Announcing: Build Your Author Platform, Winter 2012

I am thrilled to announce the Winter 2012 edition of my 8-week online course for writers: BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM. This is an intensive course that helps you establish your writing career and grow your audience.

 

What This Course Provides:

  • A cohesive strategy for creating your brand as an author – to build your author platform.
  • Specific tactics to grow your audience.
  • A framework to focus your efforts with clear goals and actionable steps to reach them.
  • How to best communicate what your work is about in a way that it aligns to the existing needs and desires of your audience.
  • Ways to find and engage a community of people who will become your fans.
  • How to create the online elements of your author platform, such as a website and blog.
  • Tips to best leverage and manage social media.

I have also lined up INCREDIBLE guest speakers, including:

Guest Speakers

 

Structure of the Course

The course is designed to balance flexibility and a personal connection:

  • 8 week online course, February 1 – March 27, 2012
  • A structured curriculum, with a new lecture delivered each week, taking you step by step through the process of how to develop your author platform.
  • Weekly homework assignments that I provide feedback on to ensure that you walk away from the course having built the core aspects of your platform.
  • A forum where you can ask questions, learn about what is and isn’t working for the other class members, and get past the biggest challenges you are facing.
  • Weekly Q&A conference calls where I answer your questions and the entire class can share insight into their experience.
  • An online classroom where you can access the material and learn about the other students, which can be accessed from anywhere with a web connection.

The course costs $799, and you can read full details here.

 

Free Webinar!

If you are even mildly interested, please consider joining me on Thursday January 26th at 1pm ET for a free webinar: Why You Need An Author Platform. Register for it here:

Register

If you have any questions, just let me know. Thanks!

-Dan

973-981-8882
dan@danblank.com

 

Why My Online Courses Are So Darn Expensive

I am offering two online courses this Fall, each which cost $795:

And I have to say, that’s A LOT of money. Seven hundred and ninety five dollars. I would never belittle how much money that is to an individual, how that represents precious resources for one’s career and family.

But…

I do want to talk about why I think $795 is an INCREDIBLE VALUE for these courses. How there is so much below the surface other than lessons and homework. Okay, let’s dig in…

I charge $795 for an eight-week online course. So, what do you get for that? Here’s a peek:

  • A structured curriculum, with a new lecture delivered each week, taking you step by step through the process of how to develop your author platform.
  • Weekly homework assignments that I provide feedback on to ensure that you walk away from the course having built the core aspects of your platform.
  • A forum where you can ask questions, learn about what is and isn’t working for the other class members, and get past the biggest challenges you are facing.
  • Weekly Q&A conference calls where I answer your questions and the entire class can share insight into their experience.
  • An online classroom where you can access the material and learn about the other students, which can be accessed from anywhere with a web connection.
  • BONUS: Guest Q&A calls, where a publishing and marketing expert takes your questions.

For me, I feel that the value in my courses is two-fold:

  • The quality of material and how it is presented
  • The level of interaction to personalize the material, and how we turn ideas into action

This digs DEEP into the part of execution that is often glossed over – how we motivate ourselves to move past fear, past barriers, to truly take action.

So many of us read blog posts, read books, read Tweets – all FULL of amazing advice and tips. And yet, we still feel distant from our goals. Why? Because interaction is the key. Why do you think Weight Watchers requires you to show up at their meetings once a week? You have a scale at home, they could easily just ask you to weigh yourself and log it into a spreadsheet. But they know that losing weight is about SO MUCH MORE than just information itself. It is about being a part of something, it is about staying motivated, it is about celebration of success, and support when we encounter setbacks.

I setup my courses the same way.

We have weekly Q&A conference calls, where we discuss your successes and challenges, and you hear about (and engage with) those of other students in the class. We have guest Q&A calls where outside experts don’t present to you – they LISTEN to your challenges and goals, and give you specific advice and support on how to get where you need to be.

This is akin to a consulting relationship in many ways. For that, I charge $175 per hour. In this course, you get EIGHT WEEKS with me, and no fewer than 12 hour-long phone calls, sometimes more. This is completely in addition to the course material itself, which has gotten rave reviews in itself.

I’ve spoken at BookExpo, Writers Digest Conference, Romance Writers of America Annual Conference, AWP Conference, Digital Book World, and many other publishing and writing events. I have worked with more than 500 writers. And there is nothing I love more than working with students in these classes. I am 100% present in them – this is not an “information product” where I go on auto-pilot, delivering PDF’s once a week.

This is why the courses are $795. Because instead of $175 per hour with me, we work together for eight weeks, plus you get to meet amazing guest speakers, and work with a group of writers who will become the community that helps you reach your goals.

I know that you may not have $795 just sitting around. This is why I offer payment plans. You can pay all at once, or choose four payments of $198.75. And honestly, if you need more flexibility than that, just let me know. I am happy to work with you on that.

If you think one of these course may be for you, here is more information on each:

Here’s what others are saying about the course:

Shelly Immel"The class was an intensive learning experience. It catapulted me through what would otherwise take years to pick up in bits and pieces."
– Shelly Immel
Judith Klinger"The learning environment is supportive and attentive to individual author’s needs."
– Judith Klinger

Gabriela Pereira"Build Your Author Platform opened doors for me that I never would have imagined!"
– Gabriela Pereira
Cynthia Morris
"I made quantum leaps in solidifying my message not just for my novel, but for my whole writing career."
– Cynthia Morris

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.
Thanks!
-Dan
973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank | dan@danblank.com

Why Interaction is the Key to Learning

Do you ever feel like a commodity? A line item in someone else’s spreadsheet? That sometimes, you are being herded like cattle? Perhaps at work, you have an employee number, one that can be crossed off a list at any moment, as per your employee agreement. Or in our education system, packed into ever larger classes, as schools try to do more with fewer resources. That you are being managed via the bell curve, where it is okay if those at the low and high end are underserved, as long as we shove as many in the middle as possible.

I spend my time obsessing over how we learn, what resources work in education, and how to best help each other build the life and career we want to lead. A core part of my business is teaching, and this Fall I am offering four online classes:

I am also lining up private workshops for publishing clients, and preparing for speaking engagements at conferences. As I develop curricula and classes, I am constantly trying to find the best way to not just share information, but to truly move the needle for writers and publishers in reaching their goals.

Content is not always king.

Let’s say you work in publishing or are a writer, and you want to push your career forward. While information is a part of that, it is not the only ingredient. It is an essential component of a larger process of education and execution. If we judge career development opportunities based on the information alone, we may miss out on the most effective ways to actually learn.

For instance, how many WONDERFUL books sit on your shelf? Books that you mean to read, but can never get around to? Maybe nonfiction books that you have even read – LOVED – but never followed through on in terms of turning that information into action?

Often, we pay for information because the action of PAYMENT feels as though we are doing something. We are throwing precious resources at a problem, and assume that action alone will help ensure results. But it doesn’t.

I spend a lot of time analyzing online classes from a wide range of industries, and have taught hundreds of people this way myself. What I find is that what doesn’t work for in-person education, doesn’t work for online education.

I remember going to Rutgers University, and attending one of those 300 student classes, where there is bleacher seating in a huge auditorium. The professor was a dot in the front of the room, and had to use a microphone. He came in, said stuff, and then left. A teaching assistant hung around for 15 minutes to answer specific questions, but you couldn’t truly interact with the teacher or TA in any extended manner. You had to fight to get to the front, and make the most of your 30 seconds. Imagine trying to have an exploratory conversation with a famous actor as they walk out of a theater on Broadway, with other fans around you. That is what it is like.

Interaction is the key to education for many. Sharing ideas, getting feedback, personalizing the material to suit one’s own goals and challenges. What surprises me is seeing so many courses that offer very little of this. “Information products” have become commonplace on the web: ebooks, webinars, etc.

I am seeing some of them being turned into “courses.” Why the quotes? Because many courses seem to be a workbook chunked out into 8 parts, and delivered once per week. You get a few pages to read through, and then some questions to answer. And that, for the most part, is the sum total of the course. There is a mild amount of interaction – maybe a couple phone calls with 50 people on it, where you may get a chance for one question. These self-study programs work well for some, but my concerns is the education elements that are left out. Delivering information may not be enough.

Interaction is often critical to the education process.

Why? Because it multiplies in exponential ways. Conversations between students and the instructor, between students and each other, between instructor and guest speakers, guest speakers and students, etc. New ideas are constantly flowing as new conversations occur. When we interact, we are exposed to others who have similar challenges, or are doing things wildly different than us. We look beyond our own perceived capabilities and limitations.

Reinforcement is another key component in education.

That each of these things gives you a chance to understand and explore the material in a new way. So when I design courses, I build in different ways of interacting in order to create reinforcement:

  • The use of text, images and video in the lessons themselves.
  • Direct feedback on homework from me via email, and from other students in the forum.
  • Weekly phone calls to discuss the material or ANY topics that the students are struggling with.
  • Guest Q&A phone calls, where an outside expert can address students’ questions.
  • A private forum that I moderate.

All told, there are 12-16 phone calls per 8-week course. Once the courses end, I offer a mastermind group that the students can join which provides more interaction and access to smart individuals.

So while part of the education process is about delivering information, it is also about maximizing serendipity. This is about what happens when passionate and talented people come together to truly help each other take action. THIS is why I love teaching. Why I love working with students who I feel I learn as much from as they learn from me.

When looking for educational resources for yourself or others, keep this in mind. How are you being treated as a commodity in someone else’s system? How are you given the opportunity to interact, engage, and become a part of something, not just consume a product someone gives you?

Thanks!
-Dan
973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank | dan@danblank.com

How to Record an Online Video Interview

I have been sharing video interviews with authors and those in publishing and online media who inspire me. Here is a recent example:

Barbara Vey Interview

You can find the rest of them here.

So today I wanted to share with you the “magic” of how this is done. I keep having people ask me about the tools I use, so I figured I would outline the entire process. I have learned most of this from Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. He interviews entrepreneurs (nearly 600 of them!) and is very open about sharing what he has learned in the process. Highly recommended. Okay, let’s get into it:

Skype
Skype is how I call people on the computer, and the program that ties this whole thing together. Skype accounts are free, and calling between computers with voice and/or video is free as well.

Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype
Since I am on a Mac, I use Ecamm’s Call Recorder for Skype to record these interviews on Skype. It’s $20, and works like a charm. You install it, and then when you launch Skype, you see a little panel that allows you to hit ‘record.’ It’s that simple. It saves a file to your desktop of the video and audio. There are settings in the preferences where you can choose if you want to record side-by-side or picture-in-picture, audio quality, etc.

I believe it also comes with a suite of little programs that allows you to split the one video file into separate files for each side of the video. So one file of me, and another of the person I am interviewing.

The Webcam
Clearly, to conduct an online interview, both you and your subject need a webcam. Most computers come with them built in already, it’s that little black dot just above the screen. My MacBook has one, as does my iMac. I recently upgraded to a new iMac which means it’s a high definition camera.

If you don’t have a webcam, you can buy one relatively inexpensively online. It just plugs into your USB port. Logitech seems to make some that get good reviews. You can get one for as cheaply as $5, but most will run you about $30-45.

Lighting
Even the best webcam will produce a grainy image if you are in a dark room. I recently invested in a 3-point lighting system for my office. This means I have three big box lights on tripods to light me during interviews. One is placed in front of me to the left, the other in front to the right, and the third is behind me, angled towards my back. You can learn more about three point lighting here.

Professional lights are VERY expensive. But this 3-point lighting kit is a great deal at $170. The bigger issue may be where to store these lights when you aren’t using them. They are bulky.

Beyond that, consider your background, and play with placement of lighting. I’m still honing this, my setup is not ideal mostly because my office is not especially large.

Microphone
If there is one investment you should make in creating online video, it would be to buy a USB microphone that attaches to your computer. If people can’t hear you well, then the entire interview is useless. Blue is a company that makes some very highly regarded and affordable USB microphones. The Blue Snowball is a good deal at $60, but I had one big issue with it: some of them have very low gain, meaning it doesn’t pick up your voice as loudly as it should. So I upgraded to their $100 Blue Yeti microphone. Really great mic. In the future I may upgrade again to the Rode Podcaster on a boom arm to reduce vibrations when I type while interviewing. That is a $300+ investment though, so I am holding off. All of these mic’s are plug and play. You plug them in, and your computer should sense it and default to it.

Screenflow
I use Screenflow to edit the video and prepare it for sharing online. I think this is another Mac-only program, and it runs $100. It’s a powerful enough video editor, without too many options that I won’t use. I’m sure iMovie would work just fine too, but I haven’t tried it. I recently invested in Adobe Premier Pro video editing suite as well – much more expensive, but much more powerful. Probably WAY more than you would ever need though.

Posting the Video Interview Online
You have many options, here. YouTube is the obvious choice, but for most accounts, they limit the video length to 15 minutes. My interviews are long-form interviews of 30-60 minutes. There is Vimeo, and I used Wistia for awhile, and really liked it. Recently I switched to hosting my videos on Amazon’s S3 service, and using Flowplayer flash video player within WordPress as the interface. To me, this is the professional solution – one where I don’t have to worry about losing months of videos because a free web host decides to change their terms of service, or merges with another provider.

Recording Other Videos
Besides the interviews, I also record other videos that I share on my site, such as this intro to my Author Platform course. For this, I used a different camera and microphone setup.

For the video, I invested in (and that is definitely the word here) a Canon 7D camera. This is a traditional DSLR camera that also takes high definition video. It’s nice because you can change the lenses, and get a nice depth of field adjustments. So, if setup well, you can get it so that your face is in perfect focus, and the background is nice and blurry. To get good audio quality, I got a Rode VideoMic for it.

How to Get Interviews
Basides the technical stuff, there is clearly a whole other side to interviewing – actually engaging with those you want to speak to! One of the best tips I received from Andrew of Mixergy is to be brief in the emails you send requesting an interview. Be specific about the time, and any relevant details. Give people something that is easy to react to, and set proper expectations.

Interviewing Tips
I am still learning here. I do recommend that you avoid long introductions, and try to get to a clear benefit for the viewer as soon as possible. Skip the 30 second intro music that makes you feel like you have a TV show. You don’t. Just have a great conversation, one that provides a lot of value to everyone involved.

Thanks!
-Dan

Learning is Not Just About the Transfer of Information

I am thrilled to announce the Fall session of my 8-week online course for writers: Build Your Author Platform. If you are a writer looking to establish your brand and build your audience, please check it out. (and if you know of any writers who may be interested, please let them know. Thanks!)

All of this has me in a constant process of considering how we learn, and in particular, that learning is about more than just the transfer of information. That it is about connection to others; exploration of one’s own identity and goals; it is about how one executes on an idea; about finding ways to safely test and experiment; how we factor in the emotional side of building something; of not just following a list of instructions, but modifying it to fit our specific context and personality, and that of those we are trying to reach.

I would say that 50% of the value of the class I teach is connection with each other – students working together and with myself – not just the information that is shared. Within the course, I build in multiple ways to interact, to have open discussions, to brainstorm, to include guests who share a variety of viewpoints, of ways that students can work together to get new perspectives, ideas, and motivation. A big part of this is working past barriers, often those that are internal: being overwhelmed, juggling too much, trying to find clarity in vision and process, and just knowing that this is all worth the effort – that there is a payoff. We work as a group to actively move each other forward.

Dan BlankI have worked with an elementary school in Harlem since 2003, helping them build their writing and publishing skills. Coming into the school, spending time with the faculty and students, it is clear that the information I share is only part of the value. Being present in the students’ lives; being there to understand their particular challenges and skills; offering feedback that goes beyond sharing a process or list of tips – offering encouragement and motivation – these things matter as much as any information I share. Providing the smallest amount of validation or support to a student can fuel them for years. This is so much more than just transferring my knowledge to them.

There are so many “information products” available on the web. Some are positioned as courses, where information is slowly released over the course of weeks. Others are eBooks, PDFs, white papers, screencasts, and other forms of media. These can each be valuable tools, and they scale well. But my concern is that they may not always address the real challenge standing in people’s way: the very personal set of circumstances they may be in, how to stay motivated, build connections, and deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that most people go through when trying to create a meaningful body of work.

As I have stated before, showing is not teaching. Just because one process works for a single person, that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else in a different context can replicate it. I have worked with more than 500 writers, and I won’t pretend there is one formula that works for everyone. There are tips and frameworks that are massively helpful, but they need to be personalized and modified to fit a certain context. Not everyone WANTS the same thing, has the same desires and skills, the same resources, and the exact same audience. The value of each is unique.

This is why I have built in so much conversation and connection into the courses I teach – to ensure that I don’t just transfer information, but truly connect people with the goals they are trying to reach. If you are curious about my course or know of someone who may be, please check it out:
https://wegrowmedia.com/build-your-author-platform/

Thanks!
-Dan
973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank | dan@danblank.com