Stanford Certificate Program in Novel Writing vs. Author Salon 

For purposes of comparing this Algonkian Author Salon program ( $89.00 per year ) to one of the most expensive novel writing programs online ( $8,345.00 ), we present snippets of the Stanford marketing page below ( in red ) interlaced with our comments. FYI, this Stanford academic program, though not part of an MFA program, utilizes mixed-genre groups and academic instructors with little or no commercial writing credentials, and certainly no commercial editor or agent credentials.

These are facts, not attempts to sour-grape another writing program. Academic writing programs, by far the most expensive writing programs in the U.S., typically eschew commercial genre markets, writing, and authors. There are a few exceptions, e.g., the Florida State University MFA.

Have you always wanted to write a book? The Online Certificate Program in Novel Writing is designed to help you fulfill that dream.

We’ve created a seven-course program that will show you the path from first glimmer to full manuscript. You’ll start with the habit of the art, move through a series of targeted workshops, produce a book-length manuscript (or at least a good part of one), and review that manuscript in a one-on-one tutorial with an accomplished fiction writer. Our instructors are all accomplished authors, mostly drawn from Stanford’s prestigious Stegner Fellows.

Not exactly sure what "habit of the art" means, though you'll work on a manuscript and get as far as you can. But who is the writer's future instructor noted as "accomplished"? The identity is a mystery. There is no listing of Fellows, so in effect you are prohibited ahead of time from knowing who your instructor will be throughout the program, and you can't even see a faculty masthead so you can review their credentials, though you can get a pretty good idea what type of faculty Stanford employs by reading the bios of the exclusive CREATIVE WRITING LECTURERS. If you manage to wade through, you'll see only one has a novel published but none have a jot of experience in the business of developing, editing, or marketing a commercial novel. They have lots of awards and fellowships, yes, the kind dosed out liberally to academic literary writers (God bless 'em!), but not to commercial genre writers (mystery, thriller, SFF, YA, women's fiction, historical fiction, etc.), much less more literary or upmarket non-academics. 

At Algonkian Author Salon your goal is to hone the manuscript in AAS criteria-based critique groups and then create a "profile sell sheet" of the work, later pitching it on the AAS forums to literary agents, but not until the work is reviewed by our faculty, e.g., Algonkian Fellow MICHAEL NEFF. Agents will provide further advice as needed, and possibly ask to represent the manuscript--the goal to get the manuscript published. The AAS 16-COURSE NOVEL WRITING PROGRAM is even more extensive in terms of instructional guides and mentoring ($799.00).


Because the Certificate Program relies on a dedicated, dynamic cohort, admission is by application only. By studying and writing with a consistent group of students with similar commitment to their work, you’ll achieve a deeper sense of connection and thus a deeper level of learning. You’ll be involved in the creation and construction of many narratives – most notably your own.

We know from talking to former students that Stanford mixes genres in large online workshops of a dozen writers or more. This isn't good for a couple of reasons. Large online groups are unwieldy and by default create instructional gaps in the learning process. Also, mixing genres can be fatal. Thriller writers don't understand, and many times don't even like adult historical fantasy writers. Devoted mystery cozy writers don't understand the science fiction genre, or the YA market, or rarely even women's fiction for that matter. So on, and so forth. But now we have them mixed in overcrowded online forums all seeking to critique each other? 

The instructor is juggling way too many writers, and being an academic fellow type, knows little or nothing about commercial genre writing, much less commercial genre markets. He or she cannot possibly review or assist to develop a commercial genre thriller, for example, unless and until he or she immerses themselves sufficiently in that market from top to bottom. They do help the writers, of course, but their outlook on publishable work is stove-piped by their background.

At Algonkian Author Salon you join smaller, genre-friendly groups of your choice, and a primary quality-check review of your novel and agent pitch prior to inclusion in our pitch forums are accomplished ONLY by faculty who have a solid grounding in commercial genre markets and writing.


By the time you complete your Certificate, you will be well on your way to writing a book-length manuscript. Will it be finished and revised? That’s up to you. But along the way, your work will be read, critiqued, and supported by dedicated instructors who are also serious practitioners in your field.

No, it won't be finished. Most likely, it won't even sell. But in all fairness, this is true of most manuscripts coming out of expensive programs, and programs way more expensive than Stanford (for example, Iowa). The only certificate we want you to see is a real contract with an agent, and then a respectable publisher. 

As for the instructors noted above, well, we've covered that.