My Writing Course

So I’m sitting here trying to think of ways I can continue to buy Fancy Feast for Crum the Cat. Several people have proposed that I ought to start doing dokusan sessions online via Skype and charge money for them. But that idea, frankly, makes me want to vomit. Dokusan, for those who may not know, is a private personal interview with a Zen teacher, usually conducted as part of a sesshin or Zen retreat. Though participants usually pay for Zen retreats, and though some of that money normally goes to the teacher, it is not customary to charge specifically for dokusan. Besides which, if it’s not done in the context of a retreat it isn’t really dokusan, at least in my understanding of what dokusan is supposed to be.

I’ve been sending my resume out to colleges and universities who run writing programs to see if they’ll hire me to teach creative writing. Then it occurred to me. Do I really need a university to hire me to do that? Maybe I could do that myself and eliminate the middle man.

My upstairs neighbor Dave teaches writing at the University of Akron. So I went up there and asked if I could borrow a syllabus from one of his classes. I looked it over and figured I could adapt his strategy to an online course in creative writing to be taught by me.

I’m thinking I could offer a ten week course with 4 – 6 writing assignments that I would personally evaluate. Students would get the benefit of my experience as a professional writer, which is something I’ve been doing for at least ten years before Hardcore Zen came out in 2003. I was writing all sorts of stuff for Tsuburaya Productions. And before that I wrote for zines and science fiction mags. That’s like 20 years as a writer, not even counting the comic books and shitty poetry I wrote starting when I first learned to write.

I couldn’t help get anyone published. I could tell you how I went about doing it. But I have no connections that are going to work for anyone else. I can show you how to make your work publishable, though.

In order to make this worth the time and headaches it would cost me, I’d have to charge at least $350 per student. I may have to charge more, in fact, because it would be a whole big bunch of work for me. The going rate for online writing courses appears to vary between $300 and $800. Although I haven’t been able to find any examples of someone like me, an independent published author, offering such a course. I’m sure such examples must exist somewhere. I would imagine the prestige of the writer in question would determine the price. Does anyone know of a writer who independently offers online writing courses?

So the question I’m asking all of you nice folks is: Would you be interested in taking such a course? I doubt that most of the regular contributors to this blog’s comments section are going to want to do it. So I’m hoping to hear from a few ordinary citizens. This page gets a thousand or more hits a day. So I know that it’s not just those same five guys reading it.

Remember Crum the Cat is depending on you!

112 Responses

  1. gniz
    gniz February 29, 2012 at 8:39 am |

    Hey Brad,

    You know we've been through this discussion so I won't berate you with e-publishing again–even though if you'd really listened to me you could be making quite a lot of money at it by now… 🙁

    Anyway, I think the online course is a good idea. My wife also did that for awhile and it worked decently. You should probably get a bit more clear about what type of writing you'll be teaching. She did young adult fiction, so a particular genre could be useful.

    She also taught how to get an agent, write a good query letter, etc.

    The other thing someone mentioned above was to evaluate manuscripts. You can charge a certain amount per page and basically you give notes and line edits on a manuscript. Its hard work but can be sometimes 200-300 bucks to comment on one book.

    Writers will pay for this stuff so you can certainly do it if you market yourself well and provide a good service.

    If you ever want to discuss e-publishing again, feel free to contact me. I do think there are things you can that are much less work to make money in the current publishing climate.



  2. Daniel
    Daniel February 29, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Daniel
    Daniel February 29, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    I would be interested, but I'm already quite busy in college as it is. I think it's a good idea, and it could be a rewarding experience.

  4. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner February 29, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    Thanks for the advice Gniz.

    My eBook has earned me about $75 so far. That's not much cat food.

  5. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner February 29, 2012 at 11:21 am |

    Korey said:

    Brad, I read in one of your blogs that a good way to keep your eyes from blurring or going unfocused during zazen is to draw a little dot on the wall and focus to keep it clear. I';ve seen you recommend this at least 3 times.

    The other day while meditating with my little "dharma dot" as I call it, it started to move into little squiggles and dance all over the place.

    Is this normal? I mean I like the idea of having "psychedelic" effects to tell me that I am in a very deep trance but you also advise to focus on it to make sure that it doesn't move in anyway.

    Just hoping you could clarify..

    When you're sitting still staring at something for a long time, your eyes start to play tricks on you.

    I think it's the eyes and the brain trying to continue their habitual pattern of keeping us entertained.

    By the way, I wouldn't say I recommend the "dharma dot." It's something that I did for a while and dropped. I feel like it was a slightly wrong turn.

  6. gniz
    gniz February 29, 2012 at 11:27 am |

    Brad, the reason your ebook has not made money is because its not the correct genre for your work (imo of course).

    Plenty of writers are making really good money at ebooks. I've been making as much as I made at my old 9-5 corporate gig for the last year. And by the way, that's JUST my Aaron Niz books.

    That doesn't include some of my collaborative works which you and I discussed previously. Those are doing even better…

    I know of dozens of other writers doing the same, so I am certain it's not a fluke.

    If you wrote even a short zen styled ebook and priced it at 2.99 and marketed it through your blog I can pretty much guarantee you'd make more in one day than you have from your novel in its entire time as an ebook.

    But alas, I never sensed you were very into the idea in the first place. I think the online writing classes could be a nice income stream as well, it just takes a heck of a lot more work than ebooks do.

  7. A-Bob
    A-Bob February 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

    Brad, Gniz is giving you some very good advice. Maybe you think that only getting 2 or 3 dollars for a short book is not enough. But if you managed to get a dozen short works in your e-book catalog you might sell more than you think. Do you own the rights to your suicide girl pieces? You could compile them into a short book that could sell right away. Write some stories on your travel experiences. Write some stories about the punk rock days. Publish some interviews. People like your writing so you already have the audience that most self-publishers have to slowly build up. You just have to sit down and get going on it. I really can't imagine how you'd fail.

  8. Tim
    Tim February 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    I've heard fantastic things about self-publishing via e-books; James Altucher raves about it. I think that would be the best for you as you go forward. From a marketing point of view, you have an established brand image, word of mouth presence, and customer advocates who would (likely) be more than happy to market you by way of social media.

    On another note, while I know you enjoy writing and have been talking about teaching creative writing, I do wonder if getting an academic gig as Japanese studies lecturer or comparative religion could be a better fit. I suspect that there are likely many people in the Northeastern Ohio area that may be well-qualified to teach creative writing. My guess, though, there are far fewer people who can lecture on contemporary Japanese culture or Zen Buddhism from the angle of being an ordained Zen guy (what, two of you guys in the entire area?). Essentially, what is your most lucrative competitive advantage relative to other folks gunning for academic gigs.

    Case Western Reserve University has an opening (granted it does seem a bit dated) for a Japanese lecturer. They are asking for a MA, but I would wager you could make an interesting proposition to them that you are indeed qualified to be a lecturer. Go here and search for "Japanese Lecturer":

    I would also recommend checking out all of the other universities in the region and see what they got going on in their religious and/or Asian studies program.

  9. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles February 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm |

    I agree. My al-Kimia book has been available for kindle for awhile now and is doing well in this format according to my publisher. I am looking into how I can get my other stuff out there via e-book: collections of essays, etc. Its a niche market that is fast becoming mainstream. gniz is on to something, IMO.

  10. graeme
    graeme February 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm |

    A writing course isn't something I would be signing up for but I'd buy a short zen-related kindle book in a heartbeat!

    I agree with gniz, you said yourself you get crazy traffic and most folk would put up a couple of bucks for an e-book, would quickly add up!

  11. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. boubi
    boubi February 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    Hi Brad

    I'm really sorry, because in your decency, your aversion for easy dharma money, your respect for fellow human being, Crumb The Cat is you.

    This brings me back to some considerations about the "living off the dharma" as the "funeral oriented" schools in Japan and the difficulties of adapting "spirituality" to the west without being a "pimp of the lost souls" like … we know who.

    It brings me too to a person i know who on her own, through introspection (cleaning) and strenous efforts in her life (concentration) developed, without intention, siddhis and healed me of a few things (very heavy nicotine addiction included) but was without cultural references and had big problems finding a place in society without being taken for some raving weirdo. It wouldn't have been the case in Asia were people would have recognize it for what it is.

    So Crumb The Cat could, beyond what already advised
    – go to Asia, find some (mango) tree to sit under, enter samadhi and live the eternal life of the now
    – go to Asia, find well to do asian lady(ies) who would dote on some funny illuminated kaijin nekko
    – stay where you are, give some spiritual/travel advice to some suicide girls, you know easy earned easy spent money, instead of a new tattoo

    I really don't know, maybe find yourself some job too wouldn't be bad either.

    Get out of the spot light, "dim your shining, cancel your footprints" (Michel will be able to translate it better).

    If i had your realization, this is what i would do. But i don't have it and Crumb The Cat is not boubi.

    Listen to you podcast about Zen and Yoga. Listen to "Portia"


  13. boubi
    boubi February 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

    Would like to write to you privately, did i miss some "contact" link?

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

    I am fairly new to Brad's writings and enjoy this blog very much. What I don't understand is why don't more people who seem to enjoy viewing and posting comments here "hit" the donation button from time to time? No big deal, but even giving a few dollars to support someone who you appreciate seems so worthwhile. Thanks for listening. Roy

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

    "I am fairly new to Brad's writings and enjoy this blog very much. What I don't understand is why don't more people who seem to enjoy viewing and posting comments here "hit" the donation button from time to time? No big deal, but even giving a few dollars to support someone who you appreciate seems so worthwhile. Thanks for listening. Roy"

    Whatever you say, "Roy."

    I gotta say, Brad, that was your most pathetic attempt at drumming up revenue yet. I shudder to think how far you'll sink to raise a few bucks.

  16. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf February 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    I'm currently reading this The Indie Journey: Secrets to Writing Success by Scott Nicholson:;=1330570506&sr;=8-46)

    After being published by mainstream publishers and not making much money, Scott began to self-publishing his own books and was able to quit his day job and write full-time. It's pretty damn good!

    Scott's buddy and fellow self-publisher (also publishes mainstream books) J. A. Konrath writes a lot of useful articles at his blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

    Here is an interesting Konrath article about why Amazon is defeating the big six publishers.

  17. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf February 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. na
    na February 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    I am interested, definitely.

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    gucci outlet February 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm |

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  20. Harry
    Harry March 1, 2012 at 1:44 am |

    I think the Gucci bags thing is a great idea.

    Regards, H.

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 1:53 am |

    I'm with Roy.

    I'm from the States so can't speak for others, but I wonder if we're so "pulling up by own bootstraps" and "get a job already" oriented here that we can't fathom the idea of making modest donations to a teacher from time to time.

    Real question. I, too, am wary of shysters and blowhards, but I don't think that's what we have here.


  22. Zentard
    Zentard March 1, 2012 at 3:28 am |

    I'm in unstable situation at this time. Having read a whoe big bunch of your writing, if I had enough money available to improve my education, I'd rather take your course than go to school.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 4:57 am |

    I suggest charging a subscription price to view this blog. I imagine you have 5000 regular readers (based on 1000 visits a day). If 10% of the people pay $5 a month, you could actually make a decent living. I'm sure some readers will be annoyed ("Oh man, Brad has sold out! etc…) but readers like me who benefit from your (thus far, free) advice and believe in you, would be happy to have the chance to support you. If you did make money this way, you would likely be able to travel more for your talks. I don't see how wanting to make money from helping others and following your passion is a bad thing. Clearly you are not a shyster looking to make an easy buck — the millions of words you have written and spoken for free is evidence to all of your fans of that.

  24. gniz
    gniz March 1, 2012 at 6:14 am |

    I've never left a donation but I've bought every one of Brad's books, including his fiction ebook.

    Brad is a writer. He should, in my opinion, be able to make a living writing.

    Brad, I've helped at least two authors become fairly successful with ebooks. One person I advised has had her book in the top hundred of both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    The second person I helped is my sister, who just got an offer to write romance ebooks for a digital publishing house called Ellora's Cave. The editor contacted her after finding my sister's novella ebook on recently.

    You are a writer, Brad. It makes me sad that you don't see how much money and freedom you could have if you truly put some time and effort into writing ebooks and learning about this new format and technology. It's criminal to allow publishing houses to keep huge sums of your royalty rate when you don't need to do so anymore.

    I hope you'll give some real thought to ebooks and not simply dismiss it because one novel hasn't sold well. That doesn't prove or disprove anything. That would be like dismissing zen because you sat zazen one time and found it boring.

  25. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 6:34 am |

    It makes me sad that you don't see how much money and freedom you could have

    Gniz, I totally get your point but you have to admit that it's a bit humorous to be writing this to a Zen Priest 🙂

  26. A-Bob
    A-Bob March 1, 2012 at 6:42 am |

    Sorry to disagree with you Harry. I am not a fan of the Gucci brand. The bags seem shallow and lacking somehow. It seems clear to me that Louis Vuitton is the one true handbag.

    CAPTCHA : roling eadminded : I kid you not

  27. gniz
    gniz March 1, 2012 at 6:45 am |

    Hi Anon. I don't see what zen priest has to do with it, maybe you can clarify?

    People have blind spots all of the time and for various reasons. For some reason, Brad complains about not having any money but refuses to look at the mountain of evidence that ebooks is a very viable way for him–a relatively successful author–to make some money.

    I do find that sad, and I don't think him being a zen priest has anything to do with it. But like I said, maybe I'm missing your point. That zen priests don't want money or freedom? Or that zen priests are supposed to be able to see everything clearly?

  28. Zentard
    Zentard March 1, 2012 at 6:47 am |

    If you would be interested in offering Brad support, there IS a donate button. Otherwise, charging for this site would be setting a sort of exclusive precedent which I think is kinda against the nature of the blog, isn't it?

    I don't know that Brad would be "selling out" if he charged money for his blog, but I do know that I wouldn't be paying for it. I is too poor. Cause of my edumacation.

  29. A-Bob
    A-Bob March 1, 2012 at 6:54 am |

    Anon@634: Brad makes a perfectly fine Zen Master. But as a business person he makes a good artist. He should be open minded about how he sells his words.

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 7:37 am |

    Brad is not the only person having money problems. Read the sad stories of these unfortunate individuals.

  31. graeme
    graeme March 1, 2012 at 7:37 am |

    I think putting a paywall up on the blog is a terrible idea, not only will you alienate a large percentage of your current audience but you will instantly put off people discovering you.

    I think the blog works well for you as it is, publish an e-book already! 😉

  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 7:39 am |

    maybe you can clarify?

    Well like I wrote Gniz, I totally get your point. In terms of relative, mundane reality it makes a lot of sense, your suggestion.

    What is humorous to me is that Brad is also a Zen Priest, signifying a Zen practitioner who also plays by Absolute Reality rules. In Absolute reality, freedom does not have to do with 'getting what you want' and 'not getting what you don't want'. Freedom is not so much about eliminating painful conditions, than it is about being able to observe painful situations come and go.

    Again, totally agree with you on the common sense everyday front. And finding it funny to be nudging a Zen Priest in this direction 🙂

    BTW you've even got me thinking of getting into Online Publishing, haha. Happy for your success.

  33. Lori
    Lori March 1, 2012 at 9:22 am |

    Tentatively, I would say yes. I've been out of work and am just getting back to work part-time and would need to really save my pennies to do it. Do I think it would be worth it? Absolutely! Am a big fan of your books. You are helping me to understand Zen Buddhism in a way that no one else has been able to really get through to me before, so I would love the experience of working on my writing skills with you.

  34. alizrin blue
    alizrin blue March 1, 2012 at 9:23 am |

    Here are three ideas:
    1. See if people will donate a gift card to a pet food emporium!

    2. Look into teaching at a low residency MFA program. I took one through Vermont College. The advisors were not necessarily holders of high faluting degrees or particularly widely read authors (they were all published though). They came for the two week residencies (free room and board!) and had to give a lecture and run a workshop. Then they were assigned 4 or 5 students and for the semester they received a packet each month from each consisting of 30 pages of writing and a short essay or two. These programs offer both creative writing and what they call creative non-fiction, which seems to be memoir-ish stuff. Often teachers just taught a semester here and there (probably when they needed some extra bucks). I

    3. I guess you could find a rich lover or benefactor…I think there are even dating web sites that specialize in that!

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 9:28 am |

    garbage is always free

  36. Adi
    Adi March 1, 2012 at 9:36 am |

    i think it would be cool, i would be down.

  37. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |


    "Brad is also a Zen Priest"

    Your spin on reality needs therapy. Seek help. Take your meds. Ignore the voices.

  38. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |

    You are correct Mysterion. Thank you for your advice. Brad, please accept my apology for posting a frivolous comment on this blog. I will go now.

  39. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

    Recently met someone who makes about $60k a year (I saw the pay statements) writing newsy and social articles for a couple of websites. So there is a demand for decent writers.

  40. Chris Claborne
    Chris Claborne March 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm |

    Although I'm interested in a class, not sure it would do my dull brain any good but I think you are definitely onto something.

    I like the suggestion of "Editor for hire". I write a geek blog and would be willing to pay someone at times to suggest changes for readability (or tell me to just stop writing).

    If someone knows of a service like this it would be helpful. I've worn out my welcome with friends and my wife.

    BTW – How does the typical idea of “planning ahead” or building a plan to reach an objective in the future figure into Buddhist philosophy since it's all "future related"?

  41. Rae
    Rae March 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

    I agree with Gniz that you should give (Buddhist-themed) ebooks a shot on Amazon. Since most people see you as primarily a Buddhist author, they are more interested in buying those types of your books rather than other genres.

    Show of hands from anyone interested in taking your writing course…

  42. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  43. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

    Thinking more about Brad's situation. Shouldn't a person who has such a wonderful gift for expressing the Dharma be supported to continue what he does best? Giving is liberating, feel the grasping, the holding on to what you think you need, and then press the donation button. Roy

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

    Yes i ordinary person and i need writing skilzz. No price too high! You teach me now!

  45. Angrrry girrrl
    Angrrry girrrl March 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    Brad Warner,

    If you don't do this I am going to beat you up with a red hot poker.


  46. Kye Sangha
    Kye Sangha March 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm |

    I've read Hardcore Zen a few times, & even gifted it…so now it's time, I think, to get the electronic version. While I'm there I'll make sure I've got the rest of the arsenal. I do already own a few of your books, but I'll do what I can to help..

  47. york
    york March 3, 2012 at 4:20 am |

    yes I am interested, unfortunately Enlish is not my native language and maybe I will lacking behing. What´d you think about that?

  48. Womencare
    Womencare March 3, 2012 at 11:59 am |

    BW –

    I would be interested, and would have to save my pennies. To add a shade to this idea, I have often thought "this man needs an e-course" – I have been into the idea of joining an e-course but have found most of the options I have discovered to be a little to fluffytoucheyfeely for my tastes. "I invite you to take a great big swim in lake YOU" – that vibe. Could be just that I have not found one that isn't part of the women's blog circles I run in. In any case – these have some structure – assignments, access to online content, instruction for the "attendees" etc – and some level of interactivity with the group and the instructor. Many that I have seen are photog related, or some other creative arts related, and are designed for self exploration. I think you could come up with some kind of curriculum (seems like you are working one out already) that suits you and your "people". I have written for a while and have been interested in writing more, and improving my work in that regard BUT I can say personally that I would be most interested in you course because you'd be running it and the content would be uniquely yours. I totally get your desire to avoid the virtual dokusan – sounds like white bread zen to me, and a ton of technical umph involved. I do think what will "sell" your idea to most people is what you do best, and are known for, which includes your teaching on zen. I think leaving that out would limit the lot of your potential "customers". I think you could pull together a great e-course with all you have going for you – and I'd be so in.

    here are some e-course links to give you an idea… again, very fuzzy stuff here, I am just sharing for the structure not the content. I have no experience with or relation to these sites, fyi. Hope this is helpful. – Olivia

  49. Ezekiel Smithburg
    Ezekiel Smithburg March 4, 2012 at 9:06 am |

    Yeah, I'd do it.

  50. Leah McClellan
    Leah McClellan March 4, 2012 at 11:24 am |

    Sounds great! I know at least 5-6 people doing this, and I know there are lots more. In fact, I'm enrolled in an online course right now with a rather narrow focus on guest blogging and writing killer headlines (with Jon Morrow of Copyblogger).

    James Chartrand, Anne Wayman, and Carol Tice come to mind–you've probably seen their names if you're looking around to see what's going on.

    You could always edit stuffy university dissertations and journal articles like I do 🙂 Plan on doing a course on editing your own work/grammar/proofreading etc one of these days soon.

Comments are closed.