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Seeking Writers and/or ESL Instructors for New Book Series

Posted: March 15th, 2013 | Author: Genevieve DeGuzman | Filed under: Fiction books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »


Deadline (extended): 15 March 2013 15 April 2013

(Last updated 2 March; download the FAQ and writing example below)

Night Owls Press ( is currently seeking experienced creative writers and/or ESL instructors to participate in the development of a series of “chooseable path”/gamebook format novellas or short novels geared toward adult intermediate to advanced English language learners.

About the Project

Journey To The End of the Night 2010

The book market for ESL language materials is primarily focused on the production of guides and textbooks that feature cut-and-dry technical language instruction. We want to produce guides that teach the intricacies of idiomatic expressions, transitional phrases, phrasal verbs, collocations, and syntax in the form of short novels. Many ESL learners are avid readers who are looking for entertaining English language books to read. The ESL series we are proposing combines quality ESL instruction that reinforces lessons learned in class or from a tutor with the riveting experience of reading a great story.

To do something different, we want to revive the classic “gamebook” format— a type of story structure that makes the reader an active participant in the story. It is a format that is particularly well suited for ESL learners because it puts them in the driver’s seat. We want to create something for the ESL market where readers’ decisions as the “protagonist” of a story shape the story they read, help them learn English, and allow for familiarity with different or alternative meanings associated with certain phrases or language elements. The goal is to build readers’ confidence in their English communication skills through active reading.

Here are the general parameters for the book series:

Length: 25-35K words/book. Stories can be limited to one book or may be continued across several books.

Setting and style: Stories are written in second-person (“you”) and take place in contemporary, realistic settings, though they can still feature imaginative twists and elements of adventure. (What we DON’T want: erotica or high fantasy/science fiction stories; no bondage scenes, dragon slayings, or colonies on Mars!)

Structure: At critical junctures in the story, readers will be asked to make decisions (e.g.: If you decide to do ‘A,’ turn to page X… If you decide to do ‘B,’ turn to page Y…). Decisions hinge on grammatical, language-driven choices; therefore, how well readers understand a situation or comprehend conversations with other characters in the book effectively decides how the story unfolds. The objective is to teach readers various language elements through a range of optimal and less-than-optimal situations. For example, a misunderstanding with another character or the ineffective choice of a phrasal expression results in a narrative path that is less than ideal. Authors are expected to consider the many ways to use and interpret English language expressions and other language elements. These “possibilities” and variations provide the gamebook style “decision points” that propel the reader onto different narrative paths in the book.

Reader’s guide: Each chapter will include a “Phrases” list of intermediate- and advance-level phrasal verbs, collocations, and vocabulary words from Robert J. Dixson’s Essential Idioms in English (1997, 2003 editions) to be “tested” in the decision points. A glossary will also be provided at the end of the book for the phrases and words that are used for the decision points throughout the book. (Other phrases and words that are not explicitly “tested” in the decision points will be bolded in the text, too, but will not be included in the glossary.) Overall, each book will have around 12 tested phrases per book provided by the series editor, and about eight to 10 phrases provided by the writer.


  • A commitment to develop at least ONE novella-length book with us
  • Demonstrated creative writing skills
  • 2+ years ESL or general English literature instruction experience
  • Interest in, if not passion for, gamebook-inspired, multiple narrative fiction

Invited authors will receive a publishing contract with Night Owls Press and work closely with our book development team. Books will be developed through 2013 and published in paperback and e-book formats. All books are published in the author’s name.

To Apply

Your submission package must include the following:

  1. Cover letter/resume (highlight any ESL teaching experience and creative writing experience)
  2. Creative writing samples (or include links to samples/published works)
  3. Book proposal *

* Book Proposal Guidelines –

Any material that prospective authors send us as part of their submission package will be used for the purpose of our evaluation only and will not be shared with or distributed to third parties.

  • Hook: Offer a tagline or one-sentence summary that creates interest in your story
  • Brief overview: Write a brief summary similar to what you would read on the back cover of a book. Keep this exciting and descriptive but succinct – around 300 words or less.
  • Pick option 1 –OR– option 2:

Option #1 – Synopsis/plot framework + One sample chapter/excerpt

  • Synopsis/plot framework:Describe the story in 1,500 words or less. Don’t worry about spoilers or surprises or providing too much detail; explain the broad narrative arc of the story to give us a sense of how your story will develop. We want to know you have thought your story through.
  • One sample chapter/excerpt: In 3,000-5,000 words, flesh out a chapter or a short excerpt that develops into 2-4 possible gamebook style narrative paths.

Option #2 – Several chapters/extended excerpt

  • Several chapters/extended excerpt: In 10,000-15,000 words, flesh out several chapters or an extended excerpt that develops into 2-4 possible gamebook style narrative paths per chapter or section.

Note: For options 1 or 2, narrative paths should emerge from the shades of meaning and variations of interpretation of ONE idiomatic expression or phrasal verb you select. For each chapter or major section, make sure at least one of the narrative paths is the result of choosing the “correct” or optimal usage of the expression; the other paths can be the result of misinterpretation or less common uses of the expression. Be creative in where the narrative paths go and branch off, but keep the situations realistic and relatable to readers. Use second person (“you”). Be mindful of tone; write for an audience of intermediate to advanced ESL learners. For more guidelines, refer to the FAQ.

Send your submission package as a PDF attachment to Karen Hannah, Book Editor at On the subject line, put the words “ESL Gamebook Series” and your full name. Applications will be accepted until Monday, 15 April 2013 (extended from 15 March).


Please review the FAQ before contacting us. For more about Night Owls Press, visit We look forward to your submissions. Please spread the word!

- Download a PDF version of this open call here.

- Download a PDF version of the FAQ here.

- Download a PDF version of the writing example here.

(Images: John Morrison and Lamont Cranston)

12 Comments on “Seeking Writers and/or ESL Instructors for New Book Series”

  1. 1 Anthony Halderman said at 1:25 pm on February 11th, 2013:

    Hello Ms. Karen Hannah,

    I received your proposal and am thinking about submitting an application. I just have a few questions.
    1) What kind of financial compensation will we get for our submissions?
    2) If my submission is not selected and I don’t become part to the author/editor team, can you guarantee that my submission won’t be used/modified/revamped?
    3) Is a book proposal/sample chapter request a way for Night Owls Press to elicit “free” material?

    Pardon me for asking these questions. But I thought I should ask before proceeding. I look forward to hearing from you. You can learn more about me by visiting my webpage:

    Also, you can view a textbook I authored a few years back. Unfortunately, it’s now out of print.


  2. 2 Deirdre Higgins said at 5:54 pm on February 11th, 2013:

    Hi– I am a writing teacher and an ESL teacher at UCLA Extension. My background is in creative writing and I received my M.F.A. from Columbia University (film/writing). I’m currently working on a novel and over the years I have had some published pieces. This sounds exactly what I’d like to do. I will send my resume later this week.
    Deirdre Higgins

  3. 3 Ashton said at 7:39 pm on February 11th, 2013:

    This is extremely exciting. If I were not completely swamped already, I would get my submission application in so fast.

    Using gamebooks for education is something that I dream of doing someday. This is a great idea. I’ll be watching!

  4. 4 Marilyn Plumlee said at 9:47 am on February 12th, 2013:

    I have a question about the age level you are targeting. You said “intermediate to advanced level”, but you can find these proficiency levels at various ages. Are you targeting elementary school, middle school, high school or college/adult learners having this mid-to-advanced proficiency? The age range you are targeting would make a big difference in the topic and voice needed in the texts…
    Also, are you targeting primarily a U.S.-based readership (i.e. ESL) or would be interested in marketing your books internationally? The topics chosen would also be influenced by these marketing choices.
    Thank you. I hope to hear back from you soon! (I’m currently working in Egypt in TESOL and until recently I lived in S. Korea, so I’m most familiar with those cultures and ESL learners in those contexts.)

  5. 5 Brent said at 5:01 pm on February 12th, 2013:

    Very cool idea here. I’d love to participate if I had more time, but I’m spreading the word to friends in the ESL field. I’m looking forward to the first book!

  6. 6 Genevieve DeGuzman said at 10:21 am on February 14th, 2013:

    Thanks, Brent! We need to gather up our team of writers first, but we’re really excited about the project.

  7. 7 Genevieve DeGuzman said at 10:26 am on February 14th, 2013:

    Hi Marilyn,

    Thanks for your questions! Our target audience is the adult English language learner crowd at the intermediate/advanced level. Also, we’re not sure yet about our marketing scope beyond the U.S. We’re going to pilot 1-2 books this year in the U.S. and go from there. For other questions, please contact Karen Hannah at (We’re currently updating our open call to reflect some of the questions we’ve been getting…so stay tuned!)

    Cheers, Genevieve

  8. 8 Genevieve DeGuzman said at 10:27 am on February 14th, 2013:

    Thanks for your support, Ashton! We’re hoping to pilot 1-2 books this year.

  9. 9 Genevieve DeGuzman said at 10:28 am on February 14th, 2013:

    Karen and I look forward to reading your submission package! -Genevieve

  10. 10 Genevieve DeGuzman said at 10:31 am on February 14th, 2013:


    Thanks for your interest in our book series! It’s probably best to get in touch with Karen via e-mail ( if haven’t already. We are currently working on an FAQ that should cover your concerns above. I can reassure you though that any material or ideas that prospective authors send us as part of their submission package will be used for the purpose of our evaluation only and will NOT be shared with or distributed to third parties.


  11. 11 K Jacobs said at 9:36 pm on February 20th, 2013:

    I’m very interested in this opportunity too, but I have a couple of questions about how the royalties work. First, do you have an idea of how much you will sell the books for? Will it be the same price for the printed copy as for the digital copy?

    Next, is the level of sales (which determines the percent of revenue that the author receives) cumulative? For example, the FAQ states that the royalties are paid out quarterly, so if an author sells 700 units in the first quarter, that author would get 15% of the net revenue. However, if the author then sells another 700 units in the next quarter, would he or she still get 15%, because less than 1,000 units were sold in that quarter? Or would the author then get 20% of the net revenue for the second quarter, because the total number of units sold to that date is more than 1,000?

    Thanks very much. I think this is a very interesting concept and have some ideas that I think might work well, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the sample that is mentioned in the FAQ.

  12. 12 Genevieve DeGuzman said at 10:47 am on February 21st, 2013:

    We have not yet determined the pricing for the books. Most likely it will range from a list price of $2.99-4.99 for the e-book and $9.99 to $14.99 for the print books. If we commission illustrators, which is an option we may tentatively explore, the price may increase slightly.

    As for the level of sales, the royalties are based on cumulative overall totals (we don’t reset the count to 0 for each new quarter or pay period). A brief example is now listed on the newly updated FAQ doc.

    Thanks for your interest!
    -Genevieve and Karen