Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Meet Chris Mason, Author of Tutor in a Box

Chris Mason has spent the last 20 years raising three kids with special needs. During this time, he received his Bachelor's in Psychology and a Master's in Education. When his children attended an online charter school, he needed to find ways to save money and found many free resources through the internet. Tutor in a Box shares many useful--and free!--resources for students, parents, and educators. Chris has written many other "in a Box" reference guides to the best free stuff in particular areas.

1. What audience did you have in mind as you researched and wrote your book, Tutor in a Box?

The primary audience was the overworked soccer mom or families with children in alternative school settings.

2. How much time did it take you to find all the resources in your book?

Tutor took about six years to complete.

3. With so much information on the internet, what were your criteria for separating the useful resources from the not-so-useful ones?

I used the following criteria for website inclusion:

A. The 30 second rule. Could I figure out the website in 30 seconds? If the answer was no, the website was discarded; if the answer was yes, the website moved on to step B.
B. Was the website and its educational content geared towards students? As before, a no answer got a website dropped from consideration, and a yes moved it forward.
C. What was the grade level of the website, and what was it teaching? For example, 6th grade California mission history.
D. What was the website's focus? Skill instruction, skill reinforcement, enrichment, or reference.
E. Was the website unique?
F. Did I enjoy the website, or did it help me?

If a website passed the above tests, it was included in Tutor in a Box.

I also tried to make sure to include websites for all modalities of learning. For example, in math, if reading something is the best way a student learns, then Purple Math is for them. If, however, the student is an audio-visual learner, then Khan Academy is the best fit.

4. Would you tell us a little bit about some of your other "in a box" projects?

The "in a Box” series of books are a set of reference guides to the best free resources on the internet in a particular area. The series currently includes:

  • Tutor in a Box - A guide to free educational resources.
  • Book Store in a Box - A guide to free print and audio books.
  • Arcade in a Box – A guide to free video games.
  • Video Store in a Box – A guide to free television and movies.
  • Record Store in a Box – A guide to free music.
  • Entrepreneur in a Box – A guide to the best ways to make money on the internet.
  • App Store in a Box – A guide to the best free applications for mobile devices.

5. What's your advice to other authors with a unique idea but who haven't explored self-publishing before?

This is a multipart answer.

A. Write what you love and are passionate about, if you care about it others will because your passion will leap off the page.
B. Don't write about what's popular on Amazon. Stand out and be different.
C. Have your audience in mind as you write; it helps keep you focused.
D. Match your subject matter to your delivery system. Not every book is good for every format. For example, the "in a Box” series would not be good for the audio format due to its online nature.
E. Don't be afraid to outsource parts of the writing process that are outside your skill set. For example, I outsource my cover creation and formatting. This way I can just focus on the writing. This includes marketing as well.
F. Lastly, as corny as it sounds, believe in yourself. In the immortal words of Ed Wood, "Just write. If it is bad, it will get better, and if it is good, it will become great. Just keep writing."

Thanks, Chris!

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