Passion and Persistence: Self-Published ESL Authors Tell Their Stories

What motivates ESL teachers to become authors? Why do many of these authors self-publish? What’s their likelihood of success?

Naturally, I’m quite interested in these questions – and hope other English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers will share my interests. The acceptance of this panel discussion by CATESOL for the state conference both surprised and pleased me – especially since I’m the third panelist!

Here is the original 300-word proposal written in third person to make it sound more academic. Elizabeth Weal, the panel organizer and ESL author, wrote the successful proposal. She also chose the catchy title.
Passion and Persistence: Self-Published ESL Authors Tell Their Stories

In this CATESOL panel discussion, three authors of ESL books will share the pleasures and perils of self-publishing as well as offer tips for those contemplating writing and publishing an ESL text.

Like most sectors of the textbook market, the ESL textbook market is dominated by a few large publishers. But the situation is rapidly changing as increasing numbers of ESL professionals-turned-authors start their own publishing companies, maintaining control over virtually every aspect of the book production process.

In this panel three authors of successful ESL books will recount their experiences publishing ESL texts. What motivated them to put pen to paper? Why did they self-publish as opposed to turning to a traditional publisher? How do these authors define success? What has been their greatest disappointment? What previously unfilled niche does their book fill?

The authors also will touch on some of the key issues self-published authors most address: Concerns about self-publishing and academic respectability, risks and benefits of self-publishing, and steps to follow in the self-publishing process.

Each panelist comes to the table with a different perspective. Diane Asitimbay, author of What’s Up America? wanted to answer the most common and embarrassing questions ESL students asked her; Eric H. Roth, author of Compelling Conversations teaches international graduate students the pleasures and perils of writing and speaking in English at the University of Southern California. Elizabeth Weal, author of Gramática del ingles: Past a paso and English Grammar Step by Step wanted to find a way to explain English grammar to Spanish speakers who knew very little about grammar in English or Spanish.

Ample time will be left at the end of the discussion to take questions from the audience.

Self-publishing is both a pleasure and a headache, but I’m going to accent the positive. After all, as Churchill noted, “success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”

Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.


  1. Sounds fascinating. How about typing up what all three of you say, videoing the whole thing or interviewing the other two and sticking it up here?

  2. Alex – Thank you for that generous offer!

    The State CATESOL 2010 conferences doesn’t take place until late April, but I will definitely send you a report on the panel discussion. If possible, I will also videotape it and post it on your fantastic set for EFL – and ESL – teachers and tutors.


  3. Yup, Eric – I’d like to hear more: better yet, video it! Am sure that a lot of us would like to know more about your experiences!


  4. Excellent idea! Thank you for visiting and the encouragement. I will try to videotape it, and share my experiences.

  5. Any luck with the video? I’d love to see it too!

  6. Mike – Thanks for the question.

    I’ll be videotaping the presentation, and hope to post it. The use of hope is deliberate since I just regained access to my blog.

  7. Doug King

    I just stumbled upon this webpage. I’d be very interested to see a transcript or video of this panel discussion. Is there a link that to the discussion?

  8. Doug – Thank you for stumbling upon the post and the gentle encouragement to edit the video to post to YouTube. We had a vigorous discussion, but both co-panelists felt we had expressed “surplus candor” – and wanted their comments carefully edited. Verbatim posting, of course, is much easier… and delay became postponement became never completed. Having said that, I do want to go back and share the essence of the panel discussion: choose a neglected niche market for your ESL book, keep expectations in check, and enjoy your small following. We all felt that we learned by doing, and made “good mistakes” in our first drafts. All three authors took savvy suggestions from fellow ESL teachers and the latest versions seem far stronger than the early drafts. Bottomline: more informed eyes reading the books earlier would have been wiser.

    Compelling Conversations, for whatever reason, has sold far better than my two co-panelists’ outstanding books. I also chose a far more conservative approach to self-publishing by going with a publish on demand (POD) model that has allowed me to make more sales – and far greater profits. As a result, I’m feeling far more positive about the experience and more comfortable being open about the self-publishing experiment. For me, the greatest surprise came from realizing the huge number of untrained English teachers working abroad and the significant number of very weak non-native English speakers teaching English (grammar only!) to English language learners around the world. The communicative approach seems more popular (and possible) in California than many other places. As a result, my communicative “talk, talk, talk” textbook revealed itself to be far more American than I had previously known. This reality hit me when I was hired as a ELT consultant for a Vietnamese high school (and later director of a new adult program), and had to completely revise Compelling Conversations for a new educational environment.

    Thank you for your question.
    Thank you, again, and

  9. I wonder what impact Apple’s release of iBooks Author will have on the trend to self-publishing in the EST field.

  10. Grover – That’s an excellent question! We have recently added both Compelling American Conversations and Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners on ibook. Let’s see what happens; it certainly makes it easier for people in many countries to access books like your “Truth or Dare” conversation games or the Compelling Conversations series. On the other hand, Amazon still dominates the ebook platforms. Time will tell.

    Finally, let me congratulate you on a fine site and the ELTON award for innovative ESL/EFL products.


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