So You Wanna Be a Materials Writer?

Sandy Millin just put out a post on the MAWSIG blog with some rules for beginner writers. I particularly liked her questions to ask publishers:

Questions to ask the editor/publisher

  • What is the specific brief? For example, can you base your writing on authentic materials or should it be completely self-created?
  • Is there a single deadline for the whole project, or separate deadlines for different parts of it?
  • Should you send your work as you complete it, in batches or all together? In my experience, the answer is usually all together; but your editor may want to see one or two documents to make sure you’re on track before you proceed.
  • Can you see completed examples of the kind of document the publisher would like you to produce – for example, from other levels? This can help you get an idea of how much work is involved.
  • If you’re using Word, how many pages should your finished document be? For example, does a one-page Word document correlate to a single page in the finished product?
  • Where should the teacher’s notes and answers be? After each exercise, at the end of the document or in a separate document?
  • If you’re producing writing tasks, do you need to include a model answer?
  • Should you include worked examples for the first question in each exercise?
  • What are the publisher’s codes for design elements, such as gapfill spaces? For example, [GF] would indicate that the designers need to print a gap in this sentence: ‘I need [GF] to the supermarket after I finish work.’
  • Can images be included? If they can, where should they be sourced from? Or should you include an image brief for somebody else to find the right picture later? If that’s the case, how detailed should the brief be?

I like to print out every document that has those kinds of details in them, whether it be emails, the brief, the contract, or supporting materials. That way I can have the physical document open on my desk while I’m working on the computer to check things like design codes, annotations on the brief, and example pages.

Sandy also links to an earlier post by Tamzin Berridge that has some larger principles that are quite useful.

One topic that neither of them broach is compensation and how to negotiate payment. I wonder if any one has any tips on that.

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