Online Self-Publishing Course: Yay Or Nay?

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A while back—okay, months ago—I asked you what you’d think of an on-demand, online self-publishing course. I’m planning to take the one-day self-publishing seminar I’ve done for the likes of Faber Academy and The Inkwell Group (and which I’ll be doing for The Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin on October 12th) and offer it to people who can’t feasibly travel to Dublin or London via videos and other online material which they can access whenever they want from wherever they want.

I asked you three questions, and this is what you said:

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The results were surprising to me. Far more of you would turn to something like an online video course than I thought, which is great, and 66% of respondents thought the price was about right. (Although 26% thought it was ‘a joke’, so I might have to look at that again!!) I think the takeaway here is that if you’re in the business of dispensing self-publishing advice, the three main ways people want it are: blog, book and online course.

But…

Some of the comments that questioned why I would charge money for them just left me dumbfounded. One in particular suggested that I turn to Kickstarter to raise funds for my costs and then offer the courses themselves for free.

*facepalm*

Guys, this is a business venture. Its goal is to generate an income from providing a service that there’s a demand for. I’m a nice person and all, but I need to make a living too. It’s like the guy who harassed me via e-mail for a while looking for a free copy of Self-Printed 2.0 because he’d bought Self-Printed 1.0, and then told me not to ‘forget who your friends are’ when I didn’t reply.

(????!!!!!)

***RANT BEGINS***

I know people don’t like to talk about money and there’s plenty who say they don’t care about it, but GET REAL.  You may not care, but I’m sure your landlord does. And the electricity company. And your credit card company. And as I’ve said before, if you don’t want to make money from your writing then I can only conclude that you don’t love writing as much as I do, because it’s the thing I love to do the most and I want to do it all the time,  and if I don’t generate an income from it, I have to do something else, something I don’t love, for the majority of each and every day. And that would suck. That doesn’t mean I would only write if there was the promise of financial compensation, but if there is financial compensation, that’s obviously better, because it means more time to write.

With this blog and my book and talking about self-publishing, yes, helping people through the ocean of information on self-publishing does make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and I really enjoy doing it, but sadly, warm and fuzzy feelings isn’t on the list of payment methods the electricity company accepts.

***RANT ENDS***

I’m going to go ahead with this course, but in all likelihood it’ll be a 2014 thing now, and I’ve actually had another 2014 idea that could go hand-in-hand with this quite nicely…

So stay tuned!

(In the meantime, I wrote a 120,000-word book about all this, y’know.)

22 thoughts on “Online Self-Publishing Course: Yay Or Nay?

  1. writerlyderv says:

    Ah, September comes and Catherine Ryan Howard returns with her wisdom! I think your book Self Printed will do nicely. It’s the first book I’ve ever read on an e reader. My book universe is already changing – an online course could be the next step.

  2. Sara Rosso says:

    It’s possible a lot of people reading (like myself) have already learned quite a bit from your site & therefore aren’t the exact targets for the course but I think it’s worth doing.

    I would really suggest checking out Skillshare as the vehicle for doing it – a few of my friends have really enjoyed teaching how-to courses on there and it will reach a lot of people! I can see you making an entry-level course pretty easily with materials you already have.

  3. MishaBurnett says:

    I remember when you were polling for information, and as I recall I said then that I thought that the price was a bit high. You pointed out the cost of producing educational materials rather than just the cost of duplicating them, and I changed my mind. The price does seem to be in line with other distance learning courses.

    That having been said, I would still not buy such a course personally, because of my personal learning style. I am self-taught, and I have never managed the trick of learning from other people. Unless I make my own mistakes, it doesn’t stick.

    I suspect that authors who choose to self-publish may have a higher percentage of self-taught learners than the general public, so that might effect your market share.

    However, I think there are a lot of people who would benefit from such a course and would be happy to buy it. I have a lot of contacts who are looking for information on these issues, and I’d share a link on my blog once you have it up and running.

  4. Susan Ross says:

    It always amazes me that people are so clueless. People need to charge for their services if they want to pay their bills. However, the other issue is that, if you spend your time offering a service and your expertise, you should be paid for it.

  5. Susan Ross says:

    P.S. I get very upset when I see people offering their e-books for free or for a ludicrously low price. It devalues the enormous amount of work creating a book involves.

  6. kingmidget says:

    The problem with pricing these days is that many people expect things on the internet to be free or extremely low cost and when it comes to self-publishers you’re dealing with a group of people that can’t get anybody to buy their e-books for more than .99. Except for incredibly rare situations. So, costs are relative. If I have to pay $125 for your course, that means I’ll have to sell 375 downloads at .99 to just cover the cost, let alone make any money for me. Is part of your course going to include any realistic numbers for the participants. Numbers that tell them it’s an uphill battle to get to 100 paid downloads, let alone 375 or 1,000 or more.
    Don’t read this as a criticism of your pricing or of your idea. It’s not. It’s just another take on why people may not want to pay that price and think it’s unreasonable. Personally, I agree with Misha’s comment — many of us self-publishers are do-it-yourselfers. Self-taught and learning from our own mistakes as we go.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I totally get your point. If you’ve read my guide you’ll know one of the first things I say is exactly that: that the headline, I’m-paying-my-mortgage-with-ebook-royalties stories are the exceptions. And I charge $2.99 and above for all my books. (I think everyone should start off at that price point.)

      Re: self-starters, I think those of who are have *already* self-published can indeed be classed as that. But everyday I’m encountering people who want to self-publish but, believing that they aren’t techie and that self-publishing is, think they’re only option is to go to one of these one-stop services that charge a fortune and produce a sub-standard result. So those are the people I’d be targeting with this, just like I do with my workshops: the info itself is so much cheaper than a service, and then you can still self-publish like the rest of us did (i.e. the good way!)

  7. Lizzie Bennett says:

    Brilliant. Many of us in the “health & wellness” field just brush money aside: “meh – pay me when you can” kind of thing. Your rant is the best part.

  8. jmvandenberg says:

    I agree that you should charge for your products. Here is my mini-rant. Why do people (not necessarily you, but lots of people who have online products) not put the price on the first page? Why do I have to click through several pages, sometimes clicking the Buy button before I know the price? I have often given up on a product because I can not find the price easily. If you think your product is priced well and will give good value than put the price on the front page. It may scare me away (based on the cost, not the value), but I will give you a try the next time you offer something. If I can’t find the price easily I often give up on the person completely and then they have lost not just that one sale but future sales as well. I wish you luck on your venture. It is too expensive for me, but probably not for lots of other people. I enjoy your blog very much and would certainly consider any other product you produce. Thank you for putting up with my rant that wasn’t so mini.

  9. Karin Mesa says:

    I wish you the best, a smooth as possible life, doing something needed and exchangeable that you love and are good at!
    But, I do hope there will be a few things to rant about. Your rants crack me up!
    Looking forward to your 2014 project updates!

  10. Cat Lumb says:

    Having some experience with evaluation your question about cost struck me as odd…Is having someone think that the cost is a joke a bad thing? Or could they wrongly assume that it’s way too cheap to be any good, and therefore be a joke? After all, 8% said it was a bargain!
    Therefore the feedback from this Q might be a little misleading given the multiple choice wasn’t phrased as well as it could be.
    Interesting results though. Totally agree they should be seen as an investment…it’s training, personal development and all that – it’s rarely free!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I didn’t even think of that! ‘A joke’ in that context here is Ireland would mean ‘Are you f–king kidding me? That price?! As if!’ 😀

      But it was really just a tester and not intended to be very scientific (obvs!) but always interesting to see what people think.

  11. thesailorswoman.wordpress.com says:

    I’d consider taking an online self-publishing course for the price you mention particularly if it included marketing strategies. I don’t speak for other writers, but this an area about which I know very little. Nanette

  12. Tammy J Rizzo says:

    The price, while quite reasonable, is currently way out of my personal financial range, and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. I’m going to assume that you will be including information not actually available on your blog, right? I wish you the very best in this venture, and I wish I could afford such a course!

  13. marilynslagel says:

    Good for you! It drives me insane when people say they don’t write for money. Geez, Louise, we all need money! $125 is a very reasonable price and many of us would pay it. Carry on.

  14. Jon says:

    Yeah, don’t offer the course for free, Catherine.

    People will pay. People just have a freeloader mindset.

    Having worked with lots of clients (I’m a copywriter, I write sales letters, direct mail etc )

    You have some great stats right now and that isn’t everyone. I would create it and then get it out there. Test price points. $47 for a video course or even $97 is the normal price point. If you pack it with value. i.e Create the video course then have someone transcribe the video into a PDF ( you have your book ) and offer it all one price, you can easily get a higher price.

  15. kimmifer says:

    I find that anyone working in a creative capacity – be it writing, painting, building things – faces a similar sort of issue. The assumption is that ‘you love doing it so why wouldn’t you want to do it for free?’ Plenty of people love their jobs and aren’t expected to work for free, because accounting and sales are ‘real jobs’ and music is a ‘passion or hobby’. Such nonsense.

  16. Holly Worton says:

    I think it’s a combination of two things: one, there is so much information out there available for free, that people are starting to think they can get everything for free. Two, many authors are still coming to grips with the fact that they need to learn business and marketing skills, because they aren’t just authors, they’re businesspeople as well. And as business owners, they will most likely need to invest in acquiring certain skills.

    Good luck with your course!

  17. Michelle Moloney says:

    I think it’s a great idea. I see a trend in many schools of them self publishing paper back books. These books are about their schools and the history of the area and short stories from pupils and or past pupils. But I think there is FAR more money if they published an ebook. Already, the audience would be worldwide as opposed to purely local. That could be incorporated into the course, how to market the book to a larger audience and maybe what to include in the book to give it a larger appeal.

    Best of luck with the course.

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