Self-Publishing Student Poetry

This year, as we ended our unit on poetry, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different with my students’ poems. In the past, I have collected voluntary submissions of some poems, gathered them into a Microsoft Publisher document to make it look pretty, hit the photocopy machine and cranked out a bunch of stapled booklets. It worked just fine for what it was.

But I want my students to see themselves as published writers as much as possible. So, this year, I decided to be bold and use Lulu, the self-publishing site, to create a real book of student poems. I had tinkered in the year with using Lulu for some of my own work, and I was inspired once again when I saw that the collaborative @manyvoices project that had students using Twitter to write a story across the world published a final version through Lulu (I bought myself a copy). My students were excited about it, too.

And, so, after all of us doing proofreading and choosing some basic designs from Lulu, our book of poetry, entitled Exploration, is now for sale via Lulu. The cost is about $5 per book, which isn’t too bad, but shipping costs another $5. If I had another month in the school year, I would just use order forms for parents and buy a bunch in bulk. But time is running out (two weeks left) and so I have been directing students and families to the Lulu site, in hopes they will order a copy. (I have also set it up so the download of a PDF version is free, although one student asked why you would want that when you can have a book that you can hold in your hands — nice insight in the digital age).

buy this book on Lulu.

This is what the cover of the book looks like:

This file has been created and published by FireShot

I think I will do more with publishing next year, knowing how easy it really is with web-based platforms. My hope had also been to do a fundraiser in which we publish short stories and sell the book collection for a little bit more, and use the proceeds to benefit an organization in Darfur, which my students learned about and became advocates for earlier this year. But, again, time ran out on us.

Peace (in publishing),

  1. Yes — last year, I tried to get our SI to consider Lulu to self publish (got the idea from Tonya, out in Kansas Writing Project) but they felt as if they had too much on their plate. I think it makes perfect sense and is a great way to remember the writing of the summer in a bound memory.


  2. Kevin:
    I’ve never used Lulu, but I plan on it. From what you wrote, it looks like there is a time limit on the storage of the book by the company. Is there a cost involved to set up a book? Is there a time limit for how long it stays online and available for printable and downloadable books?

  3. I don’t think there is a time limit at all. I think it stays online as long as you want it to. There are no upfront costs at all, which is nice, and the process is relatively straightforward, I think.


  4. What? .. insight in the digital age? With color laser printers under $150, and stacked up in School admin offices like cordwood to boot, free PDF download is the ideal vehicle. How about bookbinding 101 in the digital age?

  5. Kevin, I’m sure your students were thrilled! It is great to see teachers taking publishing to new heights. I hope I am not overstepping etiquette, but I thought you’d be interested in knowing my [educator/author] wife and I started to bring the power in book publishing to schools and nonprofits after experimenting with a book for her elementary school four years ago. What I find so fascinating about book publishing is the structure and accessible depth it provides for: covering mutlitple disciplines and skills, creating various real-life experiences, social and emotional growth, engaging students and staff, families and communities, sharing individual and collective voice, enhancing school culture, integrating curriculum with excitement, advancing IEPs, teacher and school objectives, and doing it all, and more, in one project. I believe when designed properly, the process and product allow teachers to do what is best while meeting standards, etc.

    We use the same book printing technology as Lulu, and we’re adding ISBN and bookstore availability, professional formatting and design; those things they charge for, except we take the risk booksales will cover it. Our books are normally written by more than one class of students, although we make exceptions and now work with select individual authors and smaller groups at the secondary and university level.

    Best of luck with your publishing adventures!

  6. Thanks for all the tips. I appreciate it.
    I will check out both penandpublish and Peekaboo.

    At our school, we do not have printers lined up against the wall and no color ones, either.


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