I know authors who started writing for publishers without any prior knowledge of the ELT publishing process. They have become successful writers and have written flagship courses. But those writers started out years ago, when schedules were generous and there was time to train new talent. Sadly, those days are long gone. Don’t get me wrong – publishers still provide on-the-job training and support, and still hire new writers, but when they need materials to be written to a very tight schedule, with no time for numerous rounds of revises, they are more likely to commission an experienced writer than someone with no knowledge of how ELT publishing works.
So, what can aspiring ELT writers do? The answer is simple – they need to take training into their own hands.
Here’s where you can learn more about the ELT publishing industry and materials writing:
1. Independent study
A No-Nonsense Guide to Writing Materials (by ELT Writers Connected)
This is a free ebook written by a group of experienced ELT writers and with a preface by Jeremy Harmer. It’s the first thing that all aspiring (and even experienced) ELT writers should read. It contains nine chapters which cover things, like: the skills that writers need, how publishers find writers, and how to write a sample. It also gives advice on things that you might not immediately think about when starting out, such as: contracts (no-compete clauses), fees/royalties, and things that can go wrong.
ELT Teacher 2 Writer
ELT Teacher 2 Writer was founded by Karen Spiller, Karen White and Sue Kay. They were often being asked, ‘Do you know anyone who could write some tests/a workbook/some photocopiable worksheets?’ and that seemed to coincide with a lot of publishers moving away from one or two writers on a project, to more agile, larger writing teams, which required a number of writers who could hit the ground running and produce material within tight budgets and time frames.
At the same time, a lot of the big publishers were downsizing, meaning there were very few commissioning editors with time to train and develop new authors, so there was a gap there that needed filling.
The ELT Teacher 2 Writer ebooks are all written by experienced writers (Philip Kerr, Lindsay Clandfield, Sarah Cunningham, and Katherine Bilsborough, for example) who have been in the industry for a long time and have plenty of experience, tips and advice to share. Who better to learn from?
You can buy all the titles from Amazon or Smashwords.
ELT Teacher 2 Writer is offering my Readers a 10% discount on all their titles on Smashwords. Use the code below to get this special offer. The code expires on 30 September, 2019.
ELT Author Academy (face-to-face and online)
Created by Marta Rosińska and Grzegorz Śpiewak (DOS ELT-ea), this 6-month, hands-on course will take you step-by-step through the publishing process and materials creation. For this third edition, the course creators have joined forces with ELT Teacher to Writer and the Independent Authors and Publishers Group.
Pick up tricks of the trade from a group of experienced and established authors and editors. Along with Marta and Grzegorz, you’ll be able to learn from Tomasz Sztyber (Macmillan editor), Sue Kay and Karen Spiller (ELT Teacher to Writer), John Hughes, and Rob Howard.
The course has been designed to take you through writing a variety of materials and task types. You’ll also learn how to make tasks and lessons flow, and how to design materials which stand out. Additionally, participants will find out how to build an author brand.
This is also a great networking opportunity. You probably won’t find any other course where you can connect with so many renowned authors, experienced editors, and other aspiring ELT writers.
More information here.
DOS ELT-ea is offering my Readers a 10% discount on the ELT Author Academy course. Sign up now as spaces are limited!
Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough (online)
The ITDi Creating ELT Materials is a one-month online course for teachers who are interested in learning how to create good quality, effective materials for their students or in pursuing a career as a materials writer for an ELT publisher.
Participants start the course by learning about the principles of materials development. They discover what makes materials effective and good and they examine a suggested framework for materials writing. At the same time, from the beginning of the course, participants start building a portfolio of materials that can:
a) be used immediately with their own students,
b) be easily adapted to use with other students.
Teachers will be encouraged to use the materials they make and, through a series of reflection activities, evaluate their effectiveness and explore ways to improve them or adapt them to use in other contexts. They will also be invited to join in a valuable peer evaluation scheme, sharing advice and commenting on materials.
Teachers of all ages and from all backgrounds are welcome. No materials-writing experience is necessary! This course includes a workshop component in which participants will build up a portfolio of their own materials. By the end of the course, successful participants will have the skills needed to create materials for many different contexts.
You can find more information here.
PG Certificate in ELT Materials Writing (face-to-face or online)
If you’re interested in a postgraduate certificate, then the PG Certificate in ELT Materials Writing from Oxford Brookes University might be worth considering. This course can be completed either on campus or by distance learning. To obtain the certificate, students have to take three modules over a 12-month period. More information here.
MA Module: Materials Development for Language Education (online)
This course is part of an MA programme. You’ll need to register for the whole programme, but you don’t have to take all the modules. You can just select the modules that you’re interested in and pay for each one separately.
Here’s a review of the course written by Peter Clements.
Self-Publishing for ELT Professionals with Dorothy Zemach (online)
This practical course is for ELT professionals who have a work in progress (it needn’t be finished, but it should already be started) that they’d like to turn into an ebook or a print-on-demand paperback. Over the course of four weeks, Dorothy will take you through the whole process of creating your own publication.
The online course features four live sessions (that are taped and can be viewed later if you have time conflicts) and assignments in between. Here’s more information about the course. Please note that this session starts on 7 July, 2019.
3. Other training and resources
Here are some other materials and courses that aren’t specific to ELT publishing, but are still useful and worth having a look at.
Louise has a whole collection of articles with tips for indie authors. Even though they’re not ELT-specific, there’s lots of information that applies to ELT materials writing, e.g., how to punctuate dialogues, how to use free indirect speech, how to write thoughts, and many others.
Freelance and feature writing (online)
You know those reading or listening texts in ELT books? Most of the time, you’ll have to write them yourself, so this is why it’s useful to look into some training for journalists, especially training in writing feature articles. This course was recommended to me by another ELT writer but, unfortunately, it’s still on my to-do list.
If you’re a teacher in Poland and have some time between 22 and 26 July, then you might want to consider attending the 5th English Teachers’ Convention (aka ‘Zlot’) organised by the admins of the biggest online teachers’ group in Poland – Nauczyciele Angielskiego. Over five days, there will be around 30 different presentations and workshops on ELT-related topics. The theme of day 2 is ‘If not teaching, then what?’ and you’ll be able to see my presentation on ‘How to become a published ELT author.’ I’ll be going over some more ways in which teachers can increase their chances of getting a writing job (and there will be some surprises too).