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Prepare to Write

Contributing Authors

None of us is as smart as all of us.

— a Japanese proverb[1]

As you plan the content of your book, think about experts in your field who might write on a specific topic. To help make a decision about who to approach, ask yourself if contribution from an individual will add value to your textbook and whether or not they have the experience to author a chapter or section for a textbook. Familiarity with open education is a plus.

The BCcampus Open Education team oversaw the production of fifty-four new open textbooks and ten major adaptations during its initial phase. Inviting collaborators to participate was left to the lead author who had proposed the textbook idea to us. It was felt that, as the subject-matter expert, this individual was most qualified to make these decisions. From the sidelines, our project managers watched the interplay between the primary author and their contributors. We  learned what worked and what didn’t, and how problems could be avoided in the future.

The biggest lesson learned was the importance of establishing expectations for your contributors before writing begins. If you decide to invite one or more colleagues to provide material to your textbook, determine the parameters of this business relationship and then clarify with each author the following points:

  1. Who will own copyright
  2. Disclose the type of open-copyright licence that will be used to release the book. Be prepared to answer concerns and questions for colleagues not familiar with open textbooks.
  3. Decide if contributing authors will be compensated for their efforts. Be clear about how much they will be compensated or paid.
  4. Provide written details about their contribution, including:
    1. the topic — be specific
    2. length of their work by word count
    3. layout of the contributing piece including sections and subsections, number and type of images, tables, graphs, or other support resources
    4. the timeline and deadline for the first and subsequent drafts
    5. the timeline and deadline to review questions from the copy editor and make revisions

Use a contract or written agreement to clearly describe these expectations so there are no misunderstandings. (See Appendix 4: Contracts.) This will be a valuable document to reference if either party has questions during the writing process.

If you plan to include students as contributing authors, refer to A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students [New Tab].

  1. "Proverbs," http://web.mit.edu/levitsky/www/proverbs.html (accessed October 26, 2017).


Creative Commons License
Contributing Authors by Lauri Aesoph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.