7 tips for turning your teaching book idea into reality

Ever thought about turning your thoughts on teaching into a book? A recent first-time author offers advice on how to get them from your brain to the page
6th November 2020, 2:00pm


7 tips for turning your teaching book idea into reality


Lots of teachers seem to write books. I used to wonder where they found the time.

But over the past two years, I have been lucky enough to write and publish a book while working as a full-time teacher and head of a psychology department.

There was a lot I learned along the way, but these are the key things that have stood out for me, and that may be helpful if you're thinking of giving it a go.

1. Remember it's possible

I was having a heart-to-heart with one of my oldest friends who was telling me about the difficult time he'd been having with his son who was in a highly dysfunctional relationship.

For me, this was the final straw. I'd seen the stresses and strains my students were under and I'd read about the national picture of declining mental health in young people.

I decided to bring together my psychology training and experience of working as a teacher to write a book.

A book that would scour every corner of psychology, from neuroscience to psychodynamics, to find the very best wellbeing ideas that young people could get hold of and start using straight away.

That conversation happened in August 2018. My book was published in August 2020. It takes time, but it's possible. Don't give up.

2. Start with a few chapters

Once I'd written three chapters, I googled "education publishers UK". Jessica Kingsley was the first publisher I found that seemed to fit with my book, so I sent the chapters to them.

About four weeks later, I received an email from a commissioning editor at Jessica Kingsley. He liked the chapters and wanted to offer me a contract to write the book.

It may not be you always get a reply or you may need to submit to more than one publisher but the key point is, you don't have to write the whole thing first.

3. Get out of your routine

It's no coincidence I wrote the book after moving to Malawi to work in an international school. I was firmly in a routine in the UK and didn't have the mental or emotional space to think about a project this big.

I'm not suggesting you move to Africa to write a book, but you may need to break out of your routine.

4. Get support

I'm pretty sure I would never have finished the book had I not had a publishing contract. And there were others who kept me going along the way.

My sister, for example, whose opinion I value greatly, agreed to read each chapter as I finished it and give me feedback. Just knowing that she was waiting for each new chapter was unbelievably helpful in keeping me going, as was her encouragement and feedback.

5. Bring students in

I also got my Year 13 students to act as a focus group - rating and discussing the opening paragraph to each chapter.

This was incredibly useful and the students absolutely loved being part of the process.

You may not want to do the same, but the point is to take advice where you can get it, and be willing to listen to the feedback you are given.

6. Embrace collaboration

There are people I've met and conversations I've had that would never have happened were it not for the book.

I've spoken with some truly remarkable people, all of whom are in the business of trying to help young people lead more meaningful, purposeful, happy lives. I'll be forever grateful for that.

As such, embrace this new world and those you'll meet.

7. Do it for the right reasons

It took me about a year to write the book. There was pretty much never a moment when I felt able to completely relax - the spare time I had was spent writing, thinking about what to write, or thinking about whether I should be writing.

If I had spent that same time shelf-stacking I would, as of the time of writing, be several thousand pounds better off.

In other words, if fame and fortune are your motivation, a book may not be the way to go.

I'm only human, and a part of me hopes the book will take off and hit the bestseller lists across the globe. But I've told myself from the start that if the book helps just one young person who is struggling, it will have been worth it.

And, if and when the book does help someone, I'll probably never hear about it. But, in a way, that's one of the most satisfying things: I've sent a book into the world where copies of it could end up anywhere and be read by anyone.

That's why I urge you - if you have an idea that you feel the world needs to hear - to start now.

Because, before you know it, your book might be out in the wild, making a real difference to people's lives.

Aidan Harvey-Craig is a psychology teacher and student counsellor at an international school in Malawi. His book, 18 Wellbeing Hacks for Students: using psychology's secrets to survive and thrive, is out now. He tweets @psychologyhack

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