Few moments in a writer’s life match the thrill of ripping open the top of that first box of books, and actually holding a copy of the real thing, or, more recently, seeing the front cover of your book in the Kindle bookshop.
Now high school students across the country are getting that same rush by completing not just writing assignments but—in some cases—seeing the results of those assignments bound and between covers, and posted online in e-book format as well.
This comes from the revolution in print on demand (POD) and in eBook publishing. These are book technologies many teachers have used for years for their own writing but now are introducing to their student writers as well.
The concept isn’t totally new. Education writer Jim Moulton recalled, “When I was a classroom teacher, my kids published a lot of books. We carefully finished our pages and then used the plastic spiral binder in the teachers' room to bind the pages into book form. We would put them on display in the classroom or in the library. Publishing was important. It gave me the opportunity to take the moral high ground and ask the kids to do their very best because their writing was headed for publication. We all know that real audiences make a difference. And you've probably seen this when a classroom assignment goes from being something that only the teacher will see to something peers and the whole school will see. Effort and results go up.”
Those books still were entirely local and hand-made, of course, and didn’t have the worldwide currency that published books today can have. But since the arrival of print on demand providers like CreateSpace, Lightning Source and Lulu, teachers have a very low-cost way to bring students together with the real world of publishing.
Their movement isn’t especially organized, but it’s springing up across the country.
A March 6 report in U.S. News & World Report pointed to a class poetry anthology (to match with April as National Poetry Month) published in a class taught by Tonya McQuade, who said the students “worked in teams on event planning, marketing and layout and design, among other tasks. Two other English classes contributed poems to the anthology as well, but did not participate in the production process.”
And, she said, "It made them more excited about poetry than they might have normally been."
Ebooks have been the publishing mainstay at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Missouri, where English teacher Rob Durham has guided his class through the production of a whole line of books. (The covers and links to the fall semester 2014 books are online.)
He told us, “It’s been very successful. I’m only in my 2nd semester of creative writing, but other than a few seniors who mentally checked out, it’s been great. I have a lot of students who now want to take my class and I’m running a workshop for my district this summer to show other teachers how to do it. I’m hoping to build my own workshop and show other schools for a fee.
“We’re only doing e-publishing because the formatting and cost is better, so Kindle Direct Publishing is what I’m showing them. It’s still a little messy because students are often way ahead or behind, but overall it’s a successful project I’ll continue next year. “
At Lemont High School in Lemont, Illinois, instructors have posted on Facebook a thread on self-publishing, assisted by self-publishing author Miranda Innaimo, who in April 2014 offered a self-publishing “demonstration” for the class.
The page is headed with the note, “This demonstration will enable you to self-publish and become an independent author. You will be lead down the rabbit hole of the self-publishing industry, arriving into the fanciful world of composing, producing, promoting, and marketing. This lesson is intended for the students of creative writing at Lemont High School, but may be used by anyone at any stage of their writing career.”
If these classes, and the many others from coast to coast, are any indication, the next generation of self-publishers could become even more active than today's.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books.