I wrote the following piece to put down some initial thoughts about what a textbook writer does and who a textbook writer is. I'm sure many (writers and readers) will see things very differently and I'd love to hear from you. I emphasize again that this is a first attempt to define textbook writing and is really in need of much refinement. This article was published in Etc: A Review of General Semantics 70 (3) July, 2013, 282-287.
Textbooks are a fact of college life. They are, in fact, so interwoven into the college experience that you can hardly think of a college course without thinking of the textbook. And certainly one of the first priorities of a college instructor is to select a textbook for the course. Given the importance of the textbook (and the textbook writer) to any and all college courses, it seems useful to identify what a textbook writer is and what a textbook writer does. Surprisingly, little has been written on the textbook author; a search of Google, Bing, and Yahoo yields virtually nothing about the textbook writer. Here, then, is an initial attempt to identify some of the roles the textbook writer serves; the following provide just a start. There’s an implicit etc. at the end of the list and at the end of each of the roles.
Such a list—even a beginning one—may prove useful to the college instructor contemplating text writing, to the editor assessing the qualifications of potential authors, and to instructors and students wondering who is this person is who writes these textbooks they’re reading. More important, however, is that such a list might prove helpful in providing a clearer identity for this rather unique writing genre.