Publish a Book or Create an Online Course? What Should I Do?

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I’ve got a dilemma.

A few weeks ago, a publisher reached out to me and asked if I would like to write and publish a book with them! To be honest, I was quite taken back by the proposal.

  • Was my story really exciting enough to write a book about?
  • Would it sell so many copies that I wouldn’t have to work again?
  • Would I become one of those famous writers that traveled the world giving speeches and receiving honors?

Publish a Book or Create an Online Course?

Okay, so clearly I was becoming delusional and my ego was running out of control… I needed to step back and take an honest look at what it would take, what the benefits might be (the realistic ones, not the made up dreams that circle my head once in a while), and if there were any better alternatives.

In this post, I’d like to lay out the pros and cons of each option, and then I want to get your take. Which option would most benefit this audience? And how will I be able to help the most people?

Please give me your advice at the end of this post in the comments section!

publish a book or create and online course

What I’d Like to Write About

I’ve given a few talks this year, and the topic centered around:

  • Getting out of debt
  • Saving money, and
  • Growing wealthy

…which just so happens to the be the tagline for this entire website.

It’s what I’ve always based my writing on and it was completely natural (and exhilarating) to talk about.

This is exactly what I’d like to write about as well. The book (or online course) would walk through my journey through debt, through living on less, and about my journey to wealth. I’d use my personal experiences to motivate others and to help step them through their financial lives.

I think it would be an absolute hit, but now the question is “Should I publish a book or create an online course?” (or maybe use another medium that I’m not even thinking of?)

The Details Behind the Book

The publisher loves my idea and would like a first draft of the book within 3-6 months of signing the contract. From there, it will likely take another 4 months for them to edit, come up with a cover design, and iron out all the other details of publishing a book (whatever those are). All in all, this book will probably require 300 hours of my life (totally a ballpark estimate on my part) and it won’t be live for another year.

After some further questioning on my part, I discovered some other details as well:

  • I’d earn between $1-$2 per book sold
  • The book would only be sold as a paperback or as an eBook
  • It would mainly be offered on Amazon and promoted through some other retail stores like Staples or Walmart.
  • They would help some with the marketing of the book, but based on what I’ve heard from some other authors, a lot of it would be up to me.
  • An incredibly good year for this publisher would equate to 1,000 copies of my book being sold – equating to $1,000-$2,000 a year on my end.

All the details as a whole don’t sound bad, but they certainly don’t sound out-of-sight amazing either. ~300 hours of my up-front time could equate to very few dollars. At most, it sounds like I’d be earning $10 an hour when it’s all said and done (figuring two years of decent sales…and then dropping off from there as it got older and less relevant).

BUT, there is one more great positive to writing a book. I believe that it could really help my speaking career (which I’m really loving lately). In my mind, companies and organizations think much more of a public speaker that it an acclaimed author than someone that occasionally writes posts on a small-time blog. Is it true? I’m not 100% sure, but there’s a huge side of me that says, “Just write the book, because it will pay dividends for your financial coaching career down the road.”

Thoughts?

The Potential of the Online Course

Just to put it out there, I know absolutely nothing about setting up an online course. I’d still be putting in the 300 hours to write everything plus I’d have to learn how to set up an entirely new page with an online course layout. So basically, instead of the 300 dedicated hours, it’d probably be more like 400, and again, there’s no guarantee that I’d earn anything.

So what makes me consider an online course for my “Get out of debt” story?

  • People like the interactive courses vs. the stale words in a book
  • It’s an easier sell and they get immediate access to the courses
  • I’d have full control over what I charge and instead of earning $1-$2, I’d pocket the full amount

So instead of selling 1,000 paperback books with the help of a publisher at a $1,500 profit, maybe I could sell 400 online course guides for $30 each, netting me $12,000.

It’s a higher risk, but a potentially greater reward.

Summing It Up

Alright, so either I go with the book and get the:

  • potential for more speaking gigs
  • an increased confidence of self (ie. an ego builder…)
  • $1,500 profit

Or, I can try my hand at an online course and reap the:

  • higher income potential ($12,000+/year)
  • and the potentially greater reach long-term

…but, I lose the prestige factor and I’d really have to step up my marketing game (errr…develop one altogether).

Dang this decision is tough! This is why I need your help!

Should I publish a book or create an online course??

Have you ever written a book or started an online course? What are true pros and cons of each? Which one would you go with??

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13 comments to Publish a Book or Create an Online Course? What Should I Do?

  • whiskey

    Id do the courses first. You can/may get gigs based off of those as well. Couses can be easily updated, you can offer discounts etc etc.
    At the same time, write the book and sell it at live events. Or use it as a tool to get people to the courses/gigs. Offer a free ebook (maybe a very basic outline) then offer for them to buy the full one.
    Thats my 2 bits.

    • Good thoughts, Whiskey. You know, the online course and the book would be very similar – that actually makes a ton of sense to do them together! I could offer them as a package deal as well. Thanks!

  • So many are saying that courses are on their way out. People are “informationed” out. Then again, the numbers some people like Michelle Schroeder-Gardner have don’t lie. Done right, you could probably make decent money on courses.

    Then again, a book has the chance to reach audiences that aren’t on your blog. You could change life for people who don’t get online much or haven’t thought that much about their finances. Especially if you get picked up by Walmart. The extra time you’ll have to spend promoting sounds a bit tedious, but it also might get you some connections you wouldn’t have otherwise made.

    Either one gives you a chance at passive income, but the book might have more longevity there.

    Just some random thoughts. Good luck on whichever you choose!

    • Good thoughts, Jamie. No clarity on which avenue I should go, but good thoughts. 😉

      Maybe I could offer one of them for free in a package deal if I do them both… Hmmmm.

  • It depends on your target market. Where can you locate your intended customers. If they are the type that love staying long on internet, publishing online course will be more appropriate. Another thing you need to consider is cost. That is publishing and marketing costs.

    • Thanks for your opinion, Wole. My target market is young adults, age 27-35 who are probably more likely to buy something online – so either an e-book or online course would work here.

      As for costs, I planned to do it pretty minimally for both (like, less than $100 total).

  • Do both! You could do the course, and then self-publish the book through Createspace and Amazon. Cut out the middle man and do it yourself. Repurpose the course content for the book and use the book as a give away during your talks.

    • Thanks for the input, Sean! Yeah, the online course could definitely sell better if I throw in the book as well! I think it’s time for me to start scheduling some time to get this stuff done!

  • Hi Derek,

    Just started reading your blog and am loving the things you are throwing out there. My saving money site needs a good revamping so I’ve started going through your whole “building a blog” stuff.

    As for the book vs. course here is my 2 cents:

    You can do both and both would make YOU money plus help with your “branding.” Set up a course through Udemy and promote the heck out of it here on your blog. If you build it, they will come. 🙂 And the best part of that is, you only have to “build it” once. It’s out there and people can do it at their leisure. If other things come up that you want to add, heck, build another course with different information in it.

    Like Sean said, the book you can publish yourself (I’ve got 4 on Amazon). Self-publish through Createspace and Amazon and you don’t have to pay anyone anything for it – except a cover person and an editor – which you can get fairly cheap. Amazon keeps a cut, but you will still pocket the majority of the money.

    That’s all I’ve got on that. Will continue reading and get my site vamped up because it’s not doing much for me these days!

  • My two cents:

    If you’re looking at writing a book, you can use it to promote a blog, your speaking engagements, or an online course. Having an established publisher may help get you into brick and mortar stores, but self- publishing will give you more control over your work (and the royalties), plus using a combo of platforms like smashwords and Amazon for an ebook would still give you the option to distribute it in print (for a lower royalty rate).

    I would recommend self- publishing with a product for free (to attract an audience) and then one you charge for and/or then give out for free at your speaking engagements (to add value for your audience).

    I’ve seen subject experts do pod casts, YouTube videos, paid for videos, downloadable check lists, study guides, etc. You could probably have someone video a speaking engagement (with client permission) or a rehearsal session and use that, or do podcasts on your articles and products. Or you can host seminars, given whether you’re willing to travel or have people come to you.

    I think it really depends on how much time and effort you want to put into your planning, products and infrastructure – both the book and course options have plenty of free platforms out there for self-starters, especially with more publishers expecting authors to come with their own marketing plans.

    I’d recommend looking at the free videos / products from mentors like Nick Stephenson, Joel Friedlander, Bill Baren, Ryan Eliason, Lisa Sasevich, Tory Burch Foundation etc. to see what personal resources you’re willing to invest and plan from there.

    All of the above options would let you use your blog and article byline signature as a marketing platform for either a course or a book, the only difference is how the production costs and your time are divvied up.

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