Tag Archives: publishing

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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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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Walk on the wild side and fly free!

Book cover - walk on the wild sideIn case you missed the announcement from the round last week, I’m happy to announce that our first book was published this week ! I say « our » because it is the fruit of a joint collaboration between Jennie Wright (who runs the fabulous TEFL Helper blog) and myself (who runs this blog, but you probably know that already).

Before getting into the book itself, just a quick word on the launch. When we posted the news to Facebook and Twitter, we got so many messages of congratulations from colleagues around the world. We really felt how much the wider teaching community supports each other’s efforts and it was an awesome feeling! Thanks a lot guys (and gals)!

So, the book…

Inside you’ll find five chapters, one for each selected experimental area : Dogme, lexical chunking, corpora, translation, and CLIL. Within each chapter, you’ll get the history & background of the approach/method, lesson objectives, a (beautiful) sample lesson plan, the principles and explanation of that lesson plan, a list of dos and don’ts for testing the approach/method, opportunities and risks that come with it, and a toolbox packed with resources for finding out more. All that for about the cost of large fancy Starbucks! Sure it’s got less caffeine, but it’ll last longer and you can’t spill it while on the bus!

Where did the idea come from? It’s pretty simple and is really just another story of necessity being the mother of invention. Jennie and I were doing our Delta module 2 together at ESOL Strasbourg in 2012. When we got to the experimental practice assignment, our trainers showed us all sorts of resources for exploring possible experiments.Wouldn’t it be great to have a single go-to reference with resource lists, an overview of experimenting with a particular method, and a bit about its background? And wouldn’t it be even better to have a compilation of a few possible experiments laid out like that to be able to compare and choose? “Oh, we could write that book!” we thought. So we did!

As for the cover, that’s the fine work of designer Mark Bain. The cage is open. The bird is free. Imagine the metal bars as the rut that we all get into at some point of our teaching careers. We start relying on the same old exercises, going through the same lessons and slowly we create our own cage. Then one day, we decide we’re tired of being locked in. We want out. So we experiment, try new things and shake ourselves up a bit. The cage door flings open and we’re free, just like the bird you don’t see on the cover. We’re out of our comfort zone and walking on the wild side!

Experimental Practice in ELT: Walk on the wild side is available on all Amazon sites and on Smashwords.


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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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