If you have decided to create an open textbook project, you might be wondering where to begin. Getting started, whether it’s your first or fiftieth time, is always the hardest part! But you can begin by gathering your team around you, then start sketching out the high level details of the project, setting goals, drafting timelines, and more. This is an exciting part of the process, where you get to really think about what your project will look like, and a lot of the work you put in up front will serve you well over the coming months.
Creating an open textbook is about more than just writing the content. There’s a lot that goes into making a book, from planning, editing, review, formatting, marketing, and more. Part of scoping is to think about the whole publishing process, so you know what’s coming. It might seem like more work than you anticipated, but this is why a good team is important, and there are lots of resources out there to support you.
Target audiences should include all readers, so keep accessibility front of mind from the start. Good accessibility practices benefit all readers, and the more that can be done during the creation process, the less remediation will be needed later. Commit to good accessibility practices from day one in concrete ways by stating it as a project goal, building it into guides, educating yourself and connecting with experts.
Reflect on the motivations and values that drive you as a person, and see how you can build them into the textbook. Highlighting them as unique aspects of your project and emphasizing their importance will also help your collaborators feel like they are working towards a larger goal. The reasons why this project is important enough for you to commit to it will almost always resonate strongly with others — so share your story.
Remember that you’re not in this alone. Making books is not a solo effort by the author, so make sure to find your community and let them support you. They are there to believe in your project’s purpose, set it up for success, celebrate milestones, and help pick you up when you think you’re not making as much progress as you’d like.
Plan, revise, and plan again. Take the time to make a plan up front. Prepare timelines, draft book outlines, map key concepts, strategize marketing plans so you can check-in regularly to see if you’re meeting targets, and if not, recalibrate! Clear project documentation also means that newcomers can get on board quickly, and you can always refer back to what you’ve written to keep on track.
While your team will continue to grow as your project progresses, it’s the leadership team that will be most involved during this phase. The leadership can consist of an admin team to help with more day-to-day tasks, and an advisory team to guide the process at a higher-level, but can also be less formal – the important thing is that there are a core set of people committed to establishing the project. Learn how to build a leadership team in this section of our guide.
An admin team may include:
- Librarians interested in or in charge of developing OER at your institution
- Instructional designers or others from your institution’s centre for teaching and learning
- Colleagues or graduate students in your department
- Collaborators on other projects from outside your institution
- Authors or editors already attached to the project
An advisory team may include some of the above, as well as:
- Senior experts or mentors in your field
- Anyone you know with experience publishing textbooks or open textbooks
- Community advisors (this is crucial is you are working on content relating to/impacting a specific community, especially marginalized communities)
- Subject librarians
- Instructors with experience teaching the course for which the resource is intended
If you’re working on an open textbook project, here are some things to do at the very start in order to be better prepared to manage and execute the publishing process:
- Read about the publishing process, and what really goes into making books (this Guide is a great place to start!).
- Work to articulate why your project is important to you, and share this with your team, along with clear expectations about their roles in the project. Keep this documented and read it over and share it whenever you need a reminder.
- Create a public project listing with key information like book summary, audience, reading level, licenses, target release date, etc. This public listing will be the first place you point people to in communications to learn about the project, so make it clear and keep it up to date!
- Start creating the book’s outline, including any necessary context or framing up front, plus a list of chapters with descriptions, pedagogical outcomes, and the types of features or elements that will recur through the text.
- Work with your team to create a rough timeline – this can and likely will change over time, but plotting a first version will help you estimate timing and give you some initial milestones to work to.
- Ask for help when you need it. Look to your institution, colleagues, students, the Rebus Community and the academic community more broadly to help.
- Distribute the workload among your team members and look for other possible assistance. There may be specific resources, grants, or funding opportunities available to you, so keep an eye out.
- Decide on the various tools you will be using for project management, communication, writing, editing, review, and formatting.