Exemplary Student Author – Alexandra DiGiacomo

Standard
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.”

Advertisements

The Final Push: Helping Student Authors Prepare to Release Books for Publication

Standard
Student Authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, plan book release on May 17th

Student Authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, plan book release on May 17th

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.

I have coordinated with my students to get their books ready for release, so we are in the last stages of preparing them for publication. Simultaneously, we have to market them for release. As self-published authors, we have nobody but ourselves to market our books. My students have blogs and have been posting about their work and their books for the past nine months, so they have done well in building up interest in their books. Now they need to alert their blog followers, their contacts, their family and friends, and their community that their books are about to be available for purchase. Obnoxious sales pitches are not appropriate. Instead, just letting people know the books are available will suffice.

Two of the student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, are planning a joint book release party at our town library on the day the books will be available on Amazon.com:

On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement and Holding on to Hope

by Jennifer Lee Schwartz

Broadening the High School Experience: A Student’s Perspective on Independent Exploration

by John Diorio

Official release party May 17th from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Ridgefield Library

Contact Jennifer Lee Schwartz if you would like to attend.

Jennifer’s memoir about her journey through the Ridgefield High School Science Research Program is filled with emotional anecdotes and new perspectives on innovative cancer research. Jennifer chronicles her struggles and successes, both in the program and in her life, to create a powerful and touching story. John’s book explores the concept of a more open and personalized education system. Creating classes that are centered around independent study projects, will promote exploration and allow students to put their knowledge to use.

The other student author, Alexandra DiGiacomo, will be releasing her children’s book about sharks in June and is working out the details.

My original deadline to these students was to release their books in April. I think April is ideal, as students can do work over spring break and release their books before the final wave of academic tests that hit in May. Nevertheless, these students needed some extra time, and they are releasing their books before the end of the school year. All in all, they have done an outstanding job in completing this project. If you are interested in duplicating this project as a teacher or mentor with your own student authors, I am releasing my book, an easy to follow step-by-step guide to the entire self-publishing process, on April 27, 2015 on Amazon.com:

Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Anyone to Be a Published Author

by Bryan Holmes

Profits will benefit Ridgefield Public Schools and Newington Public Schools in Connecticut.

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

Helping Student Authors Get Published – Copy Editing Options

Standard
Image courtesy of www.proofreading.ca

Image courtesy of http://www.proofreading.ca

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.

My students are nearing the end of a nine month process to produce their books. They have gotten excellent feedback from beta readers, and they are using those inputs to produce their final drafts. Now they need to make their books professional looking by getting them properly copy edited. We discussed using a commercial copy editing service, but for different reasons, the students did not want to go that route. What other options are there?

One option is not bother with copy editing. Many self published authors go this route, as they believe they can do the final editing themselves. This is a bad option. As any writer knows, the more you look at your own draft, the harder it is to see any mistakes. Even if your attention to detail is excellent, it is unlikely you will catch all of the errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, let alone other errors in formatting, as required by the Chicago Manual of Style, the copy editing bible.

Another option that my students are pursuing is to get another writer’s help to do the copy editing. We had attended a local writers’ conference in the fall, and my students met several writers–some professional, and some in college pursuing a writing major. My students followed up with these writers, and some have helped with beta reviews, and some with copy editing. These writers are highly qualified to do this work, and I expect their copy edits to be professional quality.

Our last step to get ready for publication will be to hold a session to do a final review, then format our books for publication on Amazon. Even with good copy editing, there will be formatting that needs to be done to make a paperback, then to make an ebook. You can use my Self Publishing Checklist for Amazon as a resource to do these last formatting changes.

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 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.

Clearly Tell a Story in Your Book — and Don’t Muddle It during Editing

Standard

StoryIn 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.

My students are getting beta reader feedback on their books. Some beta readers have given detailed comments, while others have given broad, overall critiques. It can be tempting to overreact to these comments and make major changes to the book. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember the story you intend to tell in the book and to preserve, and possibly improve, the story as you edit the book.

One of my students’ beta readers gave excellent advice—choose the story you are telling and make the book consistently tell that story. When he reviewed her book, he saw a few different stories contending with one another. He recommended that she pick one of those stories, then focus on it throughout the book. As he told her, every book tells a story, even a non-fiction book. The more clear and compelling the story, the more readers are hooked. But muddling or mixing several stories in a book confuses readers.

I recently read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. Pixar has been a groundbreaking company that produced the first 3D computer animated movie, Toy Story, and went on to produce a succession of other hugely successful movies—in fact, they have never had a flop in their twenty years of movie making. Catmull explains his management philosophy that led to his company’s success. His first principle is that “Story is King.” By this, he explains, the company ensures that the storyline of a movie is strong and not compromised by the technology, marketing, or any other consideration. By focusing on the story first and foremost, they have succeeded in making a string of hit movies. I think an author has to have a similar focus.

This may seem obvious, but in today’s book publishing environment, it would be easy to get distracted by various considerations to make a hit book, while losing focus on the story. In fact, I just heard about a new author who is holding a contest that encourages readers to comment on her book on social media and promises to use the most prolific commenter as a character in her next book. This may work out well, but it could also lead to a compromise in the story to incorporate this new character. Therefore, as my students and I go through the final stages of beta reader feedback and edits, then copy editing, we will stay focused on the story being told in each book.

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

Subscribe to this blog athttps://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.

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

Standard

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.

Student Authors Need to Market Their Books Before Publication–Both Online and In Person

Standard

Publishing goalIn 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.

My students are waiting on beta reader feedback right now—they aren’t writing or working on their books, so this is the perfect time to do some preliminary marketing. Click on Marketing Checklist for Authors to get a full list of things you can do. I have already shared about how my students are blogging. Another way to market a book is the more traditional route of using in person events. Student authors may naturally gravitate to blogging and using social media, but they should also learn to do a well-planned live event.

Live events that are feasible and appropriate for students include in-school promotions or presentations of their book projects, presentations to other schools in the district, book promotions at a local bookstore, or book presentations at local conferences. I have taken all of my students to a local writers conference, and I took three of them to the Connecticut Science Teachers Association annual conference. At both events, my students dressed up and had flyers and business cards to hand out as they pitched their books. This type of experience is valuable and applicable to many career fields.

Our next planned live event is a joint promotion with our high school’s literary journal club in the cafeteria during lunch. The goal is to generate interest and curiosity in other students. It is free and relatively easy to set up this type of promotion. The most important thing is for students to be prepared. Working jointly with the literary journal club also gives my students a chance to share their writing experiences with other student writers. Please share your thoughts about any similar projects you have done by commenting on this post.

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

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.

Student Authors Explain Their Book Projects at CSTA Conference

Standard

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.