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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Next Step

Credit: Evgeni Dinev

Over the past six months I have been working on a "book". The idea came from a various sources: firstly from a personal lack of inspiration in using traditional ELT materials for specific groups, secondly from an interest in the methodology being implemented in local primary schools and thirdly, after reading last year about the ELTons award for new writers sponsored by MacMillan.

Ever since I started blogging I have had an interest in writing - after eleven years of teaching in basically the same situation, I felt that gradually moving in a new direction may be good for me. I was looking for a new focus, something slightly removed from the day to day teaching but also related to it. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy teaching, but sometimes I can't imagine doing exactly the same job, in the same place, for the same wages and even teaching the same families in ten or twenty years' time. Writing would allow me to do some teaching but also do something different. The ELTons offered me an opportunity - a reason for writing, a deadline for submission of three chapters. And in the summer holidays I spent a few hours every morning working on my proposal.

Now, being completely new to this, and not having any inside information as to what the judges were looking for may have put me at a disadvantage. However, I was really writing for myself. The book in question is the basis for the whole syllabus of one of my classes. And it is working really well! The children are having fun, learning lots (not just English) and I feel they are making much more progress than they would have if we had used a traditional course. The shortlist for this award is now out, and my proposal has not made it. Maybe it was that my proposal wasn't clear enough. Or perhaps it isn't marketable enough. Would it make much money? Would it be sold around the world? Is the idea just not appropriate for today's publishers? Am I just too new and unknown? Were there lots of brilliant entries that far surpassed mine? I think that probably the answers to all these questions play a part. It just isn't good enough.

But the motive for this post is not to talk about either the book itself or the awards. It is "What to do next?".
I plan on finishing my book over the next few months, so what should I do with it? Should I publish it for free online? Should I self publish and try to sell a few copies? Should I contact other publishers? Should I just stick it in my drawer at work and keep it for myself (and colleagues)?

What would you do? One of the main drawbacks I see in self-publishing is that I have little experience in page design or programmes other than the basics of Microsoft Word. How do I make it look good enough for people to want to buy it or even download it for that matter? I think that I should probably ask somebody with experience to look at it and give feedback since I haven't got the experience to critically analyse it myself. But who?

This then, is a call for advice. What would you do? Have you tried to publish anything? Have you published and if so how did you go about it? What should my next step be?

4 comments:

  1. Firstly, I think you should be proud of yourself for having completed what you set out to do! It sounds to me as though just doing it has been a motivating and fulfilling experience.

    Is it possible to get any feedback from the 'judges' of the ELTons award?

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  2. Congratulations on being close to completion! I'm currently working with a number of colleagues on a writing project and 8 months into planning, we haven't written a page.

    If I were you, I'd probably use it for myself for a while and then decide where to go with it. Putting out a freebie online might be a good start to a writing career. That would extinguish the necessity of a slick appearance. However, if you're really passionate about it, I probably would contact some publishers and see what they say. Of course, then they have total control over design too.

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  3. Thanks Richard and Tyson for your comments.

    I still have quite a bit to do but it's really just writing out the stages of each lesson. My immediate motivation for completing it is that I am using it in the classroom! I will be doing some reflection and making changes as I use it in the classroom.

    As for the judges of the ELTons, I doubt they would be willing to give feedback - they may have had hundreds of entries to consider. I suppose I could try to contact one of them personally.

    For the moment I'm going to continue using it and share it with colleagues, who hopefully will give me some feedback.

    Thanks for reading :)

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  4. Hi Michelle!
    Congratulations on what you've done so far. I really think you should take it further than your desk and don't be put off by your first rejection - believe me there are lots of them in this game ;) It took us nine months and six rejection letters to get our first project off the ground!
    Do you have any personal contacts with anyone in the industry? That might be a start. Or with reps? They may be able to give you the name of a commissioning editor for Primary that you can talk to. If you're coming to the Tefl del sur swapshop on Jan 22 maybe we could have a longer chat about it? There are so many pros and cons, so many things to consider!
    Whatever you do, don't give up - and don't think it isn't good enough. There's so much luck and timing involved!

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