The Math of a Backwards Book –
How Authors Create Courses, Part 3
I tested all that I talked about in the last podcast (See Parts I and II) and started building a course on Skillshare, only to find out that they recommended just doing a small part of all I had laid out.
The scratch that needed itching this early am was how to actually do this whole big course, and an estimate of what it would take to lay everything out. You’ll see the math below, but realize this is still quite rough. It’s an untested workout at this point.
The idea I wanted to work backwards from was what it would take to create a book which would be acceptable to Libraries, and so could also go into bookstores beyond the Amazon walled garden.
We want to work backwards from the most optimal production.
Ideally, we work with short reads as a production model.
K-lytics says the best selling short reads are between 80-100 Kindle pages (250 words.) Print words are about 300 per page, but you don’t always end chapters with full pages, so that is probably a good rule of thumb for a print book as well.
Using 150 words per minute spoken, you’ll get a 5:3 ratio to figure out minutes of talking to pages in print.
Just to pick a nice number that should come out even, let’s pick 24000 words (about 96 pages.)
That’s 160 minutes. Or 2:40 in hours.
Update: actually, 150 minutes winds up with 22500 words, and 90 pages. That’s 2:30 hours, but I stumble on this a few paragraphs from now…
Now, I prefer the TV scriptwriting conventions of a hook, 4 acts, and a teaser. The hook and teaser together are about the length of one of the acts, so we have essentially a 5-act unit in total time.
Let’s do the same with each act, using Coyne’s Story Grid work up of needing an Inciting Incident, Progressive Complication, Crisis, Climax, and Resolution. (He uses these in everything from the individual actor’s beat to the overall story arc.)
So we could use a 5 minute video each time, which would mean 25 minutes for each Skillshare lesson. (In other courses, in standalone courses, those lessons would simply be modules. Meaning that in building your Skillshare courses, you are building modules for your major course that you offer elsewhere. (I’ll be checking into other course providers to see how these compare: Udemy, OpenSesame, Thinkific, Teachable, Rainmaker Platform LMS.) To avoid confusion, lets refer to every video as a lesson and 5 lessons as a module.
A 5-minute video, a 25-minute module.
150 minutes would allow you to have two five-minute videos extra for an intro and a summary/CTA/back ads. (And this actually might reveal that webinars are really two 30-minute courses, one to deliver the data, the other to sell you on buying today. Probably half-hour useful data, 20 minutes of Q and A, 10 minutes of pitch with limited time offer.
150 minutes divides into 6 25-minute modules.
That amount of work will wind you up with an ebook that contains all you’ve talked about in 90 pages. Now, you can also add more material to the book to get a spine on it with a readable text. This allows libraries to stock it, and then means you get more discovery happening. On CreateSpace, it takes 100 pages to make a printable spine, but 150 – 200 pages is the sweet spot for affordable POD.
If you pad it out with the slides, this will probably take you over the top of that sweet spot. It has been suggested you do at least one slide per minute to keep the audience attention, and that would be 150 slides by itself. With text on opposite pages, that’s over 300 pages, if the text will fit below the slide, then we are right at the sweet spot where we want to be. Again, this would be the text book which matches the course, not a literary masterpiece. (Benefit of such a layout is that it would allow a person to quickly scan through the content of the course, and grasp the material more quickly. Each chapter would be a lesson and link to the podcast episode.)
Still, you could produce that in a single day, by talking for a half-hour, then taking a 5 minute break, a total of 8:40 – a long day. Lots of prep. So figure maybe two days, or three. 3 sessions each day over 3 days would be sensible. Depending on how you roll… Then you have to edit, which I imagine would be best done after recording for the day. So one hour of talking (two modules) and then editing that text would be enough for one day.
Still, this could have you producing two complete modules each day for three days if you are happy with the short read.
So, four days to produce your book gets you:
- An overall 90/150 page textbook,
- 6 modules of a complete course,
- 36 audios, which could become 12 weeks of podcasts, at one module per week.
- Those podcasts can repeat four times a year as evergreen promotional content.
- You then create an ebook and thin paperback book for each modul. (using the slides as images opposite the text, plus some padding.)
- The books sell the overall course, the course sells the individual books and also as a bundle (and a big paperback and a hardback.
- Don’t forget selling the audiobooks and audio CDs.
In my own case, I want to create courses for four books as a set of material into one course. If I broke down each book into 12 lessons, then it falls right into the above.
Currently, I have a course laid out for the Really Simply Writing & Publishing series which is 6 modules total. That will be a nice test of this. As evergreen podcast content, these could repeat 8 times a year, or run every other week (more likely.)
At the end of four days, you could have all this worked up, but more likely you’d allot a little extra time for oddball interruptions and rest.
Working up the workflow for a 6-module course (Note – “days” are figurative, depending on how much free time you have in 24 hours to devote to self-publishing or to create courses.):
- Work up mindmap,
- Complete outline,
- Create slide-decks,
- Research and fill in any holes.
- Record two modules
- Edit text into shape.
- Create PDF handouts, and audio downloads.
- Post modules, or schedule for pilot.
- Publish two ebooks and thin paperbacks for these. (Needs covers, metadata)
- Create and pre-schedule two week’s worth of podcasts.
- Publish 2 audio books and audio CD.
Day Two and Three, Repeat Day One for then next two modules each day.
- Build the total ebook and paperback, hardback (without slide images).
- Schedule pilot for these, and start accepting students (which could have started on Day One for the first module. That would slow down your production, but would ensure you didn’t waste time creating something no body wanted. On the other hand, you’ve only taken a week to produce all this.
- 6 modules – a complete course ready to pilot
- 30 ebooks, with 30 thin paperbacks
- 1 big paperback, and hardback.
- 6 audiobooks, and audio CD’s.
- 6 weeks of podcast episodes.
- Probably 6 bundles which could be offered as standalone mini-courses.
Not bad for a week or two of concentrated, focused work.
Wishing you success…
Does this work in the real world?
I have two projects to start up. These have been in planning for most of this last year – too far back to even look at where these started.
Project 1: Really Simple Writing & Publishing Course
This is one of two content routes I have going. While I mainly have been researching self-help and personal development for decades (nearly four of them) but… I got here by publishing books and watching them not sell. Then the ebook revolution happened. So I did some tests and suddenly started making enough money to quit my last day job (which was part time contract work, anyway.)
And that was surprising, but welcome. After that, I was able to simply research full time and find out why my books didn’t sell, but this stuff I threw up there sometimes did and sometimes didn’t. As well, until I could crack that model, I wasn’t going to be able to achieve any goals with the self-help stuff.
Meanwhile, on the self-help stuff. it showed that the books which were actually selling had to do with Nightingale’s Strangest Secret. So I took the hint to simply focus on these three books (and discovering a fourth one that fit in.)
Where these two parallel lines converged was when making courses for each of these was a solution to both of them.
In both of these cases, I know a heckuva lot of stuff. Tons. And people could use what I know. A mastermind group brought this home, as I was asked to help them solve really simple (to me) problems. They wanted a “hold my hand” approach. And I’ve got nothing with coaching, but it’s not personally rewarding to me. Not as creative as I’d like to be. But– I can lay out such a path.
The self-help stuff is quite a bit different, since writing a course in this is to actually research into these books in order to tie them together and cross-reference them to each other so people can get the best use out of them. (Essentially, because they are all based on the same underlying system. And mastering that system opens all doors to an individual. I know that this exists, but I couldn’t tell someone how to get there without spending the 3 decades I have. And that would be valuable.)
So building courses for each of these areas is needful.
For Writing & Publishing, this will wrap everything up. I deliver this core solution which explains all the other courses, then I simply tell people that with that core solution, they can evaluate what everyone else is saying. I don’t need to be around to help them. This is a final salute to everyone, and then I close this line off. Because I simply have it all for myself, but won’t need to be working out anything else.
The W&P course has 6 modules with 5 5-minute lessons each, or 150 minutes, which is 2:10 hours-worth of video. That means a 90 page book, unless I add the slide deck to it as images, which then makes it a text book guide and be at least 180 pages long. As above, this also means 6 ebooks, with 6 thin paperbacks. Audiobooks/CDs, and so on.
Project 2: Mindset Stacking™ Course
This is 4 modules of 12 lessons each, each being 5 minutes long. 240 minutes and 144 pages without images. Then there are 4 mini-courses, 4 ebooks and thin paperbacks, 4 audiobooks, etc.
The W&P course will take 6 half-hour (25 minute) slots to record, or 3 days. The MS course will be an hour of recording for each module. And that explains how there is a third more pages with the longer course. The MS course will be 6 days of recording. 150 minutes compared to 240 minutes, 90 pages compared to 144 pages. So that matches up.
And These Chapters Close.
I’ve been in this type of scene before. People work everything out and then get all stuck on what they created and try to keep it going. Practically, all that will be needed with these two courses (after their pilot) will be to market them.
This backwards publishing idea is now the model I’ll be using from here on out with all my non-fiction research. There are three more courses (or modules to add) about W&P and that will wrap it up. After that, through my course, a person could evaluate whether someone else is blowing smoke or not. Most of these guys actually are. They don’t have anything new. And I can see them being echoed by other people (in my emails) who are pushing their affiliate offer.
There are a small handful who are worth getting into your personal network. And that is where you would really expand. But a person has to develop their own approach to these. There is no launch plan that works the same way for everyone. Every single launch, every single publishing effort, has to be individually tailored to the vision and resources of that individual. And that is all the W&P course will accomplish. So I won’t be needed after I tell these students not just how to do it, but how to tell if what other people around them is going to be useful to them.
And that is the unique value to this course no one else has. Also why I’m not needed after that. If anything, they are pushed to become an evangelist for the course and pitch it to their list.
The MS course is the same approach. By the end of it, your world is completely shaken out. You know you have several years of hard work in front of you, and gaining a little bit more freedom every day. The ending of it will be to shatter their idea for miracles. Sure, if you get this right, you can get a huge gain suddenly. But the costs to achieve that are enormous. Most people won’t and so, don’t.
For me, I’ve got two more projects to run simultaneously. One will be another course, but the other is writing fiction. That is a completely new world for me. I know all about how to do this, but I haven’t taken the steps to get it done.
Does this make sense?
What are your plans? What is your vision?
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