ELT materials writing – my year in review

It’s been quite a good year on the writing front. Balancing writing with full-time teaching is tough, but the rewards are great! It’s only three weeks until our xmas holidays so I’m calling this the end of my writing year. Here were my highs and lows.

My stats…

Contracts offered to me this year: 17

Contracts offered directly through LinkedIn: 6

Total contracts taken: 8

Coursebooks written: 1

Workbooks written: 1

Coursebook contracts (regrettably) turned down: 1

Percentage of contracts – publishers vs editorial agencies:  75/25

Editors worked with: 17

LinkedIn connections gained: around 800


Moment of the year

Co-authoring StartUp Level 8 (Pearson). That was a tough gig but really rewarding. We came up with some great texts and really rich, PARSNIP-flouting video scripts. Without doubt one of the best projects I’ve been involved in, and also quite a bit of freedom from the publisher.

Other reasons to celebrate

I’ve achieved one of my career goals as a materials writer – working for Onestopenglish! I won the OSE Lesson Share competition earlier in the year, which turned out to be a springboard to great things. I’m producing my best work at the moment for Onestop – lots of freedom to express myself.

Oh, and I also co-authored an ebook for Peachey Publications, which has sold surprisingly well!

Reason to kick myself 1

Turning down a coursebook! Unbelievable! I never thought the day would come when I would turn down the chance to write a book.

First and foremost, I’m a teacher. If contracts are too big to take on, or if they might impact negatively on my teaching practice (hence my learners), then I can’t do them. I sensed that might be the case when offered another coursebook contract this year, so I did the sensible thing and passed. Here’s hoping I haven’t burnt bridges with that publisher…

Reason to kick myself 2

I accepted an intense two weeks of writing – bulky and time consuming but it was money. Then, a few hours after accepting, I was offered the perfect opportunity (for me): writing pronunciation resources for a coursebook. Such is life.

Panic moment

… when one of my editors changed mid-contract during a project.  I had that ‘what’s gonna happen? Will the new editor hate me?’ moment. Turns out they were equally supportive.

Longest period I’ve waited for payment after a contract completion

Three months. Ongoing. Grrr…

Most interesting topic written about

As always, there have been a lot. Highlights have included…

  • fake news
  • Dunbar’s number (Thanks Del Spafford for the suggestion, interesting)
  • how power corrupts
  • paddle boarding
  • women in science
  • gulper eels
  • El Capitan (Yosemite)

…but the most interesting topic has probably been the Flint water crisis. That or maggot-infested cheese.

Most puns in a resource

Wait… I can find that one…

That was actually last October, but it just makes the cut.

Surprise moment

Late in the year I did some work for BBC Learning English. I forgot that my CV was on their freelancer database – has been for a couple of years. That’s a great addition to my list of clients.

Editors comment of the year

‘I’m not anti the poo’.

Really. That was actually a comment.


Goals for next year

That really depends on what comes along. Personally, I’d like to…

  • publish more resources for YLs and teens
  • get involved in some EAL writing projects


So, writers: what have you been up to this year? What were your highs and lows?


Categories: General, materials writing

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7 replies

  1. Nice work, Pete. A little reflection at the end of the year is a great way to celebrate the highs and remind yourself that the lows will pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed reading that! A nice insight into a year in the life of a materials writer. Made me smile and chuckle in a few places, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Longest period I’ve waited for payment after a contract completion. / Three months. Ongoing. Grrr…”

    Name and shame, or, there are drawbacks to that of course, regardless the fact that you’re more than in the right to complain – and at volume, get on to the Society of Authors or even just day after day send the same email demanding they cough it the f**k up.

    It’s a f***ing disgrace to leave you hanging a full quarter to be paid for work that way.

    “Dunbar’s number”

    Just in case you haven’t yet, do take time to read his “Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language”, which is an accessible classic.

    “Most puns in a resource”

    Impressive – but don’t get carried away, now …

    “‘I’m not anti the poo’.”


    “So, writers: what have you been up to this year? What were your highs and lows?”

    On my now third iteration of the same course I’ve been working on since 2017.

    As nightmarish as that will sound, it’s actually illuminating to have – relatively speaking – the time and freedom to do such.

    Needless to say, it is not a project for commercial publishing.

    The highs have been working on paragraph structure – as dull as that sounds I’ve found it highly motivating, challenging, but also rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a long project! What is it? Maybe in-house materials for a big school/franchise?

      I haven’t read Dunbar’s primary source, it does sound awesome! Just found out that Dunbar was my friends PhD supervisor – she studied the behaviour of goats. Random!
      The pay thing… hmmm I might say something. I should, you’re right. Cheers for the nudge.


  4. Oh, go on then …

    High: doing corpus research into new language. I loved this sooo much, I couldn’t quite believe I was being paid for it!

    Low: writing supplementary materials for a major publisher with a brief that turned out to be really restrictive & pushed me into stuff I fundamentally disagreed with (and said so!), with a non-L1-English editor who made changes that were often odd and sometimes downright ungrammatical. Needless to say, I asked for my name not to appear on it & won’t be working for said publisher again.

    Overall though, far more highs than lows 🙂

    Enjoy your December writing break!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That low sounds pretty brutal. I’m glad you’re taking a stand though. So far in my short writing career I’ve only worked with one company, an editorial agency, that I was like ‘never again!’ The awkward part was when I was interviewed by a publisher and they asked me what I thought of said agency. I’m a very bad liar…

      Have a great festive season (it’s closer than it seems!). Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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