Guidelines For Publishing Class Books And Web Pages


Publishing a class book is a natural end to a writing class. A class book is an edited, bound collection of student writing, usually featuring some work from each student in the class. Compiling and editing such a book is commonly assigned to class volunteers, who are given significant authority in designing and producing the book. It is a good idea for these editors to discuss book guidelines with the whole class so that consensus guidelines emerge. Editor duties usually include the following:

1. Setting a deadline for collecting final manuscripts. This is usually set so published copies can be delivered on the last class day or next-to-last class day (this latter allowing for reading and discussing the book on the last class day).

2. Defining the editorial mission. Usually students ask for camera-ready copy from classmates to simplify and speed the publishing process. However, editors may want to see near-final drafts and return with comments; or they may wish to set up class editorial boards to preview or screen near-final drafts; or they may wish to leave this role with the instructor.

3. Setting page-length limits. For example, each student may be allowed a certain number of single- or double-spaced pages. Since printing charges are usually made on a per-page basis, page-length discussion is related to final publication cost.

4. Getting cost estimates. Editors explore with local print shops such as Kinko's, Staples, or the college print shop the cost of producing a certain number of copies of class books (e.g., sixty pages @ .05 ea.,plus color cover $1.00 ea.,plus binding .50 ea. = $4.50 per book). Alternatively, editors may ask the class to assemble the book—each student bringing in twenty copies of his or her essay to be collated and bound with the rest.

5. Posting manuscript guidelines for what each submitted paper should look like. Class editors should ask for camera-ready copy to speed production and decrease their own work load. Other guidelines may include:

• typing double- or single-spaced

• margins: top/bottom, right/left

• justified or not

• centered title

• position of author name

6. Arranging collected essays according to some ordering principle. This may depend upon how many and what kind of writing was done during the term. For example, students may have written personal profiles, feature stories, and reflective essays: Should there be a separate section for each? How should the essays be arranged within each section?

7. Writing an Introduction and preparing a Table of Contents (TOC). The most significant editorial work is writing an introduction to contextualize the class book, explain its development, and describe the contents. Introductions vary in length from a paragraph to several pages.TOCs are routine but helpful.

8. Asking the instructor to write a brief Afterword or Preface describing the class, the assignment objectives, or any other instructor perspective that seems relevant to the book.

9. Collecting student-writer Biographies. Most class books conclude with short (fifty- to one-hundred-word) biographies of the student writers, which may be serious, semiserious, or comical depending on class wishes.

10. Designing a cover. The editors may commission a classmate or one of themselves to design a suitable cover for the book. Covers can be graphic or printed, black-and-white or color.

11. Dividing up editorial responsibilities. Class books are best done by editorial teams consisting of two or more students who arrange among themselves the various duties described above.

The final responsibility of class editors is usually leading a last-class discussion on the theme, format, and voice as represented by the class book or its various sections. Class responsibilities here include both a careful reading of their own book and bringing cookies and cider to share along with the discussion.

Since editors do a significant amount of work in compiling their classmates' writing, I usually excuse them from making oral reports or leading class discussions—which the rest of the students do during the term.

Finally, when I assign editors to design and publish a class book, I make it clear that the act of publishing in the book is the final draft of that particular paper; when reading student portfolios at term's end, it is in the class book that I find the final drafts of one or more essays.


In addition to publishing paper texts, classes have the option to publish texts electronically on the World Wide Web. The mechanics of such publishing may vary with the word processing program or network services available at particular universities, but general guidelines for designing Web pages remain constant. If you are planning to publish a text on the Web, the following information may be useful.

What Are the Advantages of Web Publishing?

While you may publish on the Web any college essay or report in its traditional 8}^ X 11 paper form as usually handed in to an instructor, doing so takes only limited advantage of the capabilities of electronic publishing, which I see as the following:

Unlimited Free Access The advantage of the Web here is that anybody with a computer can read your paper, which includes classmates in their dormitory rooms or friends in your hometown. Photocopy and mailing costs are eliminated so that you can, quite literally, publish your ideas to the world.

Hyperlinks to Internal Report Information Once readers log on to your title page they will have the option of reading selected parts of your "paper" by clicking on buttons that will take them to just those parts; this lets you write a text that can be read in different ways by different people. For example, were you to write a paper examining acid rain pollution, a reader could start at "definitions" or "effects" or "causes" or "locations" or "solutions" and read only that of most interest. If the Web site is well constructed, readers will not feel as if they are missing necessary information as they would in skipping around a sequentially written paper.

Hyperlinks to External Research Sources In addition, your Web page links may send readers to other Web sites, which you did not design, to find out additional information. In this way, a Web page may offer readers not just a list of references, but access to the reference sources themselves. For example, in examining the sources of acid rain pollution, your Web page may include a link to the site of the Great Lakes Acid Rain Commission Study, so by clicking on that link, the reader can read the actual report used as a reference in your paper.

Multimedia Capability On any given Web page, both sounds and visual images (moving as well as stationary) can be included so that less is left to the imagination. While illustrations can accomplish the same thing in printed paper books, reproduction costs are higher, the number of practical illustrations more limited, and none of the images can move. Sound is even more difficult to include with written text, yet it is a natural accompaniment to Web pages. For example, in writing an essay on rock, jazz, or classical music, the actual sounds of the music can be part of the "paper" helping readers/listeners hear your points more precisely.

Currency Readers expect electronic texts to be up-to-date. Unlike printed paper documents which, once published, become fixed and difficult to change, Internet texts are fluid and easy to modify; that is, as newer information becomes available, writers can add it to their "published" page without the need to change the whole page or site, or to go through a complex and expensive new publishing process. In other words, revision is natural and expected in classes that publish texts on the Web, and college writers should plan for such revision in their composition of Web documents.

How Do You Compose for the World Wide Web?

When composing for the World Wide Web, instead of using the Web to publish an already-composed paper, ask yourself the following questions: Why is this subject suitable for Web publishing? What will be the main point of the paper? How will electronic capabilities best present this point? What can I do here that is different from what I would do in a traditional paper? Which elements of a traditional paper should I retain?

Organize Present information according to what readers need first, second, and so on. Some electronic papers may follow the same logic as they would in a sequential paper. For example, in telling a straightforward narrative, both Web page and paper essay may use the same chronological structure as a traditional paper, with a clear beginning, middle, and ending.

The same may be true for a cause/effect report—both the paper and Web site on acid rain might start with problems, look at causes, and end with solutions.

However, a Web page can also be menu driven, where none of the items needs to be looked at in any special order. Such a Web page might open with a set of definitions or a problem statement, but then offer hyperlink options for the reader to look at the origins of acid rain in:

In addition, the reader might jump to the effects of acid rain in New England states, again selecting hyperlinks to specific states to find the most accurate and detailed information:

• New Hampshire

In other words, electronic texts promote browsing to rapidly find information on specific topics in a way that is less natural and much slower in sequentially structured paper "papers" where readers must skip around in their reading to find the same information.

An easy and old-fashioned way to start composing a Web paper is to start with handwritten index cards, writing on each a separate bit of information. Then arrange accordingly as you would in constructing an outline, with coordinate and subordinate information in appropriate places. Spreading your cards out on a table will then give you a sense of where hyperlinks would make the most sense.

Edit Space seems more limited on Web sites due to the amount of information that is comfortably viewed on a monitor at one time. The opposite, of course, is true: space is virtually unlimited. However, when looking at a monitor, readers become viewers and expect as well as appreciate fewer blocks of densely packed text, more white space and subheadings, and some accompanying visual images. So check to see that all the words and sentences are necessary to communicate your message (see Chapter Fourteen); use subheadings frequently to point your readers to changes in topic; and where visual images could convey a thousand words, let them do so.

Connect To take full advantage of Web capabilities, locate collateral Web sites at other electronic addresses that provide information that supports your paper; such information could provide background or contextual information for readers who need it, more in-depth information on selected subjects, or competing points of view for readers to examine on their own. Construct hyperlinks to such sites on your page.

Test Preview your potential Web page on friends or classmates as you would share a paper draft in a writing workshop. Before calling your page or site finished, seek responses that will tell you where your page is unclear or difficult to read, and remedy accordingly.

Update Even in college courses which operate for a limited number of weeks, usually between ten and fifteen, students who publish Web page assignments can take advantage of the ease in keeping information current, so information presented early in the term should be tested later on for accuracy and relevance. If a Web site is to continue to be useful and relevant after a course ceases to meet, the site author should keep the site up-to-date.

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