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!

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm  Comments (10)  
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Six things authors would rather NOT hear

Right, as many of you know I have stopped teaching as of December 2009 and am doing a lot of promotional travel and conference-attending this spring. An awful lot. In all these trips I meet teachers, representatives from the publisher, conference organisers and fellow authors and teacher trainers (and recently students too!). Ninety-nine percent of the time everyone is really nice, but there are some things that I think all authors prefer NOT to hear. Here are six that “get my goat” to a greater or lesser extent.

1. The distributor has not got copies of your book here.

This one is usually from an extremely frustrated sales representative. It doesn’t matter how good the book is, they go on to say, if we don’t have copies they we can’t sell it. Distribution problems can really make or break a book but more so a publisher. A school who has ordered X copies of your book and it doesn’t arrive will think twice before ordering from that publisher again. This is a dreaded scenario.

2. There is a typo on page XX of your new book.

How is it that, even after a manuscript has been through countless edits there are still pesky little typos that get in there? I’m convinced there are little gremlins in the production stage that do it out of sheer spite. Now, there are typos and there are typos. Some are relatively harmless and slightly annoying and others are real howlers. This sentence is sometimes uttered with glee by a teacher, who then watches the author squirm like a bug stuck on a needle. I believe that almost ALL first print runs of new books, be they methodology, coursebooks, dictionaries even, have one or two typos. And in case you are wondering if my new book has a single typo in it well I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to find out for yourselves!

3. Can you make your session 30 minutes shorter/longer?

This one comes from the local representative or the conference organiser. I don’t mind adapting a talk or workshop but not an hour before I start. Still, I’ve learned to be quite pragmatic about this and just get on with it. Throwing a bit of a tantrum does not help, nor does it endear you to the poor event organiser who is probably dealing with a million other problems at the same time. Jeremy Harmer has more on conference talks and such things at his excellent blog by the way here.

4. I loved your last book X (when the book was not in fact your book)

Ok, this is a completely normal mistake for someone to make. I’ve made it myself to tell the truth. So it counts as a minor irritation. Actually it often leads to a rather embarrassing situation when I say “Umm, no that wasn’t me. That was someone else. But yes it is a good book.” The other person then mumbles something like “Oh, errr, and what was your book? Oh, I’m sure it’s very nice too.” There follows a silence while we both search for something to say.

5. Can you sign this copy of X (a book that is not your book)

I’ve had this situation a couple of times. The funniest is when I say that I didn’t write it the other person cheerfully says “Doesn’t matter, sign it anyway.” Now I’m an obliging sort of fellow so I often do and then feel guilty. So I’m coming clean here. Other authors reading this blog: there are quite possibly teachers out there with a copy of your book with my signature on it. Sorry!

6. Did you include a unit on (insert teacher’s favourite thing here) in your book? No?!? Well you should have!

The first part of the question is fine (although I’ve heard some very weird requests). It’s the second bit where I feel the other person getting pissed off at me because I neglected to include their favourite football team, favourite author, obscure grammar point or lexical set or what have you. When these conversations get ugly it usually finishes with me smiling and saying “You should write a book then, with that in it”. Invariably the rejoinder is “Yeah? Well maybe I will!” and the other person marches off, but not without having grabbed a (often free) copy of my offensive book first!

You may notice I have not mentioned someone coming up and saying “I don’t use coursebooks,” or “I hate coursebooks, I teach with my own materials” or “I’m a dogmeist”. Almost all authors I know are very sympathetic to dogme and teachers making their own materials and don’t take that comment really that personally. Unless of course someone comes up and says “I hate YOUR books especially” which is obviously hurtful but doesn’t happen all that much.

I hasten to add that I don’t hear any of the above that often, thankfully!

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm  Comments (35)  
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Six books to look out for in 2010

I made a similar post to this one last year so I am repeating the same idea. Here are six books relating to English language teaching that I have heard about already and are worth looking out for over the next 12 months. Just wave your mouse over the book titles to find out more information about them/the publisher.

Teaching English Grammar – Hurrah! Finally another new book by one of my favourite methodology writers Jim Scrivener. This is the latest in the Macmillan books for teachers series and is due out later this year. Expect a guide that combines grammar explanations as well as lots of creative and very practical ideas. I’m sure this won’t disappoint.

Culture in our Classrooms and Being Creative – OK, again I am cheating a bit by combining but these are the next books in the new popular Delta Development series and will both be released for the IATEFL conference this year (in April). Mario Rinvolucri returns with a new co-author Gill Johnson to examine the issue of culture in language classrooms. Expect lots and lots of nice activities as well as a great overview of culture and language teaching. Being Creative is by new author Chaz Pugliese and contains a great essay about the history and development of creativity in teaching and then more than a hundred very creative, quick and easy little activities for language classrooms.

Intercultural language activities – I have it on very good authority that this is a really good book to look out for. It is the new one in the Cambridge Handbooks for teachers. Intercultural awareness in language classroom is a big issue, especially now as so many classrooms around the world are multicultural. It’s by John Corbett from the University of Glasgow. I will be buying a copy of this at IATEFL this year.

Lifestyle – Vicki Hollett’s new coursebook for business English light. I enjoy Vicki’s blogposts a lot and have also taught with her materials back in the day when I had business English students. This will be one of Longman Pearson’s big titles this year; expect to see presentations and talks about Lifestyle at conferences.

Global – I can’t really NOT mention Global, as this is my big project and it is finally out now. A new adult general English course with a focus on global voices and global English, as well as being the first major coursebook to go 100% celebrity-free. You can find out more about Global here.

Teaching Online – This is going to be a must-have title, especially as the main author is none other than Nicky Hockly of the Consultants-E. Nicky has been teaching online for longer than I care to remember, and she trained me as an online moderator for courses (she has an excellent blog about this here). Expect lots and lots of activities which should prove extremely useful to anyone using a VLE or thinking of teaching online. This book is also from Delta, and in fact I am contributing some activities to it myself!

There are probably more coming out that I have not heard of – it’s entirely possible! If you know of another eagerly anticipated title please post a comment.

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm  Comments (20)  
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Six books that could revolutionize how you think about ELT

Roll on the guest posts! This time we are joined by Sara Hannam. Sara is an articulate, passionate and perceptive colleague whom I met via Twitter and on various blogs. She always brings a critical eye to things and has recently started her own blog Critical Mass ELT. Sara and I have “crossed swords” on issues before, and I am really pleased she agreed to contribute a list for me. Here then, are six books or articles that could forever change the way you think about the profession/business/industry/racket of English language teaching!

Thanks Lindsay for asking me to choose six books that influenced me as a teacher. A very tall order for me, as there are so many great books out there, so I would like to apologize to all those writers who I have missed! Those I list below have helped me see the bigger teaching picture, which as I have gained more experience as a teacher, has become more important.  They answer questions like what is my role as an EL teacher both within and outside the classroom, how should I relate to my students as real people and what is the impact of the development of English as a global language? The insights they have given me have changed my teaching practice and me as a person, and have been a wonderful addition to the reading I did in the earlier part of my career which focused more on refining teaching skills (don’t get me started on that, as I could do you another six if you want for part II – pretty please?!).

*Extracts available at Google books from the following publications

1. Changing Teachers, Changing Times – Andy Hargreaves, 2000*

Why are teachers asked to produce better and better results with fewer and fewer resources, and how does this influence our individual performance in the classroom?  This book answers key questions about how teaching in the new millennium is a very different ball game – many changes for the better such as increased sensitivity to individual learners, but some for the worse, such as the constant measurement of “success” rather than emphasis on building relationships, communication and shared questioning of the world.  It also addresses the concept of teacher guilt, or the fact that for all the amazing pleasure that teaching brings, it can seem difficult to clock off at the end of the day due to extra-curricular responsibilities such as a concern for student welfare.

2. English and the Discourses of Colonialism – Alistair Pennycook, 1998*

If I hadn’t read this book, I don’t think I would really know very much about the development of ELT/Linguistics as a discipline or how so much contemporary practice has its roots in the colonial legacy. With meticulously compiled historiographies from India, China and Hong Kong, this book provides an antidote to the much circulated accounts of our profession which tend to gloss over the ways in which the English language was initially spread and learned alongside the violent expansion of the British Empire.  It confirms the importance, in this post-colonial era, of teachers (particularly NESTs) understanding how they are implicated in this legacy and encourages the exploration of the roots of many taken for granted assumptions in the field today – not least of all the myth of the superiority of the ‘native speaker’.

3. English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity – Jennifer Jenkins, 2007

A fascinating insight into how identity is crucial in shaping feelings about language use, and, more importantly how this informs individual tolerance/intolerance of other people’s English, often at an unconscious level. Jenkins’ research is truly groundbreaking for ELT, and provides a perfect combination of rigorous investigation into the views English users have about their performance, and further explanations as to why the belief that sounding ‘native’ is best continues to be so prevalent in teaching methodologies and materials.  When teaching practice ceases to be determined by mainstream Second Language Acquisition theory, with its emphasis on standard varieties of ‘native speaker’ English as a goal, a different sort of classroom emerges which is led by the celebration of meaning, diversity and the new and exciting forms of English currently being documented by ELF researchers, including Jennifer Jenkins.

4. The Politics of English  – Marnie Holborow, 1999

Many a teacher may think that teaching English has nothing to do with politics – this book goes a long way to questioning whether that is really the case.  Marnie Holborow reveals the less attractive side of the billion dollar industry that is English Language Teaching, and how this is led by a money-driven global economy at almost all levels.  Holborow shows how as EL teachers we are in a position to really notice and question the way access to opportunity is being structured around us, as English is increasingly being used as a gate keeping device through language testing and policy development.  Holborow also argues that there is nothing inherently different about men’s and women’s language use and that perception of male/female-specific language is more a reflection of gender inequality in society than gender-based language forms or styles. This sets her apart from many socio-linguists, who argue the opposite in relation to politeness or assertiveness – Holborow locates the source of the inequality in society rather than in the individual or group. Finally someone who celebrates our similarities rather than focusing on our differences!

5. Values in English Language Teaching – Bill Johnston, 2003*

My second to last choice provides a more practical emphasis on putting some of those ideas in the previous selections above into practice.  It examines a range of situations where EL teachers’ individual values and morals will dictate how they respond.  Johnston explores typical scenarios which may cause teachers to react in a diverse number of ways, such as testing and assessment or managing diversity and conflict in the classroom, and looks at possible outcomes, as well as exploring how to work towards becoming a more ethical practitioner in behaviour towards colleagues, students and self.  All this is done through personal stories and experiences which really illustrate the kinds of dilemmas teachers face every day.

6. ‘Teaching Peace through English: Utopia or Reality?’. Radmila Popović (Paper presented at the International Association for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language Annual Conference: Exeter 2008 available in the proceedings).

My last choice is an article, rather than a book.  Radmila’s talk at IATEFL conference looked at how she dealt with carrying on her teaching during the NATO bombardment of Serbia.  It really moved me, particularly because so much of my own field work and research is based in Serbia and the Balkans.  This paper explores what it means to teach ‘peace’ from the perspective of a teacher trying to make sense of war with her students, and demonstrates how teachers and students can discuss and understand difficult subject matter in genuine partnership and trust. The reason I chose this paper to finish off my selection, is because it demonstrates how a teacher who uses critical theory to inform practice, can produce really remarkable results – Radmila’s balancing of the two in her teaching of peace under the most difficult circumstances is as poetic as her rich and interactive plenary talk that involved the audience in activities alongside the theoretical discussion.  As an English teacher, I also think we require theory with practice, and practice with theory, and neither one is more important than the other – they are both essential.


Sara Hannam is the Director of the English Unit at City College, Thessaloniki, Greece. Sara was the Associates’ Representative for IATEFL from 2006-9, and Vice-President of TESOL Northern Greece from 2003-5.  Sara has a BA (Hons), MEd ELT, CTEFLA, DELTA and is currently completing her PhD with the School of Education, University of Sheffield, UK.  Sara is also involved in EL teacher development at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In her spare time, Sara likes to blog (her blog is called Critical Mass ELT twitter, listen to music, dance, spend time with family and friends and is the co-founder of the Campaign for Birth Choices in Greece

Twitter: @sjhannam  Email:

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 9:10 am  Comments (15)  
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Carol Read’s Six Favourite Picture Books

carolreadThe other day I realised that there was nothing on this site specifically for teachers of children. Since this is one of the growth areas of English language teaching I thought I’d better start adding some stuff. So here is first list in the Young Learners category. I was lucky enough to convince Carol Read to submit something. Carol is an educational consultant, teacher trainer and award-winning author. She has written many course books, supplementary materials and articles on teaching children.  Here she shares her favourite six picture books (you can see the cover and sometimes inside the book if you follow the links I’ve inserted, which take you to an outside site)

Many picture books are works of art which integrate text and illustrations in a myriad of creative, thought-provoking ways and develop a love of language and literature in children from an early age. In primary classrooms, picture books provide shared contexts for natural language development and engage children with issues which are real and significant to them. As well as developing the imagination, picture books allow for rich exposure to language and the active construction of meaning. Picture books also inspire children to use language because they want to, and allow everyone to participate successfully.

In more than 25 years of teaching, I’ve used many different picture books with children aged 3 – 12 and have a precious collection of well-thumbed favourites. In the 1980s, picture books closest to my heart included classics such as The Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle), Where’s Spot? (Eric Hill), Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll & Jan Pienkowski) as well as more challenging titles such as Where the wild things are (Maurice Sendak) and Gorilla (Anthony Browne). I still love these books and have found it an almost impossible task to reduce my collection of favourites to a list of six. I’ve therefore decided to choose six picture books which i) I’ve used recently and ii) have produced the most enthusiastic responses in the groups of children that I’ve shared them with. They are in no particular order as follows:

1 Giraffes can’t dance  (Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees)

This picture book in rhyming verses tells of Gerald the giraffe’s anguish at being mocked by all the other animals for his lack of dancing skills at the Jungle Dance.

We follow Gerald’s touching learning journey from his loss of self-esteem to becoming the object of admiration of all the animals. In terms of significant issues, the story touches on believing in yourself and discovering your own personal strengths. Two features are the strong beat of the rhyming verses which makes the language highly memorable, and the expressive illustrations of Gerald both when he’s sad and as he entrances the animals with his elegant dancing at the end of the story.

2 I will not ever NEVER eat a tomato (Lauren Child)

In I will not ever NEVER eat a tomato Charlie plays a series of imaginative and amusing tricks on his little sister, Lola, who is a very fussy eater, to get her to eat her dinner. The story is predominantly told using direct speech from Charlie’s point of view. Charlie and Lola are drawn in bold lines with large eyes and expressive mouths that clearly convey their every feeling. Lauren Child also uses a combination of photos, collage and computer-generated backgrounds, as well as a variety of fonts and sizes in the text. These add to the appeal and humour and emphasise how Lola really hates eating vegetables. This story is ideal as part of a unit of work on food and, if children enjoy Charlie and Lola, there are many more stories in the series as well.

3 Mr Wolf’s week (Colin Hawkins)

The appeal of Mr Wolf’s week seems to lie in the fact that it is an ordinary, everyday story about the routine of a normal, inoffensive wolf, in contrast to the villainous character children associate with traditional stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood. For language classes, the story helpfully focusses on lexical sets typically found in children’s coursebooks: days of the week, weather, clothes and everyday actions. The charm of the story lies in the delightful pictures of Mr Wolf and the simplicity of the repeated language pattern for each day: Monday is … (weather). Mr Wolf puts on his … (clothes) and …. (what he does). This also makes it an ideal model for children’s own attempts at writing a story. The examples at the bottom of this post, Mr Rabbit’s week (Inés) and Mr Dog’s week (Guillermo) are by 7-year-old children in their second year of English.  

4 Something Else (Kathryn Cave & Chris Riddell)

Something Else is a moving story about differences, and the agony and isolation of being an outsider. Something Else wants to be like the other creatures but they won’t accept him. Then one day a strange creature comes to Something Else’s house and wants to be friends. Something Else almost rejects him but is reminded of his own experience just in time. Embedded in this beautifully illustrated and apparently simple story are themes of racism and intolerance. Whenever I share this story with children in upper primary, I never fail to be impressed by their mature response and ability to talk openly about issues that adults often shy away from. Something Else makes me think how often we underestimate children, and also that picture books should not only be for them.

5 Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell)

Dear Zoo is a classic ‘flap’ picture book that never fails to appeal to very young learners. If possible, it’s best to use the ‘big book’ version which makes it easy to see with large groups and more fun to open the ‘flaps’. The concept of writing to the zoo to ask for a pet is brilliantly simple, and the repetitive language pattern, combined with different size coloured boxes and animals on each double spread, engages the rapt attention of little ones, even those with the shortest concentration spans. As the different animals on each page get sent back to the zoo because they are not suitable, the animal on the last page of the story is ‘perfect’.

6 Lost and Found (Oliver Jeffers)

Lost and Found is a touching story about a penguin and the boy who helps him. Behind its apparent simplicity resonate themes of loneliness, friendship and the value of kindness. As the boy and the penguin set off to the South Pole, their tiny boat contrasts with the vastness of the blue and green-toned sea and the waves as big as mountains. Many children worry when the boy realises his mistake in leaving the penguin at the South Pole, and their reunion hug on the penultimate page needs no words. This is a picture book children will ask you to read again for sheer pleasure and, in my view, it’s best to let the magical words and illustrations speak for themselves.

What about your favourite picture books? It would be great to hear.




Published in: on March 15, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Comments (9)  
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