Celebrating 1 Year of Writer’s Craft Academy — The Writing Coach 059

Welcome to The Writing Coach. On this podcast, I speak with the instructors, editors, coaches, and mentors who help writers and authors create their art, build their audience, and sell their work.

One year ago, I launched Writer’s Craft Academy, my private membership site and group coaching program. In episode 59 of The Writing Coach, I celebrate the year’s victories, as well as discuss some lessons learned. Listen now!

Episode Transcript

Hello, beloved listeners, and welcome back to The Writing Coach podcast.

Now as you guys know, on this show, normally I interview folks who work with writers to help them succeed, but today, it’s going be just me. I’m going be the person who works with writers to help them succeed on today’s show, because as I record this, it is the first of February, which means it’s been one year since I launched Writer’s Craft Academy.

Writer’s Craft Academy is my private membership site and group coaching program. And as I said, I launched it one year ago. We now have 12 months under our belt, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to look back on how the year’s gone, how everything has worked within the Academy and what hasn’t worked as well.

Let’s dive into it!

Video Training Library

First off, the notion of Writer’s Craft Academy came to me for a couple of different reasons, but one was I noticed there’s a major problem with online courses. I sold two online courses previously, one called The Novel Writer’s Blueprint and one called Smash Fear and Write like a Pro. One of the things I noticed about The Novel Writer’s Blueprint was that people were not finishing the course The more I thought about it, the more this kind of made sense, because the course was walking people through the entire project of writing a book, from initial idea creation all the way through to completed manuscript. And the reality was, most of the people who were taking the course were in the early stages of working on their book, which meant they didn’t need the latter stages of the course yet.

Maybe eventually they were going to come back to it and finish the course, once they were at that latter stage in their manuscript drafting, but probably they wouldn’t because we lose focus. How often do we say we’re going to come back and finish a course, but then not end up doing it?

I mean that happens, right? I started thinking about maybe what writers need isn’t this “module one, module two, module three” style single course that’s going to walk people through what they need to learn, but rather this library of resources that are available when you need them.

You know in the training library there’s a whole mini-course in there on revisions, but you don’t have to feel compelled to watch it if you’re at the idea creation stage of your writing.

And that’s the other thing… as a writing coach, it almost seemed antithetical to be selling courses, because I don’t want people taking courses. I want people working on their writing. As fun as it is to take a course, a lot of the time people use education as an excuse to not do the hard work of just sitting down and actually writing.

I liked this idea of having this training library there, so that when someone has a question, I can say, yes, go watch these three videos from our training library tonight. It’ll specifically address your question and show you some examples, and then you can get back to your writing.

It also allows me to just create shorter videos for things that don’t necessarily have to fit directly within the larger context of a course. I’m thinking, for example, I have a video on how to use Microsoft Styles in Microsoft Word, so that you can turn your chapter titles into hyperlinks, and then have Microsoft Word self-generate a table of contents for you. It’s just a little bit easier way to organize a manuscript if you are writing in Microsoft Word. But I mean, that’s not part of a course on how to write a book. It’s just a video I knew some of my clients would find helpful. So the video training library allows me to have this place where even if I only have a two-minute video I want to create to show someone something, I can get that in there.

As the year went on the library grew and we now have over 50 training videos in there, which I think is a really, really great collection of resources available for The Writer’s Craft Academy members. We also record our book club calls, and I think that has actually become a really interesting resource as well. So maybe I’ll talk about that next.

Writer’s Craft Book Club

I’ve run several different group coaching programs before, and I’ve sold different online courses before, but one of the new concepts that I added to Writer’s Craft Academy when we launched a year ago was the idea of a monthly book club. Each month, in Writer’s Craft Academy, we have a theme. So the theme might be Story Structure, or the theme might be Dialogue, or the theme might be Genre. Then we would have a writer’s craft non-fiction book on that theme that we would all read over the month. And then we would all get together on an additional kind of bonus call at the end of the month and just talk about the book. And I think it’s been one of my favorite parts of Writer’s Craft Academy, having these calls.

It’s so much fun, but it also having a group of people working through these writer’s craft books together allows us to develop a shared vocabulary. One of the first books that we read was Shawn Coyne’s book, The Story Grid, and we were actually lucky enough to have Shawn Coyne join us for our book club session, which was really extraordinary. But the point being, once we all read that book, I could talk about the “five commandments of story-telling,” and everyone in the group would know what we were talking about.

And the great thing is, as I said, we record all of our book club calls. And they go into the video training library as well, so that if someone joins Writer’s Craft Academy today and wants to read The Story Grid, well, guess what? They can now go and also watch the book club discussion that we had based around that book, which I think is a really cool thing.

And obviously, as a writer, and as a writing teacher and an instructor, I love books about writing, so it’s just so much fun to get to do it in a group environment. And I think it educates you, as well, when you are forced to talk about a book that you’ve read.

You have to articulate your learning, and sometimes if you just read a book alone, and you say, “Oh, that was great. We learned a lot,” but it doesn’t get embedded, or it doesn’t get absorbed into your daily life, if you don’t put it into practice and start talking about it and verbalizing it with other people. I think having The Writer’s Craft Academy book club is really helpful on a number of different levels.

Another thing that I love about the book club is that it shows the members that there is no one right way to write a book. I have a perspective from my experience. I have recommendations that I make to people, but I don’t know the answer for everyone, and so when we read a different book about the craft every month, members get to see that perspective, and they get to see, oh, well, KM Weiland approaches writing from how Robert McKee approaches writing, which is different from how Natalie Goldberg approaches writing, which is how Shawn Coyne does. You really get to see this myriad of perspectives.

I think part of my role as a writing coach and as a writing instructor is not to tell my clients “this is the right way to do it,” but to introduce them to the possibilities that are out there, the different ways of approaching things, so that they can find the one that’s right for them. So again, that’s another reason why I think the book club has just been a real success and been a lot of fun.

Author Community

Next up is the community aspect of Writer’s Craft Academy, which is probably my absolute favorite part. I think the resource library is great. I think the book club is so much fun, but our weekly group coaching calls are so beneficial on so many levels for our members, as well as our forum.

We have a private Facebook group, so while we meet every week for a group call, we also are able to continue to share information, and resources, and help each other out between coaching calls. Even if I wasn’t interested in creating this private membership site and in this group coaching program, even if I was just focusing exclusively on my one-on-one clients, I think I would still include some sort of group component to my one-on-one coaching.

I have seen my one-on-one clients, who also participate in Writer’s Craft Academy, get so much value out of it, out of being supported by others but also being able to share their frustrations, or celebrate their victories, or get differing perspectives, or bounce ideas off one another. We have about … I think at the moment we have about 16 members in Writer’s Craft Academy, so it’s not one of these massive programs, where you have a thousand people involved and no one knows each other. We’re a really tight-knit community, and so it feels more like friendship than it does any sort of coaching program. It just feels like a community and a safe place for aspiring authors where they can come together and get what they need.

And sometimes what they need is a kick in the butt and some accountability from me.

But other times, what they need is just to hear that other writers are going through the same struggles that they’re going through. And other times, they just need a place where they can go online and say, “Hey guys, I finished chapter 22 this week. No one else in the world really knows what that means or what a success that is or how far I’ve come from when I was struggling with chapter two for six months back.” Writer’s Craft Academy’s community component is a place where writers can do that.

When I look back now, on me writing my first novel, and publishing my first book, and figuring all this stuff out all by myself, I realize one of the major things I was missing was that community. The opportunities that open up to you when your network grows is just amazing, so even things like Writer’s Craft Academy members will say, “Oh, such and such, I know you live near New York. Look at this awesome writing conference really close to where you live. Maybe you should check it out.” And that’s an opportunity that person might never have known about if they hadn’t been part of this community of writers looking to support one another and looking to help each other out.

And so I can’t speak enough about the value of being part of a community when you are a writer, because as I said, I did write my first book completely on my own, and I was hitting Google and searching blogs for “how do you create a CreateSpace account” or “how do you get an ISBN number,” or “what makes for a good chapter,” all of this stuff, all these things that I had to struggle through alone. I’m so thrilled that the Writer’s Craft Academy members don’t have to go through that. They have a place where they can go ask questions, get answers.

Additional Resources

I think another cool aspect is that we also have an additional resources section with all of my books, as well as a book about overcoming writer’s block by Nathan Frechette. And this is the thing: online learning is incredible. It is great to be able to listen to a podcast. It’s great to be able to watch a training video, but we’re writers, and as writers, we need to be readers.

And so for those people who aren’t as into watching training videos or maybe listening to podcasts … I mean, you guys are listening to this, so you are into podcasts and into the audio/visual side of things, but some people want to join a community, they want to get coaching, but they also want to have a place where there’s half a dozen different books, and guides, and checklists, that they can read to support their writing education. Writer’s Craft Academy has that as well.

Lessons Learned from Year One

It’s been a year and it’s been great. I’m really thrilled with how things have come together. I will talk maybe a little bit about challenges, and that is … I really thought it would be bigger. As I said, I’ve got about 16, 15 people, in there right now. I honestly thought it would be bigger with the price I was launching at. I launched at a ridiculously, way too low price. That’s my biggest learning from the whole experience.

I launched a year ago at this insanely low price, thinking it would lead to dozens and dozens of members. I remember thinking to myself, okay if we start to get more than 20 people on a call, how am I gonna work this? Are we going to do two calls every week instead of one call every week to make sure everyone has the appropriate amount of time to speak and whatnot? But what happened was, when I opened the doors, I got a few people in, and past clients joined, and my one-on-one people were in there, but there wasn’t this huge influx of people that I was anticipating.

It was a great lesson in pricing. As an entrepreneur (if any of you were thinking about being independent authors, you’re going to be an entrepreneur), it’s so uncomfortable to price yourself at what you’re worth. And you think that if you make something super, super affordable, people are going join up. What I learned with Writer’s Craft Academy was that price was not the issue.

I brought the price down to practically nothing, and still I did not get a huge influx of people, which made me realize that either one: I don’t have a big enough reach yet. My email list is a few thousand people. Maybe it needs to be tens of thousands of people. Or two: those who I am reaching, those thousands of people who are in my sphere, I haven’t earned enough trust with them. Or perhaps three would be I’m not pitching the program well enough as well. I’m not sure.

This is the whole marketing business mindset that I’m not the hugest fan of going into. I really just want to get in there and work with writers and help writers to excel, but unfortunately (or not), part of life is marketing. And so there’s a possibility I haven’t earned enough trust with my audience for them to believe that what I have to offer them is going to be transformative and is going to provide the value that I say it does.

So it was a good lesson in realizing it’s not about money.

I significantly hiked the price of Writer’s Craft Academy. I’m selling at $200 a month now, which is way higher than where I started, but I also think it’s a way better reflection of the value that I’m offering and of its worth.

And that was the thing I realized. As soon as I started marketing it at the super low price, I felt like I was cheapening myself and cheapening the value of what I had to offer. And it was just a great lesson to say to myself, “Hey, it’s not all about money. Maybe you need to work harder to earn people’s trust, and when you do that, they’ll be willing to make purchases at a price that is more reasonable to the value of what you’re offering.”

For weekly group coaching, over 20 hours of training videos now, $200 a month is perfectly reasonable. It was a great kind of challenge/lesson learned. Ultimately, I’ve never really been interested in working with thousands or hundreds of people. I really like having strong relationships with a handful of people who I can really help excel and really help achieve their goals, and the type of people who are willing to pay a hundred bucks a month, or two hundred bucks a month, or $400 a month for one-on-one coaching are the type of people who are focused and dedicated and who do want to succeed.

In business training, they always talk about this thing, they say, “It’s not about money. If they want it bad enough, they’ll come up with the money.” And so ultimately, I had to learn that lesson the hard way. I launched this amazing program at a stupid cheap price, and in the process realized that low price wasn’t the answer for anyone. It wasn’t the answer to my business growth. And it wasn’t the answer to my potential clients, because I cheapened the value of what they were going to get out of it, and perhaps that’s why some choose not to join.

It’s been a really great year. It’s been a really interesting year. And I also had some big lessons learned, in terms of getting people in, how many people I can expect, and what price I can charge to have a sustainable business that is still able to really blow away everyone who is involved it.

I think that’s where I’m at now. I’m in a really comfortable, happy place with it, one year in. I would say it was a major success.

Having Fun

The other thing I like to say is “I take writing seriously. I take the business of writing seriously, I take literature seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously.” I hope I’ve created an environment in our group where we do have fun.

We learn, and we grow, and we support one another, but we also laugh. And we’re willing to laugh at ourselves, and be silly, and acknowledge the ridiculousness that is art, right? We’re sitting down and spending an hour every week talking about stories about vampires, and detectives, and romances, and it’s amazing wonderful stuff, but it also does not have to be deadly serious. Sometimes you can get in there and have fun and just let your passion loose. And I think that’s what we’ve created within Writer’s Craft Academy.

How to Join our Community

If you would like to join, I’m going to give you the special podcast discount.

Use the coupon code “podcast” on the Writer’s Craft Academy checkout page, and you’ll get 50% off your monthly membership for a long as you’re a member.

I can’t wait to have you in Writer’s Craft Academy, as we move into our second year.

Year one was great. Year two is going to be even better.

Our resources are just going to continue to grow, and our community is just going to get stronger, and we’re going to be there for one another. It’s going to be another incredible year. And I’d love for you to be a part of it.

Join now, and I will see you in our community and on our next coaching call. I’ll be thrilled to join your journey towards publication and to achieving your goals as a writer.

See You Next Week

Alright, that’s it for this week. Thank you so much for listening.

I will see you on the next episode of The Writing Coach.

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