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Printing a Student Anthology


A special note to Writers' Groups: While this page is geared toward STUDENT Anthologies, writers' groups can benefit greatly from many of the pointers here. The basic ideas are the same whether you wish to publish a school anthology or a short story collection from your writing peers. So for you authors' groups out there, forgive us for our references to "students". If some of your writers haven't been published yet, this is a great way to break in to the publishing business. I would strongly encourage any group of writers, at any age, to publish a short story collection. It's a wonderful experience to share with each other, and we'd love to help you make it a reality.

How to Publish a Student Anthology ... The Easy Way!

With the proper motivation, your students can do just about anything. And nothing motivates students like the chance to actually get published. We can help you accomplish that. Before publishing student writing into books, the three main things for schools and students to do are:

  1. Planning the Anthology
  2. Creating the book file (in Word, Publisher or InDesign)
  3. Deciding on Options for the Book

In each of these areas, our anthology publishers give you the help you need, to make it easy to produce a high-quality printed and bound Student Anthology.


[1] Planning a Student Anthology

Read through the next few paragraphs, and you'll have a better idea of what you'll need to do publish a student anthology. You'll also see that this project can be a very enriching experience. There are many teaching opportunities available along the way, which can help develop everyone's creativity, including yours as a teacher! It can be great fun creating something permanent from your collection of student treasures that might otherwise be forgotten. Not only can it get the kids excited, but it can get the teacher and even the parents excited, too.

And, of course, since we can print and bind your anthologies so quickly, your students won't have to wait long to see their work in print!

Select a Writing Prompt

There are several different ways to select YOUR writing prompts. And there's no 'wrong way' to do it. It's entirely up to you to decide which way might work best for your group of kids. Here is a list of over 100 different writing prompts. You can pick and choose from our list, use the entire list 'as is', or use it to jumpstart your own brainstorming session. Come up with a list of potential writing prompts, then whittle it down to a manageable length.

(A) The teacher simply chooses a single writing prompt for all students to use. You can either choose from our list, or choose your own prompt. If all students are going to use the same prompt, you may want to keep it fairly vague, to encourage each student to interpret it in his or her own unique way.
(B) The teacher narrows down the list of prompts to just a few (maybe three to five different prompts) from which each student would choose. This allows for more focused discussions and brainstorming within the class.
(C) Let each student choose from a long list of prompts. It's up to the teacher whether to allow more than one student to use the same prompt.
(D) "Draft Day." Some teachers assign a random draft order, and each student chooses his or her preferred writing prompt. Once a prompt is chosen, it is removed from the list. A great variation of this "Draft" is to allow up to 3 students to choose any one prompt before it is removed from the list. The Draft Day format helps to get your students engaged right from the start.

Choose Which Art Form(s) to Include

For simplicity's sake, we're going to refer to the students' works here as "short stories", but they can really be any of a number of different art forms (i.e., poetry, non-fiction writing, paintings, drawings, cartoons, etc.). The rules that you set are entirely up to you. 

Set Deadlines

Set periodic deadlines to keep students from waiting until the last minute to write their story. A typical list of deadlines might look something like this:

  • Deadline #1 - Basic outline due
  • Deadline #2 - Rough draft due 
  • Time for "peer review"
  • Deadline #3 - 2nd draft due
  • More "peer review"
  • Final editing for grammar, spelling
  • Deadline #4 - Final draft due

It's up to you how much time you allow between steps. For younger grades, you may want to only give them a day or two. For older grades, you may need to give them a week for some of the steps.

The "Peer Review" Process

Setting up your own in-class Peer Review Group can not only teach your students teamwork and cooperation, but also compassion and tact. And as the Teacher, you'll have an opportunity to see our future teachers, counselors, and leaders in action. This can not only help the individual writer whose work is being reviewed, but it can help the students who are doing the reviewing.

Students take what they've learned from reviewing other works, and apply that knowledge to their own short stories. They're be more able to critique their own work after having critiqued other students' work first.

You may want to break your class into smaller groups, and have each group read portions of a story, then critique it. The first time through, have them concentrate on the IDEA of the story, and the STYLE of writing. Does it make you want to read more? How can it be improved? Is it too long? Is it descriptive enough? Don't worry about spelling or grammar at this point. We'll work on them in the final editing.

For younger grades, you can use a simplified version of Peer Review by reading selected paragraphs from each student’s work, then discussing them with the class. Does it make you want to read more? How can it be improved? Is it too long? Is it descriptive enough?

Have Some Fun With "About the Author"

Have each student write a very short “About the Author” bio and include a headshot to be printed at the end of their short story. These can be funny or serious, whatever the student wants. Encourage them to include props in their photo, like a typewriter, fake mustache, pipe, jewelry, bust of Shakespeare, etc. Some students may spend a lot of time on the bio and photo, and be so proud of it that they work a little harder trying to perfect the short story itself.

Have a "Book Naming" Contest -- Lots of Fun!

At some point, have a “Naming” contest to choose a name for the Anthology. Sure, “Mrs. Snyder’s 7th Grade Class Anthology” is OK, but wouldn’t “Dinosaurs, the Louisiana Purchase, and Other Fun Stuff” be a little more creative? Get students to suggest phrases taken from some of the works within the anthology. Combine a few different phrases ... get creative. And, of course, you can always include “Mrs. Snyder’s 7th Grade Class Anthology” as a smaller sub-title. After all, your students may need a little reminder when they pull their copy of the anthology off of their bookshelves in 20 years or even 50 years.

[2] Creating the Book File using Word, Publisher or InDesign

Use Proper Scanning Technique For Student Book Publishing

If you'll be including artwork (photos, drawings, etc.), be sure to scan the artwork properly. For the best quality student book printing, scan the images so that, when they are enlarged or reduced to their final print size, they are 300 pixels per inch.

First, determine the final print size of each piece of artwork. Then, simply multiply the width by 300 to get the number of pixels wide. For example, if you want a drawing to be printed 5 inches across, the scan file should be 1500 pixels wide (5 inches x 300 pixels = 1500).

All scanners behaves a little differently, so you'll probably want to do a little experimenting with one or two pieces before jumping in and scanning all of the artwork at once. By spending a few minutes getting comfortable with the scanner settings ahead of time, you'll be saving yourself a lot of time and effort later.

If you find that some of your artwork is a little lower than 300 dpi, don't worry about it. You can get away with resolutions of 225 dpi without any noticeable loss in quality. Your resolution can even drop to 150 dpi and it'll still be pretty good. At 150 dpi, if you look closely, it will start to look a little rough. A easy test is to view the scan at 200% on your computer screen. If it still looks good at 200%, then the finished printed piece should look good, too.

Word Files: Starting Correctly is Half the Battle

Please note: While these instructions are for Microsoft Word, with only minor adjustments, they can be used for other word processing programs like Pages, Open Office or Word Perfect, as well as page layout programs like InDesign, QuarkXPress or Microsoft Publisher. 

Determine the page size for your Anthology. Let's say it's 6 x 9, which is a pretty standard size. Get all of your students to create a blank Word document with the following specs:

  • Page width is 6"
  • Page height is 9"
  • Margins are 3/4" (0.75")
  • Gutter of zero (0.00")
  • Orientation: Portrait (meaning it's taller than it is wide). 

If you decide on a different page size, simply adjust the width and height above, but keep the margins at 3/4". And be sure that all of your students have the same settings. Then they can start writing their story. This will simplify the task of combining all of their Word documents into a single document before the student book publishing process begins.

It's up to you whether you want to give each student free reign over font selection, font size, spacing and layout. Some teachers require each student to use the same basic formatting, while other will let the students use their own creativity in formatting their stories. Keep in mind that if a student uses a unique font, YOU will have to have that font, too, in order for it to print the way the student intended. If you want to have all students use the same formatting, you may want to design a master Word file and create styles for Title, Subtitle, Body, and maybe a couple of other kinds of paragraph. Then make copies of this master file and distribute it to the class. This doesn't guarantee that the students will keep the formatting, but it helps.

For details on using styles, you can use Word's built-in Help feature (it'll either look like a question mark or a paper clip). And if you'd like even more in-depth training, we recommend the video training site, www.Lynda.com. They have well-organized, online training courses for Word, along with courses for hundreds of other popular programs. They usually offer a free 10-day trial, so you could get 10 days worth of training for free. Monthly subscriptions start at $25 per month, and you can cancel at any time. And they may offer educational discounts. We're not affiliated with them, but we like them so much that we use them ourselves.

Combining All the Files into a Single Word document

Here's where it can be a little tricky, but it's really not very difficult to do. First, try to determine ahead of time the order in which the stories will be printed. Then, open the first story in Word, do a 'File > Save as ...' and save it under a different name, something like 'Combined Stories,' and keep it open. Move the cursor to the bottom of that first story and add a 'Page Break', which will force the second story to start on a new page. Now, open the second story, Select All, Copy, toggle back to the 'Combined Stories' file, go to the very end, and Paste. Add another 'Page Break', then add the third story the same way. Do the same for all of the stories, poems or artwork, being sure to add a 'Page Break' after each one. Save frequently so you don't lose your work.

Converting Your Word file to a 'Print-Ready' PDF

After you've set up your file to the proper size, done all the formatting, and finished all those last-minute edits, you're ready to convert your file to a 'Print-Ready' PDF. Just follow our simple instructions below to assure that you'll get a trouble-free file. And be sure to look through the resulting PDF to make sure all of your page breaks and line breaks look right.

Using a Mac ...

If you're using a Macintosh, simply hit File > Print, and at the bottom left corner is a 'PDF' button. Click on that and select "Save as PDF ...".

Using Windows ...

If you're using a Windows computer, just about all of today's programs offer a "Save to PDF" option under the File menu. If you see an option for "Optimize for Printing" or "High Resolution", be sure to check them. If you're using an old program that doesn't have that feature, we recommend using the free PDF converter called "doPDF" (available here). Once you have the converter installed on your computer, go to File > Print. Make sure you choose "doPDF" as your printer, and then click on the "Properties" button.

Another window will open up and in the bottom left corner you will see a drop-down menu labeled "Graphic resolution (dpi)." Change the resolution to 600 dpi and hit "Ok."

Very Important >> In the next window, be sure the box for "Embed fonts" is checked. You'll also want to pay attention to where you are saving this PDF file. It's usually easiest to save it to the Desktop, and give it a unique name like "48Hr Books inside" with today's date. This way, it won't get confused with previous versions.

[3] Selecting Your Options -- Leather covers? 3D Foil? It's Up to You!

From Basic to 'Top-of-the-Line'

We're sure all of your students will want a copy, but they may want additional copies for grandparents, etc. Don't worry, though. We keep your student book publishing files stored on our servers, so you can easily place a re-order in the future.

You decide what options you want. From our basic Perfect Bound (softcover) books to our 'Top-of-the-Line' hardcover books with beautiful foil-stamped leather covers, all of our books are printed and bound with great care, and they look incredible. They're every bit as good as books that you'll see at your local bookstore.

Start with our standard Perfect Bound books. Then choose from a long list of optional upgrades to produce a unique anthology that your entire class will be proud to show off.

Here are just a few of our options, along with brief descriptions on ways we help students print their own books.

  • Binding Options: Perfect Bound (softcover) or Case Bound (hard cover).
  • Full-color Pages: We can print black-and-white, full-color, or a combination of both.
  • Designer Covers: Choose from a full-color printed cover, or add some elegance by picking a cloth or leather cover instead.
  • Diamond 3D Covers: Select one of our exclusive 3D book cover options: Raised 3D Foil (in gold, silver, blue, or red), or Raised 3D Clear, or 3D Texture. Each of these gives you a unique raised “3D” effect that you can see and feel. Make your books collector's items that look just like bestsellers!
  • Foil Stamping: You can foil stamp your title on the cover, or even personalize each copy by foil stamping a different student's name on each cover.
  • Dust Jackets: Maybe you're torn between a full-color cover and a leather cover. You can have both. Simply order hard cover books with leather cover (maybe with foil stamping), and get a full-color dust jacket to wrap around it. It's the best of both worlds!
  • Printed Proof: Get a single copy of your book first, to make sure it's perfect. Show it to your students (and maybe their parents, too). It's one last chance to find mistakes and fix them. It may also help parents decide how many books to order.

Our customer service people can help you decide which (if any) of these options is right for you. They'll also give you pricing, help you with any questions you may have about publishing student writing, and suggest ways to save money along the way. And the best thing is, we actually answer our phones. We're available weekdays from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm EST, and you can call (1-800-231-0521), email ([email protected]) or chat online.

Some Suggested Writing Prompts:

Here is a short list of writing prompts. As you'll see, if we only used the subject "American History", we can come up with dozens of ideas. Add a few other general areas of study, and this list can be used to jumpstart a discussion within your class to come up with other great writing prompts.

History: Imagine that you were transported back in time to a period in American History. Knowing what you do about that event or that time period, what would you do? Would you try to effect any changes? If yes, how?

  • The Mayflower lands 
  • The Build-up to the Revolution 
  • Boston Tea Party 
  • Boston Massacre 
  • Revolutionary War 
  • Valley Forge 
  • Continental Congress 
  • The Writing of the Declaration of Independence 
  • Creating a Democratic Experiment, Writing the Constitution
  • Lewis & Clark and the Northwest Passage
  • Gold Rush, California 1849
  • The Missouri Compromise
  • The Build-up to the Civil War
  • The Civil War
  • Ironclads: The Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack
  • Two Great Generals: Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858
  • Abraham Lincoln’s presidency
  • The Lincoln assassination
  • The Wild West
  • Early Settlers in the Midwest
  • The Alamo, The Mexican War
  • An immigrant family going through Ellis Island
  • The Battle at Little Big Horn (Custer and Sitting Bull)
  • Spanish-American War – “Remember the Maine”
  • The Building of the Panama Canal
  • The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad
  • The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
  • The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
  • The Great War (World War I)
  • Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, 1927
  • The Great Wall Street Boom of the 1920s
  • The Wall Street Crash of 1929
  • The Great Depression
  • The Dust Bowl
  • The Attack on Pearl Harbor
  • World War II
  • The Dunkirk Evacuation
  • D Day – The Normandy Invasion
  • Hiroshima and the Dawn of the Nuclear Age
  • The Cold War
  • The Berlin Wall, From its Building to its Collapse
  • The Kennedy Assassination
  • The Space Race - Man In Space
  • Man on the Moon
  • NASA Beyond the Moon
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Nixon and the Watergate Cover-up
  • 9/11/2001 in New York City
  • Obama’s Election and the State of Race Relations
And that's just American History. Here are a few teasers for other areas of study, as well as general topics. Start a discussion with your students. See how creative they can get in coming up with their own Writing Prompts.

  1. Science: Thomas Edison’s inventions, through the eyes of Edison's dog.
  2. Nature: Report on a student’s favorite wild animal.
  3. Fantasy: Short story that is futuristic, sci-fi, etc.
  4. Mystery: From Sherlock Holmes to Encyclopedia Brown, and anything in between.
  5. What I want to be when I grow up.
  6. My role model: who they are, and why.
  7. My pet peeves.
  8. If I were King (or Queen) for a Day, the first thing I'd do is ...

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