New Collections, Projects and Ideas for Publishing Mentorships

As a teacher of writing at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I’m both concerned with how students learn to express themselves and how they position themselves for lives and careers after graduation. Of late, I’ve been trying to develop coursework and experiences for students that prepare them for careers in publishing. This includes learning about BookTok, developing materials to explain the difference between an editor and an agent, and more.

It also means, though, creating old-fashioned writing and editing exercises. So I’ve been working on a number of projects to teach myself about editing, publishing, and book design — and slowly integrating those experiences into the student experience at UMD.

One of those experiences has been writing for, designing, and editing the Tales of Travel collection.

The book was designed on Pressbooks. Every citizen of Minnesota with a library card has access to Pressbooks as a platform to design and publish a book online. The cover was designed by students using the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing platform.

The prices on this collection are “at cost” to Amazon, with no net income of any kind flowing to me. I don’t want to have to deal with that paperwork. This pricing also creates an opportunity to explain why books cost so much, purchased new, at a bookstore. “At cost” for the paperback edition with black-and-white photographs is $5.99 for a print-on-demand product. The books students buy at Barnes & Noble are printed far more cheaply in bulk but still cost 2-3 times the cost Amazon charges to break even. So where does the rest of the money go (and how much of it goes to the press, the distributor, the bookstore, the designer, the author)?

I’m glad that the hardcover exists, and the photos inside are in color. But there is no way I would buy the hardcover if all I wanted was the quality writing — that’s less than a third of the cost in the paperback edition.

Given all of that, this is more of a “public service announcement” as well as a cry for help.

Anyway. A number of local authors appear in the book. Take a look.

“Tales of Travel” was the topic for last year. I’m hunting for topics for next semester’s collection. (I was thinking “migration,” or travel without intent to return, might work, but maybe that’s too close, and maybe it’s not very open to lots of authors.)

If you have a suggestion for a topic for the Spring 2024 book project for my students, drop it in the comments, please.

I’m also working on some individual author projects. In future Perfect Duluth Day posts, I will pop those up here and ask for thoughts and feedback on what to do next with single-author pilot projects.

The goal here is to create learning experiences for students that are also valuable to the community. I would love your ideas.


Matthew James

about 4 months ago

A writing prompt that an English teacher gave our class some years ago was to write about a mentor, someone who had helped us do something we weren't sure we would be able to do or provided support during a difficult time. Most people, hopefully, have had such a person at some point in their lives. In my case, the teacher ended up sending what I wrote to the person that I had written about, with my permission. Even though that was years ago, I'm still grateful for that writing exercise because the person has since passed away and the writing exercise allowed me to tell them what they meant to me while there was still the opportunity to do so. Just one idea.

David Beard

about 4 months ago

Thank you for taking this so to heart.

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