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I have a book that I'm thinking of making into a course. How does this work?
I have a book that I'm thinking of making into a course. How does this work?

However, my book is in Leanpub Flavoured Markdown and courses are in Markua. How different is this?

Leanpub Support avatar
Written by Leanpub Support
Updated over a week ago

First of all, this is fantastic!

If you're a Leanpub author with a successful book, and you're thinking of making it into a course, we think there is lots of value here for both you and your readers.

I think the main use of our courses platform will be authors creating course versions of their books, where the entire focus is text content.  Yes, we do support YouTube videos and audio resources, but they're a lot more work, and are not required.  For me, the shortest path from a Leanpub book to a Leanpub course is "just add quizzes".  (Obviously, if you want to record a few videos to accompany the course as well, we wouldn't say no, but the focus should be on the text content.)

I actually believe that making a text-only course out of a book does provide value to readers.  It encourages companies to pay, it lets students demonstrate some competency with a certificate, and it discourages piracy without involving DRM.  I wrote more about this in "Why Should Leanpub Authors Create Courses based on Their Books?" in a newsletter recently.

Briefly, the steps are:

  1. Make a new course with the same name as your book.

  2. It can either have identical content to your book, plus added quizzes for every chapter and exercises where appropriate, or it can be an overhaul of the content to be more course-like.

  3. The course should be priced between $5 and $25 higher than your book, based on how much you change or add, or based on gut feel. We pay 80% royalties on courses too.

  4. You can give away coupons to all your readers of your book, so that they get the course for free, or for say $5 or $10, as a way of saying thanks.

  5. You can promote your course on your book page, and vice-versa.

My assumption is that the process of turning a successful Leanpub book into a course will take between a day and a week, and this is something which will hopefully be an added revenue stream for you for a long time.

The quizzes at the end of every chapter would just be 5-10 multiple choice or fill in the blank questions, with automated marking.  They are really easy to create.  We even support regex marking for fill in the blank questions.

To learn more about how to create quizzes and exercises in Markua, see this section of the Markua spec.

Here are FREE coupons for one of my books, and for the course I'm making from it, so you can see how easy this is to do, and how similar the content can be:

Now, in terms of converting a book into Markua...

Markua isn't that different.  If you write Markdown using atx headers (#, ##, etc), you're probably already writing something which resembles Markua.  Markua is more about adding missing features for books and courses than about trying to break things with Markdown. Markua is as close to Markdown as possible.

The biggest changes are the following:

  1. You add a resources directory to contain your images directory. This way, you don't need to change any of the image paths.  See this article.

  2. Instead of a Sample.txt file, you just add {sample: true} above chapters.

  3. No Setext headers (==== and ----).

The main differences between Markua and Leanpub Flavoured Markdown are here. The longer version of those differences is here.

My guess is that for most authors, it's about a day of work to convert your book
from Leanpub Flavoured Markdown to Markua, assuming you're good at using a text editor and doing query-replace. 

However, there's currently no automated tooling.

In order to maximize efficiency in the long run, I think the high level steps are:

  1. Convert your existing Leanpub Flavoured Markdown book to Markua. (Markua is for books and for courses. It's the future of writing on Leanpub, and it's more powerful than Leanpub Flavoured Markdown while about as simple. Markua is also based on Markdown; it's just a different dialect of Markdown.)

  2. Turn the book into a course.

The reason you convert your book into Markua first is so that you can make the book and the course be just two different branches of the same git repository. That way you can easily share code and bug fixes between the branches, and keep them current. That's what I did with my Programming for Kids book and course.

Specifically, what you would do is:

  1. Change your book Markdown dialect to Markua at Author > Books > (your book) > Settings > Markdown Dialect

  2. Make a git branch, say called lfm, where you have the last Leanpub Flavoured Markdown branch, just for reference.

  3. Preview your book as Markua, and see how badly things break, if they break at all.

  4. Do any Markdown => Markua conversion required.  I'd be surprised if this took longer than a day. At this point, you'd have a Markua version of your book.

  5. Make a git branch for your course.

  6. Make a new Leanpub course using Git and GitHub, and point at this branch.

  7. Add the quizzes and exercises, previewing to test. See this article for how they work. Note that, as discussed in the spec, multiple selection questions don't work yet, and written questions don't have
    automated marking. So, you're stuck with multiple choice and fill in the blank. However, that's enough for almost any course.

  8. Configure the mark ranges, your certificate, etc.

  9. Publish the course, and test-buy it as a student so you can run through everything and ensure it works.

In terms of how solid our courses support is: the folks at JHU data science made an entire 12-course course set using it, and they liked it enough that they went back for more and made this course as well.

If it takes you longer than a couple days to convert your book into Markua, please email and let us know what is causing you problems. We may be able to make suggestions...

All of us at Leanpub are really excited about courses, and we're really looking forward to seeing what you do with Leanpub courses!

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