Here is an easy-to-follow 5 step creation plan designed specifically for authors that want to create a digital course that sells.
As an author you have three major advantage over other course creators;
- You already have great content
- You’re already a credible authority in your subject
- You can provide value to others
Congratulations, that’s the hard bit done.
You already have the most important element for a successful course done and dusted. So let’s take a look how you can leverage that content commercially.
Not only will this give you more income (if executed well), it will enable you to give your insights and wisdom to more people, enriching them in the process.
This article will walk you though each of the five major course creation steps so you can do this yourself. There’s also a done-for-you service option available which I’ll mention later.
Books don’t make money
Few authors make money directly.
For the vast majority the pay-off comes as a result of standing out in your business niche, becoming a known authority in your subject, and getting your message in-front of people. In short, the benefit is largely due to the marketing properties of the book, rather than the money making potential of the book.
For many the book, or books are a valuable stepping stone to get your prospect who-you-don’t-yet-know to your other business services by providing wisdom, insights and value through your book.
Courses create income
Every course is different, and no product of any type can guarantee commercial success. There are however three important differences between your book and your online course;
1: Price point
A paperback business book will typically sell from $10 at the low end, to around $30 at the higher end.
Depending if you have a publisher, self publish, sell direct or via a store physical or digital store such as Amazon you will need to hand over a good percentage to your commercial partners that print, store, and deliver the book.
Many make only a few dollars per sale.
A course might sell at the low end $50, to the high end $1000.
Let’s use a real life case study as an example. Tim Slade sells his book via Amazon for $32.95 USD. His online learning course, which is a direct translation of the book into video (I know I purchased both) sells at the standard price of $297.
That is practically a 10x increase in the sale price for exactly the same insights and knowledge. Additionally I believe he has no commercial partners, so 100% of that income is his to keep, unlike his book there are no print costs, and practically no distribution costs because it’s all delivered electronically.
Courses often sell for 10x the price of a book.
And with no printing costs.
Sell 10 books and you might have earned yourself enough for a lunch (if you skip desert). Sell 10 courses and that’s enough for a family holiday!
Note: I’ve used Tim Slade’s example because I know it first hand. Also that the course does not include any sophisticated interactions, engagements, quizzes, or other ‘extra’ content. It’s the most like-for-like comparison that I could find.
Courses that do include these (highly recommended) extra engagement points and functionality may well attract a higher selling point.
The amount of time it takes to produce the course largely depends on how ambitious you are. If you wish to deliver the bare minimum in-terms of content, well this is obviously going to be relatively quick and easy to create.
If you are more ambitious, then you will want to deliver an excellent customer experience.
To achieve that you will want to include various user interactions and engagements, and that takes some additional time and skill to achieve.
In general, the better the experience you provide the more delighted customer will be, the better feedback you will get (glowing testimonials are always great), the more likely you will be able to sell to that customer in the future, the more you will be able to charge for your course, and the more profit you will make.
As an author the core content has already been created, and with a little determination it’s a relatively straight forward process to create learning lessons / content (such as talking head videos) from it.
You might be surprised how long it takes to add powerful interactions, questions and engagement points to your course though. This is where an experienced Instructional Designer can offer a huge amount of help.
If that’s not within your financial reach then you can complete this yourself.
Be patient, pay close attention to the settings (this can really make a big difference to the learners experience), add a mixture of different interactions to add interest and vitality to your course.
For an experienced course creator, a course can be created and on the shelf (so-to-speak) realistically in just a few weeks. If you don’t know how to do this, don’t have the time, or don’t simply don’t want to do this – then you can get someone to do this for you.
You have an email list of all your book buyers right? No!
Few author’s have an email list of all their book purchasers. Amazon doesn’t allow it.
Some course distributors (Learning Management Systems) operate similarly to Amazon and also do not pass on the email’s of your course purchasers (Udemy for example). Others options will.
As a business person this is an important communication channel for you, so I would recommend you use a platform that provides you a direct communication channel to your student, and that preferably includes their email address.
So now it’s time to share your 5 step course creation process…
Author’s often make the mistake of believing the first step is the content. Not so.
Assuming that the course will be based on the same or similar content of the book that you have already written, then for you this is not the primary concern.
The first item to focus on is your objective.
What is the outcome you want your course to achieve?
The objective for each person is different, but getting clear on this is critical. I realise that many skip this step, perhaps you’re a creator (like me), you don’t want to think about this boring stuff you just want to dive-in create and bring it to life. I get it.
But you will create and deliver a better solution to your audience when you are clear about the objective you are trying to achieve.
The objective might be to get someone to lose weight. To learn how to build a hifi amplifier. How to fix a broken tap. How to speak Spanish. How to write a book. How to create a course. Or any one of million things.
Your primary objective might not be to teach them anything, it might be to get them to perform an action.
To download a book. To give you their email (actually not needed if you follow my suggestion you’ll have this already). Attend a meeting. Become a life-long coaching client. Sign-up for a retreat. Have an amazing learning experience. Or something else.
What is yours primary objective? Write it down now.
What is the proof point that shows clearly that you have met your objective?
Depending what you identified as your objective, this might be ridiculously obvious, for others much less so. Give it some thought now.
What would be the factual evidence that you have met your primary objective?
What is your source of proof? Write it down now.
So what are the teaching / learning points you will deliver to achieve this proof. There are usually a variety of options so let’s use an example to help explain this.
What is your teaching points? Write them down now.
What is the material you will provide to achieve this proof point?
In the example above it’s clear that photos, sketches, or preferably video of someone performing these tasks may be more valuable to your customer than a talking head video.
Choose media and content that will aid your user reaching your objective of the course.
As an author you may already have this core content. You may for example use the entire contents of your book. Or you may prefer to focus on particular aspects, or just one chapter.
In general I would recommend to focus your course on an element, rather than the entirety of your course. It will allow you deliver a better experience. You may create other courses in the future to deliver further wisdom and insights.
Be clear on what your objectives are, and allow that to drive your conclusions on the content you will include in your course.
For the most part, there is a clear hierarchy in the content that your students prefer. In descending order they are;
Video is so dominant, that you’d need a compelling argument why this is not your primary method of communication. So put simply, where possible use video!
Video includes several formats such as;
- Talking head – speaking face to camera
- Story video – like a mini film
- Action videos – like fixing a tap
- Screen recordings – often used to demonstrate software for example
For many authors they simply need to record themselves (or get someone else to help them) talking through their book. This is what Tim Slade did in the example I gave earlier and this is totally acceptable.
Note: For what it’s worth – I prefer to record myself without assistance just using my iPhone camera (which is more than sufficient quality as long as you have good light), with a lapel bluetooth mic (I use the SmartMike for about $100). That way there’s less pressure on me, and I can take as many takes as I need.
4: Build it
Now it’s time to actually build the course itself.
First you will need to select your Learning Management Solution (LMS). That’s just a fancy phrase used to describe the web platform you will place your content on.
There’s lot’s to choose from. As such this can feel daunting, and it’s one of the main reasons that Author’s give for not getting their course published. So let’s give you a helping hand.
LMS platform summary
Every platform (LMS) has it’s own unique properties, with various pro’s and con’s. There’s a graph summary above. To view properly you can download the full size LMS Summary here.
There’s are a few key points you will want to consider when making your selection.
There are many variations of LMS. A full and traditional LMS service will be either a custom built solution, or white-labelled platform that resides on your website. This is used by global organisations, or large University institutions.
These are highly adaptable, but require significant human-resources (man-hours) to create the courses. These organisations will typically have in-house design teams, or use external organisations to assist in these professional level courses.
By contrast you also have Light-weight LMS services, such as Udemy, Kajabi etc.
Udemy is more valuable and viable as a marketing platform than as an income generator.Simon K Williams
These services have pre-defined interactive elements. They are created as a platform where the creator does-all-the-work themselves to assemble the content.
As the largest solution in this list Udemy is worthy of a special mention here. Note that there is some debate as if to consider Udemy a LMS solution at all, I’ve included it here because I think it’s important you are aware of the options available to you.
90% of sales occur with a coupon code, and at a price less than $50Grégory Boutté, the VP of Content at Udemy
From a business perspective I believe Udemy only makes sense as a marketing platform, not as a direct income strategy. Note that you do not have total control over the pricing on Udemy, and that due to heavy discounting campaigns that Udemy runs that “90% of sales occur with a coupon code, and at a price less than $50”.
There’s a spirited video explaining the key differences between Udemy and other platforms below…
On one-hand they attempt to make the ability to create as easy and intuitive as possible (since you will have to create this yourself), and on the other hand they try to give you as many features for you as possible. Each finds their own path between these two competing and opposite elements.
And in-between there is an open-source solution – Moodle.
Moodle is the WordPress of the LMS industrySimon K Williams
Open-source means that no one-person or company owns the code, as a result there are no monthly charges or fees per sale. All the income is yours to keep.
If you’re familiar with WordPress, then you can think of Moodle as the WordPress equivalent in the LMS industry. Created in 2002 it currently has over 1600 plugins available (most are free), so it is a highly capable and versatile solution, and hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
There’s a significant learning curve with Moodle, whilst it is possible to learn this all yourself, when coupled with a skilled instructional designer you arguably have the best of both worlds;
- No platform to learn
- Skilled expert creates the course for you
- Better course, delivered faster than you could ever achieve on your own
- No platform fees
Because you effectively ‘own’ the platform, you also have access to the student emails which would not be available to you on a light-weight LMS solution like Udemy.
Course-Correct is one such service. You deliver your content and following a one-to-one design brief meeting a professional instructional designer builds the course for you, with all the interactions and engagements that you need for a one-time flat-fee (plus $47 annual fee for hosting).
How long will your course be a valid product?
Will the content you create today (or that is in your book) still be relevant and therefore sellable in 3 years time, 5 years time, or 10 years or more?
Most their digital courses will be relevant and sellable for many years (the beauty of digital), so I recommend you have a sensible guess at the longevity of your product and compare prices of platforms across that time period.
For example platform one might be cheaper over one year, but platform two might be significantly cheaper after 3 years.
In that case, platform two would ordinarily be the better investment.
All platforms will allow you to use video, downloads and some basic quizzes. You will need to look into each platform in detail if you have specific interactive requirements.
Most platforms have a rigid selection of features that can be used, but some offer a modular approach that means you can add additional ‘plug-ins’ if wished.
It’s important that you have a direct communication channel with your student, most LMS platforms will provide some form of this.
However many including for example Udemy will not pass over the email addresses of your students. They have their reasons, but this may be a significant indicating factor in the platform you choose.
If you choose to host yourself then you will get these automatically.
Different platforms have different costs and fee structures.
Most operate a monthly SaaS business model, so you will need to pay a monthly fee to host and distribute your course.
Whilst you can in theory move your course from one platform to another, in reality it takes a lot of time to setup, and you should select your platform on the assumption that it will remain there for the foreseeable future.
There may also be fees per sale. Remember to look into these. They may not prohibit you from selecting the platform, but you should educate yourself on the fee structure to avoid nasty surprises later.
Note: Add the magic
A long, long, long, long time ago, I worked as a ski guide in the French Alps (fun times). Stay with me here, it will make sense soon…
A really excellent company now called VIP Ski. They had these lovely glossy brochures, showing the amazing chalets on offer, four-course evening meals, log-fires, hot-tub’s, private cinema’s, free-flow wine etc. Beautiful.
As our boss explained it was our job as staff members to Exceed the Brochure Promise, or EBP as we called it.
One great example was a good looking chalet guy would dress up in a tux to welcome the guests, candles lighting the path to the their chalet door, kia royals served on silver trays.
Guests described it as James Bond welcoming them to the chalet. Little moments like this transformed their holiday experience.
It’s your job to do the same in your courses!
I’m not saying this is easy to do, but it’s a goal worth reaching for. So consider interactions, and engagements beyond just video delivery and basic questions.
To achieve the very best solution consider working with an experienced Instructional Designer to help create and deliver the magic.
Once you course is created it’s time to sell 🙂
To do that you need to give your course exposure. No one solution from those below is going to provide all your sales, the best strategy is to produce multiple touch-points with your prospects.
The more touch-points there are, the greater the sales you will produce…
Blog posts are a great way of raising the issues that your course assists.
It’s a great idea to do a brain-storm and think of 10 or more related topics to speak on. Each having a link back to your Course to raise awareness and increase your sales potential.
This also helps significantly with your on-page SEO. I won’t get into that here, but trust me this is a good approach.
If you have an email database this is the time to use it.
Again think about multiple touch-points. If you’ve created any blog articles mentioned above then this is a great excuse to raise the item on a number of different occasions, from a number of different angles.
If the course is only relevant to a small section of your database remember to segment and only send appropriate messages to the right audience. You might for example have a different message being sent to the women and men in your database. Or different messages sent to existing customers, and prospects (not yet purchased).
The more specific the language you use, the more effective it is likely to be.
Don’t be shy. I’d would recommend you start raise awareness of your course from the moment you commit to creating it.
Screenshots, video clips, stories about the journey, all of these will add interest and anticipation and awareness of your course.
Often over looked. You will need a highly converting sales page. Even if you are using a LMS platform, you need to drive traffic there, so you need a compelling web page to achieve that.
Consider a launch offer.
This gives the prospect a reason to ‘buy now’. Without that, they can put off the purchase to another day, that will in all likelihood never arrive. So it’s critical you find a compelling reason why they should buy today. A limited price offer, or temporary bonus is one of the best ways to achieve it.
If you have experience of advertising online through Facebook, Google, etc. then you already know how to do this.
If you do not have experience, then I assure you this is not the drama many think it is. The options available do make this feel rather overwhelming which is a shame because it’s incredible valuable and easy to do.
If you are gong to advertise for the first time, give yourself a strict budget, and don’t exceed it. As a starting point I’d recommend what’s called a re-targeting campaign on Facebook, that will help get your message in front of people that you already have a relationship with and direct them to your course offer.
This is low your hanging fruit, and is highly likely to give you positive return on your investment.
I’ve spoken to a lot of authors who know they need to package up their wisdom into a sellable product, and to my mind at least there is no better way to achieve that than by creating a digital course yourself.
The three reasons author’s tell me why they haven’t yet done this is;
They don’t know which platform to use, and they don’t like the idea of having to pay a platform month-after-month from now until the end of time.
#2: Don’t know
Don’t know where to start, or how to create the content. As we’ve seen in this article you don’t need to over think this. Chances are you already have great content, it’s now time to leverage it.
#1: No time
And the number one reason authors haven’t yet created their course is they don’t have time!
The irony is of course that if you don’t have time you need to productise your wisdom as a priority, so that you are no longer exchanging time-for-money, and you will get more time.
Your digital course is possible the best way to do this.
You’ve already done the hard work creating the book. This is the cherry on top that can actually bring direct commercial returns where you don’t have to swop your time for money.
Course-Correct for authors
As an author myself, and as someone that created their first online training course back in 2009, I remember the questions, concerns and confusion on how to do this.
Whilst there are lot’s more options and opportunities now, it has also become more bewildering. As a result many authors like you are not taking advantage of their book’s commercial potential.
That’s why I launched Course-Correct for authors, a service that uses the content you provide to create a compelling and highly engaging digital course by an experienced and highly skilled Instructional Designer.
With over 1600 interaction types available, you’ll end up with a unique course designed specifically for your needs and your customers needs.
Hosted directly on your website (or ours if you prefer). With no on-going fees, and no technology or new platforms to learn.
Your course will typically be delivered in just 21 days, and also distributed via the Android app store, and the Apple iOS app store.