Don’t Write Alone: Author Learning Center
You may have noticed the Lulu Blog featuring posts from Keith with the Author Learning Center. Here’s the last two he published:
- 7 Things Every Writer Needs to Become an Author (part 1 and 2)
- The 5 Essential Elements of a Great Story
If you’ve read those posts and took a minute or two checking out the Author Learning Center, you probably have a good sense of what the site aims to accomplish. They provide tools, encouragement, and advice for authors at all levels. That means from the most novice of authors just penciling ideas to the author with multiple publications under their belt, the ALC has something to offer.
What might you wonder? Well, read on and find out!
The first and most important thing the Author Learning Center offers is access to other authors. Real authors. Not just celebrities telling you how they worked really hard and their genius idea sold millions of copies.
The ALC features authors across the spectrum—from the hobbyist to the entrepreneur to the professional. What makes this unique is that you can find so many different and meaningful perspectives on how to write, design, and publish your book.
We all know there is no one right answer to publishing. So, the ALC doesn’t try to create one and instead offers a wealth of knowledge from other authors and industry professionals.
How do they get those voices together into a coherent website?
The Author Learning Center is a paid service with a monthly fee of $9.99 and an annual fee of $99.00. You can have a 30-day trial, but after that, you’ll need to register and pay to continue accessing their library of information and helpful tools. Some might balk at paying a subscription fee for a service like this, but realize that it works out to about $8.32 per month (if you pay annually). Or you can go month to month for only $9.99 and use the ALC for just as long as you need.
That’s less than most of us pay for Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions. And I don’t think either of those services is helping you fulfill your dreams.
What does that $99.00 a year buy you?
Three main points make me confident in saying that the Author Learning Center is worth every penny you invest in their subscription:
- Regularly updated content from authors and publishers
- The Author Circle feature
- The Book Launch tool
When you create your Author Learning Center account, you’re prompted to create a personal profile with information about the kinds of writing you do, where you are in the process, and what genres you prefer.
The profile is really important because it will focus the content the ALC serves up to you. They’re adding new continuously with three or more new pieces of content a week, so if you don’t have it narrowed down a bit, you run the risk of getting overwhelmed. And you can cut out anything you won’t be likely to read or view anyway and make sure you do see the content most relevant and important to you.
This kind of simple personalization isn’t a new thing. Any broad-ranging service like this (think Wired or the like) will offer preferences to hone your content feed. Smart content providers know they’re more likely to retain your interest if they can serve up content you want rather than overloading you with everything they have to offer. The Author Learning Center knows this and uses personalization to make sure you see content you want to see.
And once that content gets to you? They don’t disappoint here either. You’ll be served up written articles, videos, podcasts, and interviews with new, established, and aspiring authors at all levels.
The Profile view—Author Learning Center calls this an “Author Space”—shows up to six new pieces of content in two categories. The “Just For You” pieces are broader and offer wide ideas or opinions from authors and publishers in different genres. This content can cover a range of topics and provides some great insight into different aspects of the craft.
The other category is “My Resources” and this section will focus more directly on your needs as a writer. You’ll get publishing, editing, marketing, and writing specific content here. “My Resources” also serves as a sort of bookshelf for content you’ve found on the ALC, letting you easily find and reference anything you’ve watched, read, or listened to.
This content is my favorite.
From highly specific pieces about aspects of writing to broad content to get you started. And everything in between.
Your Author Circle
The Author Circle is a great way to get feedback and advice from a small group of fellow writers. You’ll manage your circles and add other Author Learning Center members. Then you can add documents and get feedback from the members of your circle.
Think along the lines of a web-forum or discussion board meets a writing workshop. Only more refined because you and the other members will be a small, closed group. And the ALC will help you by suggesting other members that align with your preferences to get you even more unbiased feedback.
I used this feature less than the others because I don’t have any working documents to ask for reviews, but this feature is incredibly useful for the review and revision phases of writing. Everyone who writes to publish knows you need feedback. And the more independent and honest that feedback, the better.
Author Circles aren’t limited to just ALC subscribers either! You have the option to invite non-members to your Circle, widening your group to include your favorite proofreader (mine’s my wife, she’s a brutally honest reader), your editor, cover designer, neighbor—anyone who might help make your manuscript the best it can be!
What I like about this feature is that it promotes building and expanding your writing community. I think a lot of writers over-look and under-value this aspect of the writing process.
The Book Launch Tool
This is, by far, my favorite tool the Author Learning Center offers. I think the annual fee is worth it for this tool alone. The podcasts and articles are great and offer a nice way to inspire when I’m coming up short on words. And the Author Circle is one more way to grow your network while improving your work.
But the Book Launch Tool? This thing is one of the best timeline and task assignment tools I’ve ever used for writing.
Here I’ve got a book created and I set some dates for completing the manuscript and launching. You’ve got some pretty simple data about this book – title, description, author, and a cover thumbnail along with your genre information. Lastly, you get to set a “publish by” date to start your timeline.
Author Learning Center makes it easy to edit/update this info too, so nothing is set in stone here. The goal is to help make publishing realistic and achievable.
Now you can see the timeline I made, along with an Author Circle automatically generated for this project, and the “What’s Up Next” to show my next task due. I’m ready to add some tasks!
I’m looking at the “Writing” tasks tab, but we’ve got four total to look at. And in each tab, I can add custom tasks. Each item expands to show a deadline option (you get to set this), suggested content for this specific task, and a section for notes. Then you have a toggle switch for “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Finished” so you can track your progress. You’ll notice I set a deadline to “Write Your Manuscript” and now that deadline is showing on the left, as it’s the next task due.
I can add new tasks in each category too—though note you won’t get suggested content when you create your own task. You can edit and delete tasks as well.
Once you’ve gone through and set tasks, due dates, and adjusted progress accordingly, you’ll have a timeline in place to keep you on task and on track to complete your book!
I’ve encountered a lot of different methods for plotting a course from idea to book and my feeling is that the Author Learning Center’s Book Launch Tool is the best one available. It’s easy to use and simple to adapt. The only thing I would want to make it even better is an integration with Outlook so I can add the tasks/due dates to my calendar.
But that’s a small hurdle once you get yourself into the habit of using this page. And the usefulness of an effective task tracker really can’t be overstated. Time management is consistently one of the biggest issues writers face when they’re working to produce their book. Just like any other difficult task, it gets easier if you’re willing and able to accept help. The Book Launch Tool breaks down a complicated and many-faceted journey into digestible and manageable pieces so you can go task to task and get your book published.
There are lots of tools out there to help writers write, edit, design, market, and publish. I think you always have to use the one that works best for you. But I can’t say enough about the variety and effectiveness of the Author Learning Center. You get a library of expert advice and inspiration, the ability to form and grow your network of writers and writing industry professionals, and the best timeline tool I’ve ever used.
Give it a try. The first 30 days are free and you may find you like the Book Launch Tool as much as I do.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, responsible for all the words you see on our site (misspellings included). He also manages the community site – http://connect.lulu.com/en/ – and in his free time, he’s an avid reader and short story writer.