All posts by dean

Why is My Book Taking So Long?

This Book is Taking Too Long to Write!

It has been said that there is a book (or many book) inside of everyone. That is a fact. Everyone has unique experiences, knowledge, skills, and interesting facts that they could enhance the lives of others by sharing. However, getting that into a book is often harder that it seems, and definitely harder than it should be:




Among the hardest part of writing your book is understanding your target audience. What do your readers really need? What do they really want? Getting into their mind is an exercise worth doing.

There are great places one can look to discover what the problems or needs of any group of people is.  If you are thinking about writing a book, one of the best places to start is Amazon.

Discovering Needs on

How do you know if anyone wants a book on your topic? Simple, see if some are selling well on Amazon. The Amazon Best Seller Rank tells you where a book stands in relationship to the other 10 million or so books on Amazon.  An Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 is the best. As it gets out to 800,000 or so, the book is only selling a few copies a year.

Using this graph from the Kindlepreneur (


The Best Seller Rank shows how popular a topic is by showing you roughly how many daily sales a book gets. So you want books on your topic to have a Best Seller Rank of 50,000 or less.

Getting Needs From Other Places

Other places to look are on blog and news sites. What seems to be mentioned often today? Why is it a problem? How long ago did you hear about these problems?

Use a Google search to find the questions that are being posted on popular blogs and news sites.

Use Forums to search for the questions that come up again and again.

Check tutorial sites to see what classes exist.

Know the Needs, Then Write The Book

Now that you know what people need, start organizing what you want to teach them. Research the answers, and be able to explain what the problems are, why they are a problem, and why your solution will solve the problem.

Give Them The Best Solution in The Best Way

Don’t just state a solution, present the solution. Break it down and present it in a way that anyone can implement the solution. Be direct. Tell them exactly what they need to do and what the results will be.

How many books have you read where the answers were ambiguous, and the solution impossible to implement. If you want to help a lot of people, then you need to present the solution in a step-by-step manner that anyone can follow.

When I have a book that uses a  step-by-step methodology, I usually keep the book around for a reference, to make sure that I haven’t missed anything. I can usually make a checklist to follow.

Step By Step

Make your books useful and impactful. The point of your book is the solution, it is how to solve the vexing problems of your readers. The best way to do this is in an easy to follow format.

Want to know how to make that exciting and educational at the same time? Want to know how to write it fast and to the point. I explain it step by step in the How to Write a Step by Step book.

step-by-step-book-4You will understand your readers better, learn how to answer their questions, and put that into a book faster and in a way that has more impact than anything you have written before.

Go ahead. Make your book writing easier and faster with Write a Step-by-Step Book.

Its all up to you. You can make writing faster, easier, and really more enjoyable.

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Amazon Changes–Pages Read

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Here We Go Again, Amazon Change

Kindle Unlimited Pages Read

Just about the time that you think that you have things figured out, they change right before your eyes. The month of July has seen a big change for authors of Kindle books. The Kindle Unlimited program is paying by the page read now. Here are the details of the program as Amazon reports it. (Taken from:


Kindle Unlimited Pages Read

Beginning July 1, 2015, we switched from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read. We made this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.Royalty payments under the new program

As with our current approach, we’ll continue to set a KDP Select Global Fund each month. Under the new payment method, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read instead of their share of total qualified borrows.

Here are some examples of how it would work if the fund was $10M and 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:

  • The author of a 100 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
  • The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
  • The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed 100 times but only read halfway through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

We will similarly change the way we pay KDP Select All-Star bonuses which will be awarded to authors and titles based on total KU and KOLL pages read.

You can enroll in KDP Select at any time by visiting your Bookshelf. If you no longer want your book(s) to be included in KDP Select you may unenroll from the program by contacting us with the ASIN of the book you would like to remove.

Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC v1.0)

To determine a book’s page count in a way that works across genres and devices, we’ve developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.

This standardized approach allows us to identify pages in a way that works across genres and devices. Non-text elements within books including images, charts and graphs will count toward a book’s KENPC.

You can see your book’s KENPC listed on the “Promote and Advertise” page in your Bookshelf, and you can also see total pages read on your Sales Dashboard report. Because it’s based on default settings, KENPC may vary from page counts listed on your Amazon detail page, which are derived from other sources.


You can view your Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) Pages Read in your Sales Dashboard report by marketplace and title.

We always support our authors’ efforts to promote their books all over the world, but at the same time we work to prevent any manipulation of the Kindle platform. Because we’re always looking to improve our authors’ experience, we’ll have systems in place to monitor for potential manipulation.

What I like about the changes
The changes reflect that users have to remain interested in the book and the topic long enough to finish. I have always felt that I deliver enough value that readers stay on to the end of the book. However, I have picked up books that have lost my interest within the first 20 pages. Those books get less of the divided up profits.
What I don’t like about the changes

The pages read are lumped together in one statistic. I can’t see which books are being borrowed the most, and which subjects I should write more about due to the lending.

What to do about it

I think the most important thing to do about the changes is to write more books that are more compelling. I think that the aim of the program is to reward authors that have more than just an attractive cover and good keywords in the title, they are rewarding authors that grab a readers attention and don’t let it go until they get to the end of the book.

What do you think about the changes? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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How to Sell eBooks

I ran into a popular article on EHow by Robert Egar. Robert had 5 surefire tips that would help Indie Authors sell their eBooks. I really liked his tips and have re-printed a portion of his article below.

You can read the entire article here:


(image courtesy of

The ability to sell ebooks as an independent author is easier than ever before. In some ways, a cult-like following has developed for self-published ebooks among cost-conscious readers and techno-geeks. Many people feel cool downloading books at cheap prices and helping drive the e-reading revolution. If you want to join the fray and sell ebooks to a wider audience, use these five tips to market like a pro.

Sell Ebooks Tip #1 – Give it away for free

One of the best ways to assess if you can make it as a new author is by giving away your ebook for free for a limited time, such as 30 or 90 days. Free is the quickest way to generate word of mouth, which is essential to success. If you’re writing isn’t good enough to get friends and family to share your book with others, you probably won’t get the general public to follow suit. By giving away your ebook for free, you can generate enough short-term momentum to carry you through to the real sales process.

E-book innovator, Seth Godin, encourages aspiring authors to give away their first book for free. “You should give your book away for free and send it to your twenty closest friends,” he says. “And, if that’s the end of it, then you’re not a good writer. On the other hand, if those twenty people send it to twenty more people, then you have four hundred readers, and then eight thousand readers, and so on. If you can get up to twenty thousand readers of your first book for free, there will be a line out the door of people wanting to help you with your next book.”

Using a free approach with your ebook allows you to test your material with readers without losing your shirt financially if you fail. The opportunity to build a new audience has never been this quick and easy.

Sell Ebooks Tip #2 – The price is right

A large percentage of people who read e-books are extremely price sensitive. Amazon started this process by setting prices for most e-books at $9.99. A continual battle rages throughout the publishing industry on the right price structure. But, Amazon created a trend in the minds of many readers. Thus, many independent authors picked up on this trend and now use low pricing as a way to get readers to take a chance on their new book.

For example, Darcie Chan, ebook author of The New York Times best-selling novel, The Mill River Recluse, used low prices to gain her initial audience. “The goal of my ‘e-book experiment’ has never been to make money,” she says. “I only wanted to get my work out there over time and gauge people’s responses to it. For that reason, I lowered the price to $0.99. I think it is true that readers are more willing to take a chance on a completely unknown author at that price point, and I definitely wanted to encourage people to take a chance on me.”

Not only did people take a chance on Darcie’s novel, they gave rave reviews and spread an electronic wildfire. Within four months, she was selling several thousand copies a day. You could argue that Darcie didn’t make much money from this low-price strategy, but with an established fan base, she’s now in a position to get a big advance from a major publisher or sell her next book at a much higher price.

Sell Ebooks Tip #3 – Partner with e-book blogs

E-book junkies are a tight-knit tribe who possess a powerful communication network. Everyone knows where to go for information, and they check-in regularly. There are numerous blogs, websites, newsletters, and social media pages that specifically review and promote e-books. The influence of these reviewers affects a lot of ebook buyers. Below is a list of several well-known blogs and websites with large traffic:

Ereader News Today:
Kindle Nation:
Pixel of Ink:
Inspired Reads:
Kindle Reader:

Getting your e-book mentioned on these websites can help generate a lot of downloads. You can write to the administrators of these e-book blogs and request a feature of your book. Some sites give free listings while others will feature your book for a fee. For instance, Kindle Nation offers author sponsorship opportunities to promote your book for $99 to $400. In addition, you can arrange for web-based ads to run on ebook-related sites, such as GoodReads and IndieReader.

Sell Ebooks Tip #4 – Pursue paid book reviews

Besides book mentions and paid advertising, independent authors can pursue literary reviews of their work for a fee. These review sites can help provide a level of legitimacy to an unknown author. Consider the following organizations if you’d like to pursue a paid review:

Kirkus Reviews: Review fees cost from $425 to $575.
BookRooster: Review fees start at $67.

Sell Ebooks Tip #5 – Subsidize your writing costs with a sponsor

Taking the time to write a book can work against your ability to make a living. If that is the case, consider getting a sponsor for your ebook. This process is similar to getting an advance from a traditional publisher, because someone pays you up front to create your book. In return, you agree to give the sponsor some free advertising space or perform promotional activities on their behalf. Popular services in this arena include Kickstarter and PubSlush.

For example, e-book author, Al Pittampalli, landed Citrix Systems as a sponsor for his new ebook called, Read This Before Our Next Meeting. Citrix invented the popular GoToMeeting videoconferencing service (, which is used by companies around the world. As a sponsor of Al’s book, Citrix got exposure to thousands of potential new customers. Likewise Al got funding through Citrix, legitimacy from their brand, and exposure to a much wider audience.

The key to landing a sponsor is to identify people, companies, or nonprofit organizations that want to reach the same audience you want to reach with your book. In essence, you offer yourself as a spokesperson or product placement opportunity for that organization. The company receives the benefit of marketing their product or service in a non-threatening manner to potential customers or donors. Sponsorship will work only if the company believes your book’s audience fits their target market and that you have the ability to sell a lot of books.

There has never been a more interesting time to be an independent author. The opportunities to publish and sell ebooks are unprecedented. However, the fundamentals remain the same. You must write a great book that provides tangible value to the reader. Ebooks allow you to accomplish this task faster than ever before. Start small, use a low-cost pricing approach to gain new readers, connect with the ebook community to grow your platform, find a sponsor if needed, and watch as the world downloads your message like wildfire.

Richards tips are great. I find some of them quite expensive, however. I have done pretty well with a couple of low to no-cost options of my own.

Tip # 1, Get Great Exposure for the Best Price

I use a Gig on Fiver that helps me get a lot of downloads on my free days, and it only costs $5. A whole lot less than ones mentioned above. The Gig is:

Tip # 2, Join Social Media Groups that will share or tweet your free day for FREE!

Here are some Free groups that you can join on FaceBook. Some groups on Facebook also do twitter.


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Remembering Mothers

A Mother’s Touch


There is no comfort like a mother’s touch,

It calms all anxious fears and such.

It heals hurt feeling of the day,

And makes the “owies” go away.


There is no soothing like a mother’s lips,

Sweetest songs dance from their tips.

And they can press upon a forehead dear,

A kiss of comfort, love, and cheer.


There is no pillow like a mother’s breast,

Where her child’s sleepy head can rest.

Where neatly gathered on her lap,

Her little child can safely nap.


There is no shelter like a mother’s love,

To shield her child from the storms above.

To protect her child from the cold outside,

To teach compassion, care, and pride.


There is no miracle in God’s great earth,

That compares to the one that does give birth,

And guides her child through great and small,

When God made mothers, he out did them all.

Excerpt from:

Life’s Poetry



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Interesting to Fascinating, Can You Make The Leap?

Interesting things buzz by my desk everyday. They usually get the two second nod, then I move on. But when fascinating things come along, I’m hooked. I have to stop and read more than the headline. That power to fascinate is the “elixir” I have been seeking most of my writing career.

My interest was piqued to begin with, but I have to admit, I became fascinated. This was a great interview with Sally Hogshead. I hope you enjoy it too.



You can read or listen to the original here:

Transcript of interview:

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

Sally Hogshead on How You Can Unlock Your Natural Ability to Fascinate

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m Jerod Morris, your Maverick Leader on today’s episode.

Demian Farnworth, this show’s Secret Weapon, my usual co-host, will not be joining us for this episode, and that is because we have a special guest on today’s episode who, I promise you, is going to be a Catalyst for one of the most energizing and empowering episodes of The Lede ever.

And that special guest is Sally Hogshead. She is the out-of-the-box thinker who applies her experience and her decades of research to help you become more of yourself, to celebrate and embrace your differences, to become more fascinating — basically to become your best and most valuable self, both to you and to others.

Sally is the bestselling author of How The World Sees You, and she developed the Fascination Advantage, which you will learn all about.

And you will actually get the opportunity to take the Fascination Advantage Assessment. It normally costs $37, but at the end of this episode, I will reveal how you can take it for free. And trust me, you’re going to want to take it. I took it, and you’re about to hear how much of an impact it’s made on me already.

Now before I share with you my conversation with Sally, I do want to remind you that she is going to be one of the keynote speakers, along with Dan Pink, Chris Brogan, and Henry Rollins at Authority Rainmaker.

Authority Rainmaker is our annual live event that combines inspiring ideas, practical strategy, and valuable networking opportunities into one fascinating two-day event.

You’re going to walk away from the experience ready and armed to take your content marketing to the next level. Plus, it’s in beautiful Denver, Colorado and held at the immaculate Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

And it’s a Copyblogger event, so you know there are going to be great parties, because that’s how we roll. Tickets are still available for now, but you really don’t want to hesitate.

Go to and get yourself signed up. I’m going to be there, and I want to meet you, so let’s make this happen.

And you know who else I want to meet and can’t wait to meet at Authority Rainmaker?

Sally Hogshead.

And you’re going to feel the same way after you listen to this conversation. I think what’s great about the conversation is that it’s not just going to provide you with valuable insights that you can use for your business or for your content marketing, it’s also wisdom you can use personally, even at home.

So it’s a really interesting conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Without further ado, here it is: My conversation with Sally Hogshead.

All right, Sally. Welcome to The Lede. It is an absolute pleasure to have you on here. Thank you so much for taking the time today.

Sally Hogshead: Hi! I’m excited to be able to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jerod: Absolutely. It’s going to be fun. Since we scheduled this interview, I’ve had the chance to read your book and take the Fascination Advantage, and I’ve just been so looking forward to this opportunity to talk with you, because you have such remarkable ideas about how to help people not just become better in terms of being an online business owner, but become their better selves.

And that’s what I’m excited to talk about, and I think we’ll split the conversation up in those two ways. Talk about how your ideas of fascination can help people become better online marketers, because that’s what a lot of our audience wants to know specifically.

But I also want to talk with you about the Fascination Advantage assessment, and how that can help us personally, as well as help build and construct the teams in our businesses.

How Sally went from copywriter to catalyst

Sally: That sounds great. Let’s do it.

Jerod: Okay. Let’s do it. So let’s start out. You started out as a copywriter, and I think that background makes you especially interesting to our audience, many of whom are copywriters themselves. So why don’t you take the audience through, really quickly, how you went from copywriter to becoming this Catalyst for helping people be more fascinating.

Sally: I had such a love affair with advertising and marketing. I loved being a copywriter. And my favorite part of being a copywriter was being able to look inside of a brand and distill exactly why people admired that brand, or loved that brand, or paid more for that brand.

I remember a piece of research that I did early on when I was first studying the science of fascination. I gave women two pairs of sunglasses that were exactly the same. So imagine two pairs of sunglasses. And I said to them, how much are you willing to pay? And women told me they were willing to pay four times more if the sunglasses had a Chanel logo.

In other words, that logo quadrupled the perceived value of the sunglasses, even though the utility of the sunglasses was the exact same. So we know that brands help a product charge more even if that product is the exact same as the competitor’s. The brand adds value. The brand makes people covet it, be captivated by it, be fascinated by it.

And I found that the same is true for individuals. I shifted my research away from brands and I began studying people. I found the same is true. You can charge more for your content. You can have higher fees, higher prices if people are fascinated by you.

The critical difference between being merely interesting and being fascinating

Jerod: And what is the difference between being fascinated and being interested? Because you make that distinction quite clear in the book.

Sally: Yeah. If people are interested by you, it means their interest is quickly going to fade. They’ll be checking their iPhone. They’re going to go pop over to Facebook and see what’s going on. They’re going to read their Twitter feed.

If you’re only interesting people, they’re going to be distracted. And if people are distracted, they’re not going to listen to, and remember, and take action on what you say. If you really want to create content that’s going to get people to share it, comment on it, save it, refer back to it, then you can’t just interest them. That’s not enough anymore. You need to fascinate them.

Fascination is an intense focus. It’s a neurological state. And when your brain is in a state of fascination, it opens up almost like you are in the flow with the object of your fascination. You know this feeling. It’s when you’re reading a book and you’re so immersed in the storyline that you lose track of time.

When people are fascinated by your content, they’re consumed by it. They want to re-read it. They want to talk about it and share it and live by it, and this is really the new standard for content marketing for any of us who have a message that we want to spread. It’s not enough to just interest people. That doesn’t last. Fascination creates an emotional hook that’s like witchcraft.

Jerod: And I’m sure right now, as people are listening, they’re nodding along with you, hopefully fascinated by this conversation. I think everyone would clearly agree and say yes, I want to do that.

So I guess the question is: How, if I’m an online content creator, do I start to strategically make my content more fascinating? What elements can I add to it that will make it more fascinating?

Sally: Well, in a minute we’re going to be talking about the actual system and talking about how there are seven different forms of communication. Seven different forms of communication for you as an individual, and also for your blog, or your website, or your content.

But for now, let me set up a couple of ways in which communication is different than it used to be. First of all, today, every time you communicate you’re doing one of two things: You’re either adding value, or you’re taking up space.

When you add value, people seek you out. They value your opinion. They want to be connected to you. They respond to you. They trust you. They admire you. On the other hand, if you’re just taking up space, then you’re cluttering their communication channel. It’s almost like you’re spam.

Now we all know that there are emails that we get that we put into the spam folder. There are tweets that we might unfollow. But the same is true in day-to-day communication. If you speak in meetings and you don’t add value, people begin to tune you out. It’s almost like you become human spam.

Before you put out a message, it’s better to avoid putting yourself in front of your customer than to waste their time with weak communication. Let me say that again, because this is really key:

It’s better to avoid putting yourself in front of somebody than to waste their time with weak communication.

If you waste people’s time with messages that just take up space, then you become human spam. People have no incentive to communicate with you. They begin to tune you out, and you get put into that mental spam filter. You’ve actually damaged your brand.

This is one of the key points about developing content. The world doesn’t need another tweet. The world doesn’t need another Facebook post. The world needs you. The world needs your authentic opinions, ideas, and to really get a sense of how are you different, and how are you going to add value?

Jerod: I so love that idea, and it’s so important. People understand how much content there is out there, and you’re so right. We don’t need another tweet. We don’t need another blog post. We need a great tweet. We need a useful blog post. Something that can be really helpful.

I think something that I find when I talk to people who are a little bit reticent, maybe, to put content out there is they think, “Okay, there is so much stuff out there. I don’t know if I want to say what I have to say because I don’t know that it’ll be heard,” and you had a quote. You say:

If you believe that you have a message worth listening to, then you have a responsibility to get your message out in the world.

And so I think there are some people who know they have something to say. They’re afraid that it’s just going to be lost in the din, but according to you, those people have a responsibility to get it out there, and you’re saying the way to do it is make it more fascinating, so that it does get paid attention to and isn’t just taking up space.

Sally: You’re the guardian of your message. If you don’t communicate your message at the top of your ability — in other words, if you don’t infuse it with your personality to make it fascinating — then the message could be ignored, forgotten, and if you have an important message, that’s sad.

When we did a study, we asked people: “Are you a better driver than the average person?” Eighty percent of people said, “Yes, I’m a better driver than the average person,” which of course, is impossible. Fifty percent are above average, and fifty percent are below. So people grossly over-rate their ability to drive.

Ninety percent of people think they’re more intelligent than the average person. But in our study, when we said, “Are you more fascinating than the average person?” Only 39 percent said that they were. So we have a fear of putting ourselves out there and not being heard.

There is something sad and scary that happens when people publish content or go onstage or share themselves with the world: They’re afraid that what they’re going to say won’t matter. And the reality is, the world needs messages that matter. The world doesn’t need more content for the sake of content. The world needs people to contribute something that’s so unique about them, a voice, an idea, an opinion, that breaks through.

And when you do that, this is the ultimate form of adding value.

The greatest value that you can add is to become more of yourself, and to make your content feel more like yourself.

Jerod: I love that quote. Absolutely love it. So within the context, then, of building an online audience, and eventually building a business, how do we do it, then? How do we start to get that content out there in a way that’s going to attract the audience that we want, and ultimately be able to build a business around it?

Sally: What a wonderful question. There are seven different ways to communicate, but there are certain ways that your personality is primed to communicate. And when you write with this voice, and you select topics that have to do with your natural mode of communication, it’s much easier for you to get in the flow and feel authentic, and be energized by your work so that it feels almost like a wellspring.

The question becomes what’s your personality’s natural mode of communication? In other words, what adjectives and characteristics are associated with your personal brand that if you could lean into those, if you could double-down on those characteristics, that you would be automatically differentiated in a way that was totally genuine and very easy for you to continue to replicate with more and more great content.

This brings us to the Fascination Advantage, which is the assessment that I created to help people understand how the world sees them. I’ll take a quick moment to explain what I mean by that.

Jerod: Sure.

Sally: There are a lot of personality assessments out there, and they all tell you a different aspect of your personality, like Myers-Briggs, Kolbe, DiSC, StrengthsFinder. And these assessments are built on psychology.

Psychology looks at the world through your eyes, so these assessments tell you how you see the world. But I found that there was a missing piece to the conversation — a missing piece that’s crucial if you’re going to be developing content.

And that question is, how does the world see you? How does your reader see you? How does your customer see you at your best, and what are the qualities that if you could identify them, and hone them, it would make it really easy for you to feel confident and relaxed. Not only in conversation, but also when you’re publishing content.

When you take the Fascination Advantage assessment — it’s only 28 questions now. It used to be 153 questions. But we found that the same 28 questions gave us all the data we need to know to measure how the world sees you, just like how a consumer sees a brand, how a customer sees a business.

Jerod: You have very generously allowed our audience to be able to take this assessment, so later I’ll give everybody the URL and the code to do that.

And I took the assessment, and Demian Farnworth, my usual co-host on The Lede, took the assessment. And we’re actually going to break down some of those results. Because I’ve listened to a lot of the interviews that you’ve done, and I found that to be the most fascinating part: When you really get personal and zero in on those results.

Sally: Yeah.

Jerod: I want to preface that discussion by saying this, because I’ve always been someone who’s a little bit skeptical of these assessments where you answer a few questions, and it’s supposed to tell you something grand about yourself.

And even after I took this assessment, I looked at it, and there was so much reading about what it said about me that I agreed with, and some of it, I was kind of like, “Well, I don’t know if that’s really complete,” but what’s interesting is Demian took it, and my fiancée took it, and as I started to read what it said about them, I was like, “Oh yeah, spot on! Oh yeah! That’s them!”

It gave me a perspective shift that’s like, “Oh yeah, this is how the world sees me,” so my perception of it is going to be a little bit different, and that’s the point, right? To highlight the differences so that you can step outside of yourself and view yourself more as other people view you.

Sally: Yeah, exactly. It’s important when you take the assessment to not just evaluate your own assessment. Show it to somebody else. Show them the video in which I describe how people see you at your best so you can have an objective point of view. The assessment’s almost like doing a 360 test where you ask people to identify your key characteristics.

Jerod: Okay. So, me. I took the assessment, and it came back and said that I am a Maverick Leader.

Sally: A Maverick Leader!

Jerod: Yes. A Maverick Leader, combining innovation and power. And Demian is The Secret Weapon. So maybe — explain a little bit about what that means. I’d love also to just get a comparison. Because Demian and I work together a lot, both on this podcast and just at Copyblogger, and I’ll be curious to see how we came out, if that means that we’re compatible or not supposed to be compatible.

Sally: First of all, they are very compatible. There is no one archetype that’s better than another, but it is important for you to work with people who can supplement. In other words, who can optimize you rather than replicate you. And you guys have a great combination of being able to optimize each other.

A Maverick Leader has primary innovation. Innovation is the language of creativity, so personalities with primary innovation tend to be big visionary thinkers. They like to be able to think in borad terms — how far can they push an idea. They’re not comfortable with doing things in a super-linear way.

Instead of going “One, two, three, four,” they want to go “One, two, four.” So innovation personalities need to surround themselves with people who can watch and observe and take note, and look at things from a more rational perspective so that it can be balanced out.

I happen to know The Maverick Leader archetype fairly well because I am married to one. In fact, The Maverick Leader was named for my husband, Ed. And Maverick Leaders are famous for losing their car keys.

They’re famous for coming into a meeting and saying, “Hey, I just had an idea of what we could do,” And sometimes people have a hard time keeping up with The Maverick Leader because their minds tend to think so quickly by leaps and bounds that other people can’t find the step-by-step bread crumb trail to be able to re-trace the steps. Have you ever found that to be true?

Jerod: Yes. (Chuckles.) Yes, absolutely.

Sally: So a piece of coaching that I would give to a Maverick Leader would be to say, “You have big ideas, but people can’t always keep up with you, so it’s important for you to be able to break it down into pieces so that other people can support you and give you what you need to actually execute and implement those ideas. Does that sound true for you?

Jerod: Yes, definitely. That will be very helpful. It’s funny, I’ve actually had a couple of experiences just in the past week where I had some big idea, got really excited about it, and it’s really funny.

Inside the description of “Maverick Leader,” one of the five adjectives is “dramatic,” and it says, “When presenting, they use strong body language, they use energetic gestures to emphasize their points,” and it’s something people have always kind of made fun of me for, that I can’t talk without my hands.

Sally: Are you talking with your hands right now?

Jerod: Right at this moment, I am right now.

Sally: I’m talking with my hands, too!

Jerod: I’m making huge hand gestures. And so it’s interesting, and I had a couple of experiences where I had this big idea, I got all excited about it, and I didn’t feel like I quite translated the excitement in my presentation of the idea, or at least I made them feel how great the idea could be, but not necessarily how it could actually happen. How the execution would happen.

Sally: And for you it was so clear, right? For you, you could see it so clearly in your head, what the vision was. But when you’re talking to different types of personalities, like an Alert personality, or a Trust personality, for them it’s not about making a quantum leap. It’s about being able to see how everything fits together, like the pieces of a puzzle.

Jerod: Yeah, I could see it five years down the road. I was already there. But yeah, the actual implementation part of it and seeing all of that definitely wasn’t there. So that’s great coaching because, again, what’s great about this is: How do other people see you?

Because it’s like with communication. It doesn’t matter what I’m trying to say; what matters is what you hear and how you take it, and the impact that it has on you. So if I want to be a better communicator, I’ve got to take you into more account than what I’m trying to think of and say. I think that this helps so much with that, and really just helps to illuminate those areas were we can get better in terms of impacting other people.

Sally: Let’s take that into two different areas: The fact that you’re a Maverick Leader. If you were going to be hiring, say, an executive assistant or somebody to work along side you, to be able to support you, do you need somebody who is also creative? Or do you need somebody who’s going to be more linear and executional?

Jerod: (Laughs.) I think we would get a lot more done if there was someone who was linear and executional, yes.

Sally: Yeah.

Jerod: To help with the organization. Absolutely.

Sally: So that doesn’t mean that you would necessarily gravitate toward that person. Imagine somebody walks into the interview and you’re looking for an assistant, or somebody to help you implement all these great ideas that you have. And the person is trustworthy and level-headed, and protective, and analytical.

You might not have an instant chemistry with that person, but yet that’s the exact person that you might need most in order for you to get your content proofread, or researched, or published, or spread. Because those are the things that you can do, but it’s going to feel kind of like quicksand. It’s going to be exhausting for you, wouldn’t it?

Jerod: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Sally: One of the key things about the process of developing content and having a message that you want to spread and share and to make a difference in the world is, you can’t do it all. And you don’t have to do it all.

There are some areas where you’re naturally going to have what I call a “wellspring.” Meaning, it’s going to feel energizing. You’re going to feel confident. You’re going to look forward to those kinds of tasks.

And then there are other things, other types of assignments, or conversations, or people where it feels like quicksand. So if you can focus on the areas that are a natural wellspring, you’re going to be able to get a lot more done.

So let’s come back to you as The Maverick Leader, and then we can talk about The Secret Weapon, or other different archetypes.

Let’s imagine that you’re going into a critical meeting. What would be an example of a meeting in which you know that you want to make a great first impression and you want to add value, and you want to win.

Jerod: Well, shoot. We have editorial meetings every couple of weeks where I think that’s important.

Sally: So you go into an editorial meeting, and do you have ideas that you’re excited about?

Jerod: Yes.

Sally: So we’re about to walk into that meeting. You have ideas that you’re excited about because you’re a Maverick Leader and coming up with ideas is not something that’s a challenge for you. Before you go into that meeting, it’s going to be important for you to understand how other people see you at your best.

In other words, what is your strong suit that, if you can focus on that, your ideas are going to be more compelling to them because you are going to be more compelling? And in your case, as a Maverick Leader, you have your top three adjectives that are associated with you: Pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial.

Before you go into that meeting, you might think, “I have this one idea that I know could be a killer theme for 2015.” You love this idea, and you want to really dig in, and sink your teeth into it, and spend time with it, and spread this. But if you go in and you present it in a cold, flat, rational way, do you think you’re going to get the best result?

Jerod: No.

Sally: Now, you won’t get the best result. But imagine if you went in and you had a spicy anecdote, or you told a story, or you gave an example of what this would be like, and you showed “here are five tweets that we would be able to do off this editorial content,” would that feel natural for you?

Jerod: Yes. Yes, and you know, what’s so interesting about this is I fight with myself sometimes, knowing that just my normal self gets very excitable, and all of those different things, and I think that I should do it the other way, and I think what I’ve learned a lot — and tell me if this is what you’re trying to get across — I think that we need to embrace these ways that we’re different.

Not try to fit into what we think other people want, but embrace those differences and say that it’s okay for me to be like this, and in fact, this is how I should be, because as you say, that’s how people see you when you’re at your best.

Sally: And when you’re at your best, you’re at your most confident and authentic. And in these moments, literally, your brain shifts into a different mode. When you’re more confident, you get more saliva in your mouth, your voice sounds different, your posture is different, and your listener is more confident in you. They’re more likely to be fascinated by you and by your message.

You know those times when you’ve been writing, and the content just flows, and it feels easy, and the ideas leap one to another? And it doesn’t feel like you’re clawing your way through the blog post. It just effortlessly flows out of you. Those are the times when you’re channeling into this wellspring of your personality.

When we study high performers inside of organizations, we look at: What are the top communicators doing differently? We found that they have different patterns within their communication, whether they’re leading a meeting or they’re writing an article. And here are the two key things that we found that high performers do differently.

Number one, they have a specialty. They’re not trying to be all things to all people. In other words, they have a specialty that allows them to hone their communication and focus it so that people know what they can go to them for. For you, your three adjectives are pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial, because you’re The maverick Leader.

So what that means is, before you go into meeting, imagine you say to yourself, “Not only do I have permission to be pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial, but I have a responsibility to be, because I am the guardian of my message, and nobody’s going to pay attention, and focus, and take action if I don’t deliver it in the most fascinating possible way.”

But not everybody is pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial. Let’s take a look, for example, at The Detective. The Detective is a totally different personality style than yours. They use primary alert, which is the language of details, with secondary mystique, which is the language of listening. These personalities tend to be very focused inward. Their three adjectives are clear-cut, accurate, and meticulous.

A detective would be really uncomfortable coming into a meeting and being pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial. That would feel inauthentic to them. It would take a lot of energy, and they wouldn’t make a good impression because it would feel forced. So the fact that you are pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial is the key difference of yours that you not only want to not squash, but you want to hone in on that and actually apply it to all of your communication.

Jerod: And you mentioned an important word there, authentic. And it’s so important in anything that you’re doing, especially when it comes to creating content online and trying to build that rapport, build that audience, to be authentic. You can’t pretend to be something that you’re not, and as you’ve said, your communication, your message, is going to come across so much more confidently and so much more effectively when you are embracing what you truly are. And it just makes you so much more confident in that way.

Sally: The Carnegie Institute of Technology released a study that 85 percent of your financial success is related to your personality. And shockingly, that was their word, “shockingly,” shockingly only 15 percent is technical knowledge.

So imagine you’re writing an article that is even technical writing. According to The Carnegie Institute of Technology, 85 percent of that is going to be what you infuse in your vision, your opinions, your ideas, the flavor that you give it. And only 15 percent is technical knowledge.

If you’re only trading on technical knowledge — in other words, if that’s what you’re using as the reason why people should read your content — then you’re going to become a commodity. And if you become a commodity, you have to compete on the basis of price. And that’s a slow, sad, downward spiral into the depths of irrelevance.

And that’s what happens to brands that go out of date. Brands that become irrelevant are forced to compete on the basis of price, and that’s not a position that any of us wants to be in.

The archenemies of distraction, competition, and commoditization (and why they damage your marketing)

Jerod: And I’m glad you mentioned the commoditization part. Because you mention three archenemies that I think are interesting, and I’d like to highlight, especially as we look at carving out our niches online, and what are those archenemies, and how can we avoid falling into those traps?

Sally: The first archenemy is distraction. We’re all familiar with this. People are clicking off our page all the time, or people are tuning out when we’re making a presentation. People are so distracted today because there are so many messages coming in. The BBC released a report that the average attention span is only nine seconds, which is the same as a goldfish.

So when you’re thinking about writing, imagine that you are writing for goldfish. When you’re making a speech, you’re giving a speech to an audience of goldfish. And it helps you craft your message differently. You have to instantly add value. Remember, every time you communicate, you’re either adding value or taking up space. But if you can front-load your value, in other words, if you understand how the world sees you at your best, it becomes easier for you to not be one-size-fits-all when you introduce yourself.

The second archenemy of communication is competition. We grew up with this idea that we need to focus on our strengths, and strengths are good. But in a cluttered, crowded environment, strengths become something that everybody has. What really stands out is being different. So instead of focusing on your strengths, focus on your differences. Focus on the way in which you’re unlike all the other people around you.

And that’s what you learn when you take the Fascination Advantage assessment. What are your key differences so that you can differentiate yourself based on who you naturally are instead of some artificial persona?

Jerod: You know, it’s really interesting that you mentioned that one. And I’ll just share a recent example, just from my work at Copyblogger.

We were doing a promo, and I thought I’d written this beautiful copy that highlighted all the benefits of the service, and so I sent it over to Brian because I always like to get his input on things. And he basically said, “That’s great, but every other provider can highlight those same things. You left out the one thing that makes it different.”

I highlighted all the strengths, and really the most important thing was to highlight the difference. And I had, of course, left that out and fortunately, he’s very smart and was able to tell me that. But it makes so much sense, and it helped out a ton, of course, as you would imagine.

Sally: You know, let’s take a look at any category of brands. Cars, or insurance agencies. Everybody’s competing to be just a little bit better, and the problem is when you chase “better,” you’re on a competitive rat race that forces you to compare yourself to your competitors instead of figuring out who you already are, so you can do more of what you’re already doing right, so that you’re released from the cycle of trying to outdo your competitors by one-tenth of a percent.

If there are two insurance agencies, one of them is a 7.6 and one of them is a 7.7, that’s not really differentiating. But if one of them has a key benefit, like a killer customer service benefit they offer — like, “We answer the phone in two rings or less!” Or “We’ll cover the first $200 of your deductible,” or “We have a family heritage of five generations.” Those are things that start to become fascinating. They’re differentiating.

And the same is true for each of us.

In our personalities, we have certain qualities that give us a huge competitive advantage because they’re differentiating. But too often, we file those down. We dull the edges because we think that we’re trying to be better. Different is better than better.

Jerod: I like that. And it’s a lot like the idea of the unique selling proposition, right?

Sally: It’s like the unique selling proposition, and it is a way to be able to apply it in your day-to-day conversation because a unique selling proposition is something that a brand artificially creates, almost like in a laboratory. You can invent a unique selling proposition, but that’s not necessarily how people are already seeing you.

As human beings, we don’t have a laboratory. We don’t want to be artificially constructed. So the key is to think: What are you already doing that’s different? In what way are you communicating that allows you to separate yourself from other people? Are you more analytical? Are you more meticulous? Are you more tireless, or strategic, or curious, or inventive, or dynamic, or expressive, or prolific?

What are you already doing right that’s already hardwired into the DNA of your personality so that you can start to build your career and your writing and your business around that, instead of trying to spend more money on marketing or spend more hours typing away at your computer like a monkey.

What the results of the Fascination Advantage assessment really tell us about ourselves

Jerod: So when we’re talking about promoting a brand online, how do you balance the difference between your personal fascinations — the things that make you the most interesting or most fascinating — and the best way to communicate, and maybe it’s different for the brand? How do you balance those two when you’re communicating to a bigger audience?

Sally: Let me just ask one quick question. Do you mean differentiating from the brand, like for example, you are part of a larger team at Copyblogger, or do you mean somebody who’s a solopreneur, where they are their brand?

Jerod: More like me at a bigger company like Copyblogger.

Sally: You’re going to attract the kind of readers or fans, advocates who are going to respond to what you’re already doing right. In other words, if you tried to build a readership or build a following based on you being rational and reasoned and pragmatic, you could do that. But you’re going to be exhausted. It’s not going to last.

You’re not going to be nearly as successful as you could if you could build that readership around being pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial. So the key is, if you go to work and you’re wearing a mask, you can do it for awhile, but after awhile you’re going to become so discouraged and disenfranchised, and you’re not going to be performing at your highest level, so you’re not going to get the results that you deserve.

On the other hand, if you’re authentic from the very beginning and drop the masquerade, then you can be known for specific qualities that are really easy for people to identify you with. And that’s why it’s so key for there to be congruity between your personal brand and your professional brand, that who you are at work should be who you are at home, so that you don’t have to put on some other altered persona when you walk through the door at work.

Jerod: And this really highlights the idea of the dormant advantage, because you have a primary, and you have a secondary advantage. And then this idea of the dormant advantage, which is essentially the one that would be, as you mention, kind of the most exhausting to try and communicate with. Can you explain a little bit what that idea is, of the dormant advantage?

Sally: Sure. I have a primary passion advantage. That means I love being able to connect with people. Creating an emotional connection is something that I thrive on, and I use a lot of adjectives. I use hand gestures, as you can hear.

But somebody with a dormant passion advantage would be exhausted by going to a cocktail party. They don’t want to hug strangers. They don’t want to talk about themselves and open up. If you have a dormant passion advantage, it means that for you, creating emotional connections is something that takes a disproportionate amount of energy, and that’s energy that you can’t put into other things.

So it would not be a wise move if you have a dormant passion advantage to have a job in customer service or make a promise to your readers that you’re going to be available 24/7 to comment on the blog. Because that’s setting yourself up for failure. And your dormant advantage helps you understand why you fail in certain situations — why some things a no-win.

I have a dormant trust advantage, which means I don’t like patterns. I don’t like schedule. I don’t like absolutes. I don’t like rules. It’s very hard for me to work with a client who’s going to micro-manage me and give me a very tightly regimented outline of what they want me to say or do. And I imagine that you’re probably similar. Would you agree?

Jerod: Yes. Definitely.

Sally: Whereas if somebody has a primary trust advantage, for them they want to know: What are the expectations? Show me the box so I can operate within the box. Tell me the rules so I can win. And your dormant advantage reveals, when you look back on your life, why there are times when you tried your best but you just couldn’t seem to get a good result.

Jerod: That’s one area of potential danger, right? Trying to follow your dormant advantage too much. And one other one that you highlight in the book is when your primary and secondary advantage are the same. And one thing I was wondering is, when people take the assessment, can it sometimes come back with the primary and secondary being the same?

Because you highlight in the book what can happen, basically where there’s not enough balance and you just go overboard with one of the advantages.

Sally: Yes. Great question. We’re getting into the dirt now. (Laughs.) This is like the gossip zone of the system. This is called a double trouble. A double trouble is a mode that your personality can get in when you are at your worst. In other words, it’s when your advantage turns into a disadvantage.

We’ve all seen people that, at work, they have an advantage. We’ll take passion since I’m a passion personality. A passion personality might be very engaging, and able to create relationships quickly. But if a passion personality goes through, say, a breakup, or they’re hungry, or they’re stressed, then they slide into the double-trouble mode, which is named “The Drama.”

That’s passion plus passion. We’ve all seen somebody when they get into a drama mode, right? Can you think of somebody that you worked with where it just seemed like everything was sort of over the top, and they were sensitive and theatrical?

Jerod: Yes. We won’t name names, of course, but yes.

Sally: Yeah. They’re not like that all the time. Let’s take another example. The trust advantage — trust is all about stability.

But when people become fearful and they don’t want to change, then they slide into that double trouble which is named “The Old Guard.” Which is, they’re unmovable. They’re safe. This is the entrepreneur who won’t upgrade technology, who says, “Oh, Twitter is just a fad,” or “I don’t need to be looking ahead of the curve.”

You have primary innovation. Your double trouble is named “The Anarchy.” When your advantage turns into a disadvantage, then you’re going to be seen as volatile, startling, or chaotic. And this might be, you come into a meeting and you’re like, “Hey, guys! Remember that plan that we’ve had? Well, scrap that, and we’re going to try something new!” Have you ever had that happen?

Jerod: Yes. Fortunately not at Copyblogger, but yes.

Sally: We’ve all had it happen, and it’s important for us to be able to see how our advantages can actually become disadvantages.

Alert, for example, the alert advantage is all about details. These personalities tend to be protective, proactive — they’re great at being able to have a very skilled, specific outcome. But when they slide into double trouble they become “The Control Freak,” and this is the project manager who comes by your office three times a day, and they’re kind of compulsive, and “When’s it due? When’s it due? When are you going to give it to me? Send it to me! Email it! Post it!”

And in that case, the advantage becomes a disadvantage. The key here is to understand how people see you at your best, so that you can focus in on those, and do less of the things that get in the way of creating a positive relationship and connection.

The importance of having an Anthem and how you construct one

Jerod: These ideas are so great; they are so empowering. But the key is not to just hear them and then let them pass. You have to incorporate them into your daily life somehow, and you have a strategy for doing that, which is called “The Anthem.” What is an Anthem, and why is it important?

Sally: An Anthem is like a tagline for your personal brand. It’s a way to summarize how you’re most likely to add value. Your key difference with just a few words. I drew upon my history as an advertising copywriter working with brands like Target, Nike, and Coca-Cola, and just as in advertising, I was able to find the perfect words for a brand to describe how that brand is different.

I found that when a brand can identify how it’s different with just a few words, with a tagline, then it’s easier for the brand to differentiate itself in a crowded market. And so as I was developing this system, the Fascination Advantage system, I found that we can do the same with personalities.

We’ve measured over half a million people, and we started creating an adjective bank to see which adjectives are most strongly associated with different personality styles, and what we found is that if we can give people an adjective to identify how they’re most likely to communicate successfully — in other words, what is their competitive advantage — it becomes easier for them to stop trying to be all things to all people and to have a specialty.

So your Anthem is a two-to-three word phrase. You find those words in the Fascination Advantage report that you took.

I’ll give an example. Let’s take The Gravitas. The Gravitas has primary trust and secondary power. A Gravitas is dignified, stable, and hardworking. So if somebody who has The Gravitas archetype was writing a LinkedIn bio, they probably wouldn’t want to describe themselves as pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial.

Because not only would it not be true, but then they would start to attract the type of clients they really don’t want. Whereas if they wrote, “I have a dignified presentation style, I’m stable in my work ethic, and I am hardworking and make sure I can deliver results,” it becomes easier for them to paint a picture in their reader’s mind of who they are and how they add value.

Let’s talk about your potential Anthem for a minute. Okay, listen to this. I’m opening up my copy of How The World Sees You.

Jerod: I have mine open, too, right now.

Sally: You do?

Jerod: It’s on page 248: The Maverick Leader.

Sally: Ohhh.

Jerod: And that’s what I love about the book. Again, it’s called How the World Sees You. I mean, you go into detail about each one of these different archetypes with the adjectives, and even with the one-minute coaching, and examples of other famous people who have that archetype.

It’s so interesting. Not just for your own, but reading the others, and especially knowing what Demian is, and what my fiancée is; reading what it says about them is really fascinating.

Sally: And to be able to look at something and say, “I am so not that,” because that helps you understand who you actually are.

Jerod: Yes. Yes.

Sally: Let’s take a look at what your Anthem could potentially be. Now, I have my copy of the book open to page 367, which is where the Anthem exercise is getting executed. Here’s what I found.

Now, taking a look at deconstructing. What was I doing when I was writing headlines and campaigns for brands? What actually was going on? I realize there are two parts of great branding. The first part is “how are you different?” The second part is “what do you naturally do best?”

The first part, “how are you different?” is an adjective. What you do best is a noun. And when we pair the adjective with the noun, it gives a positioning statement. You might think of your Anthem as a way for you to position yourself based on what you’re already doing right.

So for you, let’s take these three adjectives of The Maverick Leader: Pioneering, irreverent, entrepreneurial. Which one of these three feels like it best describes how you’re different from other people?

Jerod: I like pioneering.

Sally: Well, who doesn’t love pioneering? Okay. So we’re going to take “pioneering,” and we’re going to put it in the parking lot. Now, your personality has a twin, and the twin is another look at how people see you at your best. Your twin is named “The Change Agent.”

Instead of innovation plus power, it’s power plus innovation. The change agent has three different, yet similar, adjectives. Those adjectives are “inventive, untraditional, and self-propelled.” Do you like any of those three adjectives more than pioneering to describe how you are different? In other words, what is your competitive difference from other people in your same industry or peer set?

Jerod: You know, when I went through this, self-propelled is the one that I liked the best and the one that I thought was the most accurate description of what makes me different.

Sally: Okay, great. So for our adjective describing how you’re different, we have two that are over here in the parking lot. We have “pioneering” and we have “self-propelled.”

Now, let’s take a look at what you do best, and I want you to think back on your career. What are the types of tasks or assignments that you relish, and that you know that you have a relatively high odds of delivering and over-delivering?

I’m going to pick out three different nouns. First one is “accuracy,” second one is “ideas,” and the third one is “work ethic.” I arbitrarily picked three from the list. Accuracy, ideas, work ethic.

Jerod: I certainly think “work ethic” would work, but I think “ideas” works the best. I think that’s one thing I’ve always been able to contribute is ideas.

Sally: Well, one thing that you could do, since you do have “innovation” as your primary, which means you’re creative, your Anthem could be a little bit of a combo platter. You might say, “I deliver pioneering ideas and a self-propelled work ethic.”

Jerod: Ohhh. I like that.

Sally: Imagine that you’re going into a job interview and say, Brian Clark is interviewing you, saying “there are a lot of different writers. There are many different directors of content out there. Why should I hire you, versus hiring one of these other people?”

And if you said, “Well, I deliver pioneering ideas and a self-propelled work ethic,” it starts to give Brian a really clear idea of how he can tap into your natural advantages so that he can help you do more of what you’re already doing right, but also assess the types of assignments or topics that are going to be best for you.

Jerod: Yeah. And I think this is a hard practice to do on your own, just to come up with an Anthem. But I love the way in the book how you do it, where you really break it down and make it step-by-step, and make it a simple process, but one that really makes sense. And I love what you just came up with. That’s great.

Sally: You know, two days ago I was trying to think to myself, “Why is it so hard for us to work on our personal brand?” I’ve struggled. I do personal branding for a living. I’ve been a copywriter all my life. I literally wrote the book on the topic. Yet sometimes I can freeze up when I’m writing a LinkedIn profile or a Twitter bio.

What I realized is it’s almost impossible for you to write your own personal brand, because your brand originates within yourself, but it’s through the eyes of other people. In other words, you can’t look in the mirror and accurately assess yourself. You sort of need somebody to help you do it. And that’s what the purpose of the system is.

It’s almost like your friend, who’s a big supporter of you, who knows you intimately, and has business savvy on what’s valued in the marketplace describing for you who you are at your best, so that then you have those words to use as building blocks. It’s not a formula, and it’s not cookie cutter, but it’s certainly a starting point so that you can start to flesh out around that and to help direct you on the areas where you’re primed to win.

Jerod: You know, I mentioned on a previous episode of The Lede, Demian and I were talking about lessons that we can learn from our successes, and one of the things that I was talking about is, I’ve been fortunate enough at Copyblogger to move out of the support team and come over to content, be Director of Content, and now VP of Marketing.

Along that journey, I haven’t always felt quite like I belonged, or that I really — not that I hadn’t earned it, because I’d worked hard — but I guess it was hard for me sometimes to see what the leaders in the company who were giving me these additional responsibilities, quite what they saw, simply because I didn’t necessarily have the copywriting background they had.

I was focused so much on the things that I wasn’t instead of seeing what I was, and when we had our company meeting a couple weeks ago, we did this exercise where everybody had to basically state the one or two things they contribute most to the team, and then we went around the room, and other people said what you contributed.

It was so interesting to hear what people said about me, and the things I said about other people. And it’s funny how the timing of all of this worked, because it really solidified in my mind, “Oh, yeah. It’s okay that I’m different and I don’t do this, that, or this, because I do X, Y, and Z. I do these other things, and that’s where my value actually comes from.”

I think that realization I had in that meeting is so much of what you’re talking about in this book, and just with what you do.

Sally: And to take it a step further, imagine if the people around you understand what are the areas that are going to be your wellspring, then they can say, “Oh, this is exactly what you should be working on right now,” or “here’s an area where I need your help because you’re the in-house specialist in this area.”

On the other hand, if people also know the area in which you’re most likely to have quicksand, they can say, “Oh, let’s make sure that we get extra support in this particular area.” My team is very clear. I need support when it comes to things that have to do with the minutiae and the detailed follow-up and repetitious tasks, but that I’m going to be really great when it comes to brainstorming. And conversely on my team, there are other people who have totally different advantages and pitfalls.

Jerod: And that’s okay, right? Like you said, we don’t have to be all things to all people. We don’t all have to have strengths in every area. It’s okay to recognize these differences and even recognize areas where we’re not so good, and make sure that our team is built around that so that we’re all complementing each other and supplementing where each other maybe isn’t at their best.

Sally: A minute ago we were talking about high-performing teams, and I was describing the top two characteristics. And I realized I only gave the first one. The second characteristic of a high-performing team is that the team has diversity, not only in terms of how we typically think of diversity, but also personalities.

Great teams aren’t built on similarities. They’re built on differences so that they can optimize each other and balance each other out, and people don’t have to be responsible for being good at all things, being all things to all people, and instead they can focus on over-delivering in the area in which they’re most naturally suited.

Jerod: And relationships are even like this too, right? I know Heather and I were talking about this, and we both took the assessment.

Sally: Ohhh! Back to the gossip! What was her archetype?

Jerod: Well, she was The Evolutionary.

Sally: Oh! One of the most rare archetypes!

Jerod: Is it really?

Sally: Wow! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jerod: I can’t wait to tell her that.

Sally: I think it might literally be the most rare. If I remember correctly, it’s 0.4 percent of the population.

Here’s why. It’s primary trust, meaning stability, consistency, but secondary innovation. And if you think of personalities that are creative, they tend to not be highly structured and self-managed, whereas if you think of personalities that are highly structured, they tend to not be creative. And so Heather is a combo platter.

Jerod: Yeah, that’s great. And we found that it seemed like some of the differences help to kind of supplement each other, but then, obviously, there are those similarities, which obviously, help us get along. So it was very interesting doing that and doing it together.

Sally: It is a great thing to be able to do with somebody that you’re really close with so that you can watch each others’ videos, because a lot of times, especially in romantic relationships, people look at each other and go, “Oh, that’s why you do that thing you do.”

Jerod: Exactly.

Sally: We did training at the headquarters in California for Intel, and we separated everybody into groups of their primary advantage. So the power personalities at one table, mystique personalities at another table, passion, and so on, and we gave everybody a simple marketing assignment.

And what they didn’t realize was the purpose of the assignment was not for them to complete the task; the purpose was for them to be able to watch how their group becomes hyper-concentrated on their primary advantage, and how different that is from the other groups.

So, for example, the passion group, over the course of the 15 minutes, had all kinds of ideas. They were high-fiving, back-slapping, they were taking Post-it notes and putting them up on the wall, and you could hear them from all through the halls. “Woo hoo, yeah, love it, yeah!” But then they didn’t actually come up with an idea. They were so involved in the creative process.

When you have passion personalities that work together, they can be very excited and very emotionally into it, motivated, and spirited, but they’re not going to necessarily be the most productive. On the other hand, if you have, let’s take, prestige personalities. These are people who are overachievers, who are focused on excellence, and they always want to try to make sure that they’re raising the bar.

The prestige group was competitive, and what happens inside organizations that have a disproportionately high use of prestige is that the personalities can almost become — the culture becomes brittle because people are so focused on achievement that nobody’s looking around at the culture and quality of life and the maternity leave policy, or what time people leave on Fridays.

And so this is what happens inside of our organizations, no matter what size they are. If the organization takes on the personality advantages of the people who are the greatest number within the organization, alert personality organizations tend to become so detailed that it’s all about the owner’s manual and not about the spirit with which they’re marketing.

On the other hand, power personalities tend to become so focused that the group can become dogmatic. It’s important for you to understand the advantages in your group so that you can even it out, and make sure that you have a good balance for the outcome that you want to achieve.

Jerod: Yeah. Again, it’s about balance. I have my own little personal philosophy that kind of helps me, which is balance pride and humility. If I can always balance those two things, I feel like I’ll always be successful in whatever I’m doing. These kind of opposing forces, almost, and get them to work together somehow.

And that’s so much of what you’re talking about. There are different strengths, different elements that these different advantages bring to the table. Get them to work together, both internally and on teams, and everybody’s going to rise and experience more success together.

Sally: So, “Balance pride and humility with pioneering ideas and a self-propelled work ethic.” How about that?

Jerod: I like it. I like it. I may be changing my Twitter bio today.

Sally: Yeah!

How Sally applies her own ideas at home, as a parent

Jerod: I told you before that I had notes for three hours, and we could just keep on going, but I know that we can’t go that long. So I wanted to end with this, and it’s going to kind of go in a completely different direction.

I realized that when I was going through your book I was fascinated before I even got to the first page, because I don’t often read the dedications in books, but I did read this in yours, and it says, “To my mother and father, who taught me how to become more of who I already am.”

I don’t have kids yet, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how I want to be as a parent when I do, and so much of that centers on how do you instill in kids as they’re growing up to be able to have these ideas, and to be comfortable with who they are, and to see their differences as advantages, not disadvantages? And so I wonder. You have eight kids. How have you tried to instill these ideas in your kids?

Sally: Well, I’ll give you a very tangible example. Our youngest, Azalea, is 11 years old. She had a concussion last year, and now she has something called “post-concussive migraine disorder,” which is, she gets really bad migraines that go on for sometimes weeks at a time. She’s been out of school all week, and she is home on the couch and has a cold compress on her head, and it’s really kind of miserable.

And it would be easy for me to say, “Oh, you’re okay, let’s get better, let’s change what’s happening, let’s change your experience, change your mindset,” but the reality is she’s miserable. And so instead, I gave her a journal, and I said, “Draw for me what your pain feels like.” And she was so articulate. And she’s been drawing for her doctor what the pain feels like each day so we can track it.

In other words, I’m not trying to change her experience of the pain; I’m trying to help her emotionally deal with the pain in a way that’s going to be more productive for her long-term. I think that’s what my parents did for me. I grew up in a very unusual family. When I was seven years old, my sister had two world records — Guinness World Records — in swimming. And then she went on to the Olympics, and she won three gold medals.

Jerod: Wow.

Sally: And a silver in the Olympics. My brother graduated from Harvard, and I was the baby of the family by seven years. And so I always struggled with, “How am I different?” And my dad said to me, “Sally, you don’t have to change who you are. You just have to become more of who you are.”

And that’s what I say to my kids:

The goal is not to change who you are into somebody else. The goal is to identify those parts of you that are so valuable, that are so different, and become more of who you are.

Jerod: Yeah. Become more of who you are. And that is the message that you’ll be telling all of us who go to Authority Rainmaker in May, which I cannot wait for, not just to hear what you say but to meet you in person.

I’ve had such a good time during this conversation, as well as while reading your book. I can’t wait to meet you in person and to hear what you have to share with the audience then.

Sally: Oh, thank you! Thank you! I’ve got to tell you, I am so psyched to be able to be part of this group and to be part of this conversation.

I’m so excited to be able to meet people and talk to them about their content and how they’re using their personalities and their advantages, every day, living and breathing it.

Jerod: It’ll be great, and it’ll be our pleasure to have you there.

Sally: Wonderful. I’m excited. I’ll finally get to meet you there.

Jerod: Yes, absolutely. Well Sally, thank you so much. Again, the book is How the World Sees You, and if people go to and use the code “Copyblogger,” you can take the fascination advantage assessment and figure out what your archetype is, and learn more about how the world sees you.

Sally: Yes. Exactly. We’re excited to see how this audience is different and unique from the average population. I’m really curious to see what the results are.

Jerod: Yeah. I am, too. And I’m going to send this around to the rest of our team, too. It’s fun seeing that Demian is The Secret Weapon — I’m sure it’s a nickname that he’ll start using now.

Sally: (Laughs.)

Jerod: It’ll be fun to see what everybody else is too, and I’m sure it’ll just inform us from a team perspective.

Sally: Can I reveal the results of that, of your team, when we’re at the conference?

Jerod: Yes! I mean, I guess. Here I am, just kind of jumping to an idea really quick. But yeah, sure.

Sally: (Laughs.) Can we light a fire onstage and do Jägermeister shots?

Jerod: (Laughs.) Yes. Yes.

Sally: (Laughing) Cool! Okay, good!

Jerod: That sounds great. I’m going to add that in the promotional materials.

Sally: Good.

Jerod: Well, Sally, thank you so much, and I will see you in May. Can’t wait.

Sally: Great. Great. See you then.

Jerod: All right. Take care.

Thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Lede. That URL, again, so that you can take the Fascination Advantage assessment

I will also put that in the Show Notes. For the access code, enter “Copyblogger” and you’ll be able to take the assessment for free.

And again, don’t forget, Sally Hogshead will be keynoting at Authority Rainmaker, so go to to get all the details about the event and register if you can join us, because I sure would love to see you there.

All right, everybody. Again, thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. We will be back next week with another episode. Until then, take care. Talk to you soon.


What is the Dark Side of Writing a Best Seller

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Bestsellers, The Dark Side

Everyone wants to write a best seller. It is my dream as well. I couldn’t think of a downside to it. I thought that having a number of bestsellers to my name would solve all of my problems.

Come to find out, it actually creates a few problems of its own. I could totally relate to  much of what Brian Klems has to say in his article: The Dark Side of Being a Bestseller. You can read the original article here:

There’s an unspoken perception of bestselling authors that reminds me of the 1987 vamp flick, Lost Boys. You know, the one with Kiefer Sutherland in his pre-Jack Bauer days when mullets were still en vogue.

The film’s tagline was, “Sleep all day, party all night. Never grow old, never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.” Ah yes, the eighties. Good times.

Replace the vampires with marquee authors and you might get something like, “Write all day, play all night. Never go unnoticed, collect fat checks. It’s fun to be a bestseller.”

The thing is, there is a dark side to being a bestseller. There are secrets they don’t share publicly.


I know because I’ve worked inside the Publishing Machine for nearly a decade, advising multi-million dollar bestsellers and publishers on everything from creative development to grassroots marketing. I’ve been equal parts strategist, editor, and counselor.

Bestsellers carry secrets, and if they were to share a few it might be these.

Expectations Change Everything

A New York Times bestselling novelist once told me, “You’ll never be as free as you are at the beginning. It’s easy to forget how to take risk and write as if no one is watching.”

She went on to explain how success creates a cycle that few authors know how to handle expertly, especially when recognition comes early.

Everyone loves the popular kid. In that way, life (and publishing) is a lot like high school. But, the popular kid is expected to not only stay popular, but to do a better trick next time so they can become even more popular.

Publishers expect it (who doesn’t want to be the popular kid’s parent?), retailers expect it, and readers expect it, too. Expectations can feel unrelenting and I’ve seen the pressure it brings to authors who feel the weight of it as they sit down to create.

Truth is, they don’t know why something becomes popular. No one does. But in a day when publishing decisions are made based on two to four weeks of sales performance, and not the long-term promise of an author, expectations are everything.

Fear Doesn’t Take Hush Money

Success begets success and opens doors that were previously closed. It’s true and it enables you to “trade up” to higher social circles and opportunities. But even that too is a twin blade.

I’ve watched time and again as authors who were once large fish in a small pond find success. But inevitably, they find themselves surrounded by others who have sold more books than them, command a vastly larger platform, and might have even been on Oprah.

Like the rest of us, they often slip back into the comparison game. The tendency to play the game always leads to self-sabotage and fear. Fear of missing out, fear of not being successful enough, fear of being found out as a fraud.

No amount of money will quiet those fears, which is why refusing to play the game at all is so important. Authors who log decades of prolific output create their own rules, and the most important one is childlike in its simplicity.

Only one thing really matters.

If there’s one core lesson that has embedded itself deeply in my psyche, it’s that doing the work is what matters most. It is the point. The point isn’t having written, as many are so fond of saying, but the actual activity of creating that matters most.

You see, once you’ve released a story into the world it no longer belongs to you. The reader brings their world to the edge of yours and what they experience from there is a process we don’t control.

Doing the work for the sake of it truly is the staying power. It’s the love the craft, our surrender to the art of exploring and illuminating new ideas that matters most. Of course, recognition and compensation are nice, but the shine wears off quickly. Every success carries within it the seeds of suffering.

Act Like No One is Watching

Take my friend’s advice, no matter where you are in your writer journey. Write as if no one is watching. Write as if no one will ever read it or judge your work. That’s where the magic lies, and that is ultimately what readers want to experience, too.

I might change one thing. You’re never as free as you are right now, and the beautiful thing is that you can choose just how free you really are.

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Make a Better Living as a Writer

Writing isn’t a hobby for me. It is something that I want to use to support myself. I think that a lot of writers feel that way. Sometimes it seems so hard to get over that hump to actually make it to a place where your writing is actually paying.

I really liked what Rebecca Matter had to say about it.

You can read the original article here:

4 Ways to Start Making a Living as a Writer

. PMI-certification

When a writer — or aspiring writer — asks me about the single hottest opportunity for writers, my answer never changes …

No matter the season, the year, economy, or the individual’s background, passion, interests, degree — or lack of — the answer is always copywriting.

There simply isn’t another writing skill that even comes close to the income potential and variety of paid writing gigs …

In fact, there are literally hundreds of ways to live the writer’s life using copywriting as your foundation.

And you can choose the type of writing that fits your style and goals …

Short copy … social media updates … product descriptions … long copy … websites … it’s completely up to you.

Of course, so many options can be a little overwhelming. So today I’m going to give you four ways to get started making a living as a copywriter …

#1: Manage and Write Social Media Campaigns

This copywriting opportunity is exploding! In just a few years, it’s grown from being referred to as “social media” to now often being called “the social web.”

It’s integrated into everything we do online.

Because of that, companies need more social web content than ever … to the tune of social media revenue reaching $34 billion by 2016! (Gartner Inc.)

And that’s up from $11.8 billion in 2011 and $16.9 billion in 2012.

Huge growth!

Plus, check this out: According to a recent article from social web expert, Nick Usborne, “88% of companies know they’re not doing well on social media.”

Additionally, “Fewer than 15% of companies have dedicated social media experts on staff.”

Social media might as well be an opportunity on a silver platter!

The demand is so high, yet this is another area of direct-response copy where just a few clients can keep you completely booked.

What does a social media writer do, exactly?

As a social media writer, you work with companies to manage their social media campaigns. This can include a range of services from creating initial social pages to the day-to-day management and updating of the accounts.

There are also posts and updates that need to be written and scheduled, shareable content that needs to be found and re-shared, and fans and followers who need to be engaged with.

And since social media requires ongoing attention month after month, you could have a full-time project — and full-time pay — simply managing a company’s social media strategy.

Get started today by setting up or optimizing your own social media channel. In other words, prove that you understand social media and participate in social media.

Then, share (or re-share) valuable content, tell people about your services, and use social media to attract new clients.

#2: Revise Web Copy So It Can Be Found

SEO (search engine optimization) is a copywriting opportunity that sadly does not receive the attention it deserves.

Yet it’s something every writer should learn …

  1. Even if you’re a brand-new writer, you can jump in right away and start making solid money from day one. It’s likely the easiest and fastest way for a web writer to start working with paying clients.
  1. SEO skills will make your services more valuable — meaning higher rates and better pay. So — if you are doing any writing for the Web at all — don’t miss out on the added value of SEO.

But, let’s back up a little to make sure we’re on the same page …

In order to sell anything online, a website needs to attract people (commonly called “visitors”). The number of visitors a website receives per month is called its “traffic.”

As a business gets more traffic (or people visiting their website), they increase their selling opportunities.

And, it just so happens that SEO is a great way — if not the best way — to get more traffic …

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

A search engine is a tool that helps a person find what they’re looking for online. You’ve certainly heard of Google, Yahoo!, or Bing …

You type something into one of those search engines and they return a list of recommended sites. These are known as “search engine results.”

SEO is the process of tweaking a website so it appears higher in those results … increasing the website’s exposure to more potential customers.

That’s where you, as the SEO copywriter, come in …

What does a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) writer do?

The way a search engine ranks all of the websites on the Internet can be a bit complicated … and, it changes from time to time …

As an SEO writer, you would follow these changes and ensure your client’s website copy is written (and revised) in a way that allows the search engine to find and rank it high in the results.

Depending on your preference, your service might include writing all the copy and content for a website, or simply tweaking existing copy to optimize it.

For your clients, more Search Engine Optimization equals more traffic. More traffic means more profits. That’s why just a few clients can keep you busy writing (or enhancing) content that will improve their SEO ranking!

Get started today by exploring SEO. Try going to your favorite search engine and searching for something you’d like to buy. Then, review the results to see how the websites use the words (called “keywords” in the SEO world) that you searched for on their website.

You’ll find that the most optimized sites (those that are most relevant to what you searched for) appear first …

What about those other sites? The ones who aren’t ranking well are all potential clients just waiting for you to help them.

#3: Write Online Content (Like what you’re reading now!)

This copywriting opportunity ties everything we already talked about together … and it’s an easy opportunity to break into …

You see, most companies are desperate for content — like articles, blog posts, case studies, free reports, reviews, and more — because this content attracts new prospects, helps them make purchase decisions, builds rapport, increases credibility, and more.

Content — or “content marketing” — is now a major part of the sales process. In fact, I discovered that 9 out of 10 companies in North America are using content marketing to boost their sales.

And, get this … 60% of them plan on increasing how much they’ll spend on content!

Writing content is one of the easiest, fastest-growing opportunities there is …

And, for the most part, you’ll be writing short pieces of copy that are informative, engaging, and entertaining. No need to “hard sell” or be hype-y.

Get started today by writing an article about a topic you are passionate about. It doesn’t have to be long — aim for 500-800 words. The point of this exercise is for you to see just how easy content writing can be.

As an example, let’s say you enjoy yoga. You could write something like, “4 Ways Yoga Changed My Life.” That’s exactly the kind of content a yoga studio, yoga supply website, or yoga instructor would need to market their business.

#4: Write Emails

Last, but certainly not least, on my list of copywriting opportunities, is email writing.

This opportunity is so huge because email is one of the main ways that smart companies stay in contact with their potential prospects as well as past customers.

You may have seen sign-up forms on various websites … companies asking for your email address in exchange for a free report, discount, insider information, or access to their newsletter. In the world of email, that’s called “building a list” of prospects.

Once a company builds this list, they want to follow up with it often — sometimes even daily — to prompt the reader to take an action …

That action could be to visit the website, request more information, or purchase something.

But, here’s the thing that makes this a huge opportunity …

Companies don’t want to mail the same email twice!

They need someone to write a unique email — or even a whole series — for every product they launch, every new email list they create, and every new affiliate offer they want to promote.

They also need emails for upsells, discounts, holiday promotions, and more.

Every time they reach out to their list, they need a new email.

If they like what they see from you, they’ll keep coming back. That’s why you can live the writer’s life just by writing email copy and nothing else.

Get started now by signing up for an offer on a website you like. Then, follow their emails to see their process. If you think you can write a better email, why not reach out to the company and propose it?

2015 Will Be a Bright Year for Writers!

There you have it …

Four wide-open, enjoyable, potentially profitable writing specialties: social media campaigns, search engine optimization, content writing, and email.

Whether you’re writing an article, helping a company with their SEO or social media strategy … or even convincing a reader to support a cause, download a special report, buy a product, or request more information …

You’ll always be in demand!

It doesn’t matter what your background is, what your passions are, or even if you have experience.

All that matters is that you’re willing to take the first step …

Choose one of these four copywriting opportunities and do the “get started now” step as soon as possible.

Just don’t spend too much time deliberating. After all, any of these four opportunities can be your ticket to making a living as a writer.

And if you’d like to learn how to take advantage of – and write – all of the projects I shared with you today, check out the Home Study from our recent Web Copywriting Intensive. You’ll get incredible professional-grade training on all of these writing opportunities, taught by the industry’s top experts, from the comfort of your own home.

rebecca_matter-150Next week I’m interviewing a writer who has made millions – both as a published author AND as a copywriter. He’s a brilliant writer … but more importantly he’s a wonderful teacher who has mentored dozens of other writers over the years on building successful writing businesses of their own.

He’s promised to give useful and actionable advice for writers looking to follow in his footsteps. You won’t want to miss it!

Until then,
Rebecca Matter

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Overcoming Writing Hurdles Today!

Writing can be enjoyable, but there are always some things that can make it difficult and sometimes down right miserable. Just like so many things in life, if you are prepared for those obstacles, there is a good chance that you can clear them easily, before they destroy your momentum and enthusiasm for the current projects.

I used to think that I could sit down, pretty much any time and start writing. I have found that is not the case. Writing is easier when I am “in the mood.” And there is nothing like one of the below road blocks that can take me out of the mood and put a damper on an entire day, week, or month.

I found solutions to my a number of my barriers by simply slogging through. But, I found it helped to come prepared with easy possible solutions. That is why this article by Bryan Collins, just jumped off of the page. I had discovered some of these on my own, but Bryan brings a lot of great ideas to the table, and provides some useful tools for authors at any level. You can read the original story here:

7 Barriers to Writing You Can Leap Over Today

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

When you aspired to become a writer, you imagined crafting pages of immaculate prose, publishing work that gets better with each read, and your peers telling each other, “Now there’s talent!”


Instead, when you try to write, you feel paralyzed.

You don’t know if what you’re saying makes sense, and every moment you spend with your work is a struggle.

What you eventually produce takes longer than you planned, and it fills you with a sense of disappointment.

Don’t worry.

Here are seven barriers to writing every writer needs to overcome – and how to leap over them today.

1. I Don’t Have Time to Write

Your boss is demanding, your spouse needs your attention, you’ve got three kids to feed, and the dog is begging for a walk.

Then, you’ve got bill to pay bills, a shelf to hang, a house to clean, and a hundred and one other things to do.

All this before you sit down, come up with an original idea, and write about it.

The Fix

If you call yourself a writer, writing is one of your life’s tasks. Like any professional, you’ve got to turn up every day and get to work.

Be brutal with the activities filling your day. No, I’m not suggesting unemployment, divorce or animal services.

Eliminate the non-essential:

Quit Facebook.
Delete the email app from your phone.
Watch television only on the weekend.
Turn off notifications and internet access while you write.

Protect your time and concentrate on developing the habit of writing every day.

You’ll know you’re succeeding when it feels like writing is taking over your life.

That’s a better problem—trust me.

2. I Can’t Find My Voice

Before J.K. Rowling had her way, the Philosopher’s Stone was a long-sought artifact from the Middle Ages. According to legend, it could turn base metals into gold.

When they write the history of our craft, the writer’s voice will stand as the Philosopher’s Stone for writers—an elusive entity you can spend your whole life chasing, yet never find.

Your voice isn’t something you go in search of. You already have a voice, but you need to develop it through continued, disciplined practice.

The Fix

Short-story writers can develop their voice by writing short stories in the style of their writing idols, and then adding their personality.

Copywriters can take a proven copywriting formula and make it specific to their industry.

Prefer poetry? You could take an English translation of Japanese Haiku and write a poem following the same structure.

Test the confines of the niche you’re writing within, and you will develop a voice people will listen to.

3. First Drafts Feel Impossible

Many writers hate first drafts.

There’s the horrible moment when you open a new document, stare at the white screen and wonder, “How am I going to fill this page? What will I ever say?”

Unless you’re remarkably creative, it’s natural to feel afraid.

Think of the musician who experiences stage fright before going on to wow the audience, the actor who struggles to remember their lines before getting a standing ovation, or the athlete who paces nervously around a dressing room before going on to win gold.

The Fix

Start writing or typing. Write whatever comes to mind for ten minutes.

Don’t edit, or censor yourself, or hold back.

Like the athlete who stretches before an event, free writing will warm up your mind to the task at hand.

Once you feel more confident about what you’re going to say, stop and write a quick outline of it. Then, write your first draft.

4. I Hate Editing

And you thought first drafts were hard?

I was a journalist for several years, and learned the fundamental difference between writing and editing the hard way.

In a newspaper, it is the job of two separate people to write and to edit the same news story.

They are two different skills that engage different parts of your brain.

To write is to compose; to edit is to arrange.

The Fix

If you’re starting off, you probably can’t afford to hire an editor.

Allocate one portion of your day to writing (mornings are good). During this time, write without censoring yourself or making dramatic changes to your work.

Later that afternoon or evening, print your work and mark the changes you need to make with a red pen. Then make these changes in one editing session.

If you still hate editing, Stephen King has strong words for you: “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

5. My Writing isn’t Good Enough

Perfectionism is a nasty vice that almost every writer must overcome.

When you’re new to the craft, your writing probably isn’t good enough. Your desire to improve your work and become a better writer is a noble one.

However, if this desire is holding you back from finishing whatever you’re writing, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Neil Gaiman would agree. He says, “You learn by finishing things.”

By finishing even the duds, you will learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

Most importantly, you will gain the confidence to keep going.

The Fix

Take out the last piece of writing you abandoned.

Read it, making a list of what’s wrong with it, and then set a date on your calendar. Commit to finishing your work by this date.

When this date comes, share your work with someone e.g. your writing group, your writing coach or members of your email list.

Then go and write something new, something better.

6. I Don’t Know What to Do With My Unpublished Work

Most writers have stacks of unpublished essays, articles and stories in their drawer, notebook or on their computer.

Your personal slush pile is part of the writing process.

Not every piece of work is meant to see the light of day. You don’t have to do something with everything you write.

Some pieces serve as markers for your journey towards becoming a better writer, or as evidence that you’re doing the work.

The Fix

You can gain more value from your growing slush pile by starting a blog.

It is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to share your work with the world.

Blogging will also force you to consider what your target audience wants, instead of what you think they need.

It takes time and patience to become a proficient blogger. But it’s the perfect outlet for new writers because it gets you into the habit of sharing your ideas.

7. I’m Afraid of What People Will Think

‘What will my mother say when she finds out I’m writing about sex?’

‘What will my friends think when they catch me writing about the world and all its ugly imperfections?’

‘What will my wife/husband do when they see themselves in my work?’

New writers find it difficult to separate their personal lives from their work. Fiction writers, for example, often face a disconcerting moment when they reread a piece and find parts of their personal life scattered on the page.

I’ll never forget the first time my wife read a short story I’d submitted to a competition. She asked if the woman in the story was her. I didn’t admit it then, but she was right.

The Fix

Accept the world as your source material.

For your work to be authentic, you must draw on what you see, feel and experience.

This doesn’t mean disrespecting the people in your life.

Several years ago my creative writing teacher recommended that we take people from our personal lives, and change minor details about them (such as their age, sex or backstory) so that they become harder to recognize.

You’re going to have to get comfortable with people loving, hating, or (worst of all) not caring about what you have to say.

Why these Barriers to Writing are Worth Overcoming

If writing were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

These struggles and frustrations represent opportunities for you to improve and to grow as a writer.

They are signs that you are making progress.

You can overcome any of them with continued practice, by getting help from an expert, and by sharing your work with those who are better than you are.

What you must never do is give up because filling a page is too much work.

What you must never do is to let difficult moments dissuade you from seeking out new ways to improve.

What you must never do is quit because the craft is more difficult than you thought.

What you must do is write.

Now it’s your turn. Which limiting belief holds you back as a writer? Please share in the comments.

Your audience is waiting.

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Can Hobbies Make You More Creative?

Creativity is the holy grail of writing. It is at the core of what we do every day as authors. In my book, Steal Like an Author, I discuss a number of methods to foster and explode creativity doing everyday things. But, I totally missed the benefits of great hobbies as a way to grow creativity. A bow that is continually strung will quickly lose its spring. A mind that is always working, and never doing other things, will suffer in a similar way. Elizabeth Yetter in her article explores 20 great hobbies that can be a helpful distraction to writing and actually aid authors to improve their creativity. You can read the original article here:

20 Hobbies for Writers That Inspire Creativity


Every writer needs a hobby or two. Here is a list of great hobbies that can inspire your creativity.

1. Wood Carving

From a block of wood and some simple carving tools, you can create the most beautiful pieces of artwork. The similarity between writing and wood carving is that you start with a blank and fill it in with imagery or words.

2. Hiking

Many people find hiking to be a very inspiring hobby that not only sparks creativity, but gives writers the exercise they need. Hiking trips can be planned ahead of time, alone or with groups. The only things you really need are a good pair of hiking boots and thick socks. If you are hiking alone, take pen and paper along with you for those spur of the moment inspirations.


3. Jewelry Making

Jewelry making is a very relaxing hobby that allows you to explore different colors and bead shapes. Make period pieces or take a dive into steampunk. Create jewelry for every mood and season.

4. Bird Watching

Bird watching is not only a relaxing hobby, it also puts you in touch with interesting people who share the same hobby. Learn about the birds you spot, learn the myths surrounding their existence, as well as the old superstitions, and weave the hobby into your next series of mystery novels.

5. Painting

It doesn’t matter if you can’t pick up a pencil and draw the shape of a horse to perfection. When you paint, the rules of drawing go out the window. Find artists that inspire you and learn different techniques. Explore different mediums and use what you learn in your next book.


6. Gardening

Gardening can be very relaxing and buying flower and herb plants for the garden is exciting. Gardening can inspire your writing in many ways, from the lore and superstitions to gardening as an occupation.

7. Running

Running burns off excess energy and the day to day stress of writing. You don’t have to run for miles or enter into a marathon to enjoy the benefits of running. Many writers enjoy this hobby as a way to clear the mind and to come up with new ideas.

8. Video Games

Yes, video games. They aren’t as bad as we are made to think. I enjoy playing the Elder Scroll games and find them to be relaxing as well as inspiring.

9. Yoga

Stretch, pull, twist, and relax. Yoga is a calming and physically beneficial hobby that can inspire many ideas. Some writers I know practice yoga every morning before they sit down to write. They find that it helps them prepare for the day mentally and it increases their creativity.

10. Knitting

I knit between between articles and blog posts. Lately, I have been knitting hats to donate to a women’s crisis center. Knitting is one of the ways that I “cool down” after I finish writing something or after I hit a certain word count on my book. It’s a moment of relaxation and knowing that I am giving back by donating my knitted items to those in need.

11. Acting

Do you have problems creating believable dialogue or getting your characters to interact casually? Acting can help you with that. From setting the scene to the creating the mood, acting lessons and trying out for stage plays will give you a deeper insight into the building blocks of story telling.

12. Candle Making

A lot goes into making candles. There’s more than one kind of wax, numerous different colors, wicks, and candle scents. Then there is the shape of the candle. You can use pre-made candle molds or you can make your own, original molds. By the time you are finished, you will have a beautiful candle to light up and create the right atmosphere for your next book.

13. Dancing

Sometimes you just got to get up and move about. Dance alone, learn to dance by DVD, or take a dance class. You never know when you can put some dancing into your story.


14. Genealogy

Genealogy will take you down many roads, from family stories and strangely beautiful photos to wars and forgotten customs. Researching your family’s past will open your eyes up to the world and the lives of the past. All of this is great inspiration for novels of all genres.


15. Cooking

Cooking has long been a hobby of mine, and it is what landed me my job at as the bread baking expert.

Cooking not only sparks creativity, it is also tied in with your production levels. You can cook in bulk and prepare meals ahead of time so that you have plenty of healthy meals to heat up while you are working on a writing project.

16. Model Building

Model building isn’t the popular hobby it used to be, but the things you can build will spur an endless array of story ideas. There are model kits for so many things, from buildings and ships to rockets and cars. Any item you build can inspire a story or several.

17. Playing an Instrument

Were you in a band back in school? Have you ever had an interest in learning to play an instrument? Learning to play an instrument takes time and determination, but it can also be a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.

18. Sewing

Years ago, when my two oldest children were small, I would sew them costumes for playtime and for Halloween. Dressing up and creating a magical world for them was fun and enabled me to write up a number of sewing articles. Now that I have a new little one, I am getting back into sewing costumes and dreaming of magical things.

19. Astronomy

Staring up at the stars at night and learning the myths surrounding the constellations is a beautiful way to use your free time. This hobby can inspire numerous book ideas, from science fiction to tales of mythic proportion.


20 Ghost Hunting

Heading out and searching local haunts will not only inspire your creativity, you will also learn about local history and catch up on old gossip. Many ghost hunters have turned to writing books, both nonfiction and fiction.

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Struggling for Book Ideas?

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