Camtasia, Udemy, and Closed Captions

I almost cried yesterday. I’m doing final review of the Excel for Self-Publishers videos and I clicked on the MP4 files to watch them and couldn’t see my closed captions. A little digging on the Camtasia site and it turns out they’re only visible in the HTML version of the video.

So I thought I was screwed. That the twelve hours or so I’d spent adding closed captions to the course videos had been wasted, and that I was going to have to redo all of that work.

But a little digging and I found out that wasn’t the case. Which is good. Because I was quite upset until I figured that out.

So for anyone thinking of doing a video course, here’s a the recap of all of this drama and how to deal with.

I did my first video course without closed captions. Didn’t even occur to me to create them.

When I uploaded the course to Udemy they added captions to the videos for me. Which some would’ve just shrugged their shoulders and said, “great”, and continued on their merry little way. But I couldn’t have captions on my videos that were auto-generated.

Especially when the system seemed to think I was saying “H.M.S” every time I was saying “AMS”. I also had at least one instance of “fake news” and “ass” show up that weren’t legitimate. So I spent hours going through those videos and fixing the captions. (Think 3 minutes per minute of video to do captions. Minimum.)

That took care of the AMS course, but on this course I didn’t want to do that through Udemy. What if I want to take the course videos elsewhere later? Doing it in Udemy means I lose that work and have to redo it.

So I dug around. And it turns out that you can do captions in Camtasia.

(Click on More. Choose Captions.  Click on the little gear icon and then choose the Speech to Text option. Add to Entire Timeline, and then go through and edit them. Use Enter to play. Don’t click on that little play icon unless you want to hear the same clip repeat over and over and over.)

So I managed to get my captions added and figured it was all good. But then I pulled up the MP4 and nada. No captions. I dug around to figure out why.

Turns out they don’t show in the MP4 file unless you burn the captions into the video. What they like to call open captions.

But that’s not what I wanted. Not everybody will want captions burned across the bottom of their video. Especially an instructional video where you might need to see what’s under that text.

And I also had the issue of how to proof those captions if they weren’t visible in the MP4.

The proofing part turned out to be easy. Just use the HTML file that’s generated when you use Share -> Local File. I had to tell my computer it was okay to play the “dangerous” content, but then I was able to watch the video with captions on by clicking on the little CC option in the bottom right corner of the video.

But I still had the issue of how to get those captions loaded to Udemy.

Turns out it’s a multi-step process.

You can export the captions from Camtasia under Share->Export Captions. But you can only export as a .srt or a .smi file. Still, at least it’s possible. (Not well-explained anywhere, but possible.)

Problem is, Udemy requires that you use a .vtt file format for your captions.

So I had to do an Internet search to find a program that would convert from .srt to .vtt. I found one. It does the work in about two seconds. But I have no idea how reputable it is, so I’m not linking to it, and my computer may be overcome by ransomware in the next week or so if it’s a bad site. But it is what it is.

Once you do that conversion, you can then go to the Captions section of the course dashboard on Udemy and upload the captions file for each of your videos. So it’s a separate upload, but it does the trick.

Do all that and voila! You will have captions that you created in Camtasia on your videos in Udemy.

Good times.

But I figured I’d share to save others the couple of hours it took me to figure that all out.


I’m hip-deep in producing the videos for the Excel for Self-Publishers video course. (Two and a half hours of video done, probably half an hour worth to go. Woot!) And it has me thinking about competition a lot. Partially because it’s such a business-focused class/book.

When I first started self-publishing, the indie mantra was “we’re all in this together”. And everyone talked about sharing everything and how there was room for everyone. People were encouraged to self-publish and you’d see authors openly share the genres where they were finding success. It was an all-for-one environment.

I’ve seen it on the trade publishing side, too. This idea that there’s room for everyone. That authors don’t compete with one another. That we’re all just one big happy family of writers who will conquer the world together.

Now, you may have noticed that I’m a bit of a cynic. If you hadn’t, I am.

So this message never sat well with me.

(One of the lessons I learned in business school was that there are some people out there who’d stab their own mother in the back to get ahead and they won’t hesitate to lie, manipulate, or cheat to get what they want. Not taught in class, by the way. More a matter of observation and listening to what some people chose to brag about. Suffice it to say, I have some classmates I would never, ever do business with.)

Anyway. Over the years I have tried to reconcile this message of “help everyone and we’ll be better off” and the fact that we don’t live in a limitless world.

And here’s where I’ve come out on this whole issue:

When it comes to growing a genre so that it’s recognizable and people can ask for it by name, we’re in this together.

When it comes to growing a sales platform so that readers go to that platform to find a new book, we’re also in this together.

By working together to drive discoverability of what we write and where it can be found, we all benefit. When people read a Twilight or a Harry Potter or a Hunger Games or a 50 Shades and want more, all authors who write that type of book benefit from that new reader hunger.

Anything that expands the potential number of readers is good for all of us. And so early on having quality writers self-publish and raise the respectability of self-publishing benefited all self-publishers.


There are only so many spots at the top of the lists. And there are only so many hours a reader has to devote to reading per day. And only so many dollars they have to spend on new books.

And there are only so many advertising slots available. We’d all love a Bookbub on all of our titles, but that’s not an option. They only have so many spaces available to run ads and more than enough books to choose from.

And with pay-per-click advertising (like AMS), the more people who are using them, the more it costs everyone to use them.

So it’s sort of a love-hate thing.

We need our fellow authors to keep readers engaged with books as a form of entertainment between our own releases. No one author (unless they’re insanely prolific) can meet the reading needs of their readers. And it’s in all of our interests for people to read instead of turn to tv shows or movies or laser tag or what have you.

But when there is enough product out there to keep readers engaged, and I’d argue there is, then we all start competing with one another for what is now a limited resource — reader time and money, as well as visibility.

(And if that competition then leads to people releasing subpar product or taking shortcuts that damage the reader experience…well, that damages us all, too, right? Readers throw up their hands in disgust and either go re-read their favorites or turn to tv and movies for their fix.)

Anyway. A few thoughts for a Friday afternoon, partially based on something I see going down right now but don’t want to post about, because, ya know.

Time to get back to producing a product only about a dozen people will want. Because that’s how I roll…



My First $5,000 AMS Ad!

First, for those who signed up for the video course of AMS Ads for Authors yesterday, thank you. Also, thank you to Liz for pointing out that the video was too quiet. I had listened to the videos with headphones on so hadn’t caught that and it wasn’t caught in the Udemy quality review either.

Fortunately, I have a videographer friend whose Friday nights are as exciting as mine who helped me figure out how to fix it. (Noise Leveling + Gain=12 for those who are curious.) I revamped all the videos and reuploaded them last night so they should all be good to go now. And apologies to anyone who was trying to listen during that two hour period while I was uploading the new versions, but hopefully you all have more exciting things to do on Friday nights/Saturday mornings than learn about AMS and didn’t even notice.

(But no judgement if you don’t. I’m right there with ya.)

ANYWAY. I wanted to share my cool little milestone. As of today, I have my first AMS ad that has $5,000 in reported total est. sales:

My first 5000 AMS ad

I love this ad. And this book. (It’s also responsible for my first $1000+ month on CreateSpace.) If only they were all like this…

A few things to say about the ad and how it confirms how I think AMS work:

-This was a new release that I started advertising in September. So it was a fresh book with a fresh history.

-The book had outside sales that helped it get started initially. So AMS ran better on this book due to that outside momentum.

-The ad has tried to die on me a few times. I’ve had to change the bids and keywords to keep it going.

-It was also a title that readers wanted and would go and actively try to find. (Most of the things I write, aren’t.) Which means that the click ratios on the ad are very good and so are the click to sale ratios.

-The ad only has 106 keywords so you can definitely get high sales off of limited keywords if they’re the right ones.

And one final point. This is a newer ad. I only started running it in September. So AMS are not dead. They may be more challenging, especially in fiction, than they used to be. But they can definitely still drive sales.

Also, something else I’ve been seeing on my dashboard that I’ve mentioned before, but is worth pointing out again: Product Display ads will continue to accumulate spend even after they’re paused. I set up a PD ad as part of the video course, paused it four or five days ago, and it keeps getting one or two clicks a day and spend to go with that. So be careful with those if you run them.

(And, because I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it…Don’t forget that there’s a promo code for the AMS video course available in my last post. And I’ll always make sure there’s some sort of discount on the course available from this website, so if someone reads this many months from now, look for the course listing tab to get a discount link.)


Holy Learning Curve Batman

I am currently taking a break from the final editing pass on the AMS Ads for Authors video course. Naively, two weeks ago I thought I’d be done with both this one and the one for Excel for Self-Publishers by month-end.


I’d forgotten one crucial factor: the learning curve. Two weeks ago I was almost done with my first pass of recording and editing the videos for the AMS course. I figured I had to watch the videos one last time (three hours worth) and maybe make a tweak or two here or there.

No. Nice thought, but no.

I decided I needed some longer pauses in there. Give people a chance to catch their breath. (Although some might still think it’s too fast…)

And then there were some adjustments I needed to make to the zoomed portions of the video…

And, and, and, well, by the time I was done it turned into a complete new editing pass. Which for me at the stage I’m at skills-wise means about 15 hours of extra editing time. Maybe more.

But, hey, I’m learning!

I figured out how to get a zoom to carry over from one section of video to another. And a better way of dampening the noise down when I start off a section a little too loud. And how to insert some extra space into a track. So there are definite signs of improvement.

But there’s still a lot I’m doing that’s the equivalent of fixing a torn shoe with duct tape. I’ll get there eventually. It’ll just take longer than I thought it would.

(The story of my life. And why I start new ventures with a base of knowledge but without in-depth knowledge. Because if you know up front what it will actually take, it’s usually easier to stick with what you already know.)

Anyway. 32 videos done and dusted (I hope) and about 10 more to go.

Good times!

What Was I Thinking?

It’s official. I am far more interested in doing my own thing than in making lots of money from my writing activities.

Because rather than write the next romance novel (the best plan), or the next fantasy series (a potentially good plan), or even a new non-fiction title (could be fantastic, could be a dud), I am working on video courses for my non-fiction titles.

Now. On one hand, this is a logical thing to do. The Excel courses lend themselves to a video course format. Much easier to learn when you can see what the instructor is talking about. And it’s a good way to extend the books and reach a new market for them.

(My first video course is actually going to be the AMS book. I think that one lends itself well to video as well and I needed a course that wouldn’t be a waste to produce but would allow a little room for growing pains. Don’t want my first video course to be Excel for Beginners when the competition in that space is fierce.)

So there’s some logic to what I’m doing.

On the other hand, am I frickin’ crazy?

Because it’s a completely new skill set. I had to convert my walk-in closet into a little recording area, which meant learning all those requirements and hanging a ton of blankets all over the place. Plus I had to learn a video editing software I’ve never used before. (Camtasia, which is fantastic, by the way.) Not to mention the time I spent converting each book into PowerPoint slides I could use in the videos.

And then there was overcoming the fact that my natural speaking voice sounds like a twelve-year-old valley girl. (I tend to end sentences on an up note when I’m not thinking about it.) So I’ve been using my “I’m in a business meeting and no one is listening to me but I have a point to make damn it” voice. While trying to sound friendly and warm at the same time.

It’s actually been fun. And I’m putting in good hours on it. But it’s a lot. And a significant shift in direction.

I do think it has the potential to be a good move. But maybe, you know, following up on what I’d already done with the audiences I’d already attracted would’ve been a better idea? You know, just a thought.

But that’s me for ya. Far more interested in doing something new I haven’t mastered before than doing the same ol, same ol.

(Of course, my pup does need to be kept in kibble and have a nice yard to play in so I really should be thinking about balancing what I want and paying the bills…But not this month it seems.)

Getting a Bookbub

This was another one that came up at the conference last weekend where I wanted to raise my hand and say “uh-uh”. And that’s the myth that it takes 50 reviews before you can get a Bookbub.

I just had my third Bookbub on Rider’s Revenge (two internationals–one in fantasy, one in YA–and a U.S. only in the YA category) in January. Right now that book has twelve reviews on Amazon and forty-seven on Goodreads. When it got its first Bookbub last January it had I think 8 on Amazon and maybe 9 on Goodreads.

(Contrast that with my first-in-series romance that I couldn’t get a Bookbub for that had over 100 Goodreads reviews at the time I applied. I also know of box sets that have had Bookbubs even though they had no reviews at all.)

I don’t know exactly why they chose Rider’s Revenge, but I can guess. One, is the cover. It has an incredibly strong cover. Also, I entered it in both the Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog Off in 2016 and in a Writer’s Digest contest, so I have editorial reviews on this book that are both very positive.

Bookbub sent out a handy-dandy checklist today for anyone who wants to apply for an ad with them discussing what they look for. It’s well worth reading (and embedded below):


Bottom line: Ignore the myths about what it takes to qualify for a Bookbub and just apply. Worst that happens they say no once a month. Best that happens, you get a Bookbub.

Depending on the category it might not be life-changing. Some people talk about how Bookbub made their career for them. Three Bubs a year and they were six-figure authors as a result. Not so much the case for me. YA is not as big a category as contemporary romance, obviously. But they’re generally profitable ads (all of mine have been profitable within twenty-four hours) and they help chip away at discoverability at a scale that most ads can’t.

Basically, if you don’t get one, it’s not the end of the world. And if you do get one, don’t quit your day job just yet. They’re nice to have and you should definitely apply for them. Because you never know.

I Beg to Differ

One of the challenges of self-publishing is that it’s so broad and so different that it’s almost impossible to see the whole picture and the different possibilities. Which is why I really hate absolutist advice.

I’m probably guilty of it myself from time-to-time, but I try to caveat what I say with “this is my experience” or “this is how things work for me.” And because I have books published across non-fiction, romance, and fantasy I can see that things work differently depending on what you’re publishing, which maybe helps me keep things in check a bit more.


Anyway. I was at a conference this weekend and there were a few times I wanted to raise my hand and say, “I beg to differ.” I didn’t. I probably made a funny face, though.

So since this my blog, let me have those imaginary arguments here.

Debatable Point #1: You won’t really sell paperback copies as an indie.

I beg to differ. Last month I made over $1,000 on the sale of paperback books. It was almost as much as I made on Amazon US for the month. Now, is that normal? No. Absolutely not. My romance paperback sales are still under twenty copies sold ever.

But for non-fiction (in my case) and middle grade and folks who really work the convention circuit but aren’t good at online sales and for picture books and gift books, it’s quite possible to sell a good amount of paperbacks.

I even want to say I saw a romance writer on Twitter who posted a screencap that showed $30,000+ in paperback sales. (I have no idea what she sells in ebooks to have that number, but I do know my jaw hit the ground.)

So what I would say is: You are more likely to sell ebooks than paperbacks as an indie. In general. But there are definitely categories where print will sell better. And the more you sell overall, the more paperback sales you will have and that amount can add up to a pretty penny. So don’t neglect print. And don’t assume print sales aren’t possible or profitable.

Debatable Point #2: AMS Are Too Complicated and You Shouldn’t Use Them Unless You’re an Analysis Junkie

Once more, I beg to differ. Yes, you can get very analytical with them. In Excel for Self-Publishers I get obscenely analytical with them. But you don’t have to. Most days all I do with my AMS ads is check in a couple times a day to see if any have exceeded their daily budget and up the budget if they have. (I like to start all ads at $5 in spend each morning.)

When I started my last AMS ad for a new title this is what I did: It was non-fiction so I did a search on Amazon for the subject matter and listed the names of the top fifty or so books that came back in my search results plus a bunch of generic search words like the one I’d used. And then I occasionally checked in on the ad. If it wasn’t moving, I upped my bids. If it was and I was getting sales, I upped the bids for those words that were profitable, and pulled back for those that weren’t. I paused keywords with lots of impressions but no clicks and lots of clicks but no purchases.

That’s it. There you go. That’s what you do.

For fiction I would’ve used author names instead of book titles. Otherwise, it’s the same process.

Can you get a lot more in depth with your analysis? Absolutely. And I have. But 90% of the time, what I just described is all it takes. I have 20+ ads running on a daily basis and I maybe spend five minutes on them daily.

(Keep in mind, my approach to AMS is to use a single Sponsored Product ad per title that I try to keep running long-term by tweaking the ad as needed. Other approaches may be more analysis intensive.)

Debatable Point #3: You Should Only Run AMS If You Have Ten or More Books or At Least a Trilogy Completed.

I beg to differ. Look, I get the point. The more books you have for readers to go to, the better off you are and the more profitable an ad will be. A weaker first book can still result in a profitable ad if you have ten books for readers to go to afterwards. And maybe there’s an idea behind this advice that you shouldn’t be wasting your time early on with ads but should instead be building up a product base.

Fair enough. But here’s the deal: Self-publishing can be soul-destroying. You put out a book that you think is well-written. It has a nice cover. People who read it like it. But no one is buying it. Maybe three people a month. You just worked hundreds of hours on something and you think it’s good, but…sales say otherwise.

Do you know how easy it is to give up at that point? To never write that trilogy? To circle back and try to fix your “mistakes” or decide that writing is just going to have to be a hobby for you?

It’s so, so easy. I know a guy who put out a book about four years ago and set it to free because no one seemed to want it. He quit writing because why bother? And then he started running AMS ads on it. And got reviews. And switched it back to paid. And made $25,000 in less than a year on that same novel that no one had bought. Because the issue wasn’t his writing. It was visibility. People can’t read what they can’t find.

So, sure. Best practice is to wait until the last possible moment to advertise because you’ll get that much more of a bang for your buck. But in reality, sometimes those initial sales are what keep you going. And AMS is the best way I know to get long-term full-price sales. So why not try them?

And this idea of needing ten-plus books before you dive into them? Why? Because of the learning curve? It’s not that hard. Trust me.

Yes, I run ads across more than ten books, but I know many authors doing well with the ads with far fewer titles. Does it take some tweaking? Yeah. Does it take some money up front? Yep. You pay now, you get paid two months from now. But why would you not give it a try? It just makes no sense to me.