Six jobs in ELT publishing

Feeling tired of teaching? Fancy a change but don’t want to abandon ELT altogether? Many people I know who have felt this way have been drawn to the world of ELT publishing. Publishers are often on the lookout for good teachers for a variety of jobs. Here are six, in order of relative ease of entry/importance. I’ve included a brief suggestion on how to get such a job, and the down side (there is always a down side to every job!)

1 Reader – When a new book is being written, the first draft is often sent out to different readers for feedback. Writing a report involves reading a manuscript closely and answering a series of questions that you are asked about it. One usually has a couple of weeks to do this, and you are paid a small fee and get a mention in the front of the book when (and if) it’s published. OK, so you can’t live off of just being a reader but it gives you an insight, even if only slightly, into the business.

How to get this job: contact a publisher whose work you know (e.g. whose books you have used) and ask if they need any readers. You may not get a response right away. For this job you only need experience as a teacher (the more the better).The down side: there is not a lot of this kind of work around, the fee can be quite small

2 Teacher trainer – Publishers often host training events to publicize their books, and are always on the lookout for teacher trainers. You would be expected to give a workshop or talk on an aspect of methodology, often using a specific book of the publisher’s to illustrate examples of what you are talking about. This is also a fee-based job, but it sometimes involves travelling to different cities (and in some cases, abroad) and they often take quite good care of you. It would be quite hard to do this full-time, but it’s an interesting extra.

How to get this job: contact a publisher who you know does local events and submit a CV. Note: it’s best if you have had some teacher training experience (e.g. giving workshops at your school at the very least). The down side: You may be asked to give a presentation or workshop based around a book that you don’t really like, but this is not that common.

3 Sales representative – This involves working directly for the publisher and travelling around a country or area visiting schools and teachers and well, basically selling books. It’s always preferable if the sales representative is a former teacher, as he/she will understand more what people look for or avoid in books. This is a full-time job.

How to get this job: contact a publisher who you would like to work for and submit a CV, or keep an eye out in the paper for such a job (they are often advertised) You will need to be able to drive most likely for this kind of work, and it helps if you’ve had experience selling in another field (but not essential). You would get trained. The down side: Expect to spend lots of time in a car, travelling around and carrying loads of books to and from places.

4 Editor – Where would books be without editors? There are different kinds of editors, but the first starting point is usually that of copy editor. This involves checking the work before it goes to print, getting a manuscript ready for design (that means formatting it in a certain way). You need patience and a good eye for the work of an editor. There are also content editors (working more on the content and ideas of the material itself) and commissioning editors (see below). This can be a full-time job, although many people freelance.

How to get this job: These positions are advertised in the newspaper, but you could always put feelers out. You should have a keen eye for spotting typos and stuff like that. You would get trained in the specifics. The down side: Can feel endless and tiresome at times, or lonely if you are not working in an office. Deadlines are hell, and they must be met.

5 Commissioning editor – This is the person who commissions authors for a project. They coordinate different aspects of the project and are in touch with everyone involved. They often have to go out into the markets and do research at the beginning of a project. They work quite closely with the authors as well.

How to get this job: This job is usually obtained by working your way up within  a publishing house. You need good organisational skills, and experience already as an editor. It can be very satisfying to see a project through though. The down side: Stress of having to meet deadlines, juggle a million different things and the horrible feeling that if things go wrong then it was on YOUR watch.

6 Publisher The one who calls the shots. The person with the budget and the power to decide ultimately what will be made into a book. The person with the responsibility. This is almost the top of the publishing ladder, after which you get into the senior management positions and CEO’s and stuff. Publishers oversee a whole series of projects and have the different commissioning editors responding to them. An office job.

How to get this job: You have to work your way up for this one, and it usually involves changing publishing houses at least once before you get here. You will need experience in many of the other aspects, at least as commissioning editor in many cases. The down side: the stress is very high, the work hours can be very long and almost all the publishers I know have to travel an awful lot for research purposes. But that’s the price one pays for being at (or very near) the top!

As usual I can only choose six so apologies if you are in publishing and I’ve missed out YOUR job. However, if anyone wishes to elaborate, correct or give more of an insider view on any of these jobs then please do in the comments!

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Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very interesting stuff. I just wonder what the downsides and, indeed, upsides are of the most important profession in publishing – the author. As you are in the know, can you spill the beans?

    • Hi Sputnik,

      Well, I’ve written elsewhere about some author woes (6 things authors would not hear) but other drawbacks to writing ELT materials include:
      – much writing is for a fee, not a royalty. So it’s hard to really envisage living full time off of this.

      – even with royalties, the money is not as ridiculously huge as some people say. Yes, there are a few authors who have hit it big time but the majority of writers need to supplement with other work.

      – the deadlines are hell, and it’s frustrating if you as an author meet your deadline and then the publisher doesn’t meet theirs

      – some projects get pulled/canned/trashed before they ever see light of day. I know a few horror stories of this happening.

      – if you are a control freak about your writing then you will likely die of high blood pressure or a heart attack when doing published materials; there are many competing interests, and not always enough money to get what you want (e.g. “Why CAN’T I have this photo/extract/image for the lesson?” “Erm, because it costs five grand, do you wanna pay that?”)

      The upsides though are that it is always a pleasure to see something through and touch your own book once published. And you meet lots of nice people. And it’s nice to think your work or ideas are spreading around. Ummm… it looks like I could have done a separate post on this come to think of it!

      • Thanks for the fulsome and fascinating reply. I still can’t tell if it’s a good or a bad job, but it is clearly something that gets you experiencing the full gamut of emotions either way.

  2. I guess I’d been waiting for you to post this particular ‘6’ without even realizing it. Thank you, a lot to ponder.

  3. Have you done any of these ELT publishing jobs, Lindsay, besides writing?

    • I’ve done work as a reader, and a teacher trainer (although mostly talking about my own books) and as an editor (I am series editor for Delta’s Teacher development series). I’ve actually enjoyed working at all of those jobs, but I don’t know if I would want to do one full-time all the time. Recently I’ve been lucky enough that the writing work has been plentiful (although not the dreamed riches I had thought of when I started… we’ll see)

      • I don’t think anyone’s in teaching or ELT-related work for the riches, eh? Now TEFL superstardom, that’s feasible… maybe.

        On a related note – could you recommmend any prep reading for a DELTA? I’m thinking about that for next year. TEFL superstardom is a long way off and I’ve got my work cut out for me!!

  4. Mike – I would go for the Longman “Teaching and Researching…” series as a jumping off point. They are pitched a bit higher than the “How to teach…” series, and give you an immense amount of further reading to pursue, should you be inclined.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Darren 🙂

  5. That’s right. The book “Teaching and Researching Motivation” is a good one, if you’re into the psychological aspects of teaching. Don’t know if it’s a Longman one, though…


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