Prepare to Write
Writing and publishing an open textbook will take longer than you think. Plan for thinking time. Be prepared to incorporate new ideas as you conduct your research. Be ready to cut material that doesn’t work. Our team began each textbook project with a well-thought-out plan and timeline. Early meetings with the author included the communication plan, instructions on what each stage would entail, deadlines for each chapter, how and when the copy editors would contribute, and all phases that led to the release of the finished product.
We have created templates to help you plan the many details of producing a textbook:
There are many steps to producing a textbook, and each of those steps involve multiple responsibilities. As you record these on your timeline, calculate how long each will take — and then add some additional time as a buffer. (See Appendix 5 for checklists that match the chapters and chapter sections in this guide.)
- Research. Track all references carefully as would be done for any academic work. If you are using openly-licensed text, images, or other resources, place close attention to the legal requirements for the licence. (See Research.)
- Gather or create resources. Resources may include photos, illustrations, graphs, tables, figures, videos, audio files, or spreadsheets. Remember, if you’re using someone else’s work, it must be openly-licensed or in the public domain. If a resource is copyrighted and all rights are reserved, you may provide a link to it. However, linking should only be used as a last resort when an openly-licensed resource cannot be located. (See Resources: Only the Open.)
- Write the book outline. This includes chapters, chapter sections, front and back matter, learning objectives, exercises, key terms and takeaways, and the glossary. Outline how chapters and chapter sections will be laid out. (See Textbook Outline.)
- Find supplemental resources. Not all textbook authors or publishers create ancillary resources, such as test banks, for their books. However, many instructors and students find them helpful, and textbooks with ancillary resources are often highly adopted. Determine what your textbook will need in order to be most effective.
- Plan each chapter. During the book-outline phase, determine the structure for each chapter in addition to the research and resources required to write it. Record these in your timeline beside the designated author. Use this information to calculate how long each chapter will take to complete. Remember to build in extra time for the beginning phase of the project, as this is when you and your team are learning to work together and with the textbook, and for any unanticipated delays. While working with many authors is a good way to incorporate expertise and multiple viewpoints, it will take extra time as you or your project manager communicate with the team and manage their work. (See Textbook Outline, Contributing Authors, and Identify Support.)
- Peer review. Schedule time for the peer review of your textbook by subject-matter experts. (See Peer Review.)
- Fix as you go. As you go, expect to be regularly reviewing the style and format as well as auditing external images and resources to ensure all are openly-licensed or in the public domain. (See Fix as You Go.)
- Copy edit. Have the book copy edited. (See How to Copy Edit.)
- Proofread. Have the book proofread. (See How to Proofread.)
- Prepare for publication. Conduct a final check of your book and set up print-on-demand copies. (See The Final Check and Print-on-Demand Copies.)
- Promote. Launch and communicate about your new book. (See Communications.)
And as you build in extra time to each phase of your timeline, remember Hofstadter’s Law…
It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.
–Douglas Hofstadter in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.