Exemplary Student Author – Alexandra DiGiacomo

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A Familiar Fin, the children's book by Alexandra DiGiacomo promoting shark conservation

A Familiar Fin, the children’s book by Alexandra DiGiacomo promoting shark conservation

When I started a project last school year to mentor students how to write and self-publish their own books about science, I had no idea how the project would turn out. The goal was 500 or more book sales for each author, but that was to motivate them to achieve more than just vanity publishing sales. Now, just over one year later, I am especially impressed by one of these student authors, Alexandra DiGiacomo.  She not only published an outstanding children’s book about sharks, A Familiar Fin, but she also continues to market her book in the midst of her senior year in high school when most students are overwhelmed by all the activities. However, she is doing more than just book marketing, this young author is also successfully educating other youth about the importance of shark conservation. Check out her latest blog post, “What Sharks Can Do For You.”

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Reflection on Project Mentoring Student Authors

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I am wrapping up the project I started a year ago when I approached a small group of science students and asked them if they would like to learn to write a book. Each of them was doing a special research project, so they had ample material to write about. I had just finished my own first book, and I explained to them that I could show them the steps to write and self publish their own books. I ended up with three dedicated students, all of whom have now published their own books. Each is unique, and all are interesting:

Schwartz coverJen Schwartz published On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement, and Holding on to Hope (Click title to buy this book)

Diorio coverJohn Diorio published Broadening the High School Experience:A Student’s Perspective on Independent Exploration (Click title to buy this book)

A Familiar Fin coverAlexandra DiGiacomo published A Familiar Fin (Click title to buy this book)

 

 

This was a pilot project for me, so I am assessing how it went and how to improve it when I do it again. What worked well were the overall plan I used, and getting the student authors to work together. Some things to improve:

  1. The students liked collaborating and sharing their work with one another, but the time was difficult to find to do this often–next time, I will plan more time for mutual editing and reviewing.
  2. The review process, especially around the final copy editing, broke down somewhat, and I had little idea how the students were doing. We needed a day, probably a weekend, when we could have all worked in a room and gone over formatting for publication.
  3. Book marketing, crucial to the success of any author, but especially self published authors, has tapered off with the end of the project. Successful authors will market their books before and especially after publication. Because we ended the project at the end of the school year, we could not easily work together to push marketing after publication. More planning and an agreement on what to do ahead of time would have helped.

Therefore, while the project was successful overall, I have many things I plan to do better next time. I documented our experience and made a step-by-step how to guide for teachers and mentors, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self Published Author (click to purchase in paperback or ebook). I would love to hear from other teachers and mentors about your thoughts.

Approaching Publication – Final Guidance for Student Authors

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Final Steps to Getting Published (Bryan Holmes)

Final Steps to Getting Published (Bryan Holmes)

In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April/May 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

I have had meetings with my students over the past week, and they are almost ready to publish their books. They are getting back their marked up manuscripts from copy editors, they are coordinating the publication release event, and they are gearing up their marketing efforts. The challenge for me is to help them without being overbearing so that they get published in a timely manner.

Finishing up editing is the first of the final steps to publication. Using the Chicago Manual of Style, the copy editor will have marked up the draft manuscript. Now my students must go over each recommended edit and either accept or reject it. Formatting or grammatical edits should almost always be accepted. If the copy editor strays into content editing, the author may want to reject the recommendation. Whatever the case, the corrected draft manuscript, with copy edits incorporated, must be read through for coherence one more time. This can be tedious, but it’s an essential step to ensure the book reads clearly. Finally, the book must be formatted for upload into Amazon’s CreateSpace (paperback format) and Kindle Direct Publishing (ebook format). See my Self-Publishing Checklist for Amazon for this process.

Picking the publication release date and venue is the next important step to finalize publishing. As a self published author, you are in charge of when your book comes out–so don’t surprise yourself and publish it before you are ready. Schedule a venue, invite the people you want to be there, and market the event as something special. Two of my students, John Diorio and Jen Schwartz, are working with the Ridgefield Library and tentatively have set up May 9th, a Saturday, to hold their release event. Alexandra DiGiacomo is looking to release her children’s book in an elementary school, possibly by late April. All three are in the final stages of coordination, so watch here for a confirmation of details.

Finally, keep marketing and build excitement for the publication release. All three of these students are planning events where they can promote their books immediately after they come out. Each has a different target audience, so each has a different marketing plan. Setting up a book signing is typically the least effective way to promote a book, especially if you are unknown. Therefore, these students are seeking to promote in places where their target audience already is. In other words, they are bringing their books to potential customers, not hoping for customers to come to them. Use my Marketing Checklist for Authors to start your marketing plan.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April/May 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Student Authors Explain Their Book Projects at CSTA Conference

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In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

CSTA ConferenceThree of the student authors I am mentoring attended the Connecticut Science Teachers Association (CSTA) annual conference with me this past Saturday, November 22, 2014. We had an exhibition hall table and showed the teachers attending the conference all about our books. Jen Schwartz, John Diorio, and Alexandra DiGiacomo each brought flyers, business cards and materials explaining their books and the science research behind them. I also explained how teachers could duplicate this project, the subject of my book. It was a good test of our marketing skills.

From a teaching perspective, this was a crucial assessment of the project. I wanted the students to be able to coherently discuss their books with strangers and “close the deal” by ensuring every person they met walked away with a business card or flyer. Prospective authors can’t be shy. They must promote what they are doing and engage people. Otherwise, their work will remain in obscurity. My students passed the test. They were thoughtful and engaging, and I had many conference attendees come up to me later and share how impressed they were with these three student authors. The students also succeeded in giving out dozens of business cards and flyers and in getting many attendees to provide their emails for follow up correspondence. I would recommend to any teacher conducting this project to have your students attend a conference like this one—the experience the students will get is invaluable.

Next week, my post will share the feedback we are getting from beta readers.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

How to Analyze Your Blog – What’s Working and What Isn’t?

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In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

Student authors need to blog about their books – well before publication. As independent authors, they need to build their readership through their own marketing. Blogs are a free and relatively easy way to do this. My students have been blogging for a few weeks. Here is a sample of what they have been saying:

John photoJohn Diorio contrasts a required high school curriculum with one that is more open and inspiring in The Curriculum.

Sarah photoSarah Patafio discusses the creative effect of writing in The Indefinite Existence.

Jen photoJen Schwartz provides hope for cancer patients by previewing her book in A Cure for Cancer Is Not My Goal? (Book Preview).

Siqiao photoSiqiao Mu explains how she named her blog that examines the dichotomy of art and science in Why India Yellow?

Alexandra photoAlexandra DiGiacomo shows how sharks are threatened in Shark Threats Special.

 

Wordpress Stats show blog traffic and its sources

WordPress Stats show blog traffic and its sources

As a blogger, I want to know some things about my blog’s readers. How many people are reading my blog? How are they finding out about it? Of the things I am doing, what’s working, and what’s not? The answers to these questions provide data that I can analyze to see if my blogging is effective or not. The way to get this information is from an analytical tool provided by your web service or by Google Analytics. I use WordPress’ “Stats” that are on my “Dashboard” options. These stats are in bar chart format, and by clicking on the bars, I can get more details about each day’s blog readers, including how they found my blog. For example, if I shared my blog post on Twitter, I can see how many people clicked on the link in Twitter and visited my blog. This type of information helps me see how effective sharing my posts is.

Next week, my post will discuss how to coach students to provide high quality content on their blogs.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.