Grow your email list (and sales) by avoiding this common mistake

A few weeks ago, I was talking with another self-published author, comparing notes about how we market our books. His sales had slowed recently, and his email signups had dropped off as well. He wasn’t sure what was causing the issue, but as we talked, one root cause became apparent. He admitted that he’d gotten […]

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How a simple tool helps me write headlines with confidence

In many cases, the success of a blog post or sales page rests on the strength of the headline. Says David Ogilvy, among the most successful copywriters of all time: On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent […]

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Setting up Google Analytics goals for a DPD shopping cart

I’m in the middle of what I’m calling Marketing Month. (It started as Marketing March and has now bled into April.) My main goal for the past few weeks–and the coming weeks as well–is to get a better handle on which of my marketing efforts are most effective, and then find ways to do more […]

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How to avoid overwhelm by focusing on habit development

Sometimes I think my brain is trying to kill me. All day, while I’m working, it’s running off in the background, thinking up things to work me to death. It’s especially good at finding little annoyances in life and convincing me that I should “lifehack” them, or find a way to automate or optimize them […]

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21 hours a week

It’s discouraging, having to hold down a day job when you really want to be hacking on that great idea for a web app you’re kicking around, or writing your book, or starting your own business. You look at your lack of progress on one hand, and the huge block of your day that you […]

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Focus on habits rather than projects to avoid distraction

GTD was great for breaking the cycle of disorganization that I’d allowed myself to fall into. But now that I’ve practiced it for a few years, I’m finding another approach to organizing my time is more effective: habits and routines. Putting together a comprehensive system that allowed me to keep track of all of the […]

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Drifting away from GTD

I owe a lot to GTD. Six or seven years ago, I was an ineffective and disorganized worker. I forgot things all the time, missed deadlines regularly, and struggled to keep up with the demands of my job. Reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done and doing my best to implement it turned my life around. […]

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An outline is not a checklist

My outlines used to be a mess. I’d sit down to write something, and I’d feel like I had to outline first, because that’s what writers do, you know? So I’d throw a few bullet points down on a piece of paper. No, not even bullet points. They were more like a collection of random […]

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Focusing on my writing process is paying off

It’s been close to a month since I decided to get serious about my writing and set a goal for myself of publishing four ebooks in the next 12 months. So how is it going? Although it’s hard to tell on a day-to-day basis, when I look back at the past month it’s clear I’m […]

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Your focus is finite

So why am I putting in all this effort to write faster, anyway? If I want to be more productive, shouldn’t I just focus on carving out more time to write? After all, I can write just as many words per day just by increasing the amount of time I spend at the keyboard, can’t […]

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Why “just write” is stupid advice

A golfer sighs in frustration as yet another ball slices hard and disappears into the woods. An old timer, who’s spent the last few minutes observing the young hacker’s herky-jerky swing, smiles and offers his sage advice: “Just hit the ball, son.” A programmer glowers at his screen as his app coughs up exception after […]

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Breakthrough: Writing 2,000 words in less than two hours

Yesterday something inside me clicked, and I just wrote. The last couple of weeks have been a mental struggle. I’m ripping out long-time habits and replacing them with better ones. My old writing process was broken and slow—but it was comfortable. And overcoming lifelong habits is never easy. But I’m determined to make it work, […]

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Why I’m writing a book no one will buy

I have no idea if anyone will ever buy the book I’m working on right now. This is entirely my own doing. And you know what? I’m fine with that. There’s a right way and a wrong way to find book topics. The right way involves picking an audience, then studying that audience to discover […]

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The dangers of faking your outline

Writer’s block isn’t something I usually struggle with, but I ran smack into a wall yesterday. It was pretty unexpected, and working around it taught me a valuable lesson about outlining. I’d cranked through my daily practice writing session in record time, and when I cracked open Scrivener to work on my book, I had […]

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Two strategies I’m using to improve my outlining skills

I used to hate outlining. It was frustrating and didn’t seem to help my writing at all. When I’d sit down to write, I’d scribble out a few bullet points that were related to what I wanted to write about. These points were usually a loose collection of thoughts that centered around a single theme […]

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The real reason I write slowly

In college, I spent a semester in Washington, D.C. as an intern at the Washington Times. The department I worked with covered cultural trends, which gave me the opportunity to do my favorite kind of writing—in-depth features. I loved the newspaper atmosphere and I enjoyed my assignments. But looking back, I wasn’t very productive. I […]

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My writing practice plan

To meet my ambitious publishing goals for the year, I’m going to have to step up my game. By this time next year, I plan to publish four non-fiction books in the 20,000- to 30,000-word range. Last year I spent about six months working on a book to get to around 15,000 to 18,000 words, […]

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How P90X made me fat—then helped me get lean

Mine isn’t the typical P90X results story. It started off normally—at least judging by the “before” photos that I dutifully snapped. The photos confirmed what I already knew: I was a skinny, inactive programmer with a slowly expanding waistline. But I was going to change all that. I’d never done anything as intense as P90X, […]

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How to set realistic writing goals

I’ve set big writing goals for myself several times in the past. This year, my goal was to publish 100,000 words between books and blog posts. Prior to that, I’d tried setting daily word count goals, like writing 500 words a day, and time-based goals, like writing for one hour every morning. But I’d never […]

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How I’m going to write four books in 12 months

If you search DuckDuckGo for “how to write a book,” you might be tempted to just give up on the whole idea. The top-ranking results are littered with words and phrases like “torture,” “horrible experience,” “didn’t make any money.” The conventional wisdom is that writing books is an arduous process and one that’s not really […]

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Why I’m publishing my ebook 100 words at a time

I’m writing my ebook in the least efficient way possible: Every day, I publish an update of at least 100 words. And you know what? It’s working great. Publishing 100-word chunks throws the “writing process” out the window Writing involves several discrete steps: organization and outlining, research, writing the first draft, editing the final draft, […]

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