Book publishing workshops for your library

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Last year, Parkes Shire ran a series of one-day publishing workshops for local teens. Our local libraries, high school, and TAFE joined forces to offer teens a game-based look at the business of selling books. This write-up lets you see what we did and run your own version.

Why publishing workshops?

Publishing is changing fast in the 21st century and people aren’t always clued in on how writers get their words out to readers. We wanted local teens to think about the business side of publication. What are the challenges of acquiring books for sale? How do publishers market their choices to the public in an age of social media? We wanted our event to be locally devised but relevant to the global publishing industry.

What did we do?

In the event, high school students aged 11-15 formed “publishing companies” which competed to buy and market a range of books. Special guests joined us via prerecorded video. Heather McCormack, Collection Development Manager for 3M’s Cloud Library, sent a recording from the Guadalajara Book Fair. Digital marketer Anne Treasure also shared her thoughts on 21st century publishing from Canberra.

Teachers accompanied the high schoolers during the event. We chose to treat them as fellow participants in the activity rather than team leaders or authority figures. It was good for adults and teens to collaborate on the games. We’re always looking for opportunities to make these activities less like a traditional lesson.

Run your own workshop

The plans and digital materials for the one-day event appear below, so you can run your own book publishing day.

Ice breaker

Adventure Time Characters! Image from land-of-ooo-roleplay.tumblr.com
Adventure Time Characters! Image from land-of-ooo-roleplay.tumblr.com

Chat with the group about favourite characters from books, movies, and TV. (We showed some examples on Powerpoint).Who do we like? Why do we like them?

Students write the name of a popular character on a Post-It and stick it on the forehead of someone else in the room. Students have five minutes to guess the name of their mystery character by asking Yes/No questions. (Each student can only ask one question of the person they are with before moving on to talk to someone else).

Preparing to tell stories with words and pictures

Watch book trailers from the Inside a Dog website.

As a group, discuss your responses to the trailers: which ones we like or don’t, which ones work or don’t.

Split into teams and play Panel Lottery. This is a simple cartooning game by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.

Teams have to draw pictures, put them in an order to tell the story, and then present the images to the whole group with a verbal recount.

Panel Lottery in action! An example from Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, creators of the game
Panel Lottery in action! An example from Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, creators of the game

Pricing books

Put a large pile of your library’s books in the middle of the room. Students sit around them in a circle.

Students each take a book and put a Post-It inside.

Students then have ninety seconds to skim the book and jot down a few thoughts before passing the book to their left.

The next student has two minutes to skim the book and Post-It before adding their own comments. Then they pass the book on once more.

The third student now has three minutes to read the book and Post-Its. When their time is up, they have to decide if this is a good book for its intended audience/age range. Students put the book into one of three piles – “Appealing”, “Not Appealing”, or “Indifferent”.

Put a price sign on each of these piles:

  • “Appealing” becomes $1000
  • “Not Appealing” becomes $250
  • “Indifferent” becomes $500

The students have now priced the books for the book fair!

Forming a publishing company

Split the group into competing teams – we had four. Tell the teens they are going to form publishing companies and visit to a book fair.

Show this video by Heather McCormack and then discuss what a book fair is.

Remind students: “You can choose your books by genre, or by age range; or you could choose to have a selection for a wider audience. But whatever books you buy, you’re going to have to market them…so choose wisely.”

Teams have fifteen minutes to create a plan for their publishing company. They then present the plan to the whole group. (This focusses them on their goals… It also means other teams know what they’re looking for, and can gazump them at the book fair!)

Give each team $2000 (we used Monopoly money) and five minutes to brief their bidders.

The bidders then had to:

  • Run up to the “book fair”
  • Buy at least three books, but only one at a time
  • Run back to their team

until every team had bought everything they wanted and could afford.

LUNCH!

Show this video by Anne Treasure and then dicuss what a book marketer does.

Publishing companies have the afternoon to create promotions for their books. These could include: book trailers, posters and flyers, or plans for events and promotions. Students will present their marketing plan at the end of the day.

Provide the teams with as many craft and digital resources as possible. We offered video cameras, digital resources, plus lots of cutting and sticking materials!

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Part-way through the afternoon, teams take a break and look at each other’s work. Then they return to their own work and complete it.

At the end of the day, teams present their work to the whole group.

 

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