As many publishing houses struggle to stay one step ahead of economic collapse, more and more individuals are trying to write and publish their own books. The rise of self-publishing and e-books has opened up the door to greater possibilities for enthusiastic young authors. In the process, there is also a growing number of opportunists looking to prey on would be authors or writers of any genre.
The latest infusion of trailblazers are those looking to teach, instruct, mentor and/or serve as consultants. Most of these offerings for writing courses are promoted, and in some cases taught, online. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all writing classes are bad. Quite the contrary. There are plenty of good ones out there. Many colleges have opened their doors to non-matriculated students for writing classes. At an accredited university, you have a greater opportunity of finding a course that focuses on educating you on how to hone your craft, without any promises to market, publish or sell your work.
The non-accredited online writing courses by individuals are the ones you need to approach with a little more caution. Thanks to the Internet, anyone can claim to be a writing teacher and post a website full of pages, promises and long-winded verbiage on how much they can help writers. But what is so often lacking is a little thing called “credibility,” as in experience and education.
Therefore, I’ve listed a few things to consider before signing up for one of the numerous “writing” classes or programs offered.
- Promises: Too many promises, such as all sorts of marketing or a published manuscript (which means they’ll charge you to self-publish it, which you could do on your own) are usually tip-offs that something is amiss. Unless Random House is teaching the course and making the promises, don’t be fooled. Promises = red flags.
- Experience of the teacher: This is the key. Someone whose credits all come from their own blogs, self-published books or articles for sites you’ve never heard of may have never had their work accepted by anyone except themselves. Look for work written for familiar publishing houses, magazines or websites. Perhaps they have a self-published title that has sold very well on Amazon. Also look for education credits. While experience is a great teacher, an academic background in writing or journalism is also a plus.
- Cost: Years ago, I taught a class on comedy writing. I had written for a number of stand up comics as well as five humor books. The class cost less than $100 and some people came back again and again. It was hard to go wrong at that price. The more expensive the course, the more you want to know exactly what you are getting and from whom you are getting it. Hint: Pay top dollar if JK Rowling teaches a class. Not so much for someone with just a blog on their own website.
- Success Stories: Transparency is one of the most talked about aspects of the business world today. Has this class spawned any successful writers? Who are they and what have they written? Glowing testimonials from a bunch of people with no writing credentials is another red flag.
Sure, you can spend $50 and get burned – no biggie. But before you shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars, make sure the person collecting the cash is truly knowledgeable and professional with legitimate credentials to back it up. Do your due diligence, look at the discussion boards and writing forums, ask around on the social media. Surely a good course will have been written up by a known magazine or website (and not by the teacher him/herself). Proceed with caution.
Rich Mintzer is the author of more than 60 published non-fiction books and runs his own ghostwriting service called Your Book Your Way for individuals and companies looking to write their own story. http://www.richmintzer.com.