It's easier than wood once you get the hang of it mostly because you get far loinger burn times. Wood is not cheaper(this may vary by location) if you purchase it and even if you cut and split it yourself IMO it's still not worth it. First thing to do is take all that knowledge you have of burning wood and forget you know it.
First coal needs air from the bottom and the bottom only, for starting it the bottom draft should be fully open. The basics of getting it going is to build adequate wood fire (you can use your wood knowledge here but forget it right after
), once this wood is burning well and you have nice bed of coals layer the entire fire box with a bed of coal about 2 or 3 inches thick. It should begin crackling almost immediately and you'll see blue flames as it begins to light after a few minutes. Sit....wait for it... go have a beer. Be patient. Once this layer of coal catches fill the firebox up as much as you can within reason, you cannot put too much coal on a coal fire.
Adjust the bottom draft to almost nothing, you'll have to find out what works for you but you can control the fire very well by adjusting the draft. This fire should only need attendance every 12 hours. When you need to add more, simply shake the ashes out until you start to see red coals going into the ash pan (again this is one of those you have to learn it things before you know what works well) Add more coal, repeat in 12 hours.
As for the col itself you will want nut or pea, the nut will burn faster but provide more heat. Pea is more controllable and you will get longer burn times. It all evens out in end and what to use really depends on your situation.
Lastly the most imporatant thing is to have patience, it's not like wood where you can have a huge fire in minutes. It takes time but once its lit good luck getting it out. you'll also want to be aware that what you do now will take affect one hour from now, if you get huge a fire going its going to take quite a while to slow it down, keep that in mind.