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Look Before You Write


A man using a laptop

How does your experience match the requisites of open textbook writing and publishing?

For many, writing and self-publishing an open textbook is unfamiliar terrain. However, identifying pertinent skills from past and current professions will help you gauge how your expertise fits with this new endeavour and where you need to draw on the knowledge of others to fill in the gaps. Publishing an open textbook is not a one-person job, so use the information you generate from this chapter as the springboard from which to build your team.

Publishing experience

As you consider which of your talents might transfer to producing and publishing an open textbook, write down related positions you’ve held. These might include:

  • Editor
  • Graphic designer
  • Instructional designer
  • Librarian
  • Marketer
  • Project manager
  • Publicist
  • Researcher
  • Writer

Next, by each role, describe the details of that job. Then fill out the below table by matching your skills with the knowledge needed to produce an open textbook. The skills gaps can be filled by others. (See Identify Support.)

Identify the Gaps
 Area Open-Textbook-Publishing Skills My Experience Relevancy / Strength Support Required (Y/N) Potential Candidates
 Book Production book design
graphic design
project management
technology: authoring platform
 Writing / Editing copy editing
 OER open-copyright licences
copyright / public domain
OER research
OER evaluation
OER production
open textbook writing
attribution statements

Writing experience

Previous writing experience comes in handy for both you and your contributors. Seasoned textbook authors know that this kind of project can take one to three years to complete when all stages are factored in: consultation, planning, researching, writing, and publication. The writing portion alone can range from six to eighteen months, depending on the length and complexity of the book. Knowing this upfront and understanding the determination and specific skills required to complete the task helps set the stage for successful authoring.

If you haven’t authored a textbook before, create a list of other writing assignments you’ve completed or contributed to. These might be:

  • Textbook(s) in your field or another
  • Book(s), fiction or non-fiction, in an unrelated field or subject
  • Chapter(s) for a textbook or other book
  • Course content; course packets; supplementary material for a course
  • Article(s) published in a professional journal
  • Article(s) published in a magazine related to your discipline
  • Reviews about books in your field
  • Letters to the editor for a professional journal in your field
  • Professional blog about subjects in your field

Qualifications as a writer — in any capacity — prepares you in other ways too. As a writer, you will know what to look for when selecting colleagues as contributing authors. (See Contributing Authors.) Although writing is not synonymous with book production, many authors are acquainted with at least some aspects of publishing. This know-how, however minor, can be very handy when planning an open textbook project. (See Textbook Outline.)


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