The Mission of My Online Classes

Jane Friedman and the team representing Wood Memorial High School at the Hoosier Academic Super Bowl in 1991.
Jane: a high school freshman in Indiana (third from left)

When I was growing up in rural Indiana, there were no writing classes. There weren’t even books on writing, as the nearby library was small and didn’t carry them.

So it was an incredible revelation, in college, when I discovered resources like Writer’s Digest magazine and Writer’s Digest Books. Finally, here were the secrets no one had shared! I pulled out my highlighters and started learning.

I had no idea that just a few years later I would end up working at Writer’s Digest. I started on the magazine side, transitioned to its book division, and eventually became publisher and director of the brand, overseeing online education, competitions, conferences, and more. The mission of Writer’s Digest, which holds true to this day, is helping writers achieve their dreams of writing and publication. And it does so in a way that’s open and inviting to everyone. I still hold on to that mission.

Image: Jane Friedman sitting behind piles of books at the Writers Digest Books table at the 2004 AWP conference.
Jane manages the Writer’s Digest bookfair table at the AWP Conference in 2004
Brief articles highlighting Mark Griffin and Jane Friedman as newly-hired F+W Publications employees, clipped out from issues of the company's First Friday newsletters.
Jane and Mark met as employees of F+W Publications in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 2010, I began my own business.

For more than a decade, I’ve offered free information on the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing at this website. In 2015, I began hosting paid, online classes with guest instructors. Because I have been teaching online classes since 2009, I have in-depth expertise in online education and I know what works. However, I didn’t have much time to offer and manage a full online education program until my husband, Mark, joined my business in June 2019. Today, we focus on hosting webinar-style classes, live and recorded. He provides critical administrative and production support. Fortunately, he has a long history in publishing. In fact, we met while working together at the same publishing company in Cincinnati.

Most classes I host cost $25. Instructors will never try to upsell you.

Especially prior to the pandemic, some people were hesitant to pay for a webinar-style class, which is understandable. Free and cheap webinars are often used as a way to sell, market or promote higher-cost products. But that’s not how I approach them. Every webinar I offer is meant to offer high value for the price and be entirely self-contained. It is not an opportunity to sell you something else. (Although I do hope you love the experience and register for another class!)

While some consider $25 to be a lot of money for a webinar, others think it’s affordable compared to other online classes, which can cost $99 (and much more). I can price at $25 because, for the last 10 years, I’ve built a very strong email marketing list of writers who are interested in what I have to offer. Each class typically enrolls 200 to 400 students, sometimes more. That means I can charge less while still earning enough to meaningfully compensate guest instructors and make it sustainable for my business.

How I decide what instructors to work with

Image: screenshot from a webinar featuring Jane Friedman and Dinty W. Moore.
Jane hosts Dinty W. Moore

After more than 20 years of working in the publishing community, I have extensive contacts and relationships with the best instructors for writers. I have attended and spoken at countless writing conferences and witnessed hundreds of people give presentations to roomfuls of writers. While at Writer’s Digest, I contracted countless educators to write and publish books and articles.

Many of the instructors who teach with me I have known for more than a decade and have extensive experience in the writing community. A few instructors are recommended to me by people I trust. What all my instructors have in common is a desire to help writers and educate them in a transparent and honest manner. Before I agree to work with anyone, I review their curriculum and ensure it is appropriate and valuable for writers. In nearly all cases, I have seen the instructor present in person or online or watched a recording of them teach.

High-quality instructors enjoy working with me because they can focus on their teaching while I take care of all the marketing, customer service, administration, and overall tech. I offer a 50-50 profit share to instructors, and they keep all rights to their material, so they can continue offering their class wherever and however they wish.

How we prepare for every class

Each instructor is given an extensive set of guidelines for teaching with me that reviews best practices for tech setup (e.g., everyone must have a decent microphone), room setup, slide design and presentation, and more. My business partner, Mark, always performs a test run with each instructor to eliminate the potential for tech hiccups, although—as we all know—sometimes these hiccups still occur. But we do our best to reduce their occurrence and have backup plans for worst-case scenarios.

What technology we use and how we support you

Zoom is used for every class, in webinar mode. That means only the host and panelists can be seen and heard during the presentation. Attendees can still participate through chat and Q&A. If you’ve used Zoom before, you should find the experience very comfortable and familiar. Zoom automatically generates closed captions and a transcript while the class is running (using AI); these are made available with the recording afterward. If you have any trouble using Zoom, Mark is available in session and via email to assist you in any way he can.

All registered attendees get access to this recording, as well as all follow-up materials (slides, written Q&A, and ancillary materials if promised by the instructor) through my courses website. You don’t need any special technical skills or software to watch and enjoy the recording, plus you can download it or view it on any device you choose. Should you have any technical trouble with the recording, Mark will assist you via email.

Where the money goes

Here is how each $25 registration is divided up:

  • Payment processors (PayPal, Square) take between $1 and $1.75 per transaction.
  • The instructor receives half the profits, about $11 to $12 per student.
  • I take the other half of the profits, $11 to $12. This covers operational costs, such as the Zoom webinar platform ($1,500/year) and the administrative software required to run the classes, including Zapier, Gravity Forms, Otter, Adobe editing suite, website hosting through SiteGround, and Active Campaign for email marketing. It also pays, of course, for the time we put into producing these programs.

It takes two people to administer and run our online classes.

Image: Jane Friedman sitting in a chair and typing on a laptop computer; a cat, Zelda, is stretched across her arms.
My cat Zelda enjoys helping where she can
  • I am responsible for programming and scheduling, instructor recruitment and curriculum review, marketing strategy and design, copywriting, and student questions. I am also always present as class host.
  • My business partner and husband, Mark, is responsible for customer service and registration, tech checks with instructors, tech troubleshooting during the class, and all post-production (that includes preparing the recording files, transcripts, and much more). He is also present on all sessions to provide tech support to students.

What makes our classes unique

When you take a class with me, you’re getting the instructor’s expertise along with my in-depth knowledge of the writing community and publishing industry. I’ve seen just about every question asked on a topic and I understand how to frame material in a way that writers can understand and make use of. I use my knowledge to help instructors prepare better presentations and answer questions more effectively during and after class.

I try to provide as much value as possible for your registration fee, and both Mark and I take pride in the quality of materials we offer after the class is over. At the end of every live class, there is a 3-question survey asking if your expectations were met and how you would rate the value of the class on a scale of 1 to 10. You can also send comments as part of this survey. If you watch the recording, we welcome your feedback via email.

We are always looking for ways to improve the experience of these classes and offer an unbeatable value in the market. I want to make quality writing education affordable and accessible to whoever seeks it. If you have feedback or insights that would help us in that mission, please get in touch.

Mark and I hope to see you in class soon.

Jane Friedman and Mark Griffin.