Norman Eng Author of Teaching College Talks Self-Publishing

Norman Eng talks publishing, presenting, and teaching

Norman Eng, owner of Communication x Design

Norman Eng, EdD teaches educators to communicate with their audiences. We talk balancing teaching with being a business owner. And, how self-publishing can be a great option for academics.

As I close out this season of The Social Academic, I’m sharing with you two awesome professional development people. Norman Eng, owner of EDUCATIONxDESIGN is first up.

Last fall, my fiancé was looking to improve his teaching. I was working on creating my online course on social media for academics, so we were both in the market for some pedagogy. We wanted to connect with our students.

I discovered Norman’s book, Teaching College: The Ultimate Guide to Lecturing, Presenting, and Engaging Students, and read it cover-to-cover. It was so helpful. I knew, when putting together the interview lineup for The Social Academic, that Norman Eng was someone I wanted to share with you.

In this chat, we talk about his business, EDUCATIONxDESIGN, which he founded “as a way to help academics communicate more effectively.”

And he has some clear and concrete advice for you, like his answer to “what is your top recommendation for educators who want to get their name out there?”

My name is Jennifer van Alstyne. And welcome to The Social Academic interview series.

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Meet Norman Eng

Listen to ‘A Chat with Norman Eng’
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Jennifer: All right. So today we are here with Dr. Norman Eng. How are you today, Norman?

Norman: I’m good. How are you? Thanks for having me here. I’m really excited.

Jennifer: Oh, I’m doing so well. I’m glad we’re getting a chance to sit down and talk. So just to get started, could you tell me a little bit about you?

Norman: Yeah, of course. So my background is in marketing and education. Meaning that I started out in advertising as an account executive. That’s, that’s basically where I helped clients develop, you know, a focused message across different media like TV, and print, and outdoor, and other collateral material.

But that’s when I switched careers to teaching after the stint in marketing. And I switched careers to teaching first as a public school teacher in New York City and then now as a professor in the field of education.

Basically I teach teachers and I get them ready to work in public schools, both at the undergrad and the graduate level. So most of the research and work I do now relates to my business.

So I mostly, you know, I teach instruction, I do research with instruction and teacher education. So that’s, that’s my background.

Jennifer: That’s great. And you know, that is so necessary right now. When I just finished my grad program, I definitely felt like I didn’t have enough teacher training.

And when I got out and realized there were so many tools and people talking about it on especially social media, it was really exciting for me.

And then of course I found your book and I found you and I was like, this is what I’ve been looking for.

So I’d love to hear more about your current work as founder and president of EDUCATIONxDESIGN (“Education by Design”). Did I say that right?

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My books teach professors how to teach and how to present to audiences


Norman: It’s EDUCATIONxDESIGN. Exactly right.

So I founded EDUCATIONxDESIGN as a way to help academics communicate more effectively, whether it’s to students, to readers, audience members that are at a conference or just in general, the larger public.

The thing is that academics, like they know a lot of stuff, but they never really learn how to leverage that expertise. And so, you know, they spend their whole time focusing on content, right? Like on research, on data, not always realizing that people don’t always care about information per se.

You know, there’s so much of it out there. And if you really want to change lives, right, whether your discipline is in business, in science, medicine, philosophy, whatever, you have to design your content. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You have to design your content and yet you have to package it in a way that resonates. And so that’s what I do with my business.

My books teach professors how to teach and how to present to audiences. And I also have an online course as well that does the same thing, as well as my coaching, and workshop training for faculty and for universities. So that’s, that’s what EDUCATIONxDESIGN is about.

Jennifer: So your goal is to use design as a way to really help people communicate the goal of their work or the goal of their teaching or learning experience. Does that sound right?

Norman: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the truth is that I look at design as you know, trying to solve problems.

That’s really in the end what design is about. You know, when you think about things like a door where you don’t know whether you’re pushing the door or pulling the door that’s badly designed.

So a well designed door is trying to figure out or solve that problem. So it makes it as seamless and easy as possible for people to use.

Jennifer: I love that analogy. That’s so great.

Norman: Right? That’s, that’s what we’re trying to do as whether as teachers or just in general as communicators. If we’re not able, if we have all this content, none of it matters.

It’s all about how you kind of package what you say in a way that people understand because content doesn’t matter. I mean it does matter, but it’s not, it’s important, but how you say it is even more important. That’s the bottom line.

Jennifer: Right? So the content that people are developing in their academic lives and their teaching lives, it’s great.

But if they can communicate that effectively with tools like design, then people can really get the message and really resonate with that work.

Norman: Yeah, I mean, and that’s exactly why I was kind of drawn…I like how you’ve kind of used this idea of, you know, whether it’s The Social Academic or ‘academic design.’ You know, that whole idea because that’s really what we’re trying to do is to solve that problem, is to try to figure out how to design it in a way that makes it easier.

Whether it’s to get the word out there or to put your work on social media, whatever. It’s a design process. I always have thought of design as this, this way to kind of solve problems.

Balancing teaching with being a business owner

Work Life Balance

Jennifer: Now you’re also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Education. What’s it like teaching and balancing a business?

Norman: So right now I’d say I split my work about 70/30 on my business versus you know, the teaching part, the professor part.

So as an adjunct it is easier because mostly I teach in the afternoons and evenings. So that leaves the mornings for my business, which is by design. So, no pun intended. So, typically that’s from like 6:30 in the morning to about 11:00am.

So it might be me writing, you know, writing for my next book or writing a blog post or working with clients or planning a workshop or even things like, you know, fine tuning my sales funnel or planning a promotion, what, you know, all parts of my business.

So my point is, is that I reserve the mornings exclusively for cognitively demanding work because, because it works for me. You know, the teaching part for me, honestly that’s automatic because I’ve done it for a long time. And because I’ve done the planning for it, you know, all the planning, the lecture planning, all that stuff days before. So the truth is like, for me, that’s not the cognitively demanding part. It’s automatic and so I reserve that part where I really need to think, where I really need to use my brain, where I need focus for that mornings.

Jennifer: Oh, that’s really interesting.

Norman: Yeah. Yeah. Because like, you know, I think we’re all trying to find that balance. And so like I always recommend like, because Principal Investigator (PI) people ask me, “Oh, so how do you find that balance?” And oftentimes I find that it’s all about like the energy.

So you know, when do you have the most energy? You know, for some like, like my wife, it’s in the evening. And for me it’s in the mornings and so you gotta kind of leverage that time and then plan everything else around it.

Jennifer: So it sounds like you’ve planned your life essentially by design. And the work schedule that you do around what works best for you in terms of when you’re motivated to work, when you work best, and when it works overall with your schedule for life.

Norman: Yeah, that’s, that’s really it. You know, I was, I think I was really influenced by, there’s a guy, his name is Tony Schwartz. He wrote this book called The Power of Full Engagement. And so what he had said was, it’s not about managing time, which is what we all tend to think of when we’re busy. He said it’s about managing energy because if you know when your peak time is in terms of energy and leverage that and use that, that’s when you can be most productive.

And the key is to kind of make it routine. In other words, don’t just work on the business when you have free time or when you’re motivated. I remember something like, you know, they’re saying that the difference between an amateur and a professional in terms of productivity is, is that the amateur relies on motivation, whereas the professional relies on a process or routine.

So once I knew, once I figured out where my energy levels were, which is again in the morning, I made it a routine, especially when it comes to things like writing, right? So, for example, like I wrote like three books in three years because of that routine. So that 3 hour window from whatever, 6:30-10am you know…

Jennifer: That’s your productive time.

Norman: That’s exactly it because what happens is like in the, I know that my energy flags when it gets to that early afternoon to afternoon time, like 3:00 PM so that’s when I go running. You know, obviously that’s not on the days that I teach, but not teach right. When I’m not teaching. Like those are the days that I actually go running or kind of do exercise or do other things when I don’t need to, when I need to get my energy back up or when I’m just tired.

It really is just kind of finding when that energy is peak, leveraging that, taking advantage of, taking advantage of that so that you focus during that time and then during your non-peak times, that’s when you can do the other things like the exercise that for me, honestly even the teaching part. But yeah, and so sometimes that, and oftentimes that just means that focusing in on the times that you are at your peak.

That’s, that’s really for me the key to balancing the business and the teaching part of it.

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$25,000 from a single book in just one year


Jennifer: Well it sounds like it works. I mean last year you made $25,000 from a single book and that’s amazing. How did you do that?

Norman: I have to say that that was a game changer.

I mean this, the idea of publishing independently which is not typically what you think of when you think of academics, whether they’re, you know, cause you’re always trying to publish for these big publishers, right? We’re thinking of like whether it’s MIT Press or, or Random House, or Pearson or whatever.

So, this was such a game changer because I actually wrote about the journey, my, my kind of self publishing journey on my blog and then also on Medium as well, just to kind of spread the word and just, I found there’s a lot of professors who feel the same way. Like, Oh my God, I’m doing all this work.

But so essentially like I started doing this independent publishing thing where self publishing thing, because I was getting frustrated at the process of working with these big, traditional publishing houses. And not just big, but just these traditional publishing houses for my first textbook.

You know, the fact that you, you just don’t have a lot of control over your book talking about things like your book cover design, your title, your price, you can’t determine any of that stuff.

Even distribution, marketing, and even sometimes like your content. Of course, like publishers will say, “Oh, you know, it’s a collaborative process. You’re writing the book and we’re partners,” and all that good stuff. Of course they’ll say that. But the truth is, is like in the end when push comes to shove, they’re gonna make the final decision about how much to price your book, you know, what design to use for your cover.

You don’t really have that kind of, that control. So those decisions weren’t necessarily in my best interest because they have these other goals.

And I’m sure your listeners know because a lot of them are probably, you know, publishing or writing books, or have written books with, with these traditional publishing houses and they know that the most important thing for these traditional publishers is of course the maximized corporate profits.

Jennifer: Of course.

Norman: So yeah, that means that ultimately they’re going to put their best resources into books that are guaranteed to sell, which kind of sounds bad, but think about it like you have these big names like Malcolm Gladwell or Simon Sinek or Adam Grant, their books, they make more money for their publisher than all of our books combined. I mean, when I say our books, I mean like us regular folks, you know what I mean?

And so like this light bulb moment really pushed me to say, you know what? Because my best interests aren’t necessarily their best interests. I thought it just made more sense to kind of take control of my books and my business.

And so self publishing was that avenue and I did all the research, and because like I’m not just going to jump in and start writing until I know what I’m up against.

Like, most, like maybe 90%, I can’t remember the exact number, but like 90% of self published books never sell more than 500 copies lifetime or they never get more than 10 reviews on Amazon.

Jennifer: Wow.

Norman: Yeah. So this is like, you know, you put in all this work and then you realize that publishers aren’t really doing all of the marketing all or all that they could to get you to sell thousands of copies or get a bunch of reviews on Amazon.

You know, if you’re just focusing on the writing part of it as a self publisher but not the marketing aspect of it, you’re going to end up like those thousands of books that are published by academics that nobody ever reads.

And let’s be honest, there are lots of books out there.

Jennifer: There are so many books.

Norman: That that you’ll see, like there’s like one review, you know, or two reviews or like nobody reads it because the truth is, like I said, the traditional publishers, like they want to get these books out there because they know there’s some demand for it.

But honestly like they’re not going to put in all of the marketing help to kind of push you there.

Jennifer: I agree.

And I also think like, if you’re not asking for their help marketing, like they’re not gonna just give it to you necessarily because it costs them more money.

Norman: Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, I remember, and I wrote about this as well, that when they had sent me like a marketing survey and it was just like basic information like, “Oh, how do you want to, you know, what are some, some things that you want to highlight in your book that the sales force could talk about and things of that nature.” Or you know, “a few sentences to position your book or keywords to use so that people can search it online.” But like, that’s it.

Jennifer: You came from a marketing background, so you recognize that that was like, like the minimum.

Norman: Yeah. And the thing that shocked me the most was the fact that they’re like, “How many people do you have on Twitter?”

That’s like the extent of their marketing help.

Jennifer: Yeah. I’ve heard that from like more and more people.

Norman: Yea, it’s not all that much.

Jennifer: Just kind of in the academic world getting, getting turned down because they don’t have enough like social media following.

And that’s, that’s shocking to me because like these niche audiences are actually way more likely to help you sell your book because they know you and care about you. And they’re, they’re happy to, to share it with their network too.

So yeah, there’s a bit of a disconnect there.

Finding an audience for your book takes planning

I actually gave away 2,000 copies of my book in the beginning. Like literally giving them away.

Norman: There’s so, I mean the thing is that I think a lot of scholars, faculty, whoever, researchers who are listening to your, to your show…if they’ve written books or they’re thinking of publishing on their own.

Like there are things that are very different from the way you wrote books for traditional publishers where the only thing you had to worry about was the writing part of it.

Like, if you’re not thinking of things like how to build momentum and interest in your book from the get go.

Like I actually gave away like almost 2000 copies of my book in the beginning. Like, literally giving them away. I’m talking eBooks, you know?

Because like I had clients that I’ve worked with who wanted to self publish their books, they were like, they were shocked.

They were like, aren’t you leaving money on the table? Like that’s revenue.

Or they’ll say stuff like, I can’t believe your pricing. You want me to price my ebook for 99 cents? Are you kidding me? That cheapens my work. I should be charging $50 for it.

You know what, you go ahead and do that and I promise you no one will buy it. Okay. So like I said, as a former marketer, like I know how important it is to promote your book and you made money from your book. So yes, it will come on the back end. Like if you do it right, they will come.

But if you don’t build that interest, that momentum from early on, like Amazon’s not going to help you.

They have like algorithms where if you have certain number of reviews, if you, if you kind of build buzz around your book, they’ll start actually promoting it to other people. They’ll actually send out emails to their subscribers and say, “Hey here, here’s a new book by so-and-so, check it out.”

But if you don’t build that momentum, they’re not going to do that because of course their bottom line is they want to sell books, uh, which have interest in them. So for me, that was why that self-publishing part was so enticing because I was able to leverage my background in marketing and make sure to, to kind of give it my all in terms of the marketing part of it.

And so that’s, that’s the kind of tough part of self-publishing.

Like I, so I’ll give you one, one other example. Like I knew that one thing that was important when you self publish was you can’t just, “Hey, I’m an expert at this topic, I’m just going to write about it.” You know what I mean? Like that’s what, you know, if you, as long as you are able to pitch that topic and a traditional publishers interested, then you just do the writing. But when you’re self publishing you have to think about other things too.

Like you have like, here’s what I did. My first book was Teaching College, right? Which is all about like, you know, how to, you know, teaching professors how to, you know, teach more effectively, college instruction, all that stuff.

And I knew there was a demand for it. So the first thing I, and the reason why I knew it was because I had done a search. Like I went on Amazon and I typed in college instruction or college teaching or teaching college, you know, just these kinds of keywords. And there were tons of books. I went on Google and I did a search for that same topic.

There are tons of books, there were articles, there are websites that’s devoted to this topic. So I know that there is demand for it, but if you type in something else, you know you made it, whatever that is.

I can’t think of anything right now, but you might, you might have, I don’t know, Middle Eastern literature, like I don’t know, I haven’t done it. But like if you typed Middle Eastern literature, you might have some interest in it. But like that’s the first thing you have to do is to find out whether or not there is demand for your particular book.

Jennifer: See if there’s an audience already out there interested in that topic.

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How to tell if your book idea is profitable on Amazon

You type in the topic on Amazon. Number one, are there lots of books on that particular topic? That's a good sign.

Norman: That’s exactly it. I help clients not just self-publish, but also kind of how to turn that into a side business or even a full time business. So if you’re looking at it in terms of that, you have to just like you said, make sure that there is an actual audience for it. So that’s, that’s really key.

So I’ll even teach them things like, Hey, if you want to know if your topic is profitable, here’s what you do.

Okay. You type in the topic on Amazon. Number one, are there lots of books on that particular topic? That’s actually a good sign.

Some people are like, really that’s a bad sign because I’m competing with so many other books.

No, that’s a good sign. How many books do you see out there on weight loss? Tons and tons and tons.

Jennifer: And people will keep buying them.

Norman: And they’ll keep buying it.

So as long as you have a unique voice or a unique system or whatever to help people lose weight or do whatever it is you want to do, then people will find you.

And so what I do is I tell my clients, here’s what you do. If there’s tons of books, that’s great. But the better way to tell if it’s a profitable idea is see if they’re sponsored ads.

You know how like when you see like a list of 10 books on Amazon you’ll see like some of the ads are sponsored, meaning like there’s some books, they’re being advertised, they’re books, they’re being advertised. And you’ll know because at the very top you’ll see sponsored ads or sponsored in small letters.

If you see a few of those, like throughout, interspersed throughout the page, it means someone’s actually spending money to advertise their book. Think about it.

Like people aren’t going to advertise on a topic that won’t make them money.

Jennifer: Oh, right? Oh, very true.

Norman: So, if there’s advertising, that’s a good sign.

And, I think I brought up Middle Eastern literature. Like, if you typed that, go ahead, somebody type that in. Tell me if you see like lots of, if you see ads for that particular topic. You might have books on Middle Eastern literature. I’m sure there is a demand for it.

Jennifer: But not necessarily ads.

Norman: Right, right.

Not necessarily ads, which tells me that it might not necessarily be a profitable topic. So anyway, so, so I’m getting into the weeds here, but the idea is that there’s a certain way to kind of, there’s a certain mentality or approach that you have to have, or mindset you have to have going into self publishing as opposed to when you’re just worried about the writing for a traditional publisher. That’s really, that’s really the point.

Jennifer: Yeah. So self-publishing has really been a great avenue. It’s been very successful for you.

And you also work with self publishing for your clients. How has self-publishing helped your clients?

Norman: Yeah, so I’ve, I’ve actually just more started that part of it fairly recently and it’s been, it’s been very helpful because there’s, I’m seeing, boy, there’s a huge demand.

So first off, I think the market of education and expertise is huge. Meaning like, you know, so for example, if you, if you want to write about romance or science fiction, you know, that’s great, but that’s not my focus when I work with my clients.

For me it’s all about selling education and expertise, not nonfiction type stuff.

I represent those or help those who are thinking like, “Hey, I have an advanced degree, right? Either it’s a master’s or a doctorate or whatever, which means technically I have some kind of expertise. How can I leverage that expertise to help people improve their lives in some way?”

So if we’re talking about academics, it might be related to, “Oh Hey, I know how to write resumes or I know how to use SPSS or some research software tool, or I know how to use Photoshop if I’m in the visual arts or you know, I know how to use a spreadsheet if I’m in accounting.” Whatever.

So it doesn’t have to be…so whether it is specifically related to their discipline or not, you can be an expert and write about, because I’ve seen PhDs or even graduate students who are, or graduates who have overcome other obstacles, not necessarily related to their field. Like if you’ve overcome like an illness or you know, God forbid a divorce or, or if you’ve run a marathon or lost a lot of weight or whatever, you can write about it. Yeah.

So I tell teachers, tell my clients that, you know, especially if you have a Master’s or a PhD, you are an expert at something.

Because I find the biggest thing that stops people from writing is that they’re like, I’m not an expert.

And I’m like, if you have a Master’s, you’re an expert at something, you have a PhD, you definitely have an expertise in something.

Because like I’ll tell you, even like honestly, like K-12, you know, teachers, right? So I come from that background as well. I used to be a K-12 teacher, and so I’ve spoken to some of them who are like, you know, I’ve always thought about writing a book, but I’m just a teacher. Like, what do I know?

And I’m like, you’ve taught for 10 years. You can write a book for parents about how to prepare children to, to like do better in school, whatever. Yeah.

The point is that you have 10 plus years of experience in education.

You can definitely teach someone something. And so for me, like the biggest part of my, I found one of the biggest obstacles really is that imposter syndrome. They think they can’t, that they can’t write.

But the truth is, is like if you’ve done any, almost anything, you can write about it.

You don’t have to have a PhD, but of course, but probably a good portion of your target audience has at least a Master’s or a Doctoral or a Master’s at least. So they’re an expert in something and you can of course turn that into . . .

You are an expert


Jennifer: That is amazing. I, I love that. So it doesn’t have to be in your discipline. It can be something that you’ve gone through. It could be an interest or a hobby. It just something that you know, and you know well.

Norman: Yeah. And actually just kind of going back to your question, cause you, you asked about like how has it helped, helped my clients.

Like I had one that I’ve worked with who wrote a book about something that I know nothing about. It was like something called like non-qualified mortgages.

I don’t know anything about that, which is very technical, but it’s his expertise obviously. And he told me that not only has it led to speaking gigs, but he actually had a team from, can’t remember it was either Stanford or Carnegie Mellon reach out to him to become a consultant for them.

Jennifer: That’s great.

Norman: I mean, that’s the point. Like the book that you publish…it’s kind of like the book that you want to publish, that you want to have as the foundation for your business is a very different book than the book you, you feel like you should write for that publisher in order to get tenure or whatever, you know?

So that’s why self-publishing kind of offers that flexibility and it’s designed around your life, around your expertise, around what you want to do beyond academia.

Jennifer: Yeah. That’s excellent. And I hear that you have a guide that can help people self-publish and make an income from it.

Norman: Yes, I do. And so I was really kind of thrilled with how my experience with self publishing because it, like I said, it kind of freed me from this single track path of academia.

You know, the whole like, “Hey, I have my master’s,” or “Hey, I have my PhD,” I’m gonna do research, or I’m going to do, you know, write an article or I’m going to organize a conference or I’m going to write a proposal for a grant or whatever. There’s a very narrow defined path in academia.

And because there’s a larger and larger portion of those who graduate with either a master’s or a PhD who have difficulty finding a, either a research or a tenure track job. Right? Yeah. It’s like something like some ridiculous, it’s like over 50% of teaching positions are now adjuncts.

So we’re talking about a lot of contingent professors, a lot of non-tenured or tenure track instructors and professors and lecturers out there who are not full time.

For me, that self publishing route has really, like I said, it freed me from that single track path of academia.

And so I want to help, you know, scholars do as much of that as possible.

So I have this PDF guide that I wrote called seven steps of self publishing a profitable book in six months.

I know it sounds salesy, it sounds a little salesy. I know a little bit of marketing, so I know no, but I say it because it’s doable because I’ve seen it work with clients that have done the same.

I’ve also experienced it as well. And so of course obviously while you have to put in the work and there’s no guarantee for success, yada, yada yada.

There are certain foundational things you have to do if you want to give you a chance at success in self publishing. And that’s what this guide is about.

Jennifer: Perfect.

Norman: Yeah, because like I said before, most self-publishers they sell very few copies because they’re like focused on the writing part. But this publishing guide, we’ll kind of walk you through some of the foundational things to do in terms of like who do you want to target, you know, how do you want to position your book that’s different from books that also talk about your topic, stuff like that.

Jennifer: And of course this is important to think at the start of your project when you’re, when you’re planning out what to write and really, you know, getting focused on that, that’s the next, that’s the path that you’re going to take in the future. So important to have those foundational questions.

Norman: Lays that foundation because, exactly. And if they want to turn it into a side business or, or even a full business, you want to get off on the right foot because the worst thing is that you sell a book and it looks great and then you realize, Oh my God, there’s, that’s it. There’s no more people are going to buy it. And then you’re like, okay, so it doesn’t, doesn’t go anywhere.

Jennifer: I’m going to link to that guide here. So definitely click this link, download the guide from Norman Eng and you can learn how you can self-publish and make an income from it potentially within six months.

Google Ads and Amazon for book marketing

EReader with Teaching College by Norman Eng, Ed.D.

Jennifer: So how does social media play a role in promoting your books and promoting your business?

Norman: So right now I use Google and Amazon ads mostly, but that’s mostly for lead generation in terms of like getting new people, right?

Google for business and Amazon for my books because the reason, the reason why I like using them, and I know they’re not quite so they’re kind of straddled line between not quite social media, but because I love doing that is because they’re targeted. Then I’m talking to a warm audience.

So in other words, if someone is searching on Google, how do I teach better? My ad will come up and obviously they’re more receptive to that as opposed to like cold, cold advertising. And so that’s kind of the reason why I love Google and Amazon ads and obviously cost money to to place these ads.

But just in terms of you’re asking about like promoting my books in my business…

Jennifer: Those are the avenues that you use.

Norman: Right, right. But, but the truth is that social media like to traditional social media definitely plays a role as well, but mostly for spreading the new articles or the posts that I write. Or even for like a book promotion.

Jennifer: So sharing your content.

Norman uses Twitter to connect with new people and opportunities, but keeps his Facebook profile for friends and family

I like Twitter because it just opens up new opportunities and exposes my work to different communities.

Norman: Yeah, that’s exactly it, sharing my content. And my big three are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Like I say, like I like Twitter because it just opens up new opportunities and exposes my work to different communities.

Yeah, and maybe even more so than LinkedIn and Facebook and I know you can change it so that you can target it to the public as opposed to just a certain group. But you know, I’m not, I’ll be honest, I’m not an expert in that particular part of it.

And I think we connected on on Twitter. Right?

Jennifer: Yea, that’s right. Twitter is, Twitter is a great way to reach new people and share articles in particular because it’s so easy to click on it. It’s so easy to, to comment on it. Yeah.

Norman: Twitter probably is, I would say for now, is my favorite.

I use Facebook more for joining groups and then you can, especially like if you find a targeted group that’s within your interest or within your business, just join in and just start talking with people. And I think, you know, these are people who are like what you do or, at least your interests are aligned. So that’s where I find Facebook is good at the, there all these groups that you can either join or create on your own.

Jennifer: Yeah, that’s great. You said a Twitter was your favorite platform?

Norman: Yeah, I think for now, like I said before, you know, I’m not here as an expert to talk about like Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. I do use it for sure. Mostly to promote content as you said, and just like Twitter to link up with different people. Yeah.

Jennifer: Do you find yourself separating the business side and the personal side when you’re on social media or do you use all your channels to talk about your work?

Norman: I do. I mean there’s definitely some overlap.

With Facebook. Yeah, I definitely have it cause I’ll actually have, whether it’s colleagues or people from my business side try to friend me on Facebook and I, and I try to keep the private Facebook thing just within family included.

But I will have a Facebook business page. But you know, sometimes very easy as you know, of course to blend the personal.

And so I have, maybe you have better answers on this because I sometimes struggle with this, but like, even like on Twitter, like there are things that I will want to say, and I don’t know if I should say it because right. You as of now, I don’t know how you have structured, but as of now, I have one Twitter account. I should probably have two, right?

Jennifer: Well, I’ve seen people do both. Echo Rivera who I had on the show earlier this year–she has one account like you do. And she, she said that what’s most important to her is like, just being honest and being herself, sharing what she cares about, even if it’s somewhat controversial. So I thought that was interesting.

But like, personally, I have separate accounts. I have like a private account. I mean, I have a personal account and I have a business account. They’re both public, but I do share different things on each.

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To share, or not to share? Talking politics on social media


Norman: I think that’s probably the way I will end up going because I came across across yesterday, you know, yesterday I was watching the debates, political debates and stuff and I wanted to post some stuff and I was like, “Hmm.”

I think I’ll probably start the way you’re going, just having, creating a separate one, a separate profile for, for, for Twitter in terms of business.

And so I do it for Facebook, right? I have my personal for Facebook and I have my business page for, for education by design and teaching college. I haven’t done it for Twitter. I think it makes sense to probably do that first and maybe test the waters. I understand where Echo is coming from. And maybe at some point I might feel comfortable doing that.

Politics is a very complicated thing.

Jennifer: You know, it can be and it can cause some really strong reactions.

Norman: It can. And especially like when you are helping them, if I’m helping them, for example, you know, improve their instruction or, or self-publish, like I don’t necessarily think they need to know or necessarily need to care about what my political or social views are.

Jennifer: Oh yeah. That can be very true.

Norman: I’ll think about that.

Jennifer: Well, you know, I think that the important thing is that it’s something that we’re all kind of struggling with. It’s something that we’re all thinking about. We’re all trying to figure out like what is the best thing to say that it doesn’t step on a lot of toes, but still gets our message across.

Norman: But I mean, I’ll see some of your stuff on Twitter, which are if I recall like, like very specific of course to, you know, academic design and stuff like that and then others that are less related to it and you’re, you seem like you’re okay with it. Like it, like I see it and I’m absolutely fine with it.

So I need to try to figure out that, that line, that balance between two. So, as you said, it is, it is the challenge. It’s a process. Yeah, yeah, I’ll try that. But I’m going to separate it first. I think.

Want to get your name out there? Try being a podcast guest or guest blogger

And so for me, I found the key is to give something of value to the listeners or readers from a site or podcast with a huge following.

Jennifer: What is your top recommendation for educators who want to get their name out there?

Norman: Oh, okay. So I, you know, what I actually recommend finding interestingly, podcasters and bloggers who are, who are big in your space or you know, whatever field you’re in.

So if you’re, so, you know, I’m in, so you know, for example, with my book Teaching College, when I, when it came out in 2017 I, I pitched the book to a blogger by the name of Jennifer Gonzalez who runs a podcast and website called Cult of Pedagogy, which is specifically related to instruction, which of course overlaps with my audience. Like hers is more like educators in general, you know, more K-12 but also including college professors. And she had like 33,000 subscribers at that time two years ago. I’m sure now she’s a ton more, which is huge in that niche. Okay. So this is a particular niche and education where 33,000 is pretty good.

And so I did an article for her site and I did the podcast with her and I at the same time launched, did a launch promo for the book because the book had just came out and I ended up getting thousands of subscribers, who were her subscribers to my site who wanted to get my free book at that time for that limited time.

And I, I started out with like a list, you know, this was when I first started, I only had like an email list of like 200 people and even less than that. And so leveraging else’s list of subscribers as long as they overlap with your target for me is a huge, is a really good strategy because like the worst thing you can do is launch your book or your blog posts only on social media, on Twitter and whatever, hoping that people are going to flood to it.

And let’s be honest, like it’s very competitive out there. It’s just, it’s just going to happen unless you have that huge list or followers on YouTube or whatever that is. Most of us don’t.

And so for me, I found out the key is to give something of value to the listeners or readers from a site or a podcast with a huge following. That’s how you get your name out there. One way.

Jennifer: What a great tip. Yeah, no, that’s excellent advice.

Can I ask like did you just send an email, like a, a quick email to say,
“Hey, I have this idea”?

Norman: Yeah. So I’ve also, through the self publishing process, I’ve also worked with some clients as well who want to get their work out there and yes. So I do suggest email, but like there’s a very specific way.

Okay. I’m sure there are many ways to do it. Like I found that a successful way or a more effective way to do it is not just say, “Hey, can I, I’ve got this new book coming out. Can you promote it on your podcast?”

That’s not going to happen. So in the end, you have to go back to that marketing, what I call the marketing mindset, which is how can you help that other person? Because in the end, that’s what marketers do. They’re thinking about how can I help my target audience? How can I help my readers? How can I help my customers and in a way that’s what teachers are doing, how do I help my students?

And so it’s the same thing when you approach a podcast or a blog or whoever a big one, right? Because they have so many requests coming in every single week or every single day that unless you have something that’s going to help them, they’re not going to waste their time. And so that’s why create that value piece.

I say, Oh, I have something that I think is great for your particular audience and then I explain what it is and how it’s going to help them because it’s hard to resist.

If I’m a big, big time podcast or blogger and someone approaches me and says that they have something that my readers or my listeners will eat up, I’m going to listen to it, or at least I’m going to at least entertain that idea first.

And so you have to come with it with that mindset of how can I help that other person succeed?

And as long as, that’s why I say like the, the, the overlap in terms of the target audience, you have to find someone whose target audience overlaps with yours, give them or their audience huge value. And if you do that then they’ll definitely be much more open as opposed to you going there and saying, “Hey, can you promote my book?”

No. It’s like, I’m so busy, I have so much stuff going on. I have a lot of other people who, who also are asking me to feature them.

And so you have to bring something that’s going to help them or their target audience. That’s what it’s all about.

Jennifer: Great.

So send an email but do your research first and make sure that you’re providing something of value and explaining what that value is in the email.

Norman: That’s exactly it. That’s it.

Jennifer: Great. Thank you so much for that response.

I think that my listeners are gonna really benefit from that. Definitely.

Norman: It’s always the hard part is of course the how like how do you write it? Like, you know, there’s, there, there are ways to write it, but of course, as long as you understand the foundational idea of you’re there to help help them and then in turn they’ll help you always, always, always help the other person first.

And if they find that you’re helping them a lot and giving them tremendous value, they will definitely kind of keep you in their loop, so to speak.

Jennifer: Wonderful.

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When presenting, think about your audience


Jennifer: Before we go, I’d love to hear about your newest book Presenting: The Professor’s Guide to Powerful Communication. Why are good presentations important for educators?

Norman: Yeah. Oh, sure. Sure. So I, I think we can all agree, right, that communication is so important, right?

To academics, whether you’re scholars, researchers or educators, and so they’re constantly presenting about their topics, right? Whether it’s in the classroom or conferences, but oftentimes like they do it in a way that doesn’t engage your audience. Right?

We all remember back in school and as an undergrad, you know how boring that content can be. Yeah. So, right. We know what they do, like professors or faculty, oftentimes they read the slides word for word or they’re jamming in too much content or they’re talking for too long, all of which turn people off.

And so presenting is not just kind of like what I said before, it’s not just about the content, it’s about getting audiences to see things differently and even to change their minds or to take action.

You know, like delivering lots of information just doesn’t work.

We have so much information these days. In marketing, there’s, it’s not a saying, but there’s a thing that we all kind of know that on a given day we see like 3000 commercial messages. Like don’t quote me on that number.

We see thousands of commercial messages every single day, whether it’s logos on a tee shirt or a hat or billboards on our way to work or, or pop up ads on a website.

So we ignore 90% of what we see, what we hear and what we read. And the only way to break through the clutter is to be clear and concrete, relevant and novel. Like those three things.

And so my question is, how often is a typical presentation that you see at a conference, either concrete, relevant, or novel, right? For students, like you’d have to even be more so, especially for like undergraduate students, I give the presentation lecture is like too abstract, they’re going to ignore it.

If it’s not relevant to their lives, they’re gonna ignore it.

And if you present it too long or in a boring way, they’re going to ignore it. That’s the premise of my book presenting, right?

It’s about, it’s designed to help professors think about what the audience is going through as they listen to the presentation, right?

So when you go through that process, you’ll realize why most presentations put people to sleep from the very start. Like why do we spend so much time introducing ourselves at the beginning of a presentation? Like, you know when you go to a conference and like the, the speaker speaks for like three minutes talking about, Oh my name is such and such. I come from such and such an institution and, and my background is X, Y, Z. Like the truth is like nobody really cares.

Jennifer: And that’s like also generally after the, the chair, the, the presentation person has already like said the bio. So like everyone knows who you are. It’s probably also on your slides.

Norman: That’s exactly like, here’s the thing, like they’re not thinking that the chair of the panel has already introduced you so they put it in their slides. So you know, or how about this, like why is it that we put a bullet points on the slide and then talk about those bullet points.

Nobody’s listening because they’re too busy copying down the slide. Stuff like that. And so if you put yourselves in the position of your target audience, right, and this kind of goes back to, you know, a lot of the book comes from that marketing background.

If you put yourselves in the position of the audience member, then you realize that what they go through, a lot of what we do is really undermining and really like almost trying to disengage them just by the things that we say just by the things that we do like introducing ourselves.

It just either turns them off or it, it starts to begin the process of disengagement. And so in the end, the book helps academics design their communication to resonate with audiences rather than inform them. Right? So it’s great for electric presentations, conference presentations or even if you want to present your work to like, I don’t know, industry stakeholders. That’s what this book is really about.

Jennifer: Perfect. So if you’re interested in presenting and really getting through to your audience, click this link to check out Norman’s new book, all about presenting and how you can communicate and really understand what your audience is thinking and feeling while you’re talking.

Norman: Very cool.

Jennifer: Norman, thank you so much for this conversation. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.

Norman: It’s been so much fun, it’s like a conversation. It’s very cool.

Jennifer: Well, thank you again. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

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Bio for Norman Eng, EdD

Norman Eng of EDUCATIONxDESIGN on The Social Academic (with headshot)

As founder and president of EDUCATIONxDESIGN (“education by design”), Norman Eng, Ed.D., helps academics—whether as teachers, presenters, or writers—design their communication to move audiences.

Two of his books, Teaching College: The Ultimately Guide to Lecturing, Presenting, and Engaging Students and Presenting: The Professor’s Guide to Powerful Communication, consistently rank #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list in various education categories.

With a background in instruction and marketing, Norman’s communication system focuses on messaging and impact rather than just on content.

Want a preview? Download this quick start guide with “7 Proven Steps to Planning, Teaching, and Engaging Your Students.”

Connect with Norman on Twitter @EngNorman

And on LinkedIn.

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at

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