Title: More Than Books Source: GigaOM Published: December 2014.
To many people, self-publishing means producing ebooks. But nowadays, that’s a limited way of thinking. A lot of indie authors call themselves authorpreneurs, and at least some of them have expanded their business to include not only books, but other digital content such as blogs, podcasts, videos, and even online courses.
Making and selling your own online courses is one of the latest ways to build a brand, and more and more companies are popping up and offering their platforms to anyone with subject matter expertise who is willing to share. Platforms include Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed, Pathwright, Coursmos, ON-ED, ZoomZu, and Fedora, to name a few. Classes consist of videos, presentations, quizzes, and discussion topics. Full disclosure, I have self-published a few ebooks, and I have my own online courses available on Udemy, Skillshare, and Skillfeed.
I spoke with six other online instructors who are also authors, five of which are currently earning a full time income with their books and classes. In most cases, their books and courses fuel each other’s sales. Though some of them offer their courses on multiple websites, they all teach classes on Udemy, a platform with more than 20,000 courses and over four million students.
Nancy Hendrickson has written 29 books, most of them about writing and promoting non-fiction books, which ties in with her Udemy writing course.
“I love teaching, so [teaching online] seemed like a natural move for me,” she said. “I’ll still be writing books, but being able to interact with students is something I truly love.”
Dave Espino wrote his first book in 2000, called Beyond eBay. The book was so successful he said it turned into a full-time income and led to a partnership with an infomercial company. Currently he teaches 19 courses on Udemy.
“With today’s ease of communication, books and eBooks can be widely distributed all over the world now and it’s exciting when I see that I have over 300,000 students—many throughout countries all around the world,” he said.
Jose Santiago Casanova has been an author for five years and an online instructor for one year. Originally he said he was a day trader, but he started writing so he would have more credibility with clients and investors.
“Once they read the book, they know that you take your craft seriously,” he said.
He said he started teaching online because people kept asking him questions about trading tactics, and he expanded his book to accompany his online course.
Wendy Mayhew has been an author for one year and an online instructor for two. She wrote the textbook Building Your Platform and teaches the course “Real World Entrepreneur Training.”
“I kept being asked to help entrepreneurs start their business,” Mayhew said. “I thought the best way of doing this was through a video course.”
Christine Maisel is a web designer who has been an author and online instructor for about one year, and she currently teaches five courses on Udemy. She said she started blogging but eventually decided to try writing books.
“Once I wrote my first book, I was hooked,” she said. “It was a much more natural process that I enjoyed doing.”
Tom Corson-Knowles has been an author since 2012 and an online instructor since 2013.
“I started teaching online because when I graduated from business school, I realized I was not prepared with the skills and tools I needed to succeed as an author and entrepreneur,” he said. “[…] I made so many mistakes and it was such a painful process that I didn’t want anyone else to ever go through all the mistakes I made again. That’s why I created http://www.BlogBusinessSchool.com […].”
The marketing strategies for books and online courses are very similar. The instructors I spoke with said they use mailing lists, Facebook, YouTube, Retailmenot, Twitter, Reddit, forums, Slideshare, Scribd, Blackhat, and related blogs to promote their courses. Another popular tactic is to offer discount codes.
Some instructors research their niche before diving in, and, like many indie authors, they also test their images, sales copy, and category placement to see what affects their sales. These author-instructors work hard to build their brand by consistently churning out new content, including both books and courses. Some platforms such as Udemy also help market and promote courses, especially ones that have a lot of momentum at launch.
But most importantly, instructors build connections with their students.
“I work hard to establish relationships,” Hendrickson said. “For me, that’s the key.”
“I love the video courses because I get to connect with my students even more through the platform,” Corson-Knowles said. “They can ask questions and I can answer them and we can create a real dialogue. Lots of readers email me, but I feel like the connection is deeper with my course students.”