Some people pay their way through college by taking out loans or receiving scholarships. Others work multiple jobs.
Makenzie Campbell is paying for it with poetry.
The 19-year-old Washington State University student has sold more than 25,000 copies of her book, “2 AM Thoughts.” The book is currently sold at Barnes and Noble, Target and on Amazon for $14.99.
Campbell and the illustrator, 19-year-old Hailey Chamberlain, started creating the book when they were juniors at Sumner High School.
“I’ve always kept a journal and write things down whenever I feel like I need to because that’s how I express myself, so the actual idea for the book came way after I had written everything down and then I kind of just put it together,” said Campbell, a psychology major.
The collection of poems takes the reader through a journey of emotions including finding love, heartbreak and overcoming life’s adversities. Each poem is accompanied with a time stamp of when it was written.
Campbell discovered her passion for writing poetry in eighth grade. After seeking out help from a student who also self-published a book on Amazon, Campbell learned how to do it herself. That’s when she approached Chamberlain, her best friend, to create the art.
The two worked on the book for about a year before taking a leap of faith and putting it on Amazon. By the end of 2018, they sold about 11,000 copies for $9.95 each.
Soon after that, a literary agent picked up on the book’s success and paired Campbell with her current publishing agency, Central Avenue Publishing in Canada.
Last year, Campbell’s book made her just under $40,000. She makes 20 percent of the book’s revenue.
For poetry books, the artist typically gets a lower percentage. In Chamberlain’s case, it’s two percent. But she says that for her, it’s not about the money. She uses what she makes to pay dues for her campus sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. So far, she has made approximately $900.
“I was just amazed. I didn’t really understand how it happened. And I just kept saying we never saw this coming. I still am so baffled by all of it,” Chamberlain said.
Social media has also played a role in the book’s success. Its Instagram account, “@2amthoughtsbook,” has more than 38,000 followers. Campbell posts pictures with excerpts from the book two to three times a day.
“It doesn’t feel like a job at all, ever,” Campbell said. “I mean, technically it is a job but it doesn’t feel like one. And I love doing it. I’m thinking about minoring in creative writing here too now, but I’m not sure. I’m definitely thinking more seriously about it.”
“To me, this is Makenzie’s journey because it was all her idea and it’s her words,” Chamberlain said. “I was just super-honored to be a part of her journey because I don’t think this is where it ends.”
As a bioengineering major, Chamberlain uses art to deal with the stress of school. Even though Chamberlain is not pursuing an art degree, she said it will always be a part of her life.
The images she created in “2 AM Thoughts” depict the objects Campbell uses in her poetry. For example, one line of a poem reads, “I looked out the window and thought of what a good day it was going to be rather than how broken I still am since you left.” Chamberlain drew a window with a view of a sunrise.
“It’s just a nice outlet. I did it all throughout high school and did a bunch of art shows,” she said.
Chamberlain and Campbell agree that creating the book has been a rewarding experience for both of them.
“I would call it an unwavering friendship. I always know I’m going to have her and I hope she knows she’ll always have me and I think doing this has brought us closer together,” Chamberlain said.
Campbell has already written a second poetry book and plans to send it to her publisher soon. She said she plans to release it next year.
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