Are there any requirements for writing a textbook that is accepted by (reputable) colleges?

Today, I got the odd idea in my head that it would be fun to write a compilation of the techniques and theorems I had learned relating to discrete mathematics. As I find it fun to let my imagination run wild with these sorts of ideas, this compilation transformed into a tutorial, and from there transformed into a textbook. I quickly decided I wasn't anywhere near qualified to write a textbook.

Fun daydreams aside, that made me wonder: What are the qualifications typically found in textbook authors? Is a Ph.D. in the field a "must," or do some people write textbooks who hold Masters degrees (yet not a Ph.D.)?

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    Well, for one thing, if you don't have an advanced degree, you probably don't teach at a university, and hence don't have the opportunity to teach the kind of course for which one might consider using your book. That would make it challenging to write a good and useful book. I think when considering a textbook, most people would want one that the author has taught from at least once! Apr 25 '14 at 3:10
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    What's a "textbook"?
    – JeffE
    Apr 25 '14 at 3:35
  • Hmm. @JeffE: that's a bit hairy, but let's just say a textbook is any book that could be listed as "required" for a college-level course. (I'm thinking mainly in the STEM fields; writing classes probably would need a different definition)
    – apnorton
    Apr 25 '14 at 3:38
  • Different credentials would be relevant for different types of books. For example, I would expect a graduate textbook on low-energy nuclear structure to be written by someone who had years' worth of research experience in the field; naturally this person would have a PhD. For a Spanish 101 book it might be great to have an author who was a native speaker, had an MA in Spanish, and had lots of experience teaching Spanish at the high school or community college level. If it's a book for a course on oil painting or violin technique, then the relevant qualifications might not be academic at all.
    – user1482
    Apr 25 '14 at 15:53
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    Why do you need it listed as a required book? I would understand your question, if you ask from a publishing perspective (would any respectable publisher talk to you?). Many non-mathermaticans use math books (engineers, programmers, physicists, chemists etc) and those MUST be very different ones. If you write something useful, someone may use it. Why cannot you just write a tutorial, and when thousands of people call you at night that they want it in print, think about this question?
    – Greg
    May 24 '15 at 15:08

What are the qualifications typically found in textbook authors? Is a Ph.D. in the field a "must," or do some people write textbooks who hold Masters degrees (yet not a Ph.D.)?

There are no rules for this in terms of minimal qualification. Why would there be? Readers want good books. Publishers want to sell books. Who cares if the author has a PhD or not?

In fact, trying to get deeper, it's often difficult to define precisely even what is meant by a "textbook" in the intuitive sense you probably mean.

For example, would books in the O'Reilly Media series be considered textbooks? Would instructional e-books? Etc.

As such the answer depends widely on the publisher or the book series (if any) you wish to contribute to.

For book series, there is typically an editor in charge who will make a judgement call on whether or not you are qualified and whether or not you can contribute something good to the series.

If dealing directly with a traditional academic publisher (I'm thinking of the likes of Springer), you (and your book proposal) will again be evaluated by their editorial staff before they agree to a contract. Likewise, they will only publish the book pending review by a number of experts that you propose.

But again, it varies widely.

In summary: I think if you have enough genuine material for a textbook -- material that people want to read -- you could find a reasonable publisher even without a Masters/PhD.

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    And publishing a popular-level text, while it doesn't win you academic points, is likely to pay better ...
    – keshlam
    May 24 '15 at 20:38

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