There comes a time in every writer's life, whether Indie or Traditional, that an author finds themselves in pursuit of knowledge. Learning comes with the territory of being an author, whether that's story research, craft tips, or marketing and publishing help. For those of us who are self-published or pursing indie publishing, this typically results in the search for a credible and helpful writing course whether that be teaching us how to write or for teaching us about self-publishing in general. Regardless of whether you're looking to find a writing course or a marking/publishing course, these 12 tips can be applied and used to help you make the best decision.
Where To Start:
There's thousands of writing courses out there and a myriad of ways to find them. Having so many options can be wonderful, but it can also muddy the waters of decision making. How do you know whether a course is credible? That it'll give you the information you need? That it's worth shelling out hundreds of dollars for?
These are the questions we'll be asking and answering here in this post.
All things considered, picture this. You're sitting at your computer, scanning through a thousand courses. Some you can rule out right away due to lack of information, from vetting the instructor and making note that they don't have the qualifications you're looking for, or on the opposite end, they're heavily qualified but cost way too much. Where do you start?
The best way to find a course that is trustworthy, informative, current, and affordable is to ask the writing community. This was how we found the course of our dreams: Sarra Cannon's Publish and Thrive course. Word of mouth from other writers who have invested and taken the course helped us choose from all the other courses floating in the virtual world, recommended the best one, and put to rest the endless spiral of confusion and overwhelming decision making.
From our experience in finding the right course for our needs, we've compiled a checklist of tips to help you find the course that fits you and your needs best.
Writing Course Checklist: 12 Things To Look For
1. Instructor Credentials
Before anything else, measure the courses on your list with the credibility of its instructor. Ask yourself the following:
Do they have the degrees, experience, and credentials to back up their claims? Do they openly share these or vaguely reference them?
Are what they claiming to have under their belt in alignment with their age? Does their personal timeline check out? For example, if they say they went to a four year college and got a master's degree (2 years) does the time it takes to earn those degrees match what they claim?
Does their website look professional/appropriate?
Do they have testimonials readily available?
Is there an appropriate amount of information available about the instructor and what their course offers?
Is their identity clear? For example, do they have a professional headshot, name, bio, etc.
Are they previously published and where?
Do you have access to their previously published works? Can you buy them?
Do you get a bad gut feeling when looking over what they offer? Do you feel you can trust them?
By answering these questions, you can begin to weed out those who fall short, look untrustworthy, lack the proper credentials, or simply don't match your vibe.
2. Transparent Course Description
Your next step is to look at the course being offered. Here's what to consider:
What information is being laid out about the course?
Does it address your needs/what you're looking for?
Is what the course offers clear and if not, is there a Q&A section with more information?
Is the instructor readily available and willing to answer questions that you have?
Can the instructor be contacted easily? Are they timely with their response?
Are there testimonials with attributions?
Is the course work laid out in an organized and specified way?
Is there transparency in what will be given in terms of information and resources?
Are there any other benefits to enrolling?
Does the price of the course seem reasonable for what is being offered? How does it measure up to the costs of other courses offering similar things?
Do you have any doubts or reservations about taking the course? Why?
What is the pacing and timeline for the course? Is it self-guided or instructor-guided? Do you have lifetime access or limited access?
What resources will you gain that can help further your future goals?
Are there any outside benefits to taking the course? For example, networking opportunities, communities to join such as a Facebook group, resources available post-course, etc.
3. Check For Reviews
Consider reviews and do your homework before signing up. If a course doesn't have reviews or testimonials on the website, has poor ratings, or when you do your research and lawsuits or other issues from previous customers pop up on Google that's a good indication of a scam or another serious problem.
But what about the courses that have good reviews, have a professional looking website, with an instructor who seems qualified? How can you narrow down your search further?
The best way to narrow down whether or not a course is right for you, is to ask around. If you're looking for more information, reassurance, or simply want to gain further insight into a would be-instructor a great way to do it is to reach out to former students and ask them about their experience. While this might seem weird, don't be afraid to reach out! It's an opportunity to really see what's in store and whether or not the investment is worth it. Most students who share a testimonial know that that opens them up to be contacted, so don't hesitate if you have questions.
If you need a place to start, here's a few questions that can help break the ice:
What was your experience with the course like?
Did you find the information given helpful? Was there anything you felt was missing?
Were the extra resources helpful?
Did you like the way the information was given/taught?
Was the instructor responsive and attentive?
How was the instructor's overall attitude while teaching the course?
Did you find the layout of the information easily digestible/clear?
Did you find your investment worthwhile overall?
Did you find the pacing of the course doable with your lifestyle responsibilities?
By asking questions like these, you'll gain greater perspective into the instructor, coursework, and what to expect overall from the experience all of which can be invaluable when making a decision.
4. Prioritizes You and Your Goals
There's nothing worse than signing up for a course and then finding out that it's cookie-cutter and generic. Your author journey is as personal as it possibly can be, so wouldn't it be better for your chosen course to have an approach that suits your specific needs? We think so!
With that in mind, it's important to find a course that serves to bolster your career goals and your spirit. What you want out of the course matters, but on a base level it's important for the course to further your personal learning, goals, and writing. When comparing courses, consider the tone and overall vibe of the course. Does the way the instructor speaks to would be students resonate with you? Is it upbeat and positive? Do you find it encouraging and filled with hope? Were they easy to understand and communicate in a way that resonates with you? When it comes to signing up, remember: It's an investment of time as well as money. Make sure that whatever course you sign on for is one that you'll actually enjoy taking.
Another aspect to consider is how helpful said course will actually be in furthering your personal goals. A course could come highly recommended by fellow authors, but if you're not ready to learn the information given or have surpassed the level of what is being taught, you run the chance of being overwhelmed or worse, with less insight than what you bargained for. A great option to look for is a course that challenges you, but also one that has lifetime access. That way you gain the best of both worlds- information you actually need and an endless time frame to learn it. If you feel like the information doesn't address your specific writing needs in some way, keep searching.
5. Offers A Safe Creative Space
If you have any doubts about what kind of experience you'll have while taking the course, it's time to pause and reconsider. Why do you feel hesitant? Is it because of the fear of doing something new? Of spending too much? Or is it self-doubt rearing its ugly head? All of these feelings are normal, but it's good to have an instructor who both understands how you feel and is able to provide a safe creative space for you to explore and get past those negative aspects of being a writer.
Consider the emotional benefits that taking the right course can have. A good writing course can help boost your confidence, provide support, connect you to others who feel similarly/share the same experiences, can help you overcome your fears, and teach you to better balance your mental and physical well-being as an author. By setting requirements for what you want to gain emotionally from a course you can further narrow down your list of options by how they best fit or don't fit that need. For example, if one of the things you hope to gain is a community of fellow authors to join then you should be eliminating all courses that don't provide some form of community connection. Similarly, if the major draw of a course is to provide intense, constructive feedback of your work then perhaps that's not the best route for a writer who requires a more sensitive, and gentle approach to critiques.
6. Gives Constructive Feedback
Consider what sort of feedback the course will provide. In the case of a writing course, it would be the constructive criticism of your writing. In the case of a marketing or self-publishing course like Publish and Thrive, it would be constructive feedback on your publishing strategy. Regardless of the type, the feedback provided should be helpful and instructional.
In a great writing course, your instructor's goal should be to provide you with accurate industry information and to guide you towards becoming a better writer. They should provide clarity on where you can improve your writing as well as where you've mastered skills. By the end you should have a deeper understanding of where your writing weaknesses are and where your strengths lie.
For a course like Publish and Thrive, which speaks to the process of setting up a successful author business, the feedback given is directed towards helping authors build their understanding of genre, the self-published industry, and how to create a publishing/marketing strategy that will work best for their particular author brand and novel. There is a live Q&A where authors can ask questions and receive immediate answers about what they've learned or personal author questions that relate directly to their strategies or books.
Any feedback should feel constructive, helpful, and respectful.
7. Encourages Connection
Another sign of a great writing course is that it offers connection and community with other authors. No matter if you're an introverted writer or the most outgoing, every writer can benefit from being connected to a writing community. There's invaluable insights, professional connections, and support that is traded amongst members of these communities whether it's being able to get recommendations for editors or cover artists, finding betas or a critique partner, getting answers to questions about marketing or ISBNS, or simply trading stories about experiences. Finding a course that offers this type of connection can not only benefit you short term, but can be worth its weight in gold in the long run because of the networking it offers.
8. Respects Your Creative Autonomy
While there's no doubt that a writing course will introduce you to new ideas, new processes, and a variety of writers and writing styles, one thing a writing course should not do is challenge your creative autonomy. If there's signs of another writer or worst-case-scenario the instructor themselves trying to force their own writing philosophy onto their students, that's a red flag.
Even a brand new writer deserves to have their writing process respected. There's no one-size-fits-all writing advice nor one-size-fits all publishing strategy. At the end of the day, you are the only one who knows what's best for your writing and your books.
An example of a would-be red flag situation in a writing course:
You want to write a short story about your childhood imaginary friend, but the instructor pushes you to change it to a story about your childhood experiences. Even when you insist that you'd rather write about the imaginary friend, the instructor continues to press for the change. This is a red flag because the instructor isn't respecting the author's right to create goals for their own work and instead is determined to force their own idea of what the author's writing should be.
An example in a publishing course:
You share your marketing strategy ideas with the instructor of the course. Rather than helping you stay true to your goals, the instructor suggests that you completely change your strategy to match the one that worked for them. This is a red flag because the instructor isn't respecting the author's right to make their own marketing decisions and instead is trying to steer them in the opposite direction of their goals.
Finding the right writing course can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, but once you find the right fit it can become one of the best choices you've ever made as an author.