One of the best ways to publicize, promote, and market your book is to write a syllabus. Teach an online or in-person course related to the topic of your book. But before you can organize a course, you need a syllabus. And the syllabus and course, in turn, helps to launch your book in the media and get free publicity -- even before it's published.
Require students to purchase the book when you do have it published or printed or put on a DVD or CD as a audio or video narration of your writing. The easiest way to start is by writing a syllabus for a course. Teach the contents of the book in a how-to course. What’s your hobby or field of expertise? My usual full-time working day emphasizes genealogy journalism and personal history research. Check out 49 of my 91 book covers on the Examiner.com photo slideshow.
Let's say your topic is family history, genealogy, or visual anthropology and producing, viewing, and reviewing documentaries. Here's how to write a course syllabus or teach online to market your book in the media. The objective is to get free publicity in the mainstream or niche media, attract a potential reader audience, and launch your book even before it's published.
If your field relates to personal history or genealogy, here’s how to write a syllabus to teach online (or in person) a genealogy course. You can train or teach at a variety of levels. One way to attract teachers is to ask to be a guest speaker in a school classroom, even at the kindergarten level or in a senior citizen center where lectures are given or videos are shown, or there are book clubs or life story highlight recording sessions.
A conference room of a public library is a good start
Starting your own classes and reserving a conference room in a library, church social hall, or community center don’t require degrees or credentials, only expertise. Nothing lets you learn a subject better than if you have to teach it to beginners.
If you don’t like teaching face-to-face or training employees in a work setting, teach online from your Web site. Or apply to teach a course in something you can do well at online educational sites such as blackboard.com. Read online education publications such as the Virtual U Gazette. Check out the Get Educated.com site.
You learn more from your students’ feedback than you ever learned from books in a variety of areas related to writing and publishing. The first step is to write a great syllabus that convinces others to hire you to teach a subject related to the information in your book. This technique works well with nonfiction, how-to or self-help books.
If your book is a novel, your course syllabus might emphasize plotting the novel or marketing and promotion. To sell your book in this type of class, you’d use each chapter to teach how to write “tag lines,” emotions and behaviors in a novel, or portions of your novel as tools for fiction writers in the genre of your book—such as plotting the mystery or romance novel.
You’d use passages to teach consistency and transitions that move the plot forward and show how the characters grow and change or the romantic tension. A similar technique of “teaching the process” would be used if you wrote plays, poetry, or cinematic scripts. A syllabus helps you get hired and/or to recruit students so you can sell your book and teach a class or train a group of people either online or in person. You can adapt this syllabus plan and format to the subject of your book in nearly any field.
How to write a syllabus
Instead of ‘genealogy,’ just substitute the concept and framework of your own book. Here’s how to write a syllabus. A short course may be taught online or arranged in any room available from a church basement to a library conference room.
A seminar can last a few hours. A lengthy course can be planned for an entire semester at any level in adult education, for college extended studies programs, or at community centers. You need experience in your area of expertise, and a published book helps your credibility. If you’re teaching a course in a community college or university for college credit you’d need a graduate degree.
For public school you’d also need a teaching credential unless your expertise level is the equivalent. Teaching vocational education and using your book as instructional text is more flexible. You can teach in the extended studies (not for credit) department of universities and community colleges based on experience. Credentials in your field of work are helpful to get you hired, but without them, start your own course online or from an available room.
You can share a rented room to teach the course with other trainers or teachers
Least expensive is to teach at your Web site and sell your book online to students. At the end of the course, give them a certificate in the subject you’ve taught related to your book. Require students to buy your book, and use it throughout the course.
One of the easiest ways to get hired to teach a course is to offer one in genealogy and/or personal history, if you have done your research on how genealogists find their information. Since you have written a book, can you now call yourself an expert?
If genealogy, personal history, oral history, social history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, creative writing, early handwriting, or journalism interests you, a beginner’s course in genealogy attracts people interested in where their ancestors came from and how they lived, ate, and played. Classes often fill up quickly.
People like to take courses where they can learn about themselves and their families’ life styles. Genealogy courses work well online, at social, ethnic, and religious clubs, and at senior centers. So here’s how to begin writing a syllabus for a genealogy course.
Your first genealogy course syllabus expands the four keys of genealogy research: identity, name, date information was recorded, locality, and kinship. How you organize, edit, and write a genealogy course syllabus often determines whether you’ll be hired to teach a course in genealogy for beginners.
If you’re a genealogist or want to promote your genealogy-oriented book or journalistic skills, teach a course in genealogy. Genealogy courses rely on verifiable details. Accidental or intentional alterations by scribes can dramatically affect information. Courses that go on year after year are evaluated by students as excellent.
Genealogists are concerned about accurate reproduction of texts or entry of information
For generations, most public family history entries were hand copied by government record clerks, clergy, and scribes deeply influenced by cultural, political, and theological disputes of their day.
Your syllabus can help students look for mistakes and intentional changes in surviving records. Can the original names be reconstructed? Genealogy course content also includes the social history of where and why these changes were made and how family historians go about reconstructing what might be the original names, relationships, and records as closely as possible.
Use your syllabus as a tool to outline your course
Students want an easy-to-follow syllabus. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word ‘syllabus’ as an outline of a course of study. It’s a table of contents with a schedule of topics, not a book proposal.
Your syllabus also needs to cover how to find records of hard-to-trace people, such as clergy. How would you direct students who want to trace nuns, priests, ministers, or rabbis?
Genealogy courses given in churches’ social halls sometimes attract those who want to trace difficult-to-find genealogy records of clergy. Old books make excellent genealogy sources. Other primary sources to trace clergy or religious educators include College Alumni Records , The Clergy Lists , Crockford's Directories , Fasti Ecclesiae, Anglicanae, Parish Registers, Bishop's Records, Censuses, and County Directories.
A genealogy course syllabus for beginners includes answers to one of the most frequently asked questions: How do you find female ancestors and solve identity problems when maiden surnames didn’t appear on the death certificates? Before you try to organize and write a syllabus, first list topics you’ll cover in your syllabus.
Planning Your Syllabus
List all obvious items. Keep this list next to your blank syllabus page. Then list items often omitted from a syllabus for a beginning course in genealogy. Compare your syllabus with other genealogy course outlines that have received great student evaluations. Your clue is whether the course is repeated year after year. There are several copyrighted genealogy course outlines on the Internet to peruse. Use them only for comparison and motivation. Keep your syllabus unique to your own course. Make a list of resources to be used in your own course before you begin writing your syllabus.
Social History (brief)
Genealogy sources created by women:
Diaries, journals, letters, postcards, family Bibles, heirlooms, artifacts, oral history, legislative petitions, atypical sources, published family histories, cemetery records, tombstone inscriptions or rubbings, church records, censuses, military records, hospitals, orphanages, institutions, sanitariums, passenger arrival lists, city directories, notaries’ records, voter lists/registrations, pensions, widows’ pension applications/civil war, orphans and guardianship records, land records, marriage records, medical records, Eugenics Record Office, (ERO), social data, midwives’ journals, doctors’ journals, asylums, divorce records, wills, probate, court records, school records, ethnic sources, codicils, ethnic/religious hospital records, naturalization laws.
After you compile this list, put it aside to refer to as you write your syllabus. Begin outlining the syllabus by starting with the course information, instructor information, text or reading materials, course descriptions, course calendar or schedule, and references or bibliography.
Each category would get a one or two-sentence description summarizing what will be covered in the course and what assignments are required of students. Keep your syllabus short— about three pages or less. The syllabus in a semester-long college level, 3-unit genealogy course meant for beginners and taught online or in person would look like this in its layout:
Course Number/Title: Genealogy and Family History 1
Name of School or College
Year and Month:
Credit Hours 3
Course Placement: Adult Education, Extended Studies, Community College, University Undergraduate level.
In Genealogy 1, students will learn special strategies for uncovering hard-to-find information about their ancestors. By the end of this course, students will become more versatile in using interdisciplinary skills for researching family and social history resources.
Genealogy 1 is an introductory course in family and personal history research methods that includes learning interviewing and recording skills. This survey course covers the strategies of genealogical research in North America and introduces the student to the techniques of genealogical research around the world. Students able to read other languages may work on genealogical records in other languages if they can translate their findings, projects, or assignments to the class in English.
Students are introduced to a survey of all the methods used to identify individuals and their ancestors, including paper records, online searches, surname groups online, and DNA-driven genealogy resources.
Learning Objectives for Genealogy 1
At the end of this course, students will have learned the following skills:
1. Students will be able to research the following resources:
Passenger Arrival Lists
Family history libraries and genealogy sections of public and university libraries
Voter lists and registrations
Military records and pensions, widows’ pensions
Land records and notary records
Ethnic women and men
Native American, Inuit, and South American
Indigenous Peoples Genealogy
Chinese and Japanese Immigrants in California
Genealogy and Social History of New Zealand, Australia, and
South Asian Genealogy
Middle Eastern Immigrants
East Asian, Philippine, and Indonesian Immigrants
Unique People’s Genealogy, including:
Working with Databases and Genealogy Lists
1. Methods for determining maiden names
2. Solving identity problems in genealogy research
3. Methods for identifying women
4. Genealogy as social history
5. Genograms - medical family histories
a. child bearing and raising in genealogy research
b. children born out of wedlock and genealogy research
c. women’s work and genealogy records,
d. property tax records
e. religion and genealogy information
f. women’s reform movements, rights, and genealogy records
g. merging social and family history in genealogy research
h. documenting your own ancestor’s history
6. Unpublished Genealogy Sources
7. Published Genealogical Sources
8. How to research population schedules
9. Probate and court records
10. Slave genealogy and schedules
11. Social history research and biographies
12. Property, Inheritance, Naturalization and Divorce laws for genealogists
13. Widows’ pensions and applications-Acts and Laws, survey
14. DNA-driven genealogy, methods, resources, matrilineal and patrilineal research, surname groups and genetics associations
15. Online research resources
16. Checklist for genealogy research
17. Genealogical case studies
18. Articles and Bibliography
19. National Archives and Genealogy Research
20. How to read abstracted records
21. How to find and read microfilms and microfiche records
22. Military pensions—records in the National Archives
23. Searching records of the Veterans Administration
24. Published indexes to pension files and other aids
25. Genealogy journalism methods—interviewing and recording
26. Oral history, video and audio recording—what questions to ask.
How Students will apply the newly learned genealogy research skills:
- Use the methods of scientific genealogical research.
- Establish lines of descent for the person or family you select and develop a pedigree chart or family history tree of names and critical dates such as birth, marriage, and death for each ancestor on the family tree and/or pedigree chart.
- Organize genealogy records.
- Interview and record relatives or selected persons.
- Research the past.
- Use online technology to research or supplement written records and develop a pedigree chart or family tree.
Six Assignments and Projects: Due by End of 12-Week Course. (Insert Specific Due Dates) One assignment is due every two weeks.
- Write a publishable 1,000-word researched family history/genealogy article and submit it to a publication.
- Develop a list of 30 to 60 questions (chosen from a list of suggested questions to ask from the handout) to ask another person during a genealogy-oriented or life story-oriented personal or family history recorded interview.
- Interview using critical and creative thinking skills one or more older adults and record on audio or video tape a half-hour to one-hour life story experience to submit to an oral history archive library. Obtain a signed release form from all persons interviewed to send the recording to an oral history library. Give all persons interviewed copies of the interview recorded on tape or disc, such as a CD or DVD.
- Use written records and online resources/technology relevant to your personal interests or selected discipline. Genealogy has several areas of emphasis including archival records research, oral history, personal history, family history, video biography/life story recording, and DNA-driven genealogy/genetics for ancestry.
- Understand opportunities, skills, and requirements for genealogy journalism and publishing concentrations.
- Research the diversity of cultures in North America and other countries as related to how genealogy records have been maintained.
1. Learn how to perform scientific genealogical research.
2. Fill out and expand a pedigree chart and family tree--first by hand and then using technology or genealogy software.
3. Collect sources and resource information and organize the sources using records, legacies, diaries, letters, or journals.
4. Understand the value of journaling and archiving journals, letters, and diaries.
5. Read an article on how to restore old diaries and photos.
6. Write and record as audio or video a life story to keep for future generations or to put in a time capsule. One copy would be text for reading and another recorded in any format, including text and photos, audio or video. Be aware technology changes, and a text copy on acid-free paper is required just in case the recorded format can no longer play.
7. Learn how to correspond with relatives or friends and what questions to ask when asking for genealogical information.
8. Fill out family group sheets for recorded information to be transcribed or kept in text form.
9. Read an article on genealogical identification, orphan trains, and family skeletons or hidden facts on everything from how a person’s race or religion was listed to name changes. Understand how some pre-1948 housing laws and codes excluded certain groups from buying property in various areas and how some records were changed so people could buy homes. Research articles on this subject as related to genealogy records.
10. Understand the four keys of genealogy as research tools: identity, name, date information was recorded, locality, and kinship.
11. Research the American and/or Canadian trains when children were sent from the East to the West. These trains are separate from the orphan trains. Records with the children’s names are in various archives. Find out where to find the records.
12. Learn organization, documentation, filing techniques.
13. Analyze, interpret, and present genealogy-related findings.
14. Keep a research notebook that cites each source of documentation.
15. Look at working files that organize genealogical documents.
16. Listen to a recording of oral history. Read an article on restoring or preserving keepsakes, heirlooms, photos, and scrap books that document family traditions.
17. Use oral history as a research method. Learn to record oral history in audio and/or in video using a camcorder or audio recorder.
18. Learn how items and traditions have been preserved by families, librarians, conservationists, archivists, or family and public historians.
19. Gather family folklore, recipes, superstitions, or traditions.
20. Record family rites of passage, celebrations, or traditions.
21. Search genealogy records on the Internet
22. Read published genealogy information online.
23. Survey genealogy published materials.
24. Enter family information and print-out computer-generated charts and family trees.
25. Learn how to use vital records, divorce and cemetery records, jurisdictions records, original records, Social Security Death Index records online, and specific localities searches of historical groups for an area. Look for transcriptions of original documents.
26. Understand handwriting changes and how to interpret early American handwriting. Translate documents recorded in early American handwriting.
27. Find out where to obtain court records used in genealogy research.
28. Use church data to fill in missing information.
29. Use newspapers in genealogy research
30. Trace ancestor’s lives using a city directory.
31. Research information on the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Locate the nearest Branch Family Center and research an ancestor or friend.
32. Learn to research immigration, emigration, and migration records, ships’ passenger lists, Naturalization records.
33. Investigate the reason why your ancestor immigrated to America. Trace the migration patterns used. Use passenger lists and naturalization records and find out where these records are located.
34. Use land and tax records, school records, and ethnic records.
35. Research what records are available in the National Archives. Find out what military records are available to genealogists for research. Find out the addresses to write to for military, pension, and bounty land records.
36. Plan for and/or attend a genealogy-related seminar, research-oriented field trip, family reunion, or a meeting of a heritage, historical, or lineage association. Read an article on or view a documentary on a family reunion. Research what grants are available from various societies related to genealogy research.
37. Read an article on how to look at medical histories and genograms. A genogram is a schematic representation (drawing) of a family's medical history. A genogram describes the medical and/or genetic history of a family and includes family boundaries, attitudes, values, beliefs and related psychological history of family members.
38. Look at a Web site or surname group online researching DNA-driven genealogy for deep ancestry research. Read an article or handout on the psychological aspects of studying one’s own family history. Start a genogram of your family. Does DNA-driven genealogy appeal more to anthropologists or to genealogists?
Libraries and Field Trips
Visit a library that has records related to genealogy and/or oral history research or archives. Record in your notebook in two paragraphs what you learned from the field trip and what most interested you there.
Method of Instruction
Class discussion, lectures, field trips, video documentaries, class participation, individual Internet computer research, collaborative projects, handouts, videos, and personal history recording projects is used. This course may be taught online or in person.
Class participation and completion of projects/assignments is due by the end of the course. Assignments are due by the due date specified in the handout.
Access to the Internet, a personal computer and printer, a tape or other audio digital recorder or camcorder using either tape or DVDs, and a DVD or CD recorder/R/RW disk drive in your computer or other device that saves a computer file to a CD and/or a DVD. Save your recorded projects on DVDs or CDs. Instruction will be provided on how to save any recorded material to a DVD or CD. Technical help will be available.
Length of Course
Adjust the syllabus content and assignments to the length of your own course. Genealogy courses may run for a 12, 16 or 18-week semester in adult education unified school districts or in extended studies or community college classes.