Updated October 3, 2019
Are you a writer who wants to make a living selling your books? Would you take a self-paced college course to learn how? If so, this course is definitely an opportunity to consider.
I paid for this course and have consumed its content. The links below are my affiliate links. If you click through and purchase it too, I will earn a commission, at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure policy here.
Table of contents
- Why this review might be different than others
- What is Self Publishing 101?
- What it doesn’t cover
- Don’t traditional publishers take care of marketing for authors?
- How much does Self Publishing 101 cost?
- Is it worth it?
- Who’s behind Self Publishing 101?
- How much does Mark Dawson make from actual book sales?
- When is Self Publishing 101 available?
- What’s in it?
- My overall thoughts
- Who is Self Publishing 101 best for?
- Who should pass?
- Is Self Publishing 101 only for fiction writers?
- I’m traditionally published. Can Self Publishing 101 help me?
- Pros of Self Publishing 101
- Cons of Self Publishing 101
Why this review might be different than others
I purchased Self Publishing 101 in March 2018. I did not get it for free.
I have watched or read the transcripts of all the main sessions. I have not watched all videos in the Tech Library (they are supplemental).
I bought this course to learn, and to vet for my readers, many of whom are writers and want to know what I think about the course. My goal is to provide a realistic picture of what’s inside so you can make an informed decision. I think it’s right for some, but not all. I’ll tell you why.
I take reviews seriously. Even though I haven’t personally applied all the information I consumed, I stand by my opinion this is the best course for indie authors who want to make a living from writing. (I bought two similar courses — at a higher price point — and do not recommend those.)
If you’d rather hear the opinions of authors who have taken the course and applied it, take your pick from these testimonials:
Alright, let’s get into it.
What is Self Publishing 101?
Self Publishing 101 is a self-paced, online course that teaches writers how to turn an already-written manuscript into a sold book. Then it teaches writers how to turn that sold-book momentum into ongoing, steady income.
What it doesn’t cover
Authoring a book involves two things: writing and marketing. Self Publishing 101 is about marketing. The actual writing process is not covered.
If the thought of marketing turns your stomach, keep in mind, writing is the easy part, marketing is the hard part. As an author, you will have to be involved in marketing, whether you’re traditionally published or self published.
Don’t traditional publishers take care of marketing for authors?
No, not any more. Unless you are well known (i.e. already a successful author, a celebrity, a head of state, etc.), marketing typically falls on the author’s shoulders.
These days, traditional publishers assume authors will use their own platforms (blogs, social media channels, email lists, etc.) to market their books (source & source). In many cases, publishers do not provide a marketing budget either.
How much does Self Publishing 101 cost?
$497 if you pay at once. Or $588 if you pay in twelve monthly payments of $49. Future updates are included. There is a 30-day money back guarantee.
Note: In addition to the cost of the course, you might incur incidental costs. These are paid-for tools and services suggested by Mark throughout the course. However, I appreciate Mark’s obvious effort to guide students to free options when he can.
Is it worth it?
Yes, if you’re willing to do the work, it’s absolutely worth $497. Yes, if you want to maximize your earnings from writing, aren’t sure where to start and are not married to traditional publishing.
I take the “Is it worth it?” question very seriously. When I purchased Self Publishing 101, I also purchased two similar courses (at $600 each). I do not currently promote either of them. This was the clear winner.
Courses like this are best compared to a college course. Better actually. The amount of information you’ll receive — from someone who is actually doing it himself not just teaching about it — is extensive.
And it’s not just theoretical. The information is practical and step by step. Plus, you’ll have access to a large and thriving community (Facebook Group) of other like-minded writers off which you can bounce ideas, glean tips, ask advice and get encouragement. The Facebook Group alone is invaluable.
Note: Much of the course is dedicated to setting up your own author site (a must these days, for both self- and traditionally-published authors), social media accounts, a mailing list and more. If you already have an online presence or have done any research in the space, some of the information will be familiar. It was for me. However, unless you are very familiar with book marketing, I suspect much of the information will be new. It was for me. I learned enough to say I would easily pay for it again.
Who’s behind Self Publishing 101?
Mark Dawson is a former traditionally published author who struggled to sell books. According to his About page, things began to turn around when he started publishing them on his own.
How much does Mark Dawson make from actual book sales?
Some have wondered whether Mark makes the bulk of his income from selling books, or from selling courses like this one teaching others how to sell their books (i.e. profiting from others desperately trying to make their way in writing).
It’s a fair question.
Mark was kind enough to answer in the comments below. Here’s what he said (as of March 17, 2018):
Book sales make up most of my income. I’ve done six figures each of the last two months, and will this month. I post extensively about it in the SPF FB group.
I can vouch for his statement about sharing his income stats in the Facebook Group. He does.
In 2018, he made over a million dollars in book sales alone.
When is Self Publishing 101 available?
Right now. Enrollment typically opens twice a year (spring and fall) for a few weeks at a time.
What’s in it?
- 8 main modules, each with multiple sessions (lessons). Each session has a video (slides, as opposed to a talking head) and most have a video transcript and a printable cheat sheet.
- Tech Library with 15 step-by-step tech tutorials. As new tech opportunities arise, Dawson adds lessons to the Tech Library.
- 2 bonuses about author networking & writing Facebook Ads copy.
- Private Facebook Group
Here’s an overview of the modules:
- Module 1: Build Your Platform
- Module 2: Pre-Publication
- Module 3: Amazon Exclusive or Wide?
- Module 4: Go Exclusive
- Module 5: Go Wide
- Module 6: Generating Traffic
- Module 7: Advance Teams & Launching
- Module 8: Getting Reviews
My overall thoughts
This course is impressive. As book marketing goes, it’s very thorough and filled with ideas.
It flips a lot of common assumptions about publishing upside down. (Should your Table of Contents really be at the beginning of your book? Why not make your book free forever?) Rightly so, because we are in upside-down times.
While I appreciate and respect traditionally publishing, I’m sad it’s not open to more people. There are so many gatekeepers and hoops. I love how self publishing levels the playing field and gives anyone a shot. Mark maps it out.
Who is Self Publishing 101 best for?
Authors who want a proven roadmap for marketing their book(s).Dawson offers good reasons and proof for his approach. It has worked for him, and for many of his students.
Authors who will write multiple books. This method assumes you are in this for the long haul. The more books you write, the better results you’ll have.
Authors who want to make a living writing and don’t care about getting traditionally published (or want to move away from it). Assuming you write compelling books, this course will provide you with the tools to make good money as an author, no traditional publisher required.
Authors who want to take control of the final product. I’ve heard the frustrations of traditionally published authors who don’t like their book cover or disagree with final edits, but in the end, they have to relent. If you’re prepared to tackle the book publishing process yourself in exchange for complete control over the final product, consider this course.
Authors who want to keep more of their book profits. Because you set your own pricing, and because you don’t have a traditional publisher (and perhaps a literary agent) taking a cut, you will likely keep more of your per-book profits.
Authors who don’t want to blog. Writers are often advised to build their platform through blogging. For some, the thought of writing books + creating content for a blog is overwhelming. Dawson doesn’t think regular blogging is necessary.
Who should pass?
Authors who want writing advice or tips. This course does not cover the writing process. It covers marketing.
Authors who don’t plan on writing multiple books. If you only plan to write a book or two, you will definitely learn excellent tips, but I don’t think it would be worth the cost of the course.
Authors who dream of being traditionally published. A traditional book deal is a legitimate dream and one I support. The stigma attached to self publishing is dwindling, but let’s be real, the type of credibility traditionally published authors enjoy is hard for self published authors to duplicate currently.
Authors who want to segue into something larger, like a speaking career. If speaking is a dream of yours, I recommend pursuing a traditional book deal. The credibility will definitely give you a boost.
Authors who want to be widely known vs. being happy to just write.Some writers hope to use their writing as a platform and gain exposure. Other writers simply love writing and are content to know there are readers enjoying their books. If you hope to gain wide recognition, traditional publishing is probably a better bet.
Authors who want someone else to spearhead the publishing process.The steps in Self Publishing 101 are detailed and straightforward, but they will definitely take work. Some authors don’t have time for this. If you are willing to relinquish final decisions about your book in exchange for professional help in the areas of editing, design, distribution, etc, then traditional publishing is probably a better fit.
Is Self Publishing 101 only for fiction writers?
No. Given the sales page, I wondered the same thing but once I got into the course, it became clear most of the material can be applied to writers of all genres. In addition, there are multiple places in the course where non-fiction examples are highlighted specifically. Again, watch the testimonials.
I’m traditionally published. Can Self Publishing 101 help me?
Mostly, yes. However, if you are a traditionally published author and your publisher has put the marketing reigns in your hands, you will likely benefit from this course.
Pros of Self Publishing 101
Mark’s experience & style. Mark is a former lawyer. He’s also authored many books, and marketed them successfully resulting in millions of dollars in book sales. He’s thorough, detailed, sensitive to the ethical / legal aspects of the process and knowledgeable.
A focus on building your list. Everything Mark does revolves around his email list. This is incredibly smart and something a lot of traditionally published find tricky to build because they are several steps removed from their readers.
Community. SP101’s Facebook Group has over 17,000 members at the time of this update. It gives you a chance to ask questions, get ideas, share ideas, ask for advice, get support, provide encouragement and interact with other writers who “get” you.
Success stories. There are many students SP101 has helped. Here is small a sampling:
In-depth information. The course is packed with information. There is a lot of information in this course. Have I said that?
Packaged well. It’s hosted on the Teachable platform which is easy to navigate and familiar to many.
Lifetime enrollment. You’ll have access to current and future updates of the course.
30-day money back guarantee. That’s just good customer service.
Cons of Self Publishing 101
Cost. For some, the cost is prohibitive (although there is a payment plan). But again, if you are willing to invest in a college course to further your career, this would be comparable.
Potentially overwhelming for some. There are a lot of moving parts to Mark’s plan. That’s both good and bad. It’s super thorough, but also might be overwhelming for some. The good news is, he offers several timelines, checklists and to-do lists throughout.
An ever-changing landscape. There’s no doubt this course will need updates as online things change (they always do). Mark specifically said he will keep things updated which I appreciate, but it seems like it might be a monumental task. Update: He has added a section before Module 1 which lists course revisions and additions.
I’m generally anti hype and I lean in the direction of skepticism, especially with online courses. (I’ve seen plenty that are little more than a glorified ebook costing hundreds of dollars.)
However, I am impressed by this course. If you meet the criteria in the “Who is Self Publishing 101 best for? ” section above, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The amount of information is vast and deep. Check it out here.