Getting Great Illustrations for Self-Published Books

This is the third part of my series on Self-Publishing Teaching Materials. Feel free to click and browse to the article or articles that address your needs or concerns. Here I’ll be talking about getting illustrations for self-published books. Not enough authors or writers give much thought to art. Yet the process of getting art for your project needs to be taken seriously. I’m not getting into cover design just yet; that’s a whole topic itself, something I will cover in a later post. Right now, we’re talking about interior art.


It’s important to choose art that adds value and to think about the style and purpose of adding illustrations. There are also licensing and copyright issues to consider. In addition, you may wonder Should you hire an illustrator? How much will it cost? Can I use pictures from free sites? Should I? How much can I expect to pay for art for my book?

Let’s start with what kinds of illustrations you might need, and to figure that out, you need to think about the purpose of art in a book.

Some art

Why Do You Need Art?

This is a hard question to answer philosophically, but fortunately, I mean it practically. What actual art do you need for your book and why? The first step before figuring out where to get art is to think about what kinds of illustrations you need at all. Take some time to sit with your content, if you haven’t already, and note where you think illustrations would be needed, what kind, and what you think they should look like.

Continue reading “Getting Great Illustrations for Self-Published Books”

How to Find a Marketable Idea for Self-Publishing

This is the second part of my series on Self-Publishing Teaching Materials. In part one, I talked about how to come up with an idea for original content.

Here I’ll talk about finding a marketable idea for self-publishing. It’s nice to put your teaching materials out there, but how do you know what your potential customers want? What’s the difference between a teaching book that is marketable and one that isn’t, particularly in the education market? What types of self-published books sell the best?


Why are you self-publishing?

Many people self-publish because they want complete creative control over their project. They have a very specific vision for what their teaching materials should look like or how they want those materials delivered.

This is, of course, one of the most attractive benefits of self-publishing your teaching materials. You can write what you please, lay it out as you please, and distribute or market it as you please! If you aren’t concerned with making money, you may not care if your materials are marketable or not. Authors may want to self-publish for a variety of reasons where marketability of the idea doesn’t matter:

  • To use the materials in their own classroom or school
  • To give away to teachers, schools, students, or non-profits in need
  • To give away in order to get the idea out there
  • To add to their resume or gain prestige
  • Personal satisfaction and experience

If any of the reasons above are your main motivation for self-publishing your teaching idea, you may not think about marketability. You’re welcome to skip ahead to my next post about self-publishing resources you’ll need and where to find them.

However, regardless of your motivations, it’s good to take a minute to think about whether anyone will pick up your book free or not. Will it be useful? So it might be helpful to think less about finding a marketable idea for self-publishing, than finding a useful or beneficial idea for self-publishing, one teachers will actually use.

And there’s also no shame in wanting to make a profit, either. You have a right to try to make a living on your work! Continue reading “How to Find a Marketable Idea for Self-Publishing”

How to Self-Publish Teaching Materials: Original Content

As a publishing consultant and editor, I am constantly asked how to self-publish teaching materials. How do you self-publish? What content should I self-publish? Self-publishing in English Language Teaching has been around for a surprisingly long time and is still going strong. For that reason, I’m going to publish this series of articles on self-publishing materials for teachers and educators, starting with what kinds of teaching materials work well for self-publishing.

A moody but attractive looking young writer holding a pen and paper and looking soulful.
What I think I look like when I’m working

There are a lot of things to think about and it can be quite daunting. But it can also be a fun and exciting journey! I recommend every first-time authors get some help, whether it be paid professionals, joining an authors group, and/or reading as many books and blog posts as you can on how to self-publish teaching materials, starting with this one, perhaps!


This is the first part of a series on Self-Publishing Teaching Materials that I’ll be publishing weekly. Here, I talk about getting an idea for some original content. Next week, I’ll talk about making sure your idea is marketable.


What to Self-Publish?

So let’s talk about what kind of content works well for self-publishing. And it’s actually simple to articulate:

You need original content that teachers want to buy.

That is, you need something no one else is doing, something that has a unique appeal, and it has to be something that other people are going to use. Even if your main motivation isn’t money, there’s no point publishing something that is not useful or helpful to others.

In this article, we’re going to look at the first part of that statement.

Original Content

Hopefully, this is where you’ve started your journey toward self-publishing: You have an original idea. I get a lot of teachers approaching me saying, “I’ve always wanted a book that did this, and I got tired of looking so I just wrote my own.”

Find Your Niche

A confused-looking man staring at a computer screen with one eyebrow raised as if he cannot believe what he is seeing.
What I actually look like when I’m writing

Or perhaps your materials fit into a niche. As the large publishing companies, for a variety of reasons, try to create materials that appeal to a global audience, opportunities for specialized niche materials have arisen. There are a number of ways your materials might be specialized including: Continue reading “How to Self-Publish Teaching Materials: Original Content”