Category Archives: Course Review

Self-publishing, a path to riches?

So, I completed Chandler Bolt’s video series, and it is a pitch for his class.  There was some okay content in the remaining videos, but probably not worth the 1+ hour I spent watching the series.  Video 2 dealt with mechanics of how to write the book.  Chandler emphasized doing pre-work- mindmapping, outlining, etc before starting to write.  I think this is really an excellent strategy, especially for non-fiction.  He then suggests such things as dictating your book into an app (working off your outline) and paying to have it transcribed and edited.  While I think may be a useful approach for some, and especially those with handicaps that might prevent typing, I think that there more iterations of editing/improvement beyond get it on paper and pay (a low cost bidder) to edit it.  For me, it further reinforced the vibe that this course is for people who don’t care about writing, and don’t care to hone their craft.  The last real video was about marketing your book and the mechanics of becoming a Amazon best-seller. How you orchestrate a launch, pricing strategies, how to get reviews, how you should categorize your book on Amazon. Chandler’s demeanor totally changed in this video; he became noticeably more passionate and engaged.   This is some of the stuff that I would be interested in learning, and I would even pay for a course.  Chandler might even be a great teacher, based on how engaged he became.

But, philosophically, I don’t agree that everyone should write a book.  I don’t believe that the actual _writing_ part should be considered the least important part of the process.  I strongly believe that the internet and self-publishing are revolutionary and this allows voices that would not be heard before to have a platform.  The “long tail” wasn’t served well before, and I am grateful that we live in an age where it is.  But a writer has to want to write.  A teacher has to want to teach.  An artist has to want to create.

To vomit out a book to make some passive income sounds horrible to me. From what I could tell, most of Bolt’s students didn’t do all that well on the passive income side.  Usually they made a few thousand total, with steep drops after the first few months.  Most of the figures about how much money they made included things like increased consulting gigs/ gaining new clients based on the credential of writing a book.

At first glance, that doesn’t sound too bad- assume you get $5,000 out of the book.   I have a feeling that is a wildly generous figure.  I did a quick search for how much the average ebook makes, and found that 60% of self-published authors make less than $5,000/year.   Are they really all failing because they didn’t take Chandler Bolt’s course?

Let’s run through the math.  The course itself costs $600 or $2000 depending on the tier.  You can argue that maybe this shouldn’t be included in the estimate, but it is a real cost.  There are other costs involved too. If you do his dictation to the phone method, then you can add a few hundred for the transcription.   Two others mentioned in the video were editors and a graphic designer for the cover.  (Technically a graphic designer wasn’t mentioned, but the cover was mentioned as a critical factor.)  I really have no idea how these might cost- $500?  I’m sure a high quality professional would cost dramatically more, but assume you can find someone acceptable on Elance or Fivver or whatever.  So far, you are still coming out ahead- most of us would probably spend ~$1000 for a $5000 return.    The common timeline mentioned in the video was 3 months from start to publication, if you worked for 30-60 minutes every day.  If you assume an hour a day for 90 days, then you have spent 90 hours to set up this source of passive income (that will probably only last for 3-6 months).   I’ll do the math all the way for you- assume that with your costs, you net $4,000.  This means you earned $44/hour for your 90 hours of writing time.  That sounds really good.

I’d like a passive income as much as the next person.  But courses on generating passive income are modern day snake oil.  If it were really that easy, wouldn’t we all be doing it? So, I’m going to research the economics of self-publishing a little bit more.  How much does the typical book make, and how long does it continue to generate reasonable passive income?  I’ll post my findings here when I have them.

Who is Chandler Bolt?

I love knowledge.  I love plans.  I like finding what other smart people have done, and copying their methods.  Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that.  I’ve never met a mailing list that I didn’t sign up for.  Promise me all sorts of secrets?  All I have to do is give you my email?  Well, here you go…

Unfortunately, in the modern age, it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Maybe this was always so, but now the volume to sift through seems infinite.  One regular feature of the blog will be me inflicting some internet course on myself, and reviewing it for you.  Even if you don’t pay money for the course, you are spending your time & energy.  So, knowing what is valuable and what isn’t is important.

I recently received an email promoting the course Blank Page to Best Seller.  This is a free (other than your time and email) course that teaches you how to self-publish a book and make tons of money.  This is a free 4 video series with a downloadable pdf ebook.

A little googling reveals that Chandler also sells a course on how to publish an ebook (for $600 or $2000 depending on the level).  Most of the reviews I found were glowing, but by people who sell the course through affiliate links.

Chandler Bolt is our guru, because apparently he and his buddy slapped together 60 page book on productivity while snowboarding in Thailand.  Said book made Amazon’s best seller list- topping David Allen for some time.  As Chandler admits in the first video, the books is all the best bits of productivity wisdom he found from other places.  He argues that he is adding value by presenting only the best bits of wisdom.  The reviews on amazon are mostly positive, though you do find the stickler or two (or 10 ) who mention the massive amount of recycled content and lack of attribution in this book.

Chandler has a ton of books on Amazon.  Many are “guides to” cribsheet versions of his books, available for free.  I’m intrigued by a cliff notes version of a 60 page book, so of course I downloaded it.

Video 1 (~ 15 min):

The tone rubs me wrong from the start.  You can be a shitty writer, turn out a mediocre product, and make thousands a month?  That’s your opening?  Seriously??!!  What happened to craft?  As I mentioned, he eventually puts forth the argument that his selection of the the best productivity information is adding value, but the whole first half is who cares if you are a bad writer?  Is this merely a motivational speech designed to encourage those with low self-esteem?

I can’t bring myself to watch the second video or read the guide yet, so this will be a “to be continued…” post.

So, has anyone taken an internet course they found extremely useful?  Was it free or paid?  How did you go about deciding to commit the time and/or money?  I’d love to hear about people’s experiences in the comments.