Celebrating Success – Student Authors Host Book Release Party

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Celebratory Cookies Made This Book Release Party Extra Special

Celebratory Cookies Made This Book Release Party Extra Special

On Sunday, May 17, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio celebrated their success at completing a one-year project to write and self-publish a book on their science research experience. They hosted an event at the town library where they invited family and friends, discussed their books, and signed them for people. I attended and joined in congratulating them. For me, as their teacher and mentor through this project, today was a validation that it can work. Jennifer and John are my first two student authors, and they have helped me see what works and what does not in helping students write and self-publish.

Student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, sign copies of their books

Student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, sign copies of their books

My book, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self-Published Author, is also just released and available in paperback and ebook. If you would like to duplicate this project with a group of students, this is a great time to start, as it gives the students the summer to do their writing of the first draft. Contact me if you have questions.

My next post will have more about my students’ experiences publishing their books.

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 June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

A Review of Self-Publishing a Book Using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

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Creating Student Authors ebook cover

Ebook Cover Made Using KDP Cover Creator

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-June 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

As my students prepare to self-publish their books, I also am self-publishing a book, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self-Published Author. It gives my students an example to follow, and it gives other teachers the tools to mentor their students. I asked my students to produce both paperback and ebook formats, and I did the same for this book. I reviewed my experience making the paperback format last week. Having just finished the ebook conversion, here is a review of my experience using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

What is KDP? It is Amazon’s publishing firm for ebook, specifically in Kindle format. You pay nothing. You submit a file of your book using Microsoft Word or PDF (portable document format), and KDP makes it into a Kindle file. You also upload a cover, or make one using their free “Cover Creator” service. You choose pricing and distribution channels, and they show you what your royalties will be in each one. When you finally submit your book to be published, it will appear only in online retail channels, such as amazon.com. Even though it is in Kindle format, it can be read on any smartphone, tablet, or computer that downloads and uses the free Kindle app. This last point is important to publicize, as many people may not have a Kindle device, but they can still read your ebook.

I made the paperback version of my book first, then converted that file to ebook format. For the paperback, I made a “Book Template for Students” that has all the pagination and blocking for a 6×9 inch book, the standard size offered by CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand paperback publishing firm. I wrote my book using this template, then converted it to PDF and uploaded it to CreateSpace for publishing. I used the original Word file from this paperback as the starting point for the ebook. I downloaded KDP’s free guide, Building Your Book for Kindle, available in Windows or Mac format, to convert the paperback file into the ebook file. The guide is clear, but the process of conversion is tedious, sometimes requiring you to go paragraph by paragraph to reformat things. It took me over three hours to convert a short book of about ninety pages. Plan for it to take longer for students who have never done it before.

The next step is to submit your book in KDP for their internal review prior to publishing. You need to establish a log in account with Amazon, then set up your title as a project in the kdp.amazon.com website. If you already use Amazon for shopping, you will use the same log in for KDP. Once you are into KDP, follow their step-by-step instructions. I found these straightforward, and KDP offers free help through email. You can also either upload your cover file, or make your own for free using KDP’s Cover Creator. I used this second option, and I was happy with the result. After you upload your book file, preview it on every type of reader–KDP has a virtual version of each, so check each one to be sure your book looks good in each. You can download my “Self-Publishing Checklist for Amazon” that goes through this entire process.

If you want to have a complete set of directions to mentor your students, then look for my book, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Anyone to Be a Published Author. It is available in paperback on createspace.com and in ebook on amazon.com, plus other distribution channels within the next few weeks. Profits will benefit Ridgefield Public Schools and Newington Public Schools in Connecticut.

My next post will be about my students’ experiences publishing their books.

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-June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Learning to Take Criticism, Both Good and Bad, from Beta Readers

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Beta readersIn 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.

The student authors I am working with are starting to get beta reader feedback. These beta readers are English teachers, science professionals, and people in the author’s target audience. They all received a draft copy of the author’s book to read and were asked to provide feedback on the content. We used a Beta Reader Checklist for Authors to coordinate this process.

As expected, about half the beta readers have not responded yet, after about a month of having our books. This is normal. People are busy, and it’s the holiday season, so we have to expect to follow up and remind people what we requested of them. We also have to realize that some beta readers will not follow through for various reasons. They may be too busy, they may not like the book, or they may decide they don’t want to give feedback. Whatever the reason, about a one third return rate is probably normal—in other words, expect one out of three people you ask to beta read your book to actually provide a useful response. We expected this return rate, so we asked about three times as many people as we needed.

The responses so far are all across the spectrum. Some are detailed critiques of each part of the book, while others are just broad critiques of the book as a whole. Both types of critiques are useful. The important thing for the author is to accept all critiques graciously. Thank the beta reader now, and later on send them a free copy of the final book. Realize that an author is not obligated to use anything a beta reader says, but should approach each critique objectively. Some critiques may require further substantiation. For example, if the beta reader says some part of the book is not clear or requires more development, try to ask other people what they think. Don’t overreact to one critique and completely change the book. In the end, the beta readers provide a helpful second opinion that should be taken into account with all other critiques and editing comments.

My next post will be after the holidays and discuss the preparation for publication release.

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 Promote and Market Your Book – Learn from Success and Failure

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Tip#9In 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.

It’s natural for a new author to be wrapped up in just writing the book and not to worry about marketing until after publication, but that is a big mistake. Promoting and marketing a book require a strategy the author must devise from the start, months before publication and release. I have already given a tip about blogging to promote a book while writing it. Blogs are a free way any author can promote his or her book, and blogging can help improve the writing process.

Blogging is just one part of a marketing strategy. One helpful source of information for other things an author can do is Book Marketing Tools at http://bookmarketingtools.com. This is a company that sells some online author services, but also provides many free resources and video podcast interviews of various writing and publishing experts. Their free Ultimate Author Marketing Checklist is a great overview of what an author should do from well before publication release, through release, and after. I have used it with my students. I have also used some of the interviews I have seen on their video podcasts.

Another valuable experience for new authors, especially students, is to attend a writers conference. Look online for a conference near you, then try to attend. If you are a teacher, contact the conference organizer and explain how you are mentoring student authors—people love to help, and they may let your students meet some writing and publishing professionals that otherwise might be inaccessible. The contacts made at a writers conference can also be helpful as you market your book. Other authors can help get the word out, and the speakers and faculty at the conference often travel to many other conferences, so they can spread the word about your book or project with students.

As an author, plan on both successes and failures as you market your book. Your marketing should be geared to your target audience. Talk about your book in the forums where they are, not where you are most comfortable. Some things you try may not yield any results, or may even be complete flops. Other things may be surprisingly successful. Learn from both. For more information, click to download my Marketing Checklist for Authors and use it to promote and market your book.

Next week, my post will have a tip on how to make a project like this into a valuable learning experience for students.

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.

For the Final Editing of a Draft Book, Hire a Professional

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Tip#7In 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.

For the self-published author, one of the biggest challenges is not to look self-published. A big giveaway that you wrote and published your own book is an unprofessional format and appearance. Books, especially in print form, have their own particular look, and it is almost impossible for an amateur, self-publishing author to get this look right on his or her own. The best way to ensure your book looks like a book is to hire a professional editor for the final editing phase.

In their book, APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur): How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch explain some final editing options that are available. There are two basic types of book editors: content editors go through and evaluate the book’s content, especially as it appeals to the target audience, while copy editors go through the formatting and ensure it matches with the Chicago Manual of Style, the “bible” for publishing. As Kawasaki and Welch also point out, if you enlist beta readers to get feedback on your draft, you may not need a content editor, but regardless of how diligent you have been in editing and revising, you will want a copy editor to go through your manuscript. There are too many formatting nuances for the amateur author to catch all the mistakes—and there will be mistakes—probably hundreds of them that the copy editor will find.

You can find copy editors for hire in many places. As traditional publishers have downsized, many copy editors now freelance or have their own companies. Many self-publishing and hybrid publishing firms offer author services, including copy editing. I used CreateSpace’s copy editing service on my first book, and I was happy with the result. There are many options, so look into them and determine what is best for your students. If money is an issue, consider having your students do a fundraiser to pay for the copy editing. Fees vary, but plan on approximately $500 for the professional copy editing of a 100-page book. Some editors charge by the word, others by the hour, so compare several estimates. The money will be well spent, and it is the only expense that the self-publishing author should not avoid.

Next week, my post will have a tip on how to self-publish and release 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.

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.

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.