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June 14, 2011 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Any advice for self-publishing or licensing your own created educational materials? I am interested in creating and publishing some speech therapy materials for use in schools with kids. Where to start?

I have an idea for speech therapy materials that I haven't seen published before, and I think it could be useful to a lot of speech therapists who work with articulation. I have used my idea with my students, and it has been helpful and they have enjoyed it.

I know about Super Duper Publications, and that they take submissions and offer a percentage of profits if they accept your idea. What other options are there? I have some graphic design friends I would be comfortable working with, so developing my idea independently could work out. But what would my options be in marketing and actually producing multiples if I wanted to go it alone? I thought about amazon.com self-publishing, but my idea is not a book, though a printable version could work.

I like the idea of keeping my idea mine and finalizing it with my vision (and graphic designer friends' input, of course), but I would be ok with giving my idea to another company to run with, as long as the arrangement was financially fair.

I am looking at this to be a summer project. I would appreciate any help or ideas in how:

1. If you designed educational materials, how did you get the word out? What company did you publish with, or did you go it alone?


2. If you are a designer, how did you make multiple copies of your digital creation accessible for purchase? Once it's in photoshop and it's awesome, how do you make it available for purchase, digitally or in print?

Thanks, guys! I know I'm at the pipe-dream stage right now, but I appreciate your help.
posted by shortyJBot to Education (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, my idea really is for multiple single-page visual materials. I would like the option to buy them separately or together. It would best be printed on very stiff, plastic/slick coated paper for durability. Thanks again!
posted by shortyJBot at 6:45 AM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: I write educational materials for a living. I work 'to order' on client projects so my circumstances are different to yours. But my clients are all large corporations, government bodies or charities who want to sponsor teaching resources, and two issues they face are two of the main issues you need to think about as well. (I don't have much to say about producing and distributing physical copies.) Sorry if this is blathery, I'm in a rush so can't edit:

Firstly, getting the word out. I work in the UK and teachers are awash with choices about free or paid-for resources to use. Cutting through all this 'chatter' is hard, even for bodies that have a good reputation and a good budget for promoting resources directly to teachers via direct mail or email lists. Your best bet is to link into how the teachers you want to target find out about resources, and this is how clients with little or no cash do it here in the UK:

- write a good press release that makes clear why your materials are novel and effective and send it to the right person at any teacher associations, state or county support organisations etc that are involved in speech therapy, or even to local schools. Enclose samples so they can review them if they want.

- find out if there are any web sites where teachers share their own resources. In the UK we have the Times Educational Supplement, the main newspaper for teachers. On their web site is a large database of resources (a mixture of commercially-produced and teachers' own creations). Teachers can register with the site for free and search for resources that can help with their subject, age range and topic and read reviews and ratings from other teachers who have used each resource. This can be a good method since teachers are acting on each others' recommendations and not on marketing puff, which they often distrust.

Both of these take time to build momentum and usage, so you need to be patient and keep updating as you produce new stuff.

Secondly, you need to think about how you want to control how people use and adapt your materials, especially since effective teaching is about personalising resources to suit the child and the group. This is linked to whether or not you want to generate income from this

- You could start by giving them away for free as PDFs, which is what most teachers do on the web site I mentioned above), or at least some of them, as tasters.

- If you want some form of attribution, you could look into releasing them under the right sort of creative commons licence. But in my experience in the UK, teachers will happily chop off logos and copyrights etc before printing or copying a class set!

- Or you could sell sets via paid-for downloads from a web site. I don't know much about this but I've bought teaching materials this way: you pay, get emailed a link and click to download. The link is a one-off. None of the PDFs I've bought this way have been copy protected in any way. I do know there are off the shelf e-commerce solutions for this that you can use on your own website (to which you'd link from all your promotional work).

If it were me, I would create the set and get some of them 'out there' for free, so teachers can try them out and spread the word amongst colleagues. Then I'd think of what I could charge for to add value, via paid-for downloads: more sets, detailed support notes etc. But you need to build your reputation first and being free is a good way to remove one barrier to initial use.

By the way, when you're getting stuff designed, think about the costs of printing if people are to print for themselves, especially class sets. This can really annoy teachers when a client designs materials with lots of block colour pages that cost a fortune in ink or toner for the teacher or school that has to pay for it. Design so there's plenty of white space and subtle but effective use of colour.

As far as physical distribution is concerned, unless you can strike a deal with a publisher with good marketing links into schools, Amazon self-publishing sounds like one best way, and it's how I'd do it if I ever get round to my own project ideas. I know this has come up on AskMe in the past, so you should find out more about it without too much trouble. Or self-publish and sell via your own web site, but that means making people aware you exist and all the faff of fulfilling orders and dealing with online transactions. While Amazon will take a big cut of your selling price, making people aware of your own site and fulfilling orders could cost you more dollars and time.

Do MeMail me if you've got specific questions and I'll do my best to answer.
posted by dowcrag at 8:00 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That incredible answer deserves my sincere thanks, dowcrag!
posted by shortyJBot at 9:27 AM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: Another option you might consider is producing an iPhone/iPad app. Depending on how your cards are used, this could be very inexpensive and it solves your production and distribution problems. You'd still have to figure out the marketing, but the accessibility you'd get from being in the App Store could also make that a little easier.

There's been tremendous uptake of iPhones and iPads by the SLP community, and parents of special needs kids are very highly networked online. I have some experience with this because my company makes learning-to-read apps which --- through no intention of our own --- have turned out to be very useful for speech-delayed and other special needs kids. Feel free to contact me by memail if you want more info about this option.
posted by alms at 10:22 AM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: Judging from an aunt's attempts at making a go at (reading recovery) educational materials creation and marketing, do NOT make large capital investments to try and get your stuff done. She has invested tens of thousands of dollars and vast quantities of time going to trade shows, making sales calls, making sets of stamps, books, and other things, and has yet to turn a profit. She's a fantastic teacher, and the only thing that her projects have done for her is take time away from her very successful tutoring business.

This is not to say that it is impossible, but going it alone, with the attempt at actually making a profit, is hard. Dowcrag's suggestions, where everything is in digital form, and doesn't require large capital investments and boxes of things in your basement, sounds much more doable.
posted by rockindata at 8:49 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, rockindata! I definitely am not willing to invest much at all in my humble little idea. The most I'm really willing to put into it is payment to a friend who does graphic design work. But that's very good advice and I didn't make that clear in my question.

Alms, I've thought about the app method, too. SLPs really have taken a shining to them, and kids love using the ipad! Thank you for your offer to help--if I go that route, I'll be in touch!

Sorry for threadsitting! Thanks for everyone's help!
posted by shortyJBot at 4:14 AM on June 15, 2011

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