Tag Archives: Materials writing

IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Laurie Harrison’s “Writers in the digital age”

This is the third and final set of notes from the MaWSIG PCE event at IATEFL 2014. Laurie Harrison, in his talk “Writers in the digital age”,  shared lots of practical tips and things to keep in mind when being (or becoming) a writer in the digital age. The three main aspects he focused on were digital trends that writers need to be aware of, the skills sets that we as digital writers need to develop, and the sticky question of fees vs. royalties. Laurie gave us a talk chock full of practical information and insights–have a look for yourself!



And if you’re interested in some of the other talks at the MaWSIG PCE 2014, you may also enjoy:

If you want to try out sketchnoting for yourself (and yes, you can draw!), you may want to check out “For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…” It got a few tips and resources on how you too can start creating your own sketchnotes, if you want 😉



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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Jeremy Day’s “Experiments in self-publishing”

Here’s the second in the series of IATEFL 2014 sketchnotes. This set comes from Jeremy Day’s high informative talk on self-publishing. I especially like the idea of creating your own materials that can be sold directly to the students 😉

Again, do let me know if some text explanations are desired!



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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Katherine Bilsborough’s “Becoming a digital author”

This year, I decided to abandon my usual BESIG crowd and sit in on the MaWSIG PCE (that’s the Materials Writing Pre-conference event for those of you who don’t speak TEFLese). The first talk of the day was by Katherine Bilsborough, who took us on a path to becoming a digital writer, with lots of concrete tips, resources, and insights as to what it means to be a digital author.

Here are my sketchnotes from the talk. I’ll leave you to look at them then connect and process the ideas on your own, rather than me describing the notes. However, I’ll be posting all of my notes from IATEFL 2014 as sketchnotes, so if you feel you’d also prefer a bit of text, do let me know. And if you see any mistakes, also please let me know! This is sort of an experiment in conference note-taking and sharing, so do let me know what you think!

MaWSIG PCD - p. 1 K Bilsborough MaWSIG PCE - p. 2 K BilsboroughMaWSIG PCE - p. 3 K Bilsborough MaWSIG PCE - p. 4 K Bilsborough

And if you’re curious to learn more about sketchnoting and how you can get started, read this post: “For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…”


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ELT Teacher2Writer webinar notes: How to become an ELT materials writer

Last week (March 5, 2014 to be precise), Sue Kay and Karen Spiller of ELT Teacher2Writer led an hour-long webinar titled “How to Become an ELT Materials Writer.” The event was full of useful insider info on how the whole publishing industry works, the knowledge good writers need, and tips for aspiring authors from both publishers and accomplished writers.

Rather than just write up classic verbal notes with their outlines, bullet points, and line after line of text-text-text like I usually do (which usually ends up stuffed on a shelf somewhere, sadly to rarely be read again), I decided to try something different: sketchnoting. While not all ideas are captured, I tried to get the essentials, sketch them up into something visual and memorable, all the while hoping they would make some sense to someone who didn’t attended the webinar.

I’ll let you decide…

p. 1-2

How Publishing Works1

p. 3-4

How Publishing Works2

 p. 5-6 (end)

How Publishing Works2 1

Something I didn’t manage to capture here though and that will be appreciated by aspiring ELT writers is the ELT Teacher 2 Writer database. It’s free for writers to add their details to the database and it’s free for publishers to use the database, so it’s a great way for (presently) little-known or new writers to come into contact with publishers. It’s simple to add your name to the database: you fill in the registration form, which includes all the basics plus information about countries you’ve taught in, age groups or levels you’ve taught, and the type of materials you’re interested in writing. That way, when publishers are looking for someone with your profile, they’ll have all your contact information right there!

Hopefully the notes are helpful (and pretty to look at)! If my notes aren’t enough or you just want to watch Kay and Karen in action, you can watch the full webinar here. You’ll also be able to catch the ELT Teacher2Writer team at IATEFL Harrogate 2014. On Friday April 4, 2014 (time TBA), they’ll host a practical workshop demonstrating practical materials from their training modules.

Either way, the webinar helped add a bit of clarity to the whole mysterious process and also made it seem like something accessible to experienced teachers looking to expand their teaching careers beyond the classroom.


Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Webinar notes


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IATEFL Liverpool calling: Nick Robinson and how to get into ELT publishing

Nick reassured us that his talk was going to tell us all about how to get published, not just how to write. Nick is head of the recently-created MaWSIG (Materials Writing Special Interest Group) of IATEFL and as such is in the perfect position to help aspiring materials writers get their foot in the door. Plus, he’s also been involved in writing and editing for many years so he also knows all that mysterious stuff that goes on backstage in the world of publishing, including why the way publishers recruit new authors is not altogether different from how MI6 recruits spies!

Today, there is about .000001% chance of f sending in an unsolicited idea and getting it published. Sorry to burst any bubbles! Today, publishers bring new books into the world through focus groups, market analyses, collecting requests from teachers. From these processes to publication, it can take between 3 and 5 years! Publishing houses have very systematic publication plans and they generally stick to them.

Nick gave us a few precious pearls of wisdom for moving into the publishing world:

  • Never try to sell a book to a publisher. Sell an author. This is perhaps the one key thing to take away according to Nick. Sell yourself as a potential long-term business partner. You have to get onto publishers radars and the best way to do this is go to conferences. This is where the commissioning editors are and the IATEFL conference has one of the highest concentration of them out of all the conferences in Europe. In America, you’ll want to go to the TESOL conference. And if there’s a publisher-sponsored event after the conference, GO! This is the perfect opportunity to meet editors informally!


  • Have a 15 or 30 second elevator pitch ready to go and mak sure the editor can clearly remember a specific interest you have. Even better, scribble it on the back of your business card just before handing it over to the commissioning editor. Imagine when they get back to their office, they will have collected hundreds of business cards and they probably won’t remember your little elevator pitch. But a quick “business English, functional language” on the back of your card will easily make you memorable.


  • Make sure you’re visible. Get your name out there so that when an editor googles your name, they see you’ve got influence and that you engage an audience. Speaking at conferences is a good way to do this, but so is keeping a (regularly-updated) blog. 


  • Editors don’t want to work with writers who are surly, hard to work with, or inflated with their own ego. Personal rapport is a key element, so be a good person. It’s as easy as that. And don’t try to be too whacky. Anything that’s just way to out there is not going to make editors happy.


  • On a more technical side, you’ll need to get used to writing closely to a brief. This is a short description of the specifics of a book—target audience, type of activities, do’s and don’ts, etc. It is NOT a jumping off point. You must write exactly to the brief. Publishers will love you.


  • In terms of pay, there’s a changing shift in pay schemes. Publishers want people who’ll write for a fee rather than royalties. It means signing your work over to the publisher once it’s finished though, but Nick reminded us that this is the reality of the game. That being said, the fees tend to be pretty nice. 


  • Don’t think of yourself as just a book writer. Become a “content creator.” Editors want creators of books, apps, workbooks, and whatever types of materials that could help sell. You’ve got to get comfortable writing for multiple platforms. Versatility equals added value.


  • Today, digital writers are a hot commodity. By this Nick means someone familiar with the specific characteristics of online learning and how online content works.


  • To succeed, you’ll need to be thick-skinned. Getting your first feedback can be completely awful. Getting hard punched in the stomach is about what it feels like. You have to remember though that it’s a way of making your work better. Criticism hurts. Get used to it.

If you’re looking for help on getting into writing in ELT, definitely contact Nick Robinson. He knows the trends in materials creation and he takes his own advice–he’s a good guy who’s just easy and fun to work with.His web site is


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