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Ollie and Kevin speak to David Bowman from Crown House Publishing about the educational book market and why it’s booming again. David also talks about how they find educational authors and what makes a great educational book.
David was originally in ‘productivity service’ with a gas board but moved into the family business which was, at that time, book distribution. This eventually transformed into a book publisher known as Crown House Publishing in the early 2000s which now specialises in CPD books for teachers.
Is there a growing need for CPD books for teachers?
David doesn’t think the need is growing but does believe the quality and quantity of CPD books for teachers has improved a lot. Nowadays, quite a lot of schools buy Crown House’s books in quantity and use them as the basis of their CPD. David sees this trend as instrumental in encouraging and supporting the improvement in teaching over the past few years.
Is there a danger that teachers are just reading the narratives of others and not forming their own?
David says that they do receive a lot of work which is simply regurgitation of previous ideas whereas what they want to hear is the author’s own voice, their analysis of what’s going on, their opinions, their blueprint for achieving better outcomes for children.
Crown House go out and look for people who can do this and David says they are not usually existing authors. They find them speaking at conferences, writing blogs or being active on social media. They also receive submissions from prospective authors and they are interested in anyone who has something new and different to say.
However, a book needs to be shaped – it starts with an idea and a discussion between the author and Crown House.
It’s a difficult task to get your thoughts into an effective structure and in a form other people are going to understand and can act on.
David points out that good books can take upwards of five years to come to fruition and sometimes great books don’t sell. A book they published called ‘The Philosophy Shop’ by Peter Worley won the Education Book of the Year Award in 2013 but sold less than 2,000 copies! Schools were not interested in it. The whole concept of teaching children to think critically and creatively has been squeezed out of the curriculum.
In an age of social media and online resources, do traditional publishers still have something to offer?
David believes that traditional publishers still have a huge amount to offer. He points out that they treat every book as a partnership. The author provides the content but Crown House provide expert editing, design, proof-reading, marketing and an active sales team. This means they can produce the best book possible and maximise sales.
We see so many self-published books that are ill-conceived, poorly organised, poorly written and don’t meet a market need.
With the help of a traditional publisher, some of these could have been good books.
What are David’s three top tips for teachers or leaders who are thinking of writing a book?
- Make sure you have something new to say – which means doing research into what has already been written to avoid regurgitating material and
- Make sure there is a big enough audience for what you want to say – just because you have a big online following, that doesn’t mean people will want to buy your book
- Ask yourself, “Why do I want to publish this book?” – Do you want to raise your profile and so want to make use of the wider network of a traditional publisher or do you want to make money out of it because you have a big audience and can self-publish to keep more of the money generated?
What does the future of publishing look like?
David says that there will be increasingly more content published digitally but nowhere near as much as had been predicted three years ago.
Physical books have definitely fought off the challenge of e-books and have a great future
After years of decline, the physical book market grew by 4% in 2016 and has settled at 20-25% of the market. This is a stark contrast to the 60% which was previously predicted. This has come about because readers have re-discovered a connection to real books, publishers have increased the quality of what they are offering and e-books have retained their value, not being sold at a massive discount compared with real books. This is completely different from the ‘race to the bottom’ which the music industry has had to endure.
Do publishers have a responsibility to promote certain topics?
David says that publishers have a responsibility to publish what authors want to write in the best ways possible and don’t tend to promote one view over another.