Publisher Puts Second-Grade Students in Print
School kids go on field trips all the time. But thanks to a Big Island publisher, one second-grade class was able to immortalize its visit to the Hawaii Plantation Museum in Papaikou in a 54-page, full-color paperback book.
And the book is only the first of what will hopefully be many “author in the classroom” projects backed by the Larry Czerwonka Company.
Larry Czerwonka is an entrepreneur and author living in Hilo. He founded the Big Island Internet Society over five years ago, which is how I first connected with him. He was kind enough to host my family and I at his home more than once, freely sharing his many technical projects as well as his expansive marketing knowledge.
Teaching and mentoring is a passion of his. In fact, long before Alice Inoue founded “Happiness University,” Larry had seized on the same name for his own inspirational endeavors, posting a series of daily challenges at HappinessU.org.
He founded the Larry Czerwonka Company in 2012 with a focus on storytelling. He started close to home by publishing his first book, “Never Pass Up An Opportunity” (with the audiobook version narrated by another great Big Island talent, Darrin Carlson). The book offered 51 simple, daily tips for improving one’s life, and a follow-up title, “The Slippery Slope to Success,” is in the works.
But Larry quickly turned his efforts toward helping other people get published. He launched a crowdfunding campaign last year to change the way authors get published.
“We are giving opportunities to the authors that traditional publishers overlook… giving more authors a chance to be heard,” he wrote. “We publish original fiction and nonfiction in all formats with the goal of bringing new voices to the world in ways that no publishing house has done before.”
One of the key ways Larry’s company differentiates itself is through a financial model that favors writers. For one, he says, it’s not a vanity press, so the cost to the authors is zero. Instead, the publisher takes just $1.95 from each book sale.
“We pay our authors up to 91 percent of the profits from each book — none of this 10 and 15 percent nonsense,” he explains. “It’s time to reward the talent!”
Some of the diverse titles that Larry has helped launch include “Gorman the Gecko,” a kids book by Deanne Day, the nonfiction guide “How to Move to Kona” by Julie Ziemelis, and “The Flowers of Reminiscence” by Ronnie Ray Jenkins. That’s in addition to topics like organic gardening, the Beatles, and fatherhood.
“We have published 108 books in the past two years for over 70 authors — 41 of them live in the state of Hawaii,” Larry tells me. “Three of those books have been best sellers on Amazon.”
And now Larry’s stable of authors include 25 second-grade students from Kalaianaole Elementary in Papaikou, who worked with teachers (including Cynthia Inouye), alumni, and museum staff and volunteers.
“The book tells the reader some of the history and cultures of plantation life as seen through the eyes of the students,” explains the press release. “The hope is that this book will inform and educate readers about plantation life and maybe spark some conversations at home about a way of life that was once common on Hawaii Island.”
“Helping students go from being readers to published authors is something I am very passionate about.” Larry says. “I love giving back.”
Larry notes that this classroom publishing initiative is similar to his company’s “a hand up” program, which publishing work by homeless authors — three books to date, and two more in the next two months. But for now, the focus is on the students.