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After having taught maths for 3 years, I decided it was time for a life-style change and moved into publishing textbooks*. The key things that I look for in a job are variety, mental challenge and interacting with people.
In publishing I get to be involved in creating textbooks, teacher resources, websites and educational software. There is no typical day, but there are 3 main periods in a producing a book: proposal, writing, production and depending which phase a project is in changes what my typical job is.
This is the exciting ‘shoot for the moon’ phase, it involves a combination of researching the market, focus groups, surveys, interviews, stats, industry magazines and technological change. Most new books in secondary education come about because a curriculum or technology has changed. In this phase a publisher uses knowledge of the market to make predictions about proposed sales, and these are viewed against the costs involved in making a book. They then take their proposal to a meeting with lots of stakeholders (bean counters, people with expensive 4WDs, and other publishers) and get the thumbs up or thumbs down for the project.
The phase involves finding authors, getting them to write sample chapters, getting them reviewed, keeping deadlines, and keeping authors (in my case overworked teachers on time and feeling appreciated). The most ironic thing about the phase is that the writer’s ‘brief’s’ are usually 20 pages long. It also involves writing contracts. Once the manuscript is up to final draft, it is then time for the production phase.
This phase involves lots of meetings with designers, editors, project editors, for the first time you get to see the manuscript ‘looking pretty’ and get to have input into visually what’s working and what’s not, things like ‘we can’t use that picture, look at it at this angle, it make the squirrel look likes it’s.....’. Production takes about 10 months for a textbook, and by the time it turns up, although there’s a sense of pride, relief probably more accurately describes the feeling.
I love being involved in the creative side of things, to have input, to bring a vision into fruition, and to always bring it back to the basics questions ‘Is this sound teaching?’ ‘Will this help students learn?’ ‘Will this help time-poor teachers lives be easier?’.
*The little jobs I had done in the past helped me get the role – a short 3 month copyright permission job (when at uni), a contract writing maths tests (when at uni), a few years correcting exam papers. You never know what job will be useful later.