I recently shared a tip on LinkedIn for materials writers who blog:
Here are a few more suggestions for using your blog to good effect as a newbie materials writer.
Note: these tips are mostly about finding work, interacting with publishers, and adding value to ‘your brand’. I’ve chosen to focus on these things because lots of us teachers aren’t good at self-promo, don’t feel comfortable doing it, and don’t feel comfortable even talking about it sometimes! There are also a few tips on how to help other writers, which I think is really important.
So… using your blog as a writer, part 1.1
Highlight your RECENT/CURRENT classroom practice
While there are benefits to being a full-time writer, those materials developers that still spend a considerable amount of time in the classroom have something more to offer. Being able to view your work through the eyes of a practitioner planning 20+ hours of lessons per week, and working closely with other teachers as peers, is undoubtedly useful.
This is especially true for those writing teacher guides of course! Who wants teacher notes written by someone who has been out of the classroom for years, or who is out of touch with the demands/constraints that teachers using the resource might face?
If you are still in the classroom, place your teaching at the forefront of your blog. Firstly, because the reflection that it prompts will benefit your practice and ultimately your learners. Secondly, because being a classroom practitioner is a BIG selling point as a writer.
Highlight your value in the current market
I was trying to get a former colleague to contact some publishers. He kept repeating the same excuse about how he’d ‘only worked in one context. I mean, there can’t be too many publishers who are after resources for the Korean market…’
My ex-colleague’s take on ‘the market’ was too narrow! I worked with him for two years in Yangsan, where we were both teaching classes of up to 40 kids. Classrooms were equipped with chalkboards and a computer monitor so tiny at the front of class that it wasn’t really worth using the tech at all. Students in rows, fixed seating plans…
If anyone understands how to write or adapt resources for large classes under certain constraints then it’s my ex-colleague. That is a highly sought after skill in the materials writing world right now! The market for those expertise extends way beyond resources for learners in South Korea, waaaaaay beyond!
If you’ve got certain experience, highlight it through your blog.
Use your blog to get your ideas out there
Do publishers read blogs? Yeah, of course they do. You might have to bring your blog to them(!) but it can lead to writing work. Here’s my example from LinkedIn, I’ll spare you the link to the blog post itself though…
I really wanted a publisher to pick up on my idea, so I also mentioned it in correspondence just in case. Bloggers – sooner or later the right person will read your posts. If they don’t then make them, ha!
Answer queries about materials development through your blog
This is something you can do to help the broader ELT community. See this example.
Why do this? Well, it’s good to evaluate/critique your own materials and what else is out there. A worthwhile learning opportunity!
Beyond that, I think it’s important that we don’t make published writing a ‘closed shop’ as such. Share experiences, help others understand the processes, constraints, and misconceptions (of which there are many!) from a writer’s perspective.
Share your blog posts in your correspondence with publishers
I do this in a couple of ways.
When looking for contracts:
Publishers ask what relevant experience you have for a project. A CV full of previous projects is obviously good! It’s not ALWAYS the kicker though.
As well as my CV, I share blog posts with publishers. Example:
‘The brief mentions that you are keen to include supplementary resources for each reading text. Here are some examples of supplementary reading resources I use with my classes. Please bear in mind that this is not a published resource…’ etc
Blog posts related to your practice may provide REALLY specific examples of how you can meet the brief. I’ve had responses like ‘Thanks for your CV. We also really enjoyed the posts on BLAH which were good practical examples of what we are looking for’.
That tip is aimed more at those bloggers wanting to break into writing. Don’t feel intimidated. Fresh, creative ideas, proof of application and willingness to reflect and welcome feedback count for a lot. All of those can be expressed through a blog post. Raw and unpolished is fine! It’s often the ideas that count the most.
After a project:
Reflect on projects through your blog. Share your thoughts on the process, what you’ve learnt from it, etc. Share those reflections with publishers:
‘I really liked how the book focused on/included activities on BLAH… I’ve written a reflection on the benefits of this if you’re interested’.
Why? It gives you closure on a project and helps you evaluate the materials and their benefits. It also keeps dialogue going with the publisher. The end of one project may just be the beginning of another…
Engage the wider writing community
It might be useful to build up a PLN on the writing front. Posts that engage/interest other materials writers will help. Offer tips, share writing opportunities, write stuff like this post. Who knows, it could lead to some work or collaboration down the line. I once posted a comment in one of my ‘Materials Writing News and Views’ posts that led to some writing work. True story!
Promote new talent
Do what you can to help others move into writing. There are teachers out there who have awesome initiatives and creative approaches that could make a big impact and really enhance what is already out there. Help them get the credit and opportunities they deserve. Check out my recent materials updates for some of the new writers I promote.
Offer development tips
Don’t just promote new writers, give them guidance. Some of us bloggers offer development tips for new writers, giving an insight into the nitty gritty of materials development. John Hughes is someone who has done this really well over the years. He’s switched from blogging to vlogging of late, but it’s the same principle just in a catchier format.
Reviewing new resources for a publisher on your blog can be foot in the door. Book reviews may turn into content reviews for other titles, which become content edits, which might become rewrites, which… etc. It does happen! A publisher got in contact with me off the back of a book review asking for more feedback/advice. That led to a writing contract.
It is possible to review with integrity. In my experience, most writers and publishers welcome critique, so don’t feel you should avoid mentioning areas for development. One thing publishers will appreciate from a marketing perspective though is a puff quote. This probs sounds obvious, but include a short quote listing positive points about the resource that the publisher can draw out for their website or social media posts. If you do that then you can be as brutal as you like in the rest of the review, haha!
(It does make me laugh how one publisher has two puff quotes promoting a resource on their website. One is from ‘David Crystal, legendary linguist and totes someone you would really want a quote from’. Then just above it there’s a quote from ‘Pete, some random blogger’. Ha!)
There are some great bloggers out there who share some awesome materials with the wider ELT community. Of course it’s great to offer these for free, while at the same time showcasing your work. But sometimes it’s worth pausing for a moment before you post!
I wrote some posts a while back which included downloadable lessons. I was thinking of sharing them weekly as a new blog series, and spent quite a bit of time on them. Just as I was about to click post, I stumbled across some writing work for which my resources seemed suited. If those posts had gone on my blog then they probably couldn’t be used anywhere else. Lucky timing!
Sharing free resources is great, keep doing it! It’s just worth realizing sometimes that what you’re writing may well be what a publisher is looking for.
This doesn’t require a big change or lack of integrity on your part as a blogger. Keep doing what you’re doing with the useful resources for your blog audience. But if you think ‘Hmmm, this would be good for XYZ publisher’, then get on LinkedIn, add some of their commissioning editors, send them your work. Also, send it to Onestopenglish lesson share, and forward it to English Teaching Professional or MET asking if they’d like you to build an article around it.
No takers? Don’t worry, still blog it. Who knows, a publisher might pick it up from there anyway – not necessarily to use that lesson, but they might acknowledge your skills and think you might be suited to a certain project.
Share stats with publishers
Whaaaat?! I know, right. Weird suggestion. Bear with me.
Getting paid to write in ELT isn’t narrow – there are loads of possibilities. Don’t just think coursebooks/workbooks/teacher guides/digital add ons/online courses/etc. Think blog posts, maybe with accompanying resources!
The going rate for ELT blog posts might surprise you. And sometimes there’s freedom regarding the topic. When that’s the case, share some insights from your blog. ‘Well, I wrote a post about BLAH and it’s had about X views. This could be an angle…’
There’s plenty of other materials writing related content you could share through your blog. A some examples:
- Draw attention to positive changes made by publishers
- Write actual promo for your published resources (rather than a reflection on the process). Check out Hugh Dellar’s opinions section on the Lexical Lab site for examples
- Write some clickbait and avoid publishers getting the top spot on Google. They might notice, who knows? Hasn’t happened yet…
There’s no guarantee that anything I’ve mentioned here will draw attention to you as a writer. That said, I know some of these tips do work as they’ve worked for me.