TCK Publishing Non-Traditional Book Publishing for Independent Authors Tue, 17 Oct 2017 17:41:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 TCK Publishing 32 32 We believe authors change the world by sharing important stories and ideas. Let us help you get your story out to more people and make the world a better place. We interview authors who are self-published, indie published, and traditionally published to find out what’s working right now to help you grow your career and sell more books.<br /> <br /> On The Publishing Profits Podcast show, international bestselling author and publisher Tom Corson-Knowles interviews the publishing industry's best authors, publishers, editors, literary agents, marketers, and attorneys to share inspiration, education and best practices. Our mission is to help authors and publishers succeed in the new era of publishing.<br /> <br /> Ebooks didn't even exist 15 years ago. Today, readers spend more than $6 billion each year on ebooks in the United States alone. Are you taking advantage of this huge shift in reader purchasing habits? Tune in and learn how to build a full-time career and income as an author by proactively responding to the huge changes in the industry.<br /> <br /> Whether you're just thinking about writing your first book or you're a multi-published author, you'll find new ideas to help you take your career to the next level.<br /> <br /> The show's audience includes writers, new and experienced authors, publishers, literary agents, editors, graphic designers, bloggers, content creators, marketing professionals, public relations and PR experts, and publishing attorneys.<br /> <br /> Learn more at TCK Publishing clean TCK Publishing (TCK Publishing) Copyright 2017 by The Publishing Profits Podcast The #1 Show for Writers, Authors and Publishers TCK Publishing We believe authors change the world with by sharing important stories and ideas. Let us help you get your story out to more people and make the world a better place. We interview authors who are self published, indie published, and traditionally published to find out what’s working right now to help you build your career and sell more book.s On The Publishing Profits Podcast show, international best selling author and publisher Tom Corson-Knowles interviews the publishing industry's best authors, publishers, editors, literary agents, marketers and attorneys to share inspiration, education and best practices. Our mission is to help authors and publishers succeed in the new era of publishing. Ebooks didn't even exist 15 years ago. Today, readers spend more than $6 billion each year on ebooks in the United States alone. Are you taking advantage of this huge shift in readers’ purchasing habits? Tune in and learn how to build a full-time career and income as an author by proactively responding to the huge changes in the industry. Whether you're just thinking about writing your first book or you're a multi-published author, you'll find new ideas to help you take your career to the next level. The show's audience includes writers, new and experienced authors, publishers, literary agents, editors, graphic designers, bloggers, content creators, marketing professionals, public relations and PR experts, and publishing attorneys. Learn more at Weekly Top 8 Time Wasters for Writers (And What To Do About Them) Tue, 17 Oct 2017 06:31:05 +0000 top 8 time wasters for writers and what to do about them

Does this scene sound familiar?

It’s X o’clock in the whatever. You’ve blocked out two hours to write that scene. You close the study door, turn on your favorite music, and sit down at the keyboard.

Two hours later, you’ve written half a page.

Just half a darn page.

How did that happen? Where did the time go? Should you just give up?

The answer to that last question is a big, loud NO!

As for the first two, it’s likely you fell victim to one of these 8 all-too-common time stealers that turn your writing time into wish-you-had-written-more time.

Let’s look at them in detail: What they are. Why they happen. And most importantly, what you can do about them!


Let’s go.

1.  The Sinister Slow Start

AKA: Blank Page Blues; Stare at the Screen Until Your Forehead Bleeds; What Was I Writing Again?

The Problem: You sit down and stare at the empty page or next line and can’t for the life of you get started.

This issue usually comes from perfectionism. You don’t want to clutter up the new page (or new day) with bad words so you wait for something awesome before committing to typing. Other times it’s an energy thing. There’s inertia to any task, and sometimes it’s hard to get this particular ball rolling.

The Solution: Just start typing. If you’re working on something particular, say in plain English what you want it to say. Come back later and rewrite as needed, but get something down immediately. If you’re not working on a particular thing, do some kind of warmup. Even typing a grocery list can do it.

Looking for a way to break through that wall? Try freewriting.

The Upgrade: Finish each writing session in the middle of a sentence, resisting the temptation to finish. That way, when you get back to work, you’re compelled to start typing right away.

2. The Call of Phonethulhu

AKA: Distraction Calling, Please Hold; Quadrant Two Mania; “Hi, Mom”

The Problem: Phone calls are a weird thing. How many times have you interrupted something you like doing, or something more important, because you answered the siren call of the phone? The answer is too darn many.

We’re conditioned to think of phone calls as both urgent and important, so we answer them without thinking. Even when it’s a little rude to do so. Even when we’re in the middle of a great writing session. Ten minutes later, you’ve lost writing time and momentum. You’re out of the groove.

The Solution: Your cell phone has caller ID. Use it. Only pick up if it might be a legitimate emergency, like a call from your kid’s school. For people like your boss or spouse, encourage them to text you a minute or two before calling to signal that it’s a true emergency.

Many smartphones now have smart silent settings, often called “do not disturb” rules. You can lock down your phone for a certain period of time—say, an hour, or until your next alarm—but allow calls from specific contacts to come through (like the boss, or your spouse). Learn to love this tool.

The Upgrade: Assign custom ringtones to people who might have legitimate cause to interrupt your writing, so you don’t even have to look at the phone to ignore everybody else.

3. The Swamp of Social Media

AKA: Just One More Post; Hey! That Guy’s Wrong on The Internet!; Ooh! Kitties!

The Problem: You opened Facebook because you wanted to find that one great quote you wanted to write something about. An hour later, you’ve written plenty of comments and posts—but not a single word on your writing project for the day.

Social media addiction is a thing, not yet part of the DSM but acknowledged among professionals. It sneaks up on you and sucks your time away in increments of minutes and seconds.

The Solution: Just say no. Close that browser while you’re doing your writing time. If necessary, install a program that locks you out of distracting websites for a set period of time like Freedom or Anti-Social.

The Upgrade: Set specific goals for your social media presence that helps build your writing platform. Assign a different time to work on those, and make that the only time you spend on social media during the day. Put social media on your calendar and stick to that schedule.

4. The Search for the Perfect Word

AKA: “Honey, Where’s the Thesaurus?”; The Inner Poet; That’s Not What I Mean

The Problem: You’ve spent 30 minutes on the same sentence because it’s not quite right. I mean, you have the idea pretty much down, but that character wouldn’t talk like that, or you just know there’s another way to say it that’s even better.

Making every sentence just right can be an immense rabbit hole for your time and energy. Worse, it can be so frustrating that writing is no longer fun. This is especially brutal because the part of your brain you use to edit (i.e., choosing the perfect word) is different from the part you use to write. Which means you’re accidentally multitasking.

The Solution: Write the “excited 9-year-old draft” first. This is the one where you tell your story like a 9-year-old who just saw Star Wars for the first time. If you write great sentences, that’s wonderful. But if not, just type “This happens. Then this happens,” or a general note like “Great big fight!”

The Upgrade: Use a special symbol (mine’s @@) that means “I’ll get back to this.” It helps you give yourself permission to move on, knowing you can find the spot and tweak it later.

5. Never-Ending Netflix

AKA: Arrested Development; “Just One More Episode”; Comfort Food for the Brain

The Problem: Netflix is a wonderful thing, but it can be the bane of connected at-home workers everywhere. Don’t shake your head like that. You know you’ve lost hours to rewatching sitcoms you didn’t even particularly like the first time.

Like social media, part of the problem here is physiological. Watching Netflix, from a neurochemistry standpoint, is not unlike being on some drugs. And your brain craves that hit when you try to log off. Other times, it’s just a matter of energy and inertia. Watching Netflix is easy and comforting. Writing is neither.

The Solution: This is another situation where the answer is “Just say no.” You can use the programs that keep you off particular websites to accomplish this. Another trick is to write on a computer without speakers, or with the sound card disabled.

The Upgrade: Write on your tablet, or a computer without a modem or network connection. Heck, try writing by hand if you really need to, with all your devices (tablet, TV, laptop, smartphone) powered down. If you really have Netflix addiction issues, this can be the only way to keep you off the shows and on task.

6. Ridiculous Reams of Research

AKA: “I’m Reading the Most Fascinating Book”; The Wikipedia Wormhole; How Did I End Up Reading About Smurf-Themed Vacations?

The Problem: You’re going to write that book, but first you need to make sure you know all you should about 16th-century agrarian economics, the current leading theories on time travel, and for some reason, wallpaper patterns of antebellum Kentucky.

There’s a fine line between research and procrastination. If you’re doing research during your writing time, you’ve crossed it. As with other things on this list, research takes less energy and involves less risk than actual writing, which is why it can be so tempting to keep doing it even after you’ve gathered the information you truly require.

The Solution: Begin your research with a checklist. Find out information item by item, crossing the points off as you find out what you need. Stop researching when you’ve finished the checklist. If possible, do this during a different time than what you’ve set aside to write.

The Upgrade: Use the @@ trick I mentioned above and write before you do your research. Type @@ and a question any time you encounter a situation you need to research. Do your research between first and second drafts, when you’ll be more focused and less intimidated.

7. Fracas of Friends and Family

AKA: You Don’t Have a Real Job, Helping Your Buddy Move, Summertime Blues

The Problem: Your friends and loved ones know your writing is important, but come on. It’s not a real job. You’re just at home typing. Of course you have time to come move a couch, or grab lunch together, or clean out the fridge. Of course Mommy has time to play another round of Forbidden Desert. Of course you can talk for “just a minute” about that annoying thing.

It’s hard to balance wanting to be there for your people and staying committed to your writing. On one hand, you want to say “yes.” On the other hand, you need to write. On the third hand, sticking to your writing guns can leave you feeling like a bit of a jerk.

The Solution: This one’s not complicated, but it’s not easy, either. The best way to solve for this is to learn to say “no.” Just remember that a “no” to a meaningless social commitment is a “yes” to your writing career.

The Upgrade: Set up “writing hours” with your family and friends. Let everybody know to treat those like you’re at an actual job. Nobody is to disturb you during that time unless something’s on fire. And even then, they’d better have tried the extinguisher first.

8. Monstrously Messy Desk

AKA: “Now, Where’s that File?”; But I Have a System; Clutter’s Last Stand

The Problem: Clutter stops writing in its tracks. It could be physical stuff on your desk you need to move before you work, or that you have to hunt through for your mouse. It might be poorly organized files on your computer that force you to search for any given thing you want to work on.

I know, I know. It’s not that bad. Creative people are messy. You have a system.

Guess what? None of that matters. It steals time from your writing every day.

The Solution: Set aside the last 10 minutes of your writing time for cleaning up your virtual and physical writing space. It’s a nice way to signal a transition to your next thing, and it sets you up for success when you sit down the next day.

The Upgrade: Give yourself a “cleaning weekend” once or twice a year. Block out time for two days and spend that time organizing, clearing, cleaning, and maintaining your workspace.


Now, I’m not saying these are the only things that steal a writer’s time. I’m also not saying these are the only possible solutions for these and other problems. But if you go into your writing career fully warned about these enemies to your productivity (and fully informed about how to defeat them) you’ll have more time and energy to handle the unanticipated.

Remember: writing on your schedule is a matter of making a promise to yourself, then keeping that promise. You keep the promises you make to other people you love. Don’t let these time stealers make you break your word to yourself.


Need more help getting stuff done? Read on!

How To Use Agile Results To Realize Your Full Potential Mon, 16 Oct 2017 06:58:57 +0000 how to realize your true potential

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
— George Bernard Shaw


We all have the potential to know more, do more, be more, and achieve more.

A lot of us know we were born for something more, but then we struggle to reach that potential.

Rather than wondering about what you are capable of, what if you could test your capabilities and explore your greatest possibilities and potential?

What if you could realize your full potential, the Agile Way?

Rather than big up-front planning or some grand design for your life, what if you could experiment your way forward?

Imagine experimenting to find what you are truly capable of, informing yourself with actual examples, and evolving your self-image based on real-world results.

But mostly, imagine enjoying your personal journey of self-discovery, while becoming more than you ever thought you could be.

After all, realizing your full potential is a journey, not a destination.

Why Realize Your Full Potential?

An amazing thing happens when you start realizing your full potential.

You might think of it as giving your best where you have your best to give, or doing what makes your soul sing.

Or you might think of it as operating at a higher level or playing to your strengths.

Or you might think of it as simply finding your voice.

Steven Covey’s 8th Habit, potentially his greatest habit, is your greatest gift to the world: “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.”

On a very pragmatic level, when you realize your full potential, you will find your flow.

The very process of realizing your full potential. will create more opportunities for flow. According to renowned psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Flow, or “the Zone,” is a state where you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment.  You lose your sense of time and space and become completely engaged with whatever it is you’re doing.

There is a reason that self-actualization is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—to feel truly happy and fulfilled, we need to feel that we’re making the most of our time on this earth.

When you pursue your potential, you will create more value for yourself and others, whether by sharing your gift with the world, or simply by creating better experiences, outcomes, and outputs.

Start with an Agile Mindset

Your mindset impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of you.

You need a mindset that will allow you to evolve yourself, and not get in the way. In fact, you need a mindset that will support you as you evolve.

To realize your full potential, the Agile Way, you need to first start with the right mindset. Simply put, being “agile” means being able to adapt to change. Your “mindset” is your collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape your thought habits.  And your thought habits shape how you think, how you feel, and what you do.

So an Agile Mindset is an adaptable mindset.

Once you open your mind up to the idea that nothing is permanent—that everything changes and evolves—you open new doors for your future and unlock the chance to pursue everything that you are capable of.

Focus on progress over perfection.

Change your mindset, change your results.

Change Your Self-Image

One of your biggest limitations on what you are capable of will always be your self-image:

I’m not an artist.

I’m not an athlete.

I’m not good-looking enough.

Whatever your self-imposed limitations might be, you need to first recognize that they are self-imposed.

Whether you’ve been told you can’t be this, or you can’t be that, or you’re no good at this, or no good at that, ultimately, it’s up to you—and what you believe to be true.

Brene Brown did a lot of work to figure out what separates the people that have a strong sense of love and belonging from those that don’t:

“They believe they’re worthy.”

Yeah, that’s it.  They simply embrace a different belief and a different self-image.

(I wonder how many people, just knowing that, might choose to adopt a new belief—today.)


Incidentally, changing your self-image is one of the simplest ways to put the “Be-Do-Have” model into practice. Most people operate from a “Have-Do-Be” model. They are waiting until they Have something, whether it’s a house or a relationship or a position, so then they can Do what they want, so they can Be what they want.

But to experience success and fulfillment at a much more fundamental level, flip that model on its head.

First “Be” what you want. That sets the stage for all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions to come from a very different place. You will “Do” accordingly, taking action to live up to your ideal self-image and supporting your efforts to be the person you want to be. Lastly, you’ll “Have” what you want, and it’ll be in line from where you are coming from.

Change your self-image, change your results.

Agile Results Overview

Agile Results is a simple system for meaningful results. It helps you think, feel, and be your best by using your best energy for your best results. I introduced Agile Results in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

Here are some of the key habits and practices of Agile Results:

  1. The Rule of Three
  2. Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection
  3. 30-Day Sprints

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three is a way to chunk things down.

This is a simple guideline that helps you focus and prioritize.

Bite off three key things. You can use The Rule of Three at different levels to zoom in and zoom out and take a look from the balcony.

This is a flexible tool: you can use The Rule of Three to pick three results for the day, the week, the month, and the year. This helps you see the forest from the trees.

For example, your three wins for the year are at a higher level than your three wins for the month, and your three wins for the week are a higher level than your three wins for the day.

Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection

Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection is a simple pattern for getting weekly results.

Each week is a fresh start. On Mondays, you think about three results you would like for the week. Each day, you identify three results you would like for the day. On Fridays, you reflect on lessons learned. That day, you ask yourself what three things are going well and what three things need improvement. This weekly pattern helps you build momentum.

30-Day Sprints

30-Day Sprints are a way to prioritize and focus on something you want to explore, where the focus is on learning and improving.

We all have a lot of things we want to learn or try. But then we hack away at them, maybe for a day or a week, but we don’t really get anywhere. It’s just not enough time to see results.

In contrast, 30 days is a great timeframe to try something new, or to work on something you want to improve. It’s enough time to see progress and to gain motivation and energy, but not so long that you’re committing too much time and energy if it doesn’t work out or if something else takes priority in your life.

If you focus on learning through combinations of experiments and deliberate practice, you will make progress. A little progress, made regularly, adds up.

But you will also experience breakthroughs.

When you stick with something past a week or two, you will get over hurdles in surprising ways. Some days you just wake up and find you can do something you couldn’t do before.

how to use the sprint method for personal development

The Story of 30-Day Sprints for Personal Development

I adopted 30-Day Sprints for personal development long ago because I was frustrated by my lack of progress in a number of areas in my life.  And I was frustrated that my desire to learn and try new things was outpacing my capacity to do so.

I kept biting off more than I could chew, and I would find myself dabbling in this, then dabbling in that, but never mastering something or getting good enough to enjoy it.

And while I would be trying to learn X, I would be distracted by my desire to learn Y or try my hand at Z.

Then one day I woke up in a moment of clarity and realized that I needed to create space for the things I wanted to learn and try, or for the things that I really wanted to improve on.

So I decided to test 30-Day Sprints.

In my mind, I saw that I could use 30-day chunks of time to make meaningful progress.  Even better, I realized that I could align this plan with the 12 months of the calendar year.  With each month, I could turn the page, reflect on what I learned, and learn something new.  Or I could try another 30-Day Sprint in the same area to make even more progress by building on the previous 30-Day Sprint.

Having 12 slots immediately gave me a new way to tackle everything I wanted to learn.  Instead of taking on everything all at once, I could focus on one thing more fully, knowing that next month, I could then focus on something new.   I could explore and experiment with 12 new interests in a significant way.

Since then, I’ve tried many 30-Day Sprints, from reverse aging to eating raw foods to rollerblading to learning new languages.

What should you focus on? The choice is yours.  It’s all about what matters to you and how you see your full potential.

I’ve also used 30-Day Sprints to get ahead at work, by picking my worst problem area and making it a focus for the month.  I’ve also focused on my greatest strength and spent more time on it each day for 30 days to produce outstanding results.

One thing I learned that surprised me is that it’s better to align to a month than to align to 30 days exactly; don’t fret about whether the month is 28, 30, or 31 days. When I tried to stick to a narrow 30-day rule, I got lost tracking whether I was on Day 8, Day 20 or whatever.

When I decided to track to the month, I simply had to pick a focus for the month, and January 8 became Day 8 of my sprint.  I also like knowing that each month is a fresh start.

And it’s great having a theme of focus each month, to make the month more meaningful.

Design Your 30-Day Sprint for Realizing Your Full Potential

Enough talk, let’s do: It’s time for action.

Let’s turn the idea of realizing our full potential into something actionable where we can do a little something each day to become more like what we’re truly capable of.

Here are the key steps to designing your 30-Day Sprint for realizing your full potential:

  1. Pick a strength or skill that you want to focus on.
  2. Research that area of focus.
  3. Create a list of ideas that you can do to practice or learn or develop that area.
  4. Pick a time slot in your day to focus on this topic.
  5. Do it, review it, improve it.

That’s it.

Keep it simple!

Here is the key—just spend a little time each day in your area of focus where your main outcome is that you learn something small.

If this is your main outcome each day, you will actually learn how to learn better and you will make progress!

Example 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence

The first thing to do when you design a 30-Day Sprint is to pick your topic.

For this example, I’m going to focus on Emotional Intelligence (EQ.)  After all, Emotional Intelligence is a great skill to build.  In fact, it’s one of the key skills that helps high performers get ahead.

If you want to realize your full potential, it will be difficult to do without improving your Emotional Intelligence.

Dan Goleman says that “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify our own emotions and those of others, to self-motivate ourselves and know how to monitor our emotions and those of the people around us.”  Or to put it another way, Emotional Intelligence is emotional awareness, the ability to harness and apply emotions, and the ability to manage emotions in yourself and others.

According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence is made up of five elements:

  1. self-awareness
  2. self-regulation
  3. motivation
  4. empathy
  5. social skills

To keep it simple, I’m going to create a quick list of ideas of things I can do, learn, or try in order to improve my Emotional Intelligence.

I’m going to organize the ideas by each of the areas above so that I know which element of Emotional Intelligence I am working on at any given time.

To leverage Agile Results, I’m going to use a 20-Minute Sprint to timebox my effort.  In other words, I’m going to spend no more than 20 minutes to research and come up with some ideas for my 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence.  If I need to, I can always add another 20-Minute Sprint, but focusing for 20 minutes is a great way to stay focused and to maintain a high level of energy.

Here we go:

Area Ideas
Self-Awareness ·         Focus on the present moment, including how you feel

·         Write down and analyze emotional situations

·         Connect your feelings with your thoughts

·         Ask yourself, “How do I feel today?”

·         Listen to your body

·         Observe how you react to people

·         Observe how you react to stressful situations

·         Learn what triggers anger, stress, and anxiety

Self-Regulation ·         Stop and evaluate situations that trigger anger, stress, or anxiety

·         Raise your frustration tolerance

·         Find something positive about the situation

·         Learn how to adapt, adjust, or avoid situations that create worry and anxiety

·         Try deep-breathing exercises

·         Focus on how to improve the situation

·         Write down worries in a worry log

·         Turn moments of frustration into teachable moments and leadership opportunities

·         Give yourself time to pause before responding

·         Don’t let other people push your buttons

·         Learn how to manage anger, stress, and anxiety

Motivation ·         Boost your motivation levels through passion, purpose, and productivity

·         Celebrate small wins and personal victories

·         Rediscover your purpose

·         Build a library of inspiring examples and stories to draw from

·         Learn how to prime your mind for unstoppable confidence

·         Learn how to take feedback and criticism as a gift

Empathy ·         Learn how to build rapport

·         Put yourself in another’s place

·         Practice empathic listening (“listen until the other person feels heard.”)

·         Learn how to read body language

·         Read Empathy: Why It Matters and How To Get It

Social Skills ·         Practice Perceptual Positioning (3 positions of any event)

·         Practice the Interest-Based Relational Approach for resolving conflicts

·         Read Crucial Conversations

·         Read Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

·         Read Coping with Difficult Bosses

·         Read How To Win Friends and Influence People


It’s not exhaustive, it’s not complete, but it’s a start.

And getting started is often the toughest part.

If I wanted to, I could do another 20-Minute Sprint and focus on building a list of resources that I could read in the future.  I could create lists of videos, lists of articles, lists of books, lists of TED Talks, lists of blogs, etc.

But I have enough for now to get started.

And that’s what counts.

Just get started. Get the ball rolling. The momentum of that win will help drive your progress for the month.

Using Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection to Drive Your 30-Day Sprint

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Here’s a quick recap of what counts:

  1. I picked a theme for the month: Emotional Intelligence.
  2. I performed a 20-Minute Sprint to build a list of ideas.
  3. I organized the ideas by key elements of Emotional Intelligence.

I can research, explore, and prepare so that when I start my 30-Day Sprint, I will have plenty to work from.

But I don’t have to.

I can wing it as I go, but I’m a fan of doing a little preparation—just enough so that when I start, I feel like I have some foundation to work from.  But if I had to, I could just wake up on Day 1 of my 30-Day Sprint and just hack at it.

In fact, this is exactly how I created my 30 Days of Getting Results (I used my 30-Day Sprint approach to create it.)  I surprised myself with it, and I definitely noticed how much better I got as I went along.  By the time I was 20 days in, I was on fire.

How am I going to hack through this 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence?

I’m going to use the Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection approach:

  1. Monday Vision: On Mondays, I’m going to get a simple vision in my mind for the week. I’m going to picture myself on Friday, looking back on the week, and figure out what a simple victory would look, feel, and sound like.For example, on Friday this week, I want to be able to say something like, “I was in a situation that normally makes me angry, but this time I created clarity, compassion, and connection.”  That’s just an example.  Since I’m just starting, my outcome might be something as simple as, “I learned something new about my feelings and how I respond to them” or “Wow, I actually spent 30 minutes, each day this week, learning and practicing Emotional Intelligence.”

    I’ll evolve my wins as I learn more about Emotional Intelligence and as I learn more about my ability to practice my 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence.

  2. Daily Win: Each day, I will identify a simple outcome or win or personal victory related to Emotional Intelligence. For example, today’s win might be as simple as, “I will stop and pause whenever I get triggered by something and I feel angry, anxious or stressed.”  Or it might be something like, “I will spend 30 minutes today to learn something new about my emotions, or how I manage them, or how I relate to others.”At the end of each day, I can ask myself one simple question: “What did I learn?”   And this will help reinforce my learning approach.
  3. Friday Reflection: On Friday, I will create an appointment with myself so I can check in and evaluate how I’m doing. The focus will be on my learning.  I can be brutally honest with myself, since the more honest I am, the more I will learn.  If I learn, I can change.And that’s what makes Agile Results so powerful—you’re creating a little continuous learning loop.

    On Fridays, I’m going to ask myself to identify three things going well and three things to improve with regard to my 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence.   Maybe I’ll learn something useful about how to learn better.  Maybe I’ll learn something that surprises me deeply about myself or how I relate to others.  Either way, I will focus on learning so that I can carry that forward.

    This is how I will sustain momentum: by doing, learning, and improving.

That’s all there is to it.

how to have fun with personal development

Enjoy Your 30-Day Sprints

You can use 30 Day Sprints to continuously hack away at realizing your full potential.

The real keys here are:

  1. Adopt an Agile Mindset.
  2. Change your self-image.
  3. Pick something you want to work on.
  4. Create a 30-Day Sprint for it.
  5. Use 20-Minute Sprints to help you take action.
  6. Use Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection to execute your 30-Day Sprint.
  7. Have fun!

If I didn’t mention it before or I didn’t emphasize it enough (actually, I didn’t): have fun!

The way to have fun is to focus on your effort while moving toward your outcome.

This is where you slow down to speed up.  This is the key to learning at a deeper level.

When you really connect with your learning, you will find a new level of self-awareness and a new appreciation for your capabilities as an intelligent human being.


About the Author

agile method expert JD MeierBy day, JD Meier is Director of Digital Business Transformation on the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy team, leading project teams on agile projects and mentoring team members to improve their effectiveness. By night, he applies these principles to help others get results and balance their lives.

This interest eventually turned into Getting Results the Agile Way, a book designed to help you make the most of work and life, using success patterns.

Learn more about agile methods and balancing your Life Frame at

For more on overhauling your life and mindset, read on!

158: How To Create an Irresistible Offer: Presentation and Speaking Tips with Dustin Mathews Fri, 13 Oct 2017 05:37:16 +0000 how to create an irresistible offer and great presentations

Dustin Mathews is the founder of Speaking Empire, which teaches entrepreneurs how to scale up their business by selling from presentations and stages. Speaking Empire is the company behind some of the biggest speakers out there, including Kevin Harrington, Russell Brunson, and Jairek Robbins.

Dustin began his professional journey after he read Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money that the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki. Dustin thought he was going to be the next real estate investing millionaire. He found a local investing club and met his business partner, Dave. He offered to work for Dave for free if Dave would teach him how to buy houses.

One day, Dave told Dustin he would have to fill in for him at a speaking engagement if they wanted to continue to work together. Dustin was terrified, but he really wanted to continue working with Dave.

Very quickly, Dustin realized the audience didn’t care about him. They only cared about the specialized knowledge he had to share. That’s when a light bulb went off for him.

In this interview, we dive deep on the topic of presentations. We talk about the five steps every presentation needs to have and about how to research the objections of your ideal customer. Finally, we discuss how to maximize your profit from every webinar you do.

You Have Limitless Opportunities to Deliver a Presentation

The first thing you have to realize is that every social media platform gives you the opportunity to make a presentation. There are a number of different channels where you can put your message out:

  • Facebook Live
  • Periscope
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat
  • Podcasting

All these different channels allow you to make a presentation to your audience.

The Essential Five Steps to Every Presentation

Every successful presentation, no matter the format or platform, has a few key steps in common.

1. The Introduction

Celebrities, famous people, and influencers are always introduced by other people. The president of the United States is always introduced by someone. So is the queen of England. So are professional athletes at every professional sporting event in the world.

Being introduced elevates your status with your audience—it says you’re important enough for someone to announce your presence. You can either have someone introduce you or leverage an introduction video. For an example of how an intro video works, check out Dustin’s here:

2. The Story

After you’re introduced, you need to have a transformational story. People engage with stories more deeply than with simple facts presented in a straightforward way—we remember stories and get emotionally attached to them.

So it’s critical to present your information as part of a narrative.

Every transformational story starts with a character in a dark place. Then they discover something in the darkness that turns their life around. You need to link your transformational story to the product you’re selling, or link to you as the solution to their problem.

If you don’t link your transformational story to the product you’re selling, or you as the solution, the story will distract from the sale you’re trying to make.

3. The Offer

In every presentation you do, you have to make people aware of the pain point you’re discussing. You have to show them statistics, or press clippings, or video of how life is really difficult.

You have to make your audience realize the problem and the pain associated with it.

Then you have to offer them the solution.

Offering the solution doesn’t mean that you tell people to buy your products right then and there.

This is not the time to sell to your audience. This is the point in the presentation where you describe the process, methodology, or secret that you’ve discovered that can help them solve the problem you’ve just made them aware of.

Throughout your presentation, there’s going to be an ebb and flow between pain and pleasure.

During the offer phase, you want to turn up the pain by making your audience acutely aware of the problem. At the end of the offer phase, you alleviate that pain somewhat by telling your audience you have the solution to the problem that they are now keenly aware of.

4. The Body

This is where you explain your solution.

The first thing you want to do is to break your solution into a process that takes 3 to 6 steps.

People like processes. They like to check things off a list. And a list of 3 to 6 items is the easiest to remember.

Next, you want to name your solution something memorable. People buy processes and systems with a memorable name.

If you aren’t feeling particularly creative, use your last name in the title of your solution. That way, people will connect the solution to you. It’s fantastic for brand building.

After you come up with the title of your process, the first thing you want to do is get it trademarked, so no one can steal it from you.

When you deliver this part of your presentation, you want to explain each step in detail.

In between each step, you want to have a story or case study that helps anchor the step you just laid out in the minds of your audience. The story or case study should involve a client or someone well known to the audience who is successful.

Everyone you present to will have some degree of skepticism when presented with information. Sharing a case study or story helps break down that resistance.

5. The Close

The close is simple. You briefly go over the stories and case studies you shared in the body of your presentation, then ask the audience if they’d like to have the same results.

Then you ask the audience if it would be all right to share your product with them.

If you’ve done your presentation correctly, most people will give you permission to sell them your product. You might have some audience members who are reluctant, but they usually don’t want your call to action anyway. The fact that you ask permission before selling to the audience makes them more comfortable with the process, even if they end up finally saying no.

At the end of your presentation, you want to show your audience and irresistible offer.

Dustin has a system with nine elements he calls Irresistible Offer Architecture.

The most important element of Irresistible Offer Architecture is that you come up with a list of objections that people in your audience might have. Then put things in your offer to overcome those objections.

How to Figure out the Objections of Your Ideal Customer

When you’re developing a new product, you have to do your research.

Dustin does research by talking to people at the live events where he speaks. If you don’t go to live events, there are several places online you can do research:

  • Take a poll on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Search for forums where your audience might hang out. Join the forums and ask questions there.
  • Look at the questions around your topic that people are typing into Google. (If you search in Google, related searches and questions will show up at the bottom of the screen.)
  • Go to Amazon and see what books are selling on your topic.
  • Go to the websites of your competitors and see what they’re offering in their products.

why relationships are important in business

Test Your Product by Putting It out into the World

Dustin studies the marketplace and puts together the best offer he can to solve the problem of his audience. Once he’s created the best product he can with the best bonuses he can think of, he puts it out on the market.

The best way to see if something will sell is to put it up for sale.

If his product doesn’t sell as much as he’d like it to, only then does he go back and do market research to see what would have made people buy.

“Internet marketing people have sold us on the idea that you can just push a button and make money. But in the end, business is about people and relationships.”
– Dustin Matthews

If your business model is to develop a product and sell it to customers one time, that’s a really difficult business model to make a living from.

It’s much easier to develop a relationship with a group of customers and continue to solve their problems.

Dustin likes to develop one major selling presentation and give it multiple times, rather than develop a new keynote speech for every presentation.

You can’t sell everyone in your audience at every presentation. But you should look for ways to get them to take action. If they take small actions now at the end of your speech, they may buy from you later.

How to Troubleshoot a Presentation

Dustin recommends doing all your webinars live. When you do a webinar live, you have more energy because you know people are actually there listening to you speak.

Dustin uses a platform called Go-To Webinar. When he does a live webinar, there is a feature that allows him to track the attention of his audience. He can actually see where people drop off during his presentation. He and his team match up the timestamps for when people dropped off. Then they study those moments to improve future presentations.

How to Make More Money from Your Webinar

There are three moments in each webinar when you can potentially sell a customer something.

1. Opt-In

When someone opts in for your webinar, you can take them to a special one-time offer page where you can sell them a no-brainer product. These products are inexpensive, usually no more than $20. When you get somebody to spend money with you, it changes the dynamic of the relationship.

2. During the Webinar

Your next opportunity to convert an audience member is during your webinar. In this case, you sell them your offer during the webinar session.

3. After the Webinar

Finally, for those people who bought on the webinar, you offer them an upsell right after they buy the product from the webinar.

How Dustin Uses His Webinars to Make Money

Dustin teaches people how to make money with their presentations.

When they sign up to one of his webinars, he offers them a  PDF called Irresistible Offer Architecture for $7. The PDF is an infographic about Dustin’s nine keys to an irresistible offer, along with case studies of clients who have been successful using the nine keys. It includes an hour-long talk Dustin gave about his Irresistible Offer Architecture.

The $7 offer is about giving people a piece of what they can get if they buy the bigger webinar offer.

One more thing to consider is that not everybody who signs up to attend the webinar actually does. By offering a low-priced item when they’re giving you their email address, when you have their attention, you’re maximizing the amount of money you can make per customer.

You’re also strengthening your relationship with that customer, because when they spend more money with you, they’re more invested in you as a person, teacher, and coach. Studies have shown the easiest sale you can make is to a satisfied customer.

On the webinar, Dustin sells his One to Many System for $500. That system delves deep into how to create a presentation to help you sell your product. It also provides templates that allow you to plug in your information to create a presentation easily.

The No B.S. Guide to Powerful Presentations

Dustin wrote The No BS Guide to Powerful Presentations with Dan Kennedy.

In the book, Dustin breaks down presentations in much more depth than he had time to in this interview.

He also talks about things you can do before and after your speech to make it more likely that your audience will buy from you.

Dustin brings his marketing experience to the book, teaching you how to choreograph a marketing sequence, from getting a stranger to sign up for your webinar through your final offer to maximize your chances of making a sale.

In the book, Dustin and Dan also teach you how to set up an automated webinar.


Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview – Dustin’s website – watch Dustin’s intro video

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! – the book that started Dustin’s journey — here you can get The No BS Presentations book along with resources to make your next presentation more effective — connect with Dustin on Facebook — the Amplify Experience is a live event that Dustin does four times a year. This is where he brings together affiliate partners, speakers, and promoters from around the world to share ideas and network with one another.

Dustin Mathews is the founder of Speaking Empire, which teaches entrepreneurs how to scale up their business by selling from presentations and stages. Speaking Empire is the company behind some of the biggest speakers out there, Dustin Mathews is the founder of Speaking Empire, which teaches entrepreneurs how to scale up their business by selling from presentations and stages. Speaking Empire is the company behind some of the biggest speakers out there, including Kevin Harrington, Russell Brunson, and Jairek Robbins. Dustin began his professional journey after he read Rich Dad Poor […] TCK Publishing clean 29:24
How to Publish Your Blog on Kindle: Step-by-Step Instructions to Start Making Money from Your Blog on Amazon Thu, 12 Oct 2017 06:31:19 +0000 how to publish your blog on kindle

Very few people know that you can directly publish your blog to the Kindle platform, so I’m really excited to teach you how.

There’s a lot of interest around this topic—and really rightly so. What’s so cool about it is that it’s like using the content that you’re already creating on your blog to create a micro-membership site on the Kindle platform.

It’s an opportunity to leverage the content you are already creating not just to generate revenue, but potentially reach a whole new audience. This is what this is really all about: expanding your audience and gaining new readers or followers.

Another cool thing is that if you don’t want to clutter your blog with ads, but still want to monetize it, this is a great alternative for you.

There’s a nuance to doing blog-to-Kindle that I would like to point out.  This is a different platform than the Amazon or KDP, so that means you need to sign up and create a new account. You cannot use the same email login as with your KDP account and Amazon.

Another challenge is that you need to download Firefox to do all this. It doesn’t work as well with other browsers.

How to Publish Your Blog on Kindle

Setting up your blog to publish on Kindle is simple! Just follow these X steps and you’ll be up and running in no time.

1. Sign up for a Kindle Publishing for Blog Account

Go to the website and click on “Create a New Account.”

create a kindle blog account

Enter your Name and Email Address. Click on Continue.

how to publish your blog feed on kindle

Enter your Name, Email Address, and Password. Click on “Create your Amazon account.”

creating a kindle blogging account

Choose your Security Questions and enter the answers. Click on Create Account.

publishing your blog on kindle

2. Add Your Blog Feed

Click on Your Blogs.

how to add your blog to a kindle feed

Click on +Add Blog.

adding your blog feed to kindle      

Enter the link to your RSS feed. If you’re not sure about how to get your RSS feed, try visiting your site and adding /feed/ to the end of the URL. This is how the feed is commonly set up, and by navigating to that URL, you should see the raw XML file that makes up the RSS feed.

If this doesn’t work for you, it’s best to contact your website support team.

how to use your blog rss feed on kindle

Click on the Validate Feed button. If your RSS feed is good, you should see a message right below the URL that says “Feed validation, successful” in all green.

how to validate your blog feed on kindle

3. Complete Your Basic Blog Information

You can see that there are certain items marked with a star: *. Those asterisks mark required information, but I suggest you fill out as much of this section as possible even if it’s not required.

make your blog available on kindle

Note: The minimum size for the Blog Screenshot is 800 x 600 pixels, and it must be in GIF, PNG, or JPG format. The maximum size for the Masthead/Banner is 430 x 30 pixels.

Scroll further down the page and continue filling out your blog information. You can choose up to three categories for your blog.

setting up your blog on Kindle

Once you’ve completed all the information, you’ll want to click on Save. You’ll then get the message “Your information was successfully saved.”

successful kindle blog setup

4. Preview Your Blog

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Generate Blog Preview to preview your blog or you can just click on Publish Blog to Kindle to finish. I’d recommend checking out the preview first.

how to preview your blog feed on kindle

If you like it, go back and click the Publish Blog to Kindle button.

5. Enter Your Payment Information

You will then be redirected to your Account Information page. You’ll have to enter all this information again because, remember, this is a separate platform from Amazon or KDP. Complete your contact information and payment collection information.

how to get paid on kindle

Once that’s all done, check the terms and condition box and click on Continue.

setting up an amazon account

6. Publish Your Blog

Then you’ll get a message that says “Your blog was published successfully.” On your dashboard, you’ll see that the status is Pending Approval. Your blog will be available on the Kindle Store in 48-72 hours when approved.

put your blog on kindle platform

Kindle Blogs are auto-delivered, fully downloaded, and updated throughout the day on Kindle. Your readers will have access to your blog anytime, anywhere.

This is really the easiest way to reach new readers and to give your existing readers the chance to choose whatever format works best for them. Now they can take your blog with them on the go, no matter whether they have internet access or not!

Go forth and Kindle!

For more great blogging tips and tricks, read on:

Write To Improve Your Other Career: How Writing a Book Can Grow Your Whole Platform Wed, 11 Oct 2017 06:21:00 +0000 how writing a book can boost your career

Writing doesn’t have to be your only career. In fact, it can be really tough to make good money at it. But it can also be a satisfying and effective way to enhance your reputation in your primary career.

In different ways throughout my life, I’ve turned to writing: to think things through, share some knowledge, and enhance my career. In second grade, I remember writing a story called “The Golden Gate” (all of two or three pages), and in high school I won a short story prize with a piece about poor Appalachia and VISTA volunteers. As an adult, I mostly wrote to share professional insights and enhance my career, largely through articles published in professional journals.

Let’s look at four ways that writing can enhance your career, no matter what your focus is.

1. Write to Build Your Confidence

I gained confidence in my ability to write a whole book as a way to maintain my sanity while traveling a lot for business. I could get lost for hours in my work of fiction, ignoring long flights, weather delays, and other airline mishaps.

I never published that novel (I’m sure it wasn’t that great), but it showed me I could, with time, assemble 40,000 words into a coherent whole. Without that experience, I might never have had the courage to start a book manuscript.

Tip: Write to practice your craft and build your confidence; maybe it will attract attention.

Nowadays, anyone can start a blog. And publishers and other writers may be trolling for good material–you might get offered a book deal or be able to turn your blog into a book on your own.

That’s what happened to me. An existing author, Mark Graham Brown, approached my business partner, Marsha Willard, and me to write our first book with him. He said our articles were the other half of the book he wanted to write. So together, the three of us wrote a book about total quality management (TQM) and employee participation called Why TQM Fails and What to Do About It. Since he already had a relationship with a publisher, it was easy to get approval for the book and he helped us understand the process.

His inquiry helped me realize that I had already published perhaps a dozen 3,000-word articles over time. That’s the equivalent of a dozen chapters—a respectable book. I’d already written the equivalent of a book and didn’t realize it!

2. Write to Build Your Reputation

In our consulting work, Marsha and I never thought of writing as our main work. It became a way to “move us up the food chain,” build our reputation over others in the field.

It’s really amazing what a book does for your career (especially if it’s published by a reputable trade publisher rather than self-published, although that prejudice is changing.) Suddenly you’re considered The Expert. We got invitations to give keynote presentations at conferences and speakers bureaus sought us out. I even got lucrative out-of-country speaking opportunities in places like Mexico, Qatar, and Russia. Those were amazing experiences.

Of course, having an existing book properly published and doing well builds the confidence in publishers to take a risk on your next idea. For a couple years, we published a new book a year, including Why Teams Can Fail and What to Do About It, which built on the title and structure of our first book.

Tip: You know more than you think.

Don’t feel as if you have to have discovered the meaning of life to write a book or article. If you know something that might help others, write it down.

Marsha and I would get our inspiration from a number of sources:

Common Problems

We saw many of our clients struggling with the same problem, so we invented a solution.

The Step by Step Guide to Sustainability Planning is an example of this. As we worked with different clients to help them integrate sustainable practices, we began to develop a replicable process to develop a sustainability plan. So we documented our process in a “cookbook” of sorts. If you show someone a recipe for doing something, they can easily modify it—but most people have trouble inventing a process from scratch.


We were often curious to find the answer to a question.

Each year, we would assign ourselves a research topic, a question we were curious about that we thought others in our profession might also like an answer to. This was never anything overly scientific or complicated.

One year, we developed a survey on peer-review practices to find out the most common practices for giving peer feedback. We sent it out to our contacts and then wrote a paper about our results. This made us the de facto experts on the topic and we quickly got speaking requests to talk about our findings.

At other times, we invited a group of colleagues to spend a Da Vinci Day with us (a day we set aside quarterly to explore big ideas). The one we did in the mid-1990s about sustainability launched our business into an entirely new direction and, of course, resulted in an article and later a book.

Unmet Needs

In many cases, we could see a need others did not. When we redirected our business toward working in sustainability, we noticed that the green building movement was leading the charge. We believed this was in part because of LEED, the green building certification. What it did was translate the abstract notion of sustainability into practices that made sense in one industry and then gave them a way to assess how far along they were.

We decided the world needed something like LEED for all organizations, since all organizations of any size have the same functions like top management, facilities, human resources, etc.

So we wrote The Business Guide to Sustainability (which won the America Library Association’s Choice Award and is now in its third edition.) There’s a chapter for each major industry sector (manufacturing, government and services) to capture what was special for each, and then a chapter for each major function that was common to all organizations (including finance/accounting, information/communication technology, marketing, etc.). Each chapter was addressed to the leader of that function: What should you know about sustainability? What are others like you doing? How far along are you (as a LEED-like assessment.)

This assessment became a stand-alone product, the S-CORE™ sustainability assessment (now managed by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.) Ironically, at the time we were writing this book, a highly respected colleague was working on a multi-stakeholder process to answer the same question. But his effort was bogged down by funding and time. We decided that having this material out fast—even if we were making it up as we went along—was more important than having broad consensus. (As far as I know, our colleague’s process never finished.) Live the maxim: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

3. Write to Build Your Network

You would be surprised to see how open and willing people are to talk when you approach them about a research project or book. Back when we were working on Why Teams Can Fail, we wanted to get information on Microsoft’s practices. You can imagine the response if we had cold-called them: “Hi, we’re a consulting firm and we’d like to tell you about our services.” Click.

Instead, when we contacted their PR department and said, “We are writing a book about self-directed work teams and we hear you have some really great practices. Is there someone we can talk to about that?”—that blew open the doors. We spent several hours on their campus interviewing them and they even catered lunch!

Tip: Give interviewees approval over the content.

Many companies, especially large ones, want to control communication about their enterprise. So let them know up front that you’ll write up your understanding of the interview but will circle back to let them review, correct, and approve it.

If you’ve ever been interviewed by the press, you’ll know how frustrating it is to be misquoted. So this provision will ensure your interviewees will feel comfortable letting you in the door. Also promise to share the results with them. Send them a copy of the report/article/book and thank them again for their participation.

4. Write to Get It out of Your Head

I am an episodic writer. Some writers suggest you write every day. I do not. Ideas swirl around in my brain and then suddenly demand to come out.

This was the situation with Dragonfly’s Question. After reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (a novel that is a delivery system for amazing insights), I had hoped to write a novella about sustainable practices that would help people see what a more sustainable lifestyle would look like and, more importantly, make them want it more than what they have now.

For probably two years, the idea rattled around in the back of my brain as I struggled to find the literary mechanism to do what I wanted. Not time-travel, not utopian fiction, not sci-fi. What would allow me to compare past and near future and explore the worldviews behind them?

One day, the answer popped into my head. Then I just had to keep up with my muse, this mysterious process that feels more like downloading. The first draft poured off my fingers in a month. Each day I would think, gosh, what happens next? And then by morning, I would have my answer.

Tip: Self-publish if you need to.

Books like Dragonfly’s Question may not fit in publishers’ preconceived genres. Dragonfly’s Question was fiction, but it was teaching sustainable practices and it had a chapter-by-chapter discussion guide appropriate for use in classes and neighborhood discussion groups.  Publishers, even ones I had a good relationship with, didn’t know what to make of it.

But a traditional publisher may not be necessary for you. I’ve found you can make almost as much self-publishing. You don’t sell as many books, but you keep a lot more of the profit. Every month I get a little check from Amazon for the Kindle version and quarterly I get a check from Lulu for the print version. (Do not go to a vanity publisher and fill your garage with books you have to sell yourself! Use a printer like Lulu or CreateSpace to handle the printing and distribution.)

When you really think about it, there’s no good reason not to add writing to the mix of skills supporting your career, even if you don’t intend to be a full-time author exclusively.


About the Author

sustainability expert and author Darcy HitchcockDarcy Hitchcock has published 10 books, mostly on business topics like quality, teams and sustainability. For 23 years, she and Marsha Willard ran AXIS Performance Advisors, a management consulting firm. As a little two-person business, writing was key to their credibility and visibility. Semi-retired, Darcy is now leading the Sustainability Alliance (, a coalition of nonprofits driving Sedona and the Verde Valley in Arizona to become sustainable. You can learn more about Darcy and her publications at

For more on supporting your life and career goals, read on:

The 10 Most Common Grammar Mistakes and How To Avoid Them Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:13:43 +0000 how to fix common grammar mistakes

There are countless mistakes that can be made when writing something, from awkward run-on sentences to simple spelling errors. Most of these mistakes are easy to catch in the proofreading stages, but there are others that somehow manage to sneak their way through the editing process.

Allowing these mistakes to get through to your final draft can definitely impact the way you’re perceived by your readers—it doesn’t matter if the goof was made out of carelessness or ignorance, readers won’t care because all they’ll see is the mistake.

Here are the top 10 mistakes that are commonly made by writers and how you can avoid making them yourself.

1. Confusing ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’

There seems to be a great deal of confusion between these two words and when it’s appropriate to use either. There’s an incredibly easy solution to figuring out which to use: if “he,” “she,” or another noun can be used as a replacement, “who” is the correct word to use.

If you would be able to use “her” or “him” as a replacement, then “whom” is the right choice. Clarity on this and other confusing grammar items can be found at State of Writing.

Who scored the winning goal in the game? She did. To whom should I give the MVP trophy? To her.

2. Using ‘Who’ and ‘That’ Incorrectly

This is another one that people mix up very frequently—but thankfully, it’s just as easy to fix as who/whom.

“Who” is used when you’re talking about people, and “that” is used to refer to things.

Jane is the employee who had the highest sales last month. These are the sales numbers that we referenced.

3. Mixing Up ‘Which’ and ‘That’

Some readers may not pick up on this error, but there are those who definitely will, which is why you need to correct it before your content goes live.

It’s a little more difficult to figure out than who/whom and who/that, which is why not everyone will notice it. Still, it’s worth taking the time to learn so that you can have the clearest writing possible.

“That” is used when what you’re saying is essential to the sentence, and “which” is used to qualify information that is not essential.

I want to go to a restaurant that serves pizza. This restaurant, which has a beautiful patio, is one of my favorites.

4. Not Understanding When to Use ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’

These are some of the most confusing words to tell apart and figure out when to use properly.

Let’s first talk about the present tense: “lie” is something the subject does, without the need for an object. In contrast, “lay” is used to describe an action done to a person or object.

For an in-depth look at how to use these words properly, check out this article on the variations of lay and lie.

Every Sunday I lie in bed until noon. Then I get up and lay out my clothes for the next day.

Now’s the part where it really gets tricky. “Lay” is the past tense of “lie,” and “laid” is the past tense of “lay.” It takes a careful eye and the patience to fully understand their use before most writers can grasp when to use each.

5. Using Dangling Modifiers

Using a modifier in the wrong spot in a sentence can totally change the meaning of that sentence. Make sure that the clause you’re beginning your sentence with has the same subject as the rest of the sentence.

Walking through the park, the birds were chirping as they ate seeds.

The formation of this sentence makes it sound as though the birds were walking through the park eating seeds—which is cute, but probably not what the writer meant!

The correct formation would be, Walking through the park, we heard birds chirping as they ate seeds.

A program like ProWritingAid or Grammarly can help correct things as you work, saving you time and ridding your writing of errors.

6. Mixing Up ‘Fewer’ and ‘Less’

This is a less confusing grammar fix than some of those previously discussed. “Fewer” is used when things can be counted, and “less” is for those things that can’t be counted.

I would like fewer than three scoops of ice cream and less chocolate syrup.

7. Using the Wrong First-Person Pronoun

It’s not always right to use “I” as a first-person pronoun, even though it’s commonly thought of as correct. Only when “I” is the subject of the sentence is it correct to use.

The quickest way to figure out if you’re using the right pronoun is by taking the other person out of the sentence to see if it still works. For instance, if the sentence looks funny written as “Me went to the park,” then you wouldn’t write “Tracy and me went to the park.”

Jason and I went to Cuba for vacation. The resort gave Jason and me a great room with a view.

8. Mistakenly Using ‘Like’ Instead of ‘As Though’

Although they seem interchangeable when used for comparisons, these actually are not. “Like” should only be used when followed by a noun or pronoun, and “as though” should go before a verbal clause—that is, a clause that contains an action word.

Grammar help can be quickly looked up on the resource Via Writing, if you are looking to clarify some confusion you’re having.

The house looked like a cottage. It looked as though it should be in a magazine.

9. Avoiding the Verb ‘To Be’ to Avoid Passive Voice

There’s nothing wrong with using the passive voice in a sentence—as long as it’s used properly.

And, in fact, avoiding the verb “to be” just to avoid speaking in a passive voice won’t work because it’s not the only way to form the passive voice. Any sentence where the object acts as the subject uses a passive voice.

Avoiding active voice is complicated to master, but with practice, you’ll be able to keep your writing active and engaging, using a variety of verbs including “to be!”

The caked was baked for me by my sister.

10. Not Using the Passive Voice at All

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to use the passive voice in some instances. If the object of the sentence is important, the passive voice may be appropriate.

The enormous yacht was sailed through the bay by an experienced sailor.

Proofreading is an essential step in the writing process, but mistakes can slip through the cracks. Be aware of these common errors and look for them when you’re checking over your work.

If you need extra help with your writing—and honestly, we could all use a professional to help us polish our work to be the best it can be—there are a lot of apps, programs, and services available to help.

Resources for Better Writing

Are you referring to someone or something in a formal way, as a resource or citation in an academic paper? Whether you’re referencing people or things, such as books and essays, as resources, Cite It In will create perfect citations every single time.

Certain editing services and resources, like Academized, have real people who can read through your work to see if you’ve used the right words in the right places.

The expert writers at AcademAdvisor have had plenty of experience in learning the nuances of language and can assist with writing help when required.

PaperFellows or Big Assignments can also offer professional assistance with grammar. EssayRoo can provide you with expert proofreading help to rid your writing of mistakes. UK Writings or Australian Help both have expert team members who can point out any corrections that should be made in your writing.

Not only does a tool like Easy Word Count tally up your word count, but it can also give you help in pointing out spelling and grammar errors like the ones we’ve discussed here.


About the Author

how to write better essays with academic editor Gloria KoppGloria Kopp is a paper editor and a proofreader at Boom Essays. She enjoys sharing her writing tips in at Huffington Post and on the Oxessays blog. In addition, Gloria is a paper reviewer at Studydemic, where she contributes her reviews for students and educators.


Check out these great articles to help improve your writing even more!


157: How To Create Winning Habits in Just 100 Days with Heath Armstrong Fri, 06 Oct 2017 03:57:19 +0000 how to create great habits

Heath Armstrong is a serial creative entrepreneur. He is the author of The Sweet Ass Journal to Develop Your Happiness Muscle in 100 Days. By adopting the habits of 100+ creative entrepreneurs, he was able to pay off $20,000 in debt, quit his job, sell all of his belongings, travel the world, and scale his e-commerce startup to over $600,000 in revenue in 2016.

In this stellar interview, we talk about Heath’s journey and what you can learn from his mistakes. We talk about the importance of meditation and gift-giving. We also talk about how to tackle large goals by choosing small daily “freedom actions.” Finally, we discuss how to develop lifelong success habits.

Heath met the turning point in his life when he woke up in his garage with a bloody nose, a bottle of whiskey in his hand, and his car running on his lawn. He didn’t know how he got there. In that moment, Heath made a decision that he was going to transition to a better life.

The first person Heath reached out to was Amber Ludwig-Vilhauer, founder of No Guts No Glory Enterprises. She introduced him to Paul Kemp and Hal Elrod. Hal helped Heath develop a morning routine.

Shortly after that, Heath started a podcast where he interviewed successful people. Over the course of conducting 100 interviews, he began to slowly reframe his habits.

Personal and Business Habits Are Connected

In order to be successful in business, you have to create a personal foundation first. You have to be able to control the voices in your head telling you what you can and can’t do. You have to be able to set goals and work towards them.

The key to success is to develop habits that lead to success. If you’re a writer, you want to write every single day. If you want to run an Amazon store, you have to work on that every single day and study the metrics that lead to success.

Heath hired a financial coach to help him develop good money habits. That expense—and the expert’s insights—helped him pay off his debts in short order.

In the process of developing those financial habits, Heath took a minimalist challenge and sold almost all of his possessions. Minimalism became an obsession for Heath. He sold his house and is location independent.

Heath met a mentor who taught him how to open a store on Amazon. Heath saw the potential there and created an automated business that supports his lifestyle.

Heath is planning a month of travels completely paid for by his automated Amazon store. None of it would’ve been possible without his focus on personal change and building a personal foundation.

The Importance of Having a Personal Foundation for Success

Heath tried several different things before focusing on his personal development and habits. Every business opportunity Heath jumped into before building a personal foundation of disipline didn’t work.

You have to be disciplined, methodical, and committed to doing what it takes to succeed if you want to achieve success. You have to know what success means to you.

You have to know what you’re aiming for, and you have to go after it every single day. That’s the only sure way to succeed.

Learn from Heath’s Mistakes

When Heath was younger, he started a WordPress website business with a friend from high school without putting too much thought into it.

Heath and his friend were able to secure a website contract with a Holiday Inn location. The Holiday Inn paid them $8,000 for the website, half of which was Heath’s.

He quit his 9-to-5 job after landing that first big contract and allowed his bank account to dwindle. Even though he knew he should try to find more clients, he spent his time going out and having fun. One day, he woke up to find the business bank account was empty.

After talking with the banks, Heath found out that his partner had withdrawn all of the funds through ATM withdrawals for personal use. He realized he made a mistake in opening the business with a friend without considering the trust levels.

Heath’s mistake was believing that his 9-to-5 job held him back from realizing his true potential.

how to use a day job to create your perfect career

“When you have a job, it is your platform that allows you to support yourself while you create something that helps you shine a little brighter.”

– Heath Armstrong

Everything you do and learn in life is connected to everything else. If you sit down and make a list of everything you’ve learned or experienced in your life, you will quickly see that everything you thought of as negative is connected to something positive.

Tom’s Timeline Exercise

Another way to do this is to create a timeline of your life. Write down all the important events you’ve experienced.

I have different timelines for different areas of my life. I have a timeline for:

  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Hobbies
  • Social life

When you do this exercise, it gives you perspective. You can look at the past and see how life is full of ups and downs.

So if you’re at a low point right now, you can see that things are bound to shift to an upward trajectory based on your own past experience.

Heath’s Favorite Habits

Great habits are essential to your success, no matter what part of your life you’re focusing on. Let’s look at some of the habits that Health swears by.

The Importance of Meditation as a Daily Practice

“If you want to find God, find the space in between your thoughts.”

– Heath Armstrong

If you want to be successful, you have to be able to control your mindset and that’s what meditation allows you to do.

Check out this article for ways to get started with mindfulness meditation today:

Heath’s Productivity Hack

There are two reasons people fail to meet their productivity goals: either they aren’t motivated to actually do what they say they want to do, or their overwhelmed by the sheer amount of action they have to take.

Heath began to find exponential success when he made a list of all the goals he wanted to achieve in the next 100 days. Then he resolved to do two things every day that led to achieving his goals.

This established the habit of productivity and created a success loop where he felt like a success every single day just for doing small tasks.

To create his system, Heath used 3 x 5 cards. On one side of each card he would write the end date for his 100-day vision every day. On the other side of the card he would write the two actions he wanted to accomplish before anything else on that day.

He knew that if he accomplished two actions every single day that actually moved him towards his 100-day vision, at the very least he would be moving towards the person he wanted to be.

The Importance of Affirmations and Celebrating Wins

Heath writes down everything good that he does, and every win that he achieved during the day before he goes to sleep.

Reminding yourself of what’s gone right and what you’ve accomplished is very important to maintaining a positive mental outlook and increasing your self-esteem.

“Focus on who you are and who you’re becoming instead of the results. When you focus on results, you’re focusing on things that may not happen on your timeline. When you focus on becoming a better person, you can see those results every day.”

– Tom Corson Knowles

Gift-Giving Gives You the Greatest Feeling of Bliss

Out of all the habits Heath has cultivated, the habit of giving gifts gives him the greatest feeling of bliss.

Cami Walker has a book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, in which she challenges the reader to give away one thing a day for 30 days.

It doesn’t have to be money. It doesn’t have to be for other people. It can be a gift to yourself. You can take a day off from checking your email or going on social media.

Some years ago, Heath was in the middle of his first gift-giving month when he sold his fridge on Craigslist to a father and son who drove from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Lexington, Kentucky, to get it. In the middle of helping them load the fridge into their car, Heath got a strange feeling that he should just give them their money back. So that’s what he did.

At first the men were confused and thought he was crazy. He found out after talking to them that they decided to buy the fridge for somebody in need. They had decided to give a gift before Heath entered the picture.

This is one example of how generosity and gift-giving can touch multiple people.

When Heath started giving things away, he noticed odd things happening. One of the first things he gave away was all his alcohol. His mother-in-law offered to bring over a keg shortly after he’d gotten rid of the last of his alcohol. Heath politely declined the offer.

Shortly thereafter, Heath decided to bring some old instruments over to a kids’ charity. The music teacher was happy with the guitar but her eyes lit up when she saw that Heath had brought a cello.

It turns out there was one little girl there who only wanted to play the cello. The charity had at least two of most instruments so that the children could take their chosen instrument home and practice. But the charity only had one cello, so the girl wasn’t able to take it home and practice. Thanks to Heath’s gift, she would be able to take a cello home to practice with. It’s those types of experiences that give Heath a real high.

Heath has also noticed that when he gives money to charity, he usually soon gets some sort of financial windfall.

Make a habit of giving gifts whenever you can, and log what you give them and what comes back to you. You should never give a gift expecting something in return, but if you keep a record, you may be surprised at what you get from the universe for being generous.

More doors will open to you…doors you didn’t even know were there.

Giving gifts makes you happier, more productive, and more motivated. You’ll get where you want to go faster the more you’re willing to give of yourself and your resources.

How To Use a Journal for Self-Improvement

Heath used to have multiple journals that he used to track different things. He was encouraged by others to merge his journals into a system that anyone could use. The tipping point for Heath was when his dog peed on all of his journals and he had to start fresh with a simple spiral notebook. That’s when he merged all the things he was tracking into one system.

There’s a few steps to using Heath’s journal system.

Step 1: Define Three 100-Day Visions for Your Life

Heath creates 100-day visions for his life because they are trackable.

He borrowed the 100-day timeframe from Honorée Corder and her 100-day massive action planner.

At the beginning of the journal, you set three visions. Heath likes to set one business vision, one personal vision, and one oddball vision, like a new skill you want to learn or hobby you want to take up.

Some people do all business visions. Some people do all personal visions. If you are in a place where you do not have business or a personal foundation, like Heath was when he started, he recommends you set three personal goals to start building your foundation. That’s what he did.

Step 2: Manage Your Daily Actions

After you define your goals for the next hundred days, the meat of the journal is a daily planner.

You start the day with gratitude. You end the day with reflection. So there’s a place in the journal to record things that make you smile every day.

Step 3: Develop Lifelong Habits One Day at a Time

There is a section in the journal for gratitude. The journal also has sections for habit-forming activities.

There is a section for daily idea generation, for example. Every day you pick a theme for your ideas and generate ideas based on your theme.

Because Heath is planning a trip to Uganda, his recent list of ideas was about things to do in Uganda.

From there, you decide on two freedom actions per day. These freedom actions are designed to move you closer to one of your three visions for the next hundred days.

After that, the journal gets into minimalism and gift-giving. Heath tries to get rid of one thing a day. It doesn’t have to be a physical item. It could be cleaning out your email or organizing your music collection.

It can also be a physical thing, because our things tend to own us more than we own them.

Step 4: Use the Nighttime Part of the Journal to Reflect on Your Day and Life

The nighttime part of the journal is all about reflection. Here is where you’ll write down:

  • Everything you accomplished that day. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth or getting out of bed. If it moves you forward in the pursuit of your goals, you should write it down.
  • Your wins for the day.
  • Your abundance list. This is a reminder to count your blessings.
  • Your freedom actions for the next day.

If you plan your freedom actions for tomorrow before you go to bed, you will sleep better and your subconscious will be working on how to get your freedom actions done efficiently while you sleep.

The whole point of the nighttime section of the journal is to set your mind up for the next day.

There’s a section within the nighttime part of the journal where you check in and grade yourself on how well you did on your important habits. You grade yourself by smiley faces so it’s not overly judgmental.

The whole point of the journal is to try and make yourself just 1% better every day. If you can do that, there’s no telling how much you can achieve.

The Journal Is Undated for a Reason

Heath doesn’t journal for 100 sequential days. He feels like putting dates on the journal would put some people into a straitjacket and make them feel bad on those days when they inevitably miss recording their day.

The system isn’t supposed to be a straitjacket. It’s supposed to help people facilitate their transformations.

Don’t get too caught up in doing things “right” or every single minute of every day. Do what works for you and what moves you towards your goals.

What’s right is what’s right for you, right now.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode – this is where you can find the Sweet Ass Journal – Heath’s website — sign up for Heath’s email list and get the audio version of the Sweet Ass Journal, as well as a checklist for creating your sacred space

The Sweet Ass Journal to Develop Your Happiness Muscle in 100 Days – this book has a ton of free resources designed to help you change your life

The Artsy Now Show: Creative Entrepreneurs – Artists – Musicians – Digital Nomads – Heath’s podcast. He interviews all kinds of creative people

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day – one of the many journals Heath models in his approach

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia and James Altucher


For more on how to build and maintain great habits, read on:



Heath Armstrong is a serial creative entrepreneur. He is the author of The Sweet Ass Journal to Develop Your Happiness Muscle in 100 Days. By adopting the habits of 100+ creative entrepreneurs, he was able to pay off $20,000 in debt, quit his job, Heath Armstrong is a serial creative entrepreneur. He is the author of The Sweet Ass Journal to Develop Your Happiness Muscle in 100 Days. By adopting the habits of 100+ creative entrepreneurs, he was able to pay off $20,000 in debt, quit his job, sell all of his belongings, travel the world, and scale his […] TCK Publishing clean 30:33
How to Use HARO to Get Free Publicity Thu, 05 Oct 2017 06:01:34 +0000 how to get free publicity with HARO

Publicity in the form of links to your website, your course, your product, or your book is key for building your reputation as an expert in your field and growing your audience.

But how do you get publicity and media mentions?

How to Get Free Publicity

You can write guest blogs and articles for influential publications in your field and for bigger sites like Huffington Post or Fast Company.

By doing so, you’ll be able to share your expertise with a valuable article that interests the host site’s readers and encourages them to check out your work in more detail.

But it can take a lot of time and energy to come up with topics and pitch them to relevant sites, and often you won’t start to see results for several months as the host sites work through their editorial calendars.

Writing guest blog posts is a great strategy to get publicity and increase your search engine rankings, but you can get PR a whole lot faster using HARO to connect directly with journalists, bloggers, and reporters who are looking to publish a story within a week or less.

How to Use HARO

You can get more targeted, faster publicity mentions by using a wonderful tool called HARO.

how to connect with reporters online

What Is HARO?

HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. It’s a free online service meant to connect journalists with experts who can help them support the stories they’re working on.

The concept is pretty simple: you sign up as a source, then receive 3 sets of emails each day with queries from reporters working on stories. If one of the stories matches up with your area of expertise, you send in a pitch responding to the query.

If the reporter chooses to use your pitch, they’ll either add it to their story straight from what you sent or follow up with you to get more information or an interview.

How Do I Use HARO?

Getting started on HARO is fast and easy!

Just go to and sign up as a source. You simply have to provide a little basic contact information.

Then you’ll select the topics that best match your interest and expertise. You can receive emails targeted to health and wellness, education, lifestyle, business and finance, and more.

Every day, you’ll get emails in the morning, early afternoon, and evening featuring queries from reporters.

Some recent topics include:

  • A millennial’s guide to your first retirement account (to be published on
  • Animals with super senses (National Geographic Kids)
  • Foods that relieve stress (Long Island Pulse Magazine)
  • Medicinal properties of beer (
  • Lawyers over 60 (Capterra)
  • Best marketing tactics you’ve used (

As you can see, there’s a lot of different topics covered for a huge range of media outlets!

If you go through all three HARO emails every day, you could easily send out 3-5 pitches a day on a topic directly relating to your book or area of expertise. That’s an awful lot of chances to get your name mentioned in some fairly major publications.

Why Should I Use HARO?

If you want to build a sustainable career based around your area of expertise, you need to make sure that people know you’re an expert.

That means getting the word out that you’re knowledgeable on a topic and gaining industry recognition for your skills and insights.

You can’t do this with just a single book and a few blog posts on your own site. You need other people to quote you as an authority in a wide range of publications.

Being quoted or linked in a variety of publications also means that a broad range of people will see your name and a link to your website or Amazon book page. Each of those people could potentially be intrigued by what you shared in the article, click on the link, and become a new fan—and customer!

HARO is a free, simple way to expand your presence online and become widely considered an expert in your field.

As you send out pitches, you can develop relationships with writers who need a solid list of experts to call on for future articles. Eventually, you may not even have to send as many pitches—writers will come to you because they know you’re an authority they can trust!

Sending out just 3-5 pitches every day can exponentially boost your online profile and help you get more recognition for your books, courses, and other products and services. All it takes is a little bit of time and an understanding of what journalists want to see in a pitch.

Let’s look at exactly that—how to craft a winning HARO pitch.

checklist and tips for getting media mentions

Tips for Getting More Media Mentions

You can maximize your chances of getting a great media mention from a HARO pitch by providing the reporter with exactly what they need for their article.

Here’s how!

1. Read the Query Carefully

Every article has different requirements, and so every query on HARO is different.

Be sure to read the query carefully to ensure that you know what the reporter is looking for—and that you can offer exactly that!

There’s a space in the query to describe the kind of expert source the reporter is looking for; be sure to read this and stick to the guidelines.

For example, although you might have grown up surrounded by cats and dogs, you won’t be able to successfully pitch a reporter who’s looking specifically for an experienced, licensed veterinarian.

In fact, that reporter might get annoyed that you’ve cluttered up his or her inbox by not reading their requirements. And that’s particularly bad because most freelance writers work on a variety of topics, for a variety of publications. You never know if the reporter you annoyed today might be working on an article that you’d be a perfect fit for tomorrow….!

2. Offer Specific, Actionable Insights

When responding to a query, keep the reporter’s preferences and requirements in mind, but try to always offer specific, actionable insights based on the query.

Some queries ask for a certain wordcount in pitches (usually 500 words or less), while others ask you to submit a bullet-point list of ideas or responses.

Always tailor your response to the request and then offer the most valuable, specific insights you can.

This isn’t the time to be vague!

Reporters are very busy people and have strict deadlines to meet. If they have to email you back to get more details about your pitch, you’ll probably never hear from them again.

In contrast, if you give them all the information they need up front, you’re likely to have your pitch used in an article.

Bad Pitch

“Hi! I read your HARO query about the challenges single mothers face in the workforce and wanted to reach out. I’m a single mom as well as a professional paralegal and I’d be happy to answer any of your questions.”

Good Pitch

“Hi! I read your HARO query about the challenges single mothers face in the workforce and wanted to reach out. I’m a single mom as well as a professional paralegal, and I wrote the bestselling book How to Juggle Better: A Guide for Working Moms of Toddlers.

The top three challenges single moms face are:

  • Balancing work responsibilities, home life and chores, and having time for themselves
  • Dealing with unexpected changes (a sick kid, an absent babysitter, a sudden deadline at work)
  • Not having enough support (both at work and at home)

Two of these three challenges can be dealt with through really thorough planning—you can use calendar hacks and other tricks to build personal time into your schedule and to develop a cushion to deal with the unexpected. Not having support is a bigger challenge that requires developing a strong community that you can call on when you need them.

I’d be happy to discuss these challenges with you in more detail! Looking forward to reading the article.”

3. Be Detailed—But Not Too Wordy

Freelance writers and reporters often have strict word counts they have to meet for their articles. Most blogs, magazines, and newspapers pay by the word, and print publications only have so much space available. That means that they’re paying close attention to how much is being written.

And that means that reporters aren’t likely to use your 3,000-word magnum opus on the topic of tropical fish care.

Save that for a guest blog post!

When you’re doing HARO pitches, remember that efficient is effective. If you can sum up your response to the reporter’s query in 500 words or less—preferably 350 or less—you’re much more likely to get a media mention.

That’s because pitches of about 350-500 words that include solid, actionable information can be copy-pasted straight into the reporter’s final piece. You’re saving them a lot of time and energy on interviews, distilling your thoughts, and so on.

4. Be Quotable

Reporters are always looking for a great soundbite that can be used as a pull quote—a phrase that can be “pulled out” from the main body of the article and highlighted in larger type.

By providing great quotes, you’re upping your chances of getting that “star” placement in the article—and therefore, upping your chances of having people pay attention to what you’re saying and remember your name!

Always try to include one great “soundbite” quote in every pitch…something that’s pithy, easy to remember, and strikes at the heart of the topic you’re discussing.

Perfect pull quotes include:

  • “Picking what’s next doesn’t necessarily mean picking what you’ll work on forever.” —Nick Loper
  • If you write what a producer is looking for, it’s a much easier battle than writing the script you want and trying to find a producer.” –Ashley Scott Meyer
  • In order to be successful, you need a consistent commitment to doing the things necessary in order to succeed. Doing something you’re passionate about will make that commitment effortless.” –Farnoosh Brock
  • While social media is certainly valuable, you need to think less about the technology and more about the psychology.” –Jonah Berger

See how these soundbites entice you to want to read more, to get deeper into the article that might have produced them? They encapsulate a point and do it in a way that pulls you in and makes you want to know more.

Include one or two of these in every pitch and you’ll soon see your media mentions—and online traction!—start to soar.

5. Give a Variety of Links—But Not Too Many

When putting together your pitch, be sure to link to valuable resources or articles that help make your point—particularly resources on your own website.

Offer a brief explanation of a key topic, then include a link to an in-depth article you’ve written that explains it in more detail, or to your book on the subject.

But be sure not to make your pitch all links, all the time! It should be independent, valuable, original content, not just a mass of links.

A good rule of thumb is that you can include 1-2 links per 350 words in your pitch, no more. And those links have to be very relevant—it’s better to have only one link (to your website or book, included in your bio) rather than links that don’t add value to the pitch.

6. Explain Your Credentials

Always explain what makes you qualified to answer the reporter’s question. Give them some idea of your background—Do you have a degree in the field? Have you been working in the industry for some time?—and explain how you’re uniquely suited to provide insight on the topic.

For instance, if you’re responding to a pitch about animals with super-senses, you can mention that you’ve been a veterinarian for 15 years and have treated a number of bloodhounds. You can also link to your website and your book about how to work with hunting dogs to further establish your expertise.

It’s a good idea to create a Google Doc or a page on your website that includes a brief bio and a headshot for the reporter to use. HARO doesn’t support sending image attachments, so linking to a page with your media kit is the best way to go.

Sample HARO Response Pitch

So now that we’ve looked at ways to catch a reporter’s eye and get more media mentions through HARO pitches, let’s check out a great response pitch!

Here’s the query:

Name: Joe Reporter

Category: General
Media Outlet: Best Life
Deadline: 1:00 PM EST – 21 September

Query:  I need to talk to some folks who can help our readers be better
conversationalists. Etiquette experts would be great!

Requirements: Etiquette experts Personal branders Life/social coaches

And here’s a great response:

Hi, Joe!

I saw your query on HARO looking for experts to help your readers become better conversationalists and wanted to reach out. I’m a social coach and manners expert who’s been helping clients be their best selves for more than 12 years; I specialize in helping people improve their communication skills and stay polite and sane in our crazy modern world. In fact, I’ve even written a book about it, How To Survive Dinner Party Conversation.

It can seem like the art of conversation is dying out, especially in an age of tweets and texts and 140-character snippets. Our attention spans are getting smaller and we’re all more interested in our phones than the people we’re with. But face-to-face (or on-the-phone) conversation is still important for both work and life. After all, would you want to hire someone who can’t get out three coherent words in a row? Would you go on a date with someone who couldn’t keep up a conversation?

Probably not.

Here’s three easy ways your readers can improve their conversation skills today:

  • Make gentle, but direct eye contact: Don’t stare unnervingly at someone, but look casually at their face instead of at your phone or over their shoulder.
  • Repeat back what someone says, then ask them an open-ended (not yes/no) question: “Oh, so you went to Ibiza on holiday? What was your favorite thing you did there?”
  • Don’t talk about the weather. This is almost universally a sign of conversational desperation. If you’re really that strapped for a topic, it’s probably time to close the conversation and move on. For tips on politely closing a conversation that’s stalled out, check out this article: [link]

I’d be delighted to talk with you more about making great conversation. You can reach me at You can see my bio and a headshot at [link] and get some conversation topics on my website at [link].

Looking forward to the article!

Jane Manners


All that was less than 250 words, excluding the author’s bio—and just 325 words with it. There’s tips, tricks, and a few quotable snippets that make it easy for the reporter to not only say “yes” to this pitch, but also to want to reach out for more in-depth information and probably feature Jane within the article, along with linking to her book and website.

Want to apply this winning formula to your own pitches? Just fill out this Mad Libs-style template!

HARO Response Template

Hi, [reporter’s name],

I saw your query on HARO looking for experts on [query topic]. I’m a [your profession or area of expertise]; I specialize in [what you do that specifically relates to this query]. In fact, I’ve even written a book about it, [title of your book with link to Amazon page].

[paragraph introducing your insights and including a few potential pull quotes]

Here’s three easy ways to [the topic of the query and your response]:

  • Thing 1
  • Thing 2
  • Thing 3

I’d be delighted to talk with you more about [topic of the query]. You can reach me at . You can see my bio and a headshot at [link] and get some more insight into [topic] on my website at [link].

Looking forward to the article!

[your name]


Getting strategic media mentions and links isn’t hard when you write targeted pitches responding to the huge volume of requests that come through the HARO service each and every day.

Spend just an hour a day sending out pitches and you’ll see results before you know it!

For more ways to boost your online profile, read on:


5 Writing Resources Every Pro Writer Should Have At Their Fingertips Wed, 04 Oct 2017 06:42:48 +0000 5 key resources for pro writers

It’s the 21st century. We know that modern tools for us writers go far beyond mere pen and paper.

In order to stay at the top of your game, land more writing gigs, and be as productive and creative as possible, you must take advantage of a handful of indispensable resources that should remain mainstays in your writer’s toolkit. If you’re serious about the craft, invest in these resources today!

1. Grammar and Style Guides

The best way to make sure you land repeat business as a freelance writer is to make life easy on your editor. When editors see your polished copy, you’ll make their day and save them time. In turn, they’ll favor you over other writers when it comes to freelance contracts or publishing opportunities.

Granted, it can take a lifetime to master all the fine details of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and style. And fine details may change with the release of each new edition of industry style standards.

That’s when keeping a current grammar and style guide handy comes into play. They’re an invaluable resource to flip through when you’re wondering how to capitalize a certain word or when to use an em-dash or an en-dash or the serial comma. Grammar and style guides are major business investments, and they pay off in helping you turn in the exact style your editor wants, every time.

While every magazine, website, and publishing house will have its own internal house style, they will also adhere to certain industry standards.

If you want to be a freelance writer, pick up the latest copy of the Associated Press Stylebook and its dictionary of choice, the Webster’s New World College Dictionary. The online, searchable guide might serve you better, depending on your needs. Regardless, the AP Stylebook will guide you through common issues, like when to spell out numbers and how to write out dates.

But there’s more to good writing than just perfecting the technical stuff. Fine-tune your approach to words, sentence structure and story outlines by reading classic books on the subject. The Elements of Style (by Strunk and White) is a perennial favorite among writers.

If you’re writing for a specific audience, like medical writing or academic work, you may also want to pick up a copy of the guidebook for that particular field, like the APA Style Guide or the latest Chicago Manual of Style. Every field has its own preferences, so having the guide for that subject handy can save you a lot of time, and save your editor a lot of headaches!

best word processing software for writers

2. Cutting-Edge Word Processing Software

Writers often romanticize the idea of writing the next great novel in a worn leather notebook like great authors of the past. And while carrying a pen and paper with you is a great way to jot down quick ideas as they come to you, it’s not conducive to efficient, productive writing.

That’s where word processing software comes into play. Some writers use Microsoft Word or other basic apps, but smart and savvy writers turn to software that’s specifically built to help them write compelling fiction or irresistible nonfiction.

When looking for good software, watch for features that are specifically helpful for writers. Look for built-in tools that help you build editorial outlines, find and replace edits, collaborate with an editor through live documents, and other features to speed up the writing process.

Take Mellel for example. One of the features we are most proud of is our outline feature. It allows you to easily lay out every heading or chapter, view and edit your work, and navigate the document quickly. You can reorganize entire sections with a click of your mouse. Using a special Outline pane, you can create every element of your document—whether it’s a heading, subheading, or caption—by typing it directly into one area.

Meanwhile, formatting, such as playing down or promoting specific elements in your document, can also be done in seconds. That means you can spend less time editing and more time doing what you love: writing.

Once you see how efficient you can be with an author-tailored program or app, you’ll never go back to standard word processors. And if you’re using a Mac, you can get a discount on Mellel just for reading this blog!

3. Writing Groups

Toss out the clichéd stereotype that all writers are introverts and do their best work hidden away in a dark, damp room. Writing groups can be one of the most successful ways to elevate your writing prowess!

Through a group, you’ll meet like-minded authors, build connections that will be useful in getting your work published, and get healthy feedback and critique from other writers. It’s also a great place to bounce ideas off others.

The internet’s a good resource for finding these—there are dozens of Facebook groups, online forums, and other meeting places for writers to talk about their craft. You can also find writing groups in your community through local author clubs or on online platforms like Meetup.

4. Creativity Boosters

Never settle for the ideas you’ve created within the vacuum of your own inspiration. Go outside yourself to find ideas and new approaches to storytelling and communication. Even if you’re a nonfiction author, going outside yourself can help you to find new metaphors and new ways of telling the facts.

Many famous authors use the world and media around them to spark their imagination. Author Colson Whitehead goes to the movie theater for inspiration. Khaled Hosseini watches the news. Emma Donoghue reads other authors’ writings. Madeline Miller reads ancient literature. And Donna Tartt says she likes to visit yard sales and imagine the stories behind different objects that she sees.

Look around you and find sources of inspiration, whether it’s in a book or in a conversation that you overhear in a coffee shop.

Once you have an idea, write it out without any distractions. This point is key for successful productivity. In fact, the American Psychological Association warns that multitasking zaps your creativity and mental clarity. While it might feel like you’re getting more done, it actually slows you down!

So go ahead and turn off your phone. Log out of social media. Shut off the television. And consider installing a browser plugin, such as StayFocusd on Google Chrome. These plugins will block you from accessing other websites, such as Instagram or Facebook, for a period of time that you set. This helps you stay focused on your big ideas.

5. Proofreading Tools

Congratulations, you’ve finished your first draft. Now it’s time to grab a cup of coffee and polish your prose. And please, make sure you do!

Like every other editor in the world, I’ll tell you that one of the fastest ways to get on an editor’s blacklist is by turning in copy riddled with easy-to-fix mistakes. Protect your reputation and build credibility with your editor by using proofreading tools that help you catch common problems.

Look for spelling inconsistencies, especially if you’re writing creative fiction. For example, is the protagonist’s name Cathy or Kathy? Check it. Fix it!.

Mellel is really good at this as well. You can use Mellel’s Find Sets to execute hundreds of your most common search tasks in just one action. Save your searches, group them, and run them all at once with a click of your mouse, perfecting your document in seconds.

By automating the process, you can eliminate a lot of time and frustration, as well as human error. Want to see the tool in action? Check out Videos 4 and 5 of the Find and Replace series:

Also, try to pinpoint repetitive words. Use a thesaurus, find synonyms, and try to introduce some word variety. Spot complex sentences, then break them down into more straightforward, easy-to-read copy.

You can do this manually by printing out your writing. Many authors find it easier to spot problems when reading a physical copy of their work.

Or, enhance your productivity with online tools and apps, such as PerfectIt and Grammarly, which can help you proofread quickly.

Great Resources Empower Great Writing

When you add these writing tools to your creative toolkit, these resources will free your inner voice, connect you to the great story that’s waiting within you, and help you get those creative juices flowing.


About the Author

Mellel software CEO Amber MasseyAmber Massey is a wordsmith and communications enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in the field. Editing is her passion; new media is her medium. She is currently the CEO of Mellel, a powerful app redefining word processing for Mac.



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How to Write Popular Nonfiction: Making the Shift from Academic to Popular Writing Mon, 02 Oct 2017 05:28:55 +0000 how to write popular nonfiction

Are you an academic interested in writing a popular book for a general audience?

Here’s what you have to know: just because you’ve published academic papers or books doesn’t mean you will find it easy to write a popular book.

Indeed, the opposite is true: you will have to acclimate to an entirely different world.

What Does Academic Writing Involve?

The path to success in academia is direct: write focused academic articles on narrow and often highly technical topics; structure them carefully, as required by targeted academic journals; and be objective, dispassionate, and scientific. Success means getting the article through the peer review process, generating citations in other academic papers, and, hopefully, contributing to knowledge in a meaningful way.

All of the above is necessary to survive in the “publish or perish” academic world. However, it doesn’t do a particularly good job in training academics as popular writers. Sadly, few people read the typical academic article. That’s because they’re frequently dense, full of jargon, and aimed at a specialist audience. Even academics rarely have time to read many of the papers published in their own area of study—there’s just too much work being produced to keep up.

how to target a nonfiction book audience

Popular Writing on an Expert Topic

This is where popular books come in; they make complicated topics more accessible and entertaining, encouraging people to read rather than skim and opening up a whole new world of learning to many more people than an academic article would.

As an avid reader of popular books on scholarly topics, I’m probably in your target audience. So let me share my thoughts on what you can do to allow me to relish reading your book someday.

1. Provide a Foundation

As you plan to write, keep in mind that many of your readers won’t know the first thing about your field of study. The reason they have picked up your book is because they are curious about your topic, but that curiosity will quickly dissipate if they don’t understand what you are talking about.

To you, the foundations of your field may be boringly obvious, but many of your readers will find them bewildering. A popular book is not a textbook, which students study and sweat over until they’ve figured it out. Your readers are reading your book for enjoyment, so make it an enjoyable read!

2. Base Your Argument on Evidence, Not Authority

Your academic achievements are deserving of respect and will be an important reason why your book attracts readers—you’re an expert, and they want to learn from the best.

However, don’t expect to convince anyone through appeal to authority. From the ideological underpinnings of your field of study to any evidence you cite, you will have to make your case to readers who may not know much about your field.

Make sure to have an open mind and explore alternative views. Be reasonable in your treatment of these views, even if you ultimately reject them. We all have bias blind spots, and while we have difficulty recognizing them in ourselves, others will recognize them quickly. Indeed, an interesting academic paper provides evidence that those with higher cognitive ability have larger bias blind spots. Be self-aware!

3. Let Your Personality Show

Don’t hesitate to reveal your true personality in ways you wouldn’t imagine doing in an academic setting. Personal history, opinion, and emotion allow the reader to know who you really are.

Some authors express anger, humor, cynicism, and passion. Others write journalistically. Let your writing capture your true voice authentically.

Try to avoid writing that is too meticulous. Evidence shows that people prefer robots that are programmed to make mistakes and show human-like emotions. Make sure to avoid sounding like a robot, and entertain the reader!

4. Be Accessible

As you write, imagine your reader is one of your students and not an academic colleague. Spend time making sure your language is understandable, and avoid “ten-dollar words” if at all possible (e.g., hermeneutics, dialectic, plutocratic, decontextualize, benighted, etc.…).

Be careful how you structure your sentences, too. Shorter is better than longer. Focus on readability rather than grammatical perfection.

Keep your paragraphs on the shorter side, as well. Long, complicated paragraphs can encourage your reader to tune out; keep things snappy and they’ll be more engaged…and will be more likely to understand and remember your arguments, too.

5. Learn, Practice, and Grow

Finally, keep in mind that while you know more than most about academic writing, you are new to the world of popular writing—study its techniques, learn about success stories, and investigate what works and what doesn’t.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens’s recent article provides a number of useful tips. While he directs his comments to aspiring op-ed writers, Stephens’s article is useful reading for academics interested in writing to a broad audience.

Writing a popular book can be an exhilarating adventure for those accustomed to academic writing. I hope the above provides some food for thought—and I look forward to reading your book someday!

About the Author

derivatives expert Aron GottesmanAron Gottesman is Professor of Finance and Chair of the Department of Finance and Economics at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University. He has published more than 30 academic articles and books. His most recent books are Understanding Systemic Risk in Global Financial Markets coauthored with Michael Leibrock (Wiley Finance, 2017) and Derivatives Essentials: An Introduction to Forwards, Futures, Options and Swaps (Wiley Finance, 2016).


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