Author origins part I: find your style
by Emily Schickli
You’ve created an account, uploaded a few resources, and taken a stab at creating your shop. You’re officially a TES author. Now what? You can sit around and wait for educators to discover your resources on their own time. Maybe they searched for a key term and your resources popped up. When they visit your shop and view your resource previews, how can you make it easy for them to know right away that your resource is the one they’ve been looking for?
As you may have read in our Tool & Tips articles, your resource preview matters. But what matters even more for your overall success is the style of your resource, your shop, and your voice! Think about this: If a friend asked you to describe your favorite brand or store, could you do it in five words or less? Chances are, you’re able to describe it in such a way that your friend can also recognize it (either because you wear/eat/like/use it or because he or she has heard of it before). Successful brands, from fashion to food to education resources, all have two important things in common: a distinctive voice and style.
You can absolutely share and sell your resources on TES without having a distinct style or voice and without cultivating a brand. To maximize your experience and potential for success, however, you need to treat your shop as a business and your resources as your product. Here are our tips for doing so:
Find your voice: writing resources with style
That well-known phrase used in creative writing classes holds true even more so when creating education materials: write what you know. In selling education resources, your voice should reflect your life and style as a teacher.
Like any good brainstorming exercise, focus on answering the big questions first before diving into the details. Fair warning: it’s about to get personal.
Step 1: All About You
Get out an old-fashioned sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. For those avid typists out there: something about physically writing it out really helps with this exercise (it keeps the temptation to edit as you go at bay). Write out the answers to the following questions:
What are your strengths as an educator?
What are your weaknesses as an educator?
What are the things (lessons, lectures, teaching moments) you’ve done/had in the classroom that really show who you are?
What’s your teaching style? What kind of style do you wish to emulate?
Are you beginning to have flashbacks to your year-end review or latest conversation with your principal? Don’t worry -- no one else has to know these answers! Put them aside for now. We’ll read over them later.
Step 2: All About Them
Since your resources are a product after all, think about your target audience. Who are you writing for? Are they public, charter, independent, or private school teachers? What subjects and grade levels do they teach?
On a new piece of paper (don’t worry, we’re not being needlessly wasteful), make up an educator profile of who you would imagine your typical customer would be. Be as detailed as you can and have fun with it. To help you get started, fill in the following information:
Residence (think state, city, type of neighborhood):
Family (single, partner, married, children?):
Previously worked at (any non-teaching jobs?):
Education (degree and type of institution):
Teaching Location (rural, urban, public, private, charter, independent, academic support center, or tutoring company?):
Resources budget (does the school provide any support for supplementary resources?):
Years of teaching experience:
Uses technology in the classroom? (in what ways, which sites/software/programs/platforms):
Devices used in the classroom/for teaching (tablets, computers, smartphones, projectors?):
School culture (progressive? innovative? conservative?):
After school activities (leads a club, coaches a sport?):
Typical school day:
Typical weekend day:
Greatest wish for the classroom (anything from improving an issue to his/her greatest teaching dream):
Step 3: All Together Now
Now that you know a bit more about yourself and who you may sell your resources to, you hopefully have a better idea of what issues your potential audience of fellow educators face in the classroom and how you can apply your own personal and professional experience to help address them.
Take your two sheets of paper and place them side by side. Where do your strengths overlap with your profile teachers’ needs? Perhaps you’re a wiz at creating hands-on, kinesthetic, project-based lessons and your target teacher really needs help with bringing more innovative teaching practices and creativity into the classroom. Circle any of these instances; they’re great opportunities for you to create and upload a resource.
Where does your skillset and that of your imagined teacher overlap? Draw a box around these instances. These boxes represent the foundation for creating a common voice between you and your colleagues.
Now take out a third sheet of paper (or use the back of one; it’s the last piece of paper, we promise!) and get ready for some free word association. Set a timer for two minutes and ask yourself:
What do I look for in a quality teaching resource?
What does it mean to be a great educator?
After the timer goes off, lay all three sheets of paper out next to each other. Go through and underline any key words (i.e.: important style or education-related words) that you see repeating on all three sheets of paper. Pick the top five words. Your top five can be the ones that repeat the most, that speak to you the most, have the most breadth, and/or have the most impact. Include words that point to what you look for when deciding whether a resource or teacher is reputable and actually effective in the classroom.
Use these top five words as your style guide when creating your shop. Think of these words as both your goal and your author personality. Following your personal style guide will lead educators who visit your shop and resources to both be impressed by and feel reassured by your work.
1. Develop and publish resources that use your strengths as an educator to help other educators solve their classroom needs.
2. Write resources in a style that is at once deeply familiar to educators and unique to you.
Stock your shop shelves with thoughtful, high quality resources using a strong and consistent voice, and you’ll quickly build your reputation as a TES author. Check out author origins part II for tips on building your brand.