Mentoring Science Students to Draft a Book – Give Them a Template

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Tip#4In 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.

How should a physics and engineering teacher like me instruct students in how to write a book? I gave the reasons why I am doing this project in a previous post. I have been learning about the self-publishing process over the past year, as I published my first book and marketed it. This did not make me an expert, but it gave me a new perspective that I could share with students. Besides this experience, we are networking with writers in our community to give the students other perspectives on writing and publishing.

But back to the main question – how should a science teacher like me teach students this process of writing and publishing? I decided to give the students wide latitude on creativity, while giving them more detailed guidance on deadlines and expected outcomes. To start them off, I had two meetings with them before the summer break where we discussed ideas for books and the importance of writing to a target audience. For the summer, I gave them the assignment to write a first draft of the book, due mid-August. We are starting to review these drafts now. To help them save time and concentrate on the creative aspect of writing, I gave the students a book template that was formatted as a paperback book, ready for publishing. All they had to do was type over the text. Since the whole point of this project was to learn to communicate effectively about science through a book, learning the intricacies of formatting a book, as required in the Chicago Manual of Style, was not high on my list of learning objectives. Providing the students a template saved them valuable time to do what was most important.

Throughout this project, I will show other ways that you can mentor students in the creative process of producing a book, while giving them supports that keep the project from being too daunting and time consuming. If you would like to see or use the template, click Book Template for Students to download it. It was based on the template provided at the “Tools and Resources” link on the website for APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur): How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. I had used this book as my primary guide in writing and publishing my first book, and I recommend it.

Next week, my post will have a tip on organizing students into a writing critique group.

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.

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Start Attracting Readers to Your Book BEFORE Publishing It

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Tip#3In 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.

“Who are you? Why should I read your book?” That is what any potential reader is going to ask a new author. With hundreds of thousands of new titles coming out each year, over half of which are self-published, the new author’s book can be lost in the sea of books flooding the market. If you self-publish, the challenge is even greater, as you have to establish credibility, along with marketing your book, all of which you do on your own. This is similar to the challenge faced by any new small business–establishing a customer base out of thin air.

To meet the challenge, a new author needs to start reaching out and attracting readers well before publication–months before the book’s release. Author and consultant Tim Grahl’s Your First 1000 Copies is a great resource that lays out a clear plan to do this. What we are doing in our science author group is to start blogging and reaching out to groups in our target audience beginning this fall, as we go through the editing and revising of our books. Our planned book release date is in April 2015, so if we start reaching out to potential readers in September 2014, that’s eight months before publication. The goal I set for each author is to sell 500 copies of his or her book by July 2015. The only way this is achievable is if we have hundreds, if not thousands, of people following our blog by the publication date–these people will know us, will be interested in what we are doing, and will be the most likely people to buy our books. We appreciate their support and plan to give them a high quality book in return.

Next week, my post will have a tip on how to draft a book.

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.

First Step for Science Authors: Write a Book Proposal

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Tip#2In 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. 

TIP #2: Have students draft a book proposal as a first step in writing a book. Traditional publishers have always required a book proposal from a prospective author. It is like a business plan for the book, giving the summary of the book’s contents, the target audience, and a marketing plan to reach the audience. Each publisher has a different format for the book proposal, but they all have these essential elements. Even though we are self-publishing our books, by doing a book proposal first, we start out with the same disciplined approach to writing a book that a traditional publisher would give us. (Note: I got this idea from author/publicist, Carole Jelen, in an interview on http://bookmarketingtools.com called “How To Build Your Author Platform.”)

Here is the abbreviated book proposal we used:

  • A statement of what the book’s main focus or purpose is.
  • A general outline of the book.
  • Identification of sources for the book and where to find them.
  • Identification of the target audience.
  • A plan to reach the target audience.

What a book proposal does is get the students to consider their audience from the start. Unlike a term paper or other academic paper that is meant primarily for the teacher to read, a published book seeks to appeal to many readers. By identifying the target audience, students can put themselves in the place of the audience as they write. Students had difficulty with this first step, so I had to give follow-on guidance. One tip I shared from a writers conference I attended was to cut out a magazine picture or print out some other photo of a person representing the target audience and paste it on your computer monitor as a constant reminder to whom you are writing. There are many sources out there with good advice – I list some on the Resources page of my website.

Next week, my post will have a tip on scheduling out the project to build readership before publishing. 

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.

 

Recruiting Science Students to Become Published Authors

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digital-self-publishingWhat was I thinking? Summer vacation was only a few weeks away, and I had decided to dedicate much of my summer to mentoring a group of science students to write their own books. Why? Well, I had just self published my own book that I had co-authored with a former student. The experience was rejuvenating for me. Not only did I rediscover my love of writing, but I also discovered a whole new world in today’s self publishing arena. The book we wrote, however, was an essay on spirituality, so we had to work on it outside of school. We wrote the first draft and did our own first edits over last summer, then we got friends to beta edit and review over the fall, then we hired a copy editor to get a finished book by January, and published it this spring. We also did our own marketing, though I realize now that we started late. We made many mistakes, but we learned the entire self publishing process with many of its facets.

Now what could I do with this newfound knowledge and interest in writing and publishing, given that I teach Physics and Engineering in a public high school? I have always required my students to write short essays about science, as I have believed that the ability to clearly communicate scientific concepts helps students learn those concepts while honing their communication skills. Mentoring students to write their own books about science would take this idea to a new level. Yet, it is right in line with the Next Generation Science Standards which seek to link science with literacy.

Then, one day in late May, it hit me as I talked to a couple outstanding science students – they were doing incredible science research projects this summer. I realized I knew other students doing similar projects. I find that mentoring students in special projects is one of the highlights of being a teacher – I have mentored many different groups as shown in the photo. Therefore, I chose three high school students that I knew and asked if they would be interested in publishing a book by next spring about their science research experience. Their response was enthusiastically positive! In fact, by the next week, they had recruited three more students. I set up two after school meetings to go over my idea with them and to see if they were all truly committed.

My first step was to have a short meeting after school to explain to all of them what I had in mind and what I believed the project would require of them – I asked them to think everything over and commit to the project by the next meeting. I also asked them to give me their parents’ contact information, so their parents could understand what I was doing. I called all the parents over the next few days, and they were universally positive and thankful for the opportunity. At the second meeting, I laid out a tentative schedule of events from initial drafting of a book through marketing and selling. I also had asked the students to produce a draft book proposal with an outline of their ideas and their target audience. The students were excited and eager to get started, and they all had great proposals. Finally, I provided them some resources to get started. Now I have six outstanding rising junior high school students who have dedicated themselves to writing and publishing a book by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year in June 2015 – an ambitious objective, but motivational! 

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com and get email updates on the first and third Mondays of each month as I continue to describe this project and our journey to publish our books. Also, please share it with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.