February is "I Love to Read Month," a time to celebrate reading, writing and books.... and Sigma's Bookshelf has been invited to visit seven Twin Cities Schools to lead the presentation, "Empowering Teen Writers to Become Published Authors.”
Our first presentation happened towards the end of January at Maple Grove Middle School late enough in the day that company founder, teen author Justin M. Anderson, was able to get out of school early to lead the presentation. The others are being led by his mom and company co-founder Rachel M. Anderson.
Each presentation has been started with a writing exercise designed to get students’ creative juices flowing. We provide a piece of paper with a picture of the Sigma’s Bookshelf mascot on it, and ask the kids to write a paragraph about the character. Here are a few of the stories written by the 7th and 8th graders at Hopkins North Junior High in Hopkins, Minn.
Sigma is a dragon that always grew up listening to children’s stories. One day he decided to write his own. It got popular with millions of dragon children around the world, so that’s when he created his own publishing company called Sigma’s Bookshelf.”
This is Sigma. It has no age and it has existed forever. Since the beginning of time it has been living off pure light. Only now has it started interacting with other living beings, and it rarely shows its face. Only a select few have ever seen it. Those who have suddenly feel a sort of indescribable light feeling. It inspired them to do something amazing. Sigma chooses people who it sees potential in.”
There once was a man named Sigma. Sigma believed in equality and everyone being the same, but he was bullied as a child. He was different. He didn’t have white skin like the other children of the Khulu Tribe. He had black skin and purple hair. His parents claimed that he was beautiful in his own way. He learned that appearance doesn’t matter and he should accept who he is. Now he runs a program to help other teens be who they are. He publishes books for them for free.”
Sigma is a mythical creature. He is a good character who likes to help out. He comes out at night mostly and less during the day.”
He is half monster and half human. So sometimes he likes to eat humans and sometimes he likes to eat cheese.”
This little guy, Sigma, is the gremlin who lives in the laundry machine, stealing everyone’s left sock.”
This guy is a monster who lives in a swamp and sometimes snatches people from the streets. He can kill anyone or anything. He is Invincible.”
Sigma is a dragon that's actually very friendly, but misunderstood.
He used to be a human but under a cure was turned into a vile creature.
A monster, likes books and writing. He's very friendly and likes people; extrovert, just wants everyone to be happy.
Some sort of dragon/human hybrid. He has a good counterpart, but he is evil, like you can just tell.
Although he looks menacing, he is actually friendly and easy going. He scares people off sometimes due to his appearance. Sigma is a pretty cool guy!
In addition to the writing exercise, we are also educating kids on the publishing industry, talking about traditional, vanity and self-publishing, and also outlining how Sigma’s Bookshelf works. The company exclusively publishes the work of teen authors between the ages of 13 - 19 at no cost to them. Volunteers work with the teen authors to edit their stories, then once they are ready for publication, takes care of proofreading, formatting, cover design and upload to a print-on-demand service. All of the services provided are 100 percent free for teen authors whose books are selected for publication. As books sells, the teen authors receive royalties.
Maple Grove Middle School, Maple Grove, MN - Tues., Jan. 16
South View Middle School, Edina, MN - Thurs., Feb. 1
Hopkins North Jr, High, Hopkins, MN - Thurs., Feb. 8 & Fri., Feb. 9
Dassel-Cokato Middle School, Dassel, MN, Feb. 13
Armstrong High School, Plymouth, MN, Thurs., Feb. 15
School of Environmental Studies, Apple Valley, MN, Fri., Feb. 16
Southwest Middle School, Albert Lea, MN - Tues., Feb. 27
During our recent school visits, a question that has been asked several times is: “What do I need to do to make sure my book will get published?” Unfortunately, we cannot provide a specific answer because every book is different, but here are some good guidelines to follow:
1) Make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and end.
We have received several manuscripts from teens who finished their books without tying up loose ends. When we called them on it, they would often say, “Oh, I’m planning a sequel,” but that sequel may be years away and if you don’t wrap up your story, chances are when your next book comes out the people who read the first one won’t want to pick up the series because they remember being disappointed by the lack of an ending. Unfinished stories may work on TV, but they don’t work in books.
2) Review your manuscript for grammar and spelling errors before submitting it for publication.
Over the years, your English teachers have probably taken points off your papers for spelling and grammar mistakes. That may seem petty to you, but it’s not. They are actually doing you a good service. In the professional world, if you turn in work that is riddled with mistakes it not only reflects poorly on you, if the errors don’t get caught, they will reflect poorly on the company you are working for too. Mistakes can be grounds for getting you fired. remember, check your work.
3) Follow the submission guidelines on the Sigma’s Bookshelf website.
STEP 1: Submit your completed manuscript and cover image through this website. Incomplete manuscripts will not be considered.
STEP 2: Completed manuscript is reviewed by the Sigma’s Bookshelf review team. (NOTE: Submission does not guarantee acceptance. There is a review process.) Authors will be informed of a decision within 30 days of submission.
The Inspiration Behind Sigma’s Bookshelf
It seems whenever you start up a new company or invent a new product, one of the first questions people tend to ask is, “Where did that idea come from?”
Justin M. Anderson, 16, the founder of what is believed to be the first publishing company exclusively for teenage authors, credits John B. Goodman, founder of Minnesota-based The Goodman Group, with inspiring his new company, “Sigma’s Bookshelf."
“Right after my first book (Saving Stripes: A Kitty’s Story) came out, Mr. Goodman bought 25 copies and distributed them to kids at his intergenerational Learning Centers in Florida and Minnesota,” said Anderson.
But Goodman’s generosity didn’t stop there. A few months later when Anderson got the chance to meet him in person and thank him, Mr. Goodman reached into his wallet and pulled out two $100 dollar bills and handed them to the teenager.
“I was kind of in shock. It was so unexpected,” said Anderson, who at first wasn’t sure he should accept the money. Realizing his uncertainty about the large gift, Goodman told the boy he wanted him to keep it and do something good with it. Anderson got the nod of approval from his mother, and eventually went on to use the money to secure more copies of his book, which sells for $10 with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the charity that had helped him with the kitty rescue he wrote about. To date, more than 200 copies of the book have been sold and Anderson has helped raise thousands of dollars for S.O.S. Rescue Relief, Inc., a Plymouth, Minn., nonprofit dedicated to preventing euthanasia in adoptable animals.
The encounter happened in Dec. 2015, just three months before John B. Goodman’s death. As Justin and his mother were heading to the memorial service, they had a conversation about how sad it was that the world had lost someone who was so generous. “Justin said to me, 'I hope that one day I can do what Mr. Goodman did for me and hand out $100 bills to people',” said Justin’s mother, Rachel M. Anderson. The conversation then led to the idea that he didn’t have to wait until sometime in the future to help others. He could do it right away.
A short time after the memorial service, Justin and his mom decided to start up a publishing company that would allow teenagers to bring their books to market for free. The company is called Sigma’s Bookshelf, and it just started up in Oct. 2016. The name was inspired by Sigma, one of the characters in Justin’s debut novel, Nothing But Trouble, the story of a cancer cure project with some unusual side effects.
Sigma’s Bookshelf requests all completed manuscripts be submitted via the website, www.sigmabookshelf.com. Not all titles will be accepted for publication. There is a review process.
"We want to make sure the content we print will reflect well on our brand and the kids whose work we publish,” said Rachel M. Anderson.
For more information, go to www.SigmasBookshelf.com.