Gini Graham Scott
Author of 150+ Plus Books
Including Self-Publishing Secrets: How to Write, Publish, and Market a Best-Seller or Use Your Book to Build Your Business
Another format that is growing in popularity is the online course, which can also be turned into an interactive online or face-to-face workshop, and often a nonfiction book is the basis for such a course. So you can consider the course as one more format for your book — and you may find that just as an audiobook can sell more than a print book, so can a course. In fact, if your book is on a popular topic, you may develop that into one of the top courses generating thousands of dollars in income each day.
I didn’t realize the power of courses myself until I started taking a series of courses on online and email marketing, and then I began getting regular ads on Facebooks for courses on creating email lists and selling ebooks, followed by ads for creating and marketing courses. And now there are even online platforms for selling courses or making them available to subscribers, such as Thrive Courses https://thrivecourses.com, which was developed by the workshop leader of a Meetup group and Mastermind group I was a part of. And there are multiple platforms now for anyone seeking to create a course, as long as it meets some basic criteria of that platform, such as Teachable (www.teachable.com) and ClickBank (www.clickbank.com), the biggest online platform for selling just about anything that can be sold online.
Of course, you can teach a course without a book, or create a course that later becomes a book. But a book can also be turned into a course — and your course can be used to sell your print, e-book, and audiobook, too. Or someone can simply take your course.
What Makes a Good Course
Most commonly, popular online courses are all about teaching someone how to do something — particularly how to make money, save money, improve relationships, become more successful in work or business, become healthier, lose weight, or master a skill or hobby. As a result, the most popular genres for courses are in love, money, relationships, health, and how to be happier and more successful generally. Plus some courses are targeted to achieving success in a particular industry, such as classes on how to write, publish, and market books, write scripts and make films, and start a business. So if you’ve written a novel, a course based on that novel might not work, but a course on how to write a novel or on how to turn your own book into a best seller might be a success, such as proven by Nick Stephenson, a successful mystery writer, who wrote a course on how to get your first 10K readers (https://www.yourfirst10kreaders.com), which I have been working my way through now.
In fact, it would seem that there are an overabundance of courses once a niche becomes popular, just as certain niches have become very popular in print, e-books, and audiobooks, such as the self-help, popular business, relationships, and diet and health books. So you do want to do some research on what other courses are out in your area, just as you would research the market for books. You want to create something that’s new and different, and then expect to market and promote it, much like you would a book.
One good way to do this research is to put in “courses” and then the topic you want your course to be about. While you might use the title of your book as your course title, if it is short and to the point, you can also come up with another catchier title for your course and simply indicate that it is based on your book. Or use your subtitle for the course title if it seems clearer about how this subject will help the person who takes the course.
Creating Your Course
Once you decide on turning your book into a course — or creating your course first, the next step is to structure your course so it contains a series of modules and classes within each module.
Commonly, the way to structure this is with an introduction to what the course is about, what the person will learn, and how the course is structured. Then, turn the subject matter into a series of modules, that are like chapters in your book. Generally, each module will include a video of about 3-10 minutes, though some can be as long as 20-25 minutes, along with some links so the viewer can download some or all of the following:
– video, the audio track, a PowerPoint of the slides used in the video,
– a cheat sheet with highlights of the video,
– a PDF with the contents of the video and sometimes a more complete discussion of the points raised in the video.
Most courses also have a menu on the side or on the top with a drop down menu that lists all of the modules in the course, so a viewer can easily find the different modules, and often there will be a section for indicating that one has completed a particular module, which will show off as a checkmark or color for a completed course. Plus there is often an arrow pointing to the next class in the series or to the next module, once you finish all the classes in a module.
Creating Your Videos
Think of these videos as the heart of your online course. So you have to make them compelling and engaging.
Usually, viewers will want to see who you are, so at least include a short video of yourself introducing yourself to the viewers, either before the videos begin in a separate introductory video, or at the beginning of each video. One you have introduced yourself in the first video, in future videos you can simply say something like “Hi, again, this is…” Then, the introduction can briefly note what you will learn in the video, refer back to what you have learned in the previous video if there has been such a video, and let the viewer know how important or useful this information will be.
For example, Nick Stephenson begins the video for each class with about 15-30 seconds to say hello, recap what you just learned in the last video, and note what you will now learn. And then he makes a comment like: “So now let’s get to it,” and then the video for the class, consisting of a series of slides and voiceovers, begins.
If you are going to be talking through the video, include cutaways to slides, images, charts, a bulletin board, or graphics, so your video is not just a talking head. Or another approach that some course presenters use is to feature them talking in a small box on the top of the screen, usually on the top right, which remains there as the rest of the presentation continues in the main video screen.
More commonly, at least for the videos I have seen, the course consists of a series of PowerPoint slides with a voice over, and a series of cutaways to illustrate what the presenter is talking about. And then, below the video, there are the links to the video, audio, PDF, and other materials.
For the cutaways, you can include photos, video clips, graphic images, illustrations, cartoons, charts, graphs, much like you might think of adding images to a book — or even video clips to an e-book. It’s a little like being a movie producer, like Ken Burns, who has created a series of historical documentaries, using photos from the archives, though on a much smaller, do-it-yourself scale.
You can now hire some professionals who will put these courses together for you, or you can readily do it yourself. For example, use Facebook Live or an SLR camera on a tripod to record yourself speaking. And you can use some software and services to help you put these PowerPoint presentations and cutaways together, such as Animoto (www.animoto.com) or VideoBuilder (http://www.videobuilder.io), where you upload your slides, photos, video clips, and other elements together to make a short intro.
Or for longer videos, you can organize your PowerPoint slides and clips and then add your voice over, using software from Camtasia (https://www.techsmith.com/video-editor.html) or you can access this as a video enhancer on PowerPoint 10 and above. Just go to “Add-Ins” and add Camtasia. The way this works is that you speak as you move from slide to slide. You speak whatever you want to say for a slide, then click to go to the next slide, and speak some more. When you finally get to the end of the slide show, you then indicate you are finished. Thereafter you can save that PowerPoint as an mp4 video, and add that to your course.
Organizing Your Course
Continue creating these introductions, videos, and supplementary materials for each class, combine a series of these into modules, and then that’s your course.
Of course, you need to organize each of these videos and supplementary materials into your overall course structure. One good way is organize two to five classes into a module, which might be comparable to the parts of a book — ie: Module 1 is based on Part I of your book, Module 2 is based on Part II, and so forth. But this doesn’t always work if your book does not or will not have any parts or only two or three parts. In that case, divide up the whole book into modules or further divide up the parts with more sections into additional modules.
Then, either subdivide the modules up into classes or list all of the classes and combine them into modules. However you do this, give the module a name that reflects the classes in it, and name the classes as well. If they are based directly on chapters and sections in your book, use those names; otherwise, create short, compelling titles for your modules and classes.
For example, Nick Stephenson’s source on Your First 10K Readers, with 59 classes, ranging from about 15-30 minutes each, is structured like this:
– Introduction: Start Here
– Your Core Training: 6 Modules
– Module 1- Rule the Retailers
– Module 2 – Drive Endless Traffic
– Module 3 – Convert Traffic into Subscribers
– Module 4 – Engage Your Audience
– Module 5 – The Ultimate Launch
– Module 6 – Facebook: Profit on Autopilot
Each module lists several classes, most with four classes, a few with three, five, or six classes and lists the length of each class. For example, in Module one, the classes are:
Video 1: Rule the Retailers: 31 minutes
Video 2: Merchandising: 23 minutes
Video 3: Exclusivity vs. Broad Reach: 20 minutes
Video 4: Pricing: 24 minutes
Plus he includes several additional modules for advanced training based on about 35 to 75minute interviews with 6 writers, tools of the trade, swipe files of email exchanges, 5 coaching calls, and links to a Facebook group with a community of writers, where you can ask questions about implementing the training. So this is a very comprehensive training program that is very well thought out and organized.
While these videos are somewhat longer than some of the videos for the email marketing classes — usually about 7-15 minutes, the class structure illustrates how a class is put together.
You can also make your own course shorter or longer, depending on how much you have to say on your topic. However, in general, these courses have at least 6 or 7 classes, and with about 10 or more classes, you can divide them into modules of at least three modules with at least 3 classes in each module. Otherwise, just set up your course as containing a series of classes, and if you have the material, you can add interviews, coaching calls, blogs, other bonuses, and links to a Facebook group.
In the event you have advanced trainings or products or services to sell, you can include them in your course guide menu, too, such as listing “Advanced Courses.”
Pricing Your Course
One of the most sensitive and important considerations is how to price your cost. In general, if this an introductory, stand-along course with a small number — say 10 to 12 – classes, then you can price it at the low end as a single purchase of about $27 to $47. If it’s a little longer, say13-25 classes, then, price it for a little more — say $97 to $147. Even longer, say 26-35 classes, price it for $197 to $297.
Or if you have a more advanced, specialized course, then start off with a higher pricing structure, such as starting at $147 to $247.
And for the most advanced, developed courses, such as one with 50 or 60 classes, like Nick Stephenson created, you can charge even more — from about $597 to $997 are common figures thrown out. But with higher prices, also offer a payment plan, such as $49 or $97 a month, so the viewer can pay a small amount now to get started, though the full price will typically be about 10-20% higher at the end.
Then, once you set the basic price, you can consider different pricing specials, which is common in the online course industry, such as a super low price for those buying now (ie: $27 for a course valued at $97; $97 for a course valued at $497; $147 for a course valued at $997, and so on. Or buy it now before the price goes up, in a special arrangement, where the price is automatically increased by $1 to $5 every hour or two. This kind of price cutting gets into the marketing arena, which I will cover in a future article and book.
So now you’re ready to get started in creating your course. Then, once you do, or even as you are developing it, the next step is to start promoting it to get sign-ups, and I’ll cover that in a future article or book.
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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, specializing in social trends, popular business, and self-help books. She has published over 50 books with major publishers, and has published over 100 books through her company Changemakers Publishing on multiple platforms, including print, e-books, audiobooks, and online courses. She has worked with dozens of clients on writing and publishing memoirs, self-help, business books, and film scripts, and she has helped clients self-publish on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. Her websites include www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com and www.ginigrahamscott.com