Standing Out From the Crowd: How to Develop Your Hook and Attract Adoptions
The ultimate goal of any academic publisher is to secure long-term adoptions of your textbook. In order to make a compelling case to instructors and inspire them to use your book in their courses, it has to have a unique and appealing value proposition.
Develop Your Hook
Before you begin outlining or writing your textbook, you must first determine what will set your book apart from others in the academic market. Ask yourself: how will my book stand out from the crowd?
Will it fill a gap in the current literature? Is the book’s topic within an emerging area of study? Will it feature a unique approach unavailable in other textbooks? What sort of pedagogical tools will your text include to help instructors teach and students learn? Are there new trends, competencies, or research you’ll emphasize?
It is critically important to think through these types of questions and come up with a game plan for creating a textbook that is valuable to students, attractive to instructors, and distinct enough in the academic marketplace that it doesn’t get lost among the other titles available for course use.
Lastly, after you’ve developed a hook, is it something that can carry through the whole of the textbook? Can you imagine ways to incorporate your unique value proposition within each chapter, throughout the pedagogical features, etc.? This will ensure your hook is more than a surface-level “gimmick” and instead will serve as a solid foundation for your textbook.
Research the Competition
To contribute meaningfully to the academic market, you must understand what is already available. Researching competing books allows you to assess their strengths and weaknesses—and then craft your manuscript accordingly.
Your teaching experience is absolutely invaluable as you research competing books, so use your expertise to your advantage! Imagine that you’re teaching your course with each competing book. What content is missing? Which topics are covered particularly well? Would you need to provide your students with supplementary material for them to grasp key concepts and succeed within your course? Is there simply too much information to cover during the academic term?
Ultimately, you want your text to be a great fit for a course, and you want instructors to see how the text could fit their curriculum and support their students. You can leverage your teaching experience to research competing textbooks and then create a book that would help you teach the course to the best of your ability.
We recommend researching at least three to five competing books, with emphasis on books you know other instructors are currently using, newer releases, or tried-and-true textbooks that are the standards in your discipline.
As you peruse the books, take note of particular topics or competencies that are covered across the board. This could signal to you that you should cover this information within your own text—but perhaps you can offer something new in terms of approach or pedagogy to set your book apart.
Cognella editors often encourage authors to be “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary,” which is all about finding balance between the content that’s currently out there within the market and adding new material, concepts, ideas, or twists. If a table of contents is radically different than everything on the market, it could overwhelm instructors. It’s much easier to switch to a new book when some of the material is familiar, but the book introduces something new and beneficial.
Place Yourself in a Potential Adopter’s Shoes
A valuable exercise when thinking through your text and the value it will bring to the market and the classroom is to put yourself in a potential adopter’s shoes. Ultimately, professors who are interested in using a new textbook in their courses need to drop the text they have been using for years (or even decades!) and replace it with your text, which requires significant effort. They’ll need to change their syllabus, homework assignments, tests, papers, course structure, and more. So, what are the factors or features that would make that effort worth it for you?
What are the challenges that make you want to switch to a new text, and can you confront these challenges in your own work? What are the pedagogical features or approaches that would be attractive enough for you to consider using a new text? Are there features/content/approaches in current texts that can be incorporated into yours that would provide a solid foundation and make the transition to new material that much easier? And of course, will the book support student learning and prepare them for the future better than any other resource out there?
It’s important to consider both instructors who may incorporate your text within their curriculum and students who will be using your book within their courses. At the end of the day, a textbook is a solution. How can your book confront challenges and support greater levels of learning?
Developing a well-crafted, unique value proposition for your textbook and offering a distinct alternative to the competition will help your book stand out in the noise of today’s marketplace. Before you begin outlining or writing, carefully consider why you are writing your textbook, how it will support instructors and students, and the ways in which it will stand out from the crowd.