Thoughts on Video Courses

I promised that at some point after I’d finished my foray into video courses that I’d share some thoughts about it in case anyone else was considering that path. And since I just published the fifth of five video courses I’d resolved to publish this year (Creating a Paperback Cover Using GIMP) I figured now was a good time for that.

So without further ado…

I enjoyed the process of making the videos.

One, it turns out I’m someone who likes to learn new things and take on new challenges and creating video courses let me indulge that side of my personality while still feeling like I was doing something somewhat related to all my other publishing efforts.

Two, even though I was sitting in what was essentially a padded room (my walk-in closet full of sound-deadening materials), it was nice to feel like I was talking to people. I work from home, I live alone, I don’t go out much, so most of my conversations are with my mom or my dog.  Feeling like I was sharing something I knew with others was nice. And doing the videos felt more tangible that way than writing the books does.

(And it had the added perk that it wasn’t an actual conversation which can involve disagreement and pushback…What can I say? I have issues.)

Three, the subjects I covered in the courses, Excel and AMS, both lend themselves to a visual presentation. It’s not easy to use just words and pictures to convey something like Pivot Tables to people. But being able to say “Here. See?” and show that to someone is easier. One of the three main ways people learn is through observation. Through watching someone else do something. So video formats lend themselves to teaching.

So that was all good. And I’m proud of the products I put out there. I think they were well done if I may say so myself. Perfect? No. But good. Worth watching.

Where I hit a roadblock was on the marketing/advertising/payment side of things.

There are a number of online options for posting video classes like this.

Youtube is an obvious option. But if you don’t have at least 1,000 followers you can’t share in the ad revenue for your class so you’re just doing it for the love.

There are a number of other options out there like Teachable and Ruzuku where you can post your videos and then drive traffic to your page, but they cost somewhere around $75 per month to use so that’s a pretty significant capital commitment for potentially no return.

Udemy, the one I went with, is free and has a large pre-existing audience that goes there to find courses.

The problem I didn’t recognize with Udemy is that they always, always, always have a sale going. So I posted my first course, the AMS one, for $99.99 with an intention of offering it for half-off here on my blog and elsewhere. But because I’d signed up for their promos it was immediately put on sale for $14.99. Which meant I couldn’t exactly be offering it to people at a new release discount of $49.99 like I’d intended.

I pulled my classes from their promos, but that damage was already done.

For the AMS class and Excel for Self-Publishers not being in their promos is probably fine. Most people who find those classes are going to do so from my website or books and be willing to pay what the classes are worth.

But with Excel for Beginners and Intermediate Excel I think it may be an impossible sell. Those who are on Udemy are going to see thethe ultra mega everything you ever wanted to know about Excel class for $9.99 next to my Excel class for $99.99. Granted, mine has subtitles that actually make sense and aren’t auto-generated. And maybe I can teach the material better or without creepy mouth sounds in the background. But unless someone comes looking for me and my course in particular I don’t see myself selling those courses on that site because of the price difference. And even driving traffic there might not work because of that, because even with a half off coupon that’s still a pretty big gap in what someone would have to pay.

Now, I could just throw in the towel and say, fine, sign me up for your promos. But if I do that I will be earning less per class sold than I do on each book I sell. And I just can’t bring myself to be okay with that.

Not to mention the fact that Udemy makes you put all of the classes under an account into their promos. You can’t choose which ones go in. It’s all or nothing. And I don’t need to put the AMS class on their promos for it to sell.

(That’s why I now have two Udemy accounts, so I could sign the mini courses on Excel up for their promos while leaving my AMS course out of them. But I’d already published the two main Excel courses on the same account as the AMS class and don’t want to move 150+ videos to a new account at this point.)

So this all left me at a crossroads. I enjoyed making the courses. I have about five or six more I could do. But in order to really make it work I think I’d either have to move to a different platform and spend a lot of time learning new advertising options like Google AdWords or I’d have to bite the bullet and enroll in Udemy’s promos. I’m not sure I’m willing to do either one.

The courses are there. Discount codes are available here (and in the back of the related books–that’s the best discount code for each class, the ones for people who already read the material and now just want a visual version to help reinforce it). I am trying a few ways to advertise them, so I haven’t quit entirely. But I think it’s just too different a platform for me to leverage easily without a massive amount of additional effort I’m not interested in putting in at this point.

(Also, it kind of creeped me out that every time I published a class I either received a private message offering to sell me fake reviews on my course and/or a message from some stranger saying they really liked the look of my class and would I please send them a free link to take the course. Udemy seems to not have caught on to the damage that fake reviews can do.)

So there you have it. I won’t rule out doing something more with video courses in the future, but for now I’m turning back to books where I at least know the basics of advertising them and how the market works.

Free Video Course: Pivot Tables

To celebrate the release of my latest series of books, the Easy Excel Essentials series, I have a free video offer for anyone who wants to learn how to use Pivot Tables in Excel.

Here’s the link: https://www.udemy.com/pivot-tables/?couponCode=EEE_PT_50FREE

If you are a self-published author, have Excel, and don’t know how to use pivot tables yet, please use the link and learn how. Because I honestly do not know how authors monitor their sales on Amazon if they don’t know how to use pivot tables.

True story: My annoyance at the fact that authors do not know how to use pivot tables (even though they really are as easy as dragging and dropping fields in the right places), led me to write four books.

I started writing an Excel for writers book that would include how and why I use pivot tables as an author. That book ended up being split into two books: Excel for Writers and Excel for Self-Publishers. But then I realized that there would be some folks who didn’t know how to use Excel at all and some who knew some Excel but not enough. So I wrote Excel for Beginners and Intermediate Excel.

Four books written. All because people annoyed me with their overreliance on BookReport and their complaints about not being able to see their sales using the Amazon reports.

(Yes, I am crazy…)

And, as a side point, here’s a picture of the new books:

New Release Image EEE

The astute observer will realize that these books actually cover material that I’ve already covered in my other Excel titles. But I figured there was a market for people who just wanted to learn one specific topic. (And do so for just $2.99 in ebook, nonetheless.)

This was one way I thought of to “extend” my Excel books when I felt that I’d pretty much already said what I felt needed to be said about Excel. I have another idea for extending the Excel titles, but pretty sure that’s going to have to wait a while. I think I’m just about to pivot back to writing fiction for a bit.

See what I did there? Pivot.  Haha.

(That wasn’t intentional…)

Anyway. Time to upload links for all six of those books for all five sales platforms I have linked from this site. Happy happy, joy joy.

And…Done.

Excel for Beginners and Intermediate Excel are now available as video courses! Phew. That was a lot of work, but I’m very pleased with the final product. (And now back to writing new books for a while. Lawnmower and construction season is not the best time to be creating video courses.)

For anyone who wants to check them out, you can do so for just $9.99 each (instead of $99.99) until June 15th using the following links:

EXCEL FOR BEGINNERS PRESENTATION VERSION

INTERMEDIATE EXCEL PRESENTATION VERSION

Excel for Self-Publishers is Done!

Late yesterday the Excel for Self-Publishers video course went live. When all was said and done it was almost four hours long! Wowza. But nice thing is, even with the captions situation, this one went faster than the last one. I’m now at the point where I can pretty much just sit down, record, edit, do captions, and done.

Which means the next one will hopefully go even faster.

If anyone is interested in the course, here’s an early sign-up discount link: https://www.udemy.com/excel-for-self-publishers/?couponCode=E4SP_INTRO

And there will also always be some sort of discount link available on the video course page on this site.

(And because of how Udemy pays, please don’t hesitate to use those links. I have one good friend who refuses to buy my books when they’re on sale because they want to support me the best way they can. But in this case, I get 97% if someone uses one of those links and only 50% if they go to the website and buy the course without a coupon. So if I offer a 50% off coupon, I’m basically getting the same payout but a student only has to pay half as much.)

Also, if you’re enrolled in AMS Ads for Authors, you should’ve received an announcement about the Excel for Self-Publishers course that also comes with a link you can use for an even better discount. And it included an announcement of a new bonus video I added to the AMS course. So be sure to check that out even if you’re familiar with the subject already. The video includes a how-to as well as some pointers for making your ads more effective.

And now I should take a few days and rest. But in this sense I’m finally acting like someone who is self-employed. I look at my to-do list and think there’s just too much to be done to waste a whole two days. (I have a friend coming from out of town on Friday so am going to have a chance to relax and celebrate for at least a couple hours then.)

So much to do, so little time to do it all…

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.)

(Edited to add: And make sure that you don’t have any blank sections in your captions. Camtasia seems to generate them for every transition point, but Udemy won’t accept them, so merge them with the prior or next caption.)

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.

AMS Ads for Authors Is a Video Course

Whew. That took some effort. But the video course is now live on Udemy. A very exciting moment.  It is not perfect, but I think it’s good. And for those of you who were wanting something more visual than the book (which didn’t include screenshots), this does the trick.

And I have a special deal for you blog readers. The course is priced at $99.99 but if you follow this link you can purchase the course for just $9.99. That link will work for the first twenty-five folks who use it and is a pretty good deal if I do say so myself.

But some of you should check your emails or PMs before using that link. If I could link you to a review of the book, you have a different promo code to use. And if you reviewed the book and didn’t hear from me, reach out please. I appreciate people who put themselves out there by leaving a review.

Onward and upward. Next one is going to be Excel for Self-Publishers. Good times!

 

 

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.

Hahahahahahaha.

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!