Friday, August 27, 2010

Publishing Pupils' Work

As we prepare to head into another school year, and, for SCC English, our fifth year of blogging, here is a post reflecting on one (or rather two) of our most pleasing achievements. We have published two books put together from writing which was originally posted on this blog - Going Places (2008) and Outside the Frame (2010). Going Places came out of a realisation that there was a lot of excellent writing from both pupils and staff that was disappearing into the depths of the site, and deserved another outing in a different medium.

Internet self-publishing, using a company such as, now means that individuals and small organisations (such as our English Department) can produce smart publications with little or no advance financial commitment. Neither of our books cost any money to set up or produce, since the model is that you pay for what you print.
You can read more about the rationale behind the books in the prefaces, which can be read online as part of Lulu’s preview facility (click above on the titles). The pieces of writing were already on the blog, so it was a matter of copying and pasting these into a special Microsoft Word template (provided by Lulu). You choose your own fonts (fond-nerds: for us, the Garamond family).

We then broke up the text by highlighting our own pupils’ artistic excellence: we provided a list of possible subjects for line drawings, and our art teachers encouraged their pupils to have a go at providing the illustrations. The best of these (from all ages) were scanned and inserted into the text at appropriate points. For Outside the Frame, we featured more of our pupils’ excellent photography, some of which had been already posted on the fine Art Department blog.

Covers: We also wanted to use our own pupils’ work for these. The quality of reproduction on the cover of both books is really excellent, first of Mikeila Cameron’s dramatic orange and blue painting for Going Places, and then the photographs by Patrick Faulkner and Jack Cherry used in Outside the Frame. Again, designing the cover is easy on Lulu.

: we’ve published two very smart books on Lulu without any direct contact with a human being. You can get help via chat or email but we never needed it. You just have to have basic knowledge of Microsoft Word and of course the web. If you’re not particularly technical, you might have to get some advice from your Best Techy Friend when it comes to uploading the final file (likely to be huge) via FTP. Otherwise the whole process is remarkably easy. It seems miraculous that you can click ‘go’ in Dublin and one week later get the books from North Carolina (the printing model also means that you can/should send for a single ‘proof’ copy before ordering in bulk).

Cost: Lulu sometimes changes its pricing model. When we published Going Places, each copy cost the same amount, and the p&p cost, rather eccentrically, meant that it was cheapest to order three books at a time. By May this year this had changed for Outside the Frame - definitely to our advantage, since there were substantial discounts for 50+copies, and the postage cost was considerably less than before. The bottom line: a fine 165-page book with superb colour covers for about €5 per copy. Try to get that in a bookshop...

: we hope this post might encourage other schools to publish their own books. Your pupils get the thrill of seeing their work in a ‘proper’ book which they will have for the rest of their lives, their families share in this thrill, and teachers can look back with pleasure over the years as (we plan...) the volumes build up on their shelves...

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