Sausage and the law: how textbooks are made

In this plenary talk, Dorothy Zemach looks at coursebook production and makes recommendations on how teachers can use their own power.

1 hour

About this plenary talk

“Those who love sausage and the law,” goes the saying, “should never watch either being made.” But given how influential textbooks are—they can shape a teacher’s activities, lesson plans, or entire course curriculum—it’s time to have a look inside the sausage factory at how textbooks are created.

In recent years, publishers have changed the ways in which they decide what is published, how those materials are written, how (and how much) writers are paid, how to respond to new technologies, and how much to charge the customer. All of these changes influence the final product—the books and materials you use. And although many teachers have little knowledge of how books are created, they hold enormous power over the publishing process. It’s time, I’ll argue, for teachers to understand what’s going on, and to band together and use their power for good.

Having worked on everything from writing ancillary materials for most of the major ELT publishers to freelance and in-house editing to authoring coursebooks to running my own micropress, I’ll be sharing frank insights on materials creation from both the author’s side and the publisher’s side. After analyzing the transformation of the ELT publishing industry in the last half decade, I’ll offer recommendations for what teachers and administrators can do to help get the highest quality and most appropriate books for their classrooms.

About the speaker

Dorothy Zemach holds an MA in TEFL from the School for International Training in Vermont, USA. After teaching ESL for over 25 years, she now concentrates on writing and editing materials and conducting teacher-training workshops. Her areas of specialty and interest are teaching writing, teaching reading, business English, academic English, testing and humor. A prolific textbook author and editor, Dorothy has penned everything from the Teddy Bear’s Magic Music teacher’s book to the lowest and highest levels of Macmillan's flagship course Open Mind to the groundbreaking English for Scammers (self-published). In 2012 she founded a micropress, Wayzgoose Press, that publishes fiction, literary non-fiction and ELT materials. Website:

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