Many of the textbook supplement projects you’ll do as a freelance curriculum creator involve updating a supplement to reflect changes between an old edition and a new edition. I have several such projects right now.
The big question: when should you just revise the existing material and when should you just start over and treat the project as a brand new ancillary?
I’ve faced this question many times when I’ve worked on supplement projects for college-level textbook publishers, and I’ve taken both paths.
When You Should Start Over with a Textbook Supplement
1. Poor quality of the old supplement.
This, sadly, has happened to me far too often, usually with test banks, but also with lecture outlines. The quantity of the poor material is so large that it would take you longer to bring it up to par and deal with the changes of the new edition than to just begin afresh.
2. Not enough detail in the old supplement.
This is common with PowerPoint lecture outlines. Many writers just provide key terms on slides with no explanation or definition. Most professors want more meat than that, and you need to provide it.
3. Major changes in content.
This is most likely when going from a first edition to a second edition, but I’ve also seen it happen with major textbooks doing a tenth edition. You’ll spend too much time trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss. A related problem: major reorganization of material across chapters means your fishing around trying to correlate the old ancillary with the material in the new edition of the textbook.
The Key Consideration: Creating a High-Quality Supplement
Will starting over result in a substantially better supplement? Of course, you have to balance this against what you’re getting paid…
Getting Adequate Compensation for Your Work
I always stress the importance of being very clear on exactly what you need to do and how long it will take you when you are negotiating payment. If you feel an all-new edition is necessary, make the case to your editor, explain why it’s more work, and ask for more money. (Details in Chapter 4, “Negotiating Payment,” of my e-book Writing College Textbook Supplements: Developing Test Questions, Quiz Questions, Instructor Manuals, Lecture Outlines, and Other Curriculum Components.)
What’s Your Experience?
Anything I missed here? Have you had to scrap a revision and start from scratch?