The first step is to focus on the changing curriculum areas in which you have expertise. These can usually be anticipated which gives you time to prepare materials and your publisher time to assess both the market and your proposals.
What do publishers look for?
The single, overarching requirement is an understanding what teachers and learners need. What will help teachers do an even better job of delivering the curriculum? What will enhance pupils' experiences?
But they'll also look for:
- Writing ability. Is the material coherent, clear and appropriate for the target age group?
- Subject knowledge. Are you an expert?
- Do you have experience teaching the material?
- Are you a known authority in the field, whose published work will be recognised as coming from an authoritative source? (For example, publishers covet materials created by subject examiners.)nbsp;
- Is the material well organised and logical?
- Is the visual presentation good with sample illustrations, diagrams or photographs?
- Is the theoretical content motivating? Are the examples relevant and interesting; do they clarify or confuse?
- Will the final product have an advantage over what's already available? Do you make this clear in the materials
- Will you be fun to work with? The best resources grow from a genuine partnership between writer and publisher.
- Does the material give the motivated learner opportunities to learn more? Have you suggested a further reading list, a series of links to relevant websites or optional activities?
The commissioning process varies by publisher, or even between editors at the same publishing house. To give yourself a better chance, you need to:
- Make personal contact with the relevant editor. The company switchboard will know who is responsible for a specific subject area. Call to introduce yourself and your proposal before you send in sample materials. Materials sent to a generic "Dear SirMadam" are rarely published.
- When you send materials, follow the publisher's requirements as closely as you can. Most will want a written overview, plus some comments on the needs of the prospective audience, as well as a draft table of contents and a sample chapter. But be warned: sending in too much material can be as unhelpful as sending in too little.
- Ensure it is "fit for purpose". Does it solve a teaching problem? Does it meet an emerging curriculum requirement? Have you made this clear enough?
- Finally, remember that a new product needs an "edge", a point of distinction, that makes it more attractive to a teacher than the resource they currently use.
It's worth persevering. Thousands of new products are published for the school market each year; the resources in a typical classroom will contain the work of around 100 writers. One of them could be you.
Jim Green is managing director of Collins Education. This is an edited version of an article in Children's Writers' amp; Artists' Yearbook 2006, published by Aamp;C Black,nbsp; acblack.com