The work of an educational publisher starts with you the teacher – every new resource is developed after a considerable number of conversations with you. In normal times we visit schools, attend subject conferences, and sit in on lessons to make sure we have the latest information about what you need to use in the classroom next. We also make sure we understand current statistics on pupil numbers, exam entries, demographic trends, and so on.
We shape ideas that come back from the market with our authors; once we have found an author who can write at a good level for the relevant age, can work to a brief, and can deliver on time, we tend to stick with them! Having said that we are always looking to extend our author pool, particularly to make sure it’s reflective of the population we serve in terms of background, gender and ethnicity. We try out potential new authors by asking them to review proposals, or perhaps write a chapter or section of a textbook or online resource.
Once a new proposal has been developed, we very quickly get feedback from our sales and marketing teams – if they don’t think the resource will fly, then we have a problem. If it’s a major new scheme or course we will continue market testing with small groups of teachers, or trial materials in schools. In a few weeks time we are launching a national online school to support classroom and home learning – called eduu.school, it’s already been trialled extensively with a range of schools.
Our authors are the key creators of any new work, but not the only ones. Every resource goes through a copy editing stage, where it is checked for factual accuracy, adherence to the curriculum or specification it’s supporting, and overall tone and approach. The copy editor will have subject expertise in the resource area, especially if it’s designed for secondary age pupils.
Adding illustrations is a major step in the process. Our authors will contribute to this step – some more strongly than others – by putting together artwork or picture briefs. Our design team will then commission illustrators chosen for their skills in a particular subject or for a particular age range, and our picture researcher organises and identifies which photographs we will use. These are generally licensed from a picture library, although some authors send in their own. Occasionally we will organise photo shoots to take a whole series of pictures – food technology or catering photo shoots are pretty popular events for the in-house team.
Many of the creative steps above are exactly the same for online resources. For instance, we develop our textbooks to a point where they are ready to print; they are then converted into several different file formats. One goes to the printer, one is converted to our own eTextbook format, one goes to Amazon to be uploaded to Kindle, and one is saved for use by e-libraries all over the world.
An increasing number of resources are ‘born digital’ – designed to be used exclusively online or on-screen. These include videos, sound files, lesson templates, online quizzes and tests, and animations. We work closely with software developers to build these, and although you might think they would be quicker to produce, the quality assurance checks of copy editing and proof reading don’t change and still take time.
Cover design these days is a real skill. First objective is that the cover has to look attractive and clearly show the teacher or student what the content is about. Secondly, the same cover image has to look good at a fraction of the size online – whether on our own website or a third party, most teachers will be looking for resources online in the first instance. Finally, the cover has to be adaptable enough to work in a square format, which is how we represent our digital versions and online learning courses. We have an in-house design team who develop initial concepts, before often sending them out to our regular freelancers who will work on every different version that’s needed.
Very few industries produce as many new products in a year as publishers; each one created from scratch by a wide ranging team from authors and editors, to designers, picture researchers and software developers. It’s a process we take huge pride in, and we always hope the end result will be resources which are ideal for your classroom.