher will give you and abbreviated version of their house style guideline. I suppose that if you are editing for them, they will have more specific requirements that they will lay out before you begin work, but as a writer I,ve found they are mainly interested in content, correct length, and reading level.
I've never done a textbook in AP style. That is usually for newspapers and magazines. Most of the specific style guidelines I have been given involve scientific notation and terminology that is handled slightly differently by different publishers. I mention in my resume that I am familiar with Chicago, AP, and AMA (American Medical Associaton) style, but no one has ever asked me about it as a condition for getting a job.

Donna Pudick
02-26-2006, 12:36 AM
I did a one-year stint working for Allyn & Bacon, writing hype for elementary and high school textbooks, and another very short stint for McGraw-Hill before moving over to editorial.

ALL of the textbook editors were former teachers, professors, etc., most with a masters, a few with doctorates

Both companies had nice-looking, articulate polyglots working there, who traveled the world, soliciting authors (most with doctorates) to write textbooks.

A piddling number of unsolicited authors managed to write workbooks, accompanying texts, etc., but getting a foot in the door was tough.

What textbooks bring to the authors, especially if they get state adoptions, is money, tons of it. Most become millionaires very quickly. My girlfriend at A&B was the accountant, and told me the royalty checks were mind-boggling. Biggest sellers were the history and science books, because they had to be updated on a regular basis. Even the elhi readers and math books were huge money-makers.

College professors made out wonderfully, too, especially if they were attached to a big university, and especially if they wrote science or history books used by that university. The books couldn't be resold, so every year, new editions came out. They were, as a rule, published by the university, or farmed out to textbook publishers who did the physical work of producing the book.

English books were updated every five years, but figure 10,000 incoming freshmen paying between $75 (used) and $150 (new) for an English 101 textbook, and yowsa! the royalties do pile up.


04-20-2006, 06:14 PM
Check out my post on the Textbook Authors thread.

I'm really striking out today! I can't find this thread. Can someone tell me how to locate it? Sounds like it is really something I need to read.


Tish Davidson
04-20-2006, 10:35 PM
I went back and looked at all my old posts and couldn't find it either. It was around the time when AW did some technical upgrading, and so it may have been lost.

04-20-2006, 10:38 PM
Okay, thanks.