If you have teaching credentials, or years in the classroom, use these skills to write for academic publishers. Classic textbooks are revised periodically, and published year after year. In many cases, the professor does little writing, while farming out the actual writing to others. The big three textbook publishers – McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson Education, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – account for about 90 percent of textbook sales. Visit their websites for job listings.
Beginning in 2001, with the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress has challenged the states and local school boards to have all students perform at higher and higher levels of proficiency in order to obtain federal funding for the school district. This mandate has created more standardized tests for our students to take and guess who is writing those tests? You, the independent freelancer. A test that is given in California may be contracted out to others. For example, I live in Florida, and have been contracted by a company in Illinois to write test items for the State of New York.
To write the test items, the writer must understand the Core Standards, or the individual state’s standards. Some companies offer a training course for the writers before assigning a specific band width and giving instructions on how to fill in the online template for the test items, their rationale, the source, the answer key, the Lexile measure, etc. This is serious stuff and a major business. Writing each test item takes several hours to complete. Getting it through the vetting and revision process may take even longer. The pay per item is around $100.
Many companies publish manuals to help students who are preparing for the CLEP or Advanced Placement Tests. SME ghostwrite these textbooks that only highlight the main points in each subject. ETS is the leading provider of these tests; the Big Three (see list above) the leading providers of the study manuals.
Certification manuals are published to help prospective teachers (and others) review their course work before sitting for the exam. K-6 teachers are expected to be versed in language arts, reading, science and technology, math, geography, social science, music, visual arts, physical education, health as well as general education principals and laws affecting the profession and their charges. Each of these areas requires a SME to write a brief review of the subject, and pose questions to help the individual evaluate his or her learning. A project fee can run several hundred dollars depending on how much actual writing is performed. Test items to accompany the manuals pay $3 approximately. In addition to the Big Three, major publishers are CliffsNotes, Xamonline, Barron’s, Mometrix, and Kaplan.
Editing is another skill that teachers have developed from years of correcting student writing. The editor needs to be familiar with the three major style sheets in use today: the Modern Language Association, the Associated Press, and the Chicago Manual of Style. Different areas of the writing world use different stylesheets. Many researchers use the American Psychological Association’s (APA) style sheet while K-12 educators use the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) style sheet. Yet, when entering into the wider publishing arena, some publishers use the Chicago Manual of Style and newspapers stick with the Associated Press’ (AP) style sheet. Editing ranges from $0.048 per word for light copyediting or proofreading to $0.08 per word for substantial editing. Most websites requesting writers are also looking for editors.
To find freelance writing jobs in academics, search careers on the publishers’ websites, or peruse writing magazines. Look at the different online writing journals for freelance opportunities. I have found jobs on FlexJobs, LinkedIn, the Freelance Writer’s Den, and Guru.
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