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Pat on the Back

Author and presenter Patrick Jackson looks at the altruistic side of ELT.

September 16, 2013

Be Clever. Be Givish!

I learnt a new word yesterday. I was visiting our local lifeboat station with a member of the Finnish Coast Guard - as one does in the wild and wonderful world of English language teaching. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a wonderful organisation entirely funded by voluntary donations. They save hundreds of lives a year. Our lifeboat was purchased with a donation of £2 million from a Scottish benefactor. The master of the lifeboat, praised his generosity saying that the man had been very ‘givish’.

As far as I know, Tokyo-based ELT author Marcos Benevides does not spend much time at sea in life or death situations. He teaches, he edits, he writes, he presents, he barbecues, he dreams and he schemes. He has also achieved great things in ELT, having picked up both a British Council ELTon and the HRH Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Award for his co-authored book Fiction in Action: Whodunit. That project certainly deserved a pat on the back for being the first ever Creative Commons ELT coursebook. Basically that means it’s free to anyone who wants to download it. That’s pretty givish.

Half way there, and with the clock ticking I imagine things are pretty tense.

And right now, as you read this, Marcos is on a new mission - to fund an original series of multi-path books in easy English, exciting stories where the reader makes choices to create a different storyline every time they read. All the details are over on the project’s Kickstarter page, an entertaining roller coaster of a read in itself.

By raising $10,000, Atama-ii Books (that means ‘Clever Books’ in Japanese) will be able to produce 10 titles over the next year. If those are successful, more will follow. Unlike the RNLI though, this is not a donation. Pledgers will basically be buying the books in advance at a socking discount. Half way there, and with the clock ticking I imagine things are pretty tense. With a new baby in the Benevides household, I’m sure there is already enough sleeplessness, so it would be great if together we could put him out of his misery.

And there’s more.

Atama-ii books could break the mould for how certain types of ELT publishing project are financed. That’s great for everyone because although it has become easier for individuals and small publishing outfits to produce materials, it is harder for them to get the finances required to compete with the big publishers with their large editorial, design and marketing teams and high production values. Bigger publishers are also going through a process of change that might make it harder for smaller projects to get approved. Choppy waters for everyone but a bit of biodiversity won’t do any harm and there’s space in the sea for whales and whitebait.

So why does Marcos deserve a pat on the back? Well, I was talking to him a while back about the project and he suggested I might submit a proposal at some stage. Money-grubber that I am, the conversation immediately turned to the royalties he was planning to pay authors and went something like this:

Patrick: So…er…what sort of royalties are you going to pay your authors?
Marcos: 40% of net.
Patrick: Why am I now covered in coffee?

For those of you who haven’t dipped your toes into writing for royalties, they seem to range between 6% and 12% of net receipts. Atama-ii Books has somehow created a business model where they will be able to give authors a colossal raise of about 4 times the going rate.

The fundraising is now down to the wire so if you have any interest in how this story unfolds, please go over to the Kickstarter page and pledge something, however small. If you are a school owner or able to order books for your school, consider investing in a bunch of readers for your students. It’s a bargain. Also, as you will probably want to tell your friends about this, you could just cut and paste the following text into an email and send it to a few of your ELT contacts.

Hi ___,

I hope you don’t mind me sending this your way but Marcos Benevides, a good friend of mine in Japan is trying to raise funds for a very interesting publishing project and I know how you like to support a worthy cause. He is using Kickstarter to gather pledges that will be used to create the first ten in a series of innovative English language teaching readers based around the concept of the reader choosing their own path through the stories. All good fun, and a great way to make progress in English.

By pledging to support Atama-ii Books (that means ‘Clever Books’ in Japanese) you will receive the books as soon as they are published next year as well as some other presents, so if you are thinking of buying some readers for your students, now is probably the time. They have some good authors lined up, Marcos knows what he is doing and has an amazing track record and there is no doubt the final products will be great.

Warmest regards and thanks for being givish,


Here’s the link to the Kickstarter campaign page: Atama-ii Books: multiple-path stories in easy English!

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