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Writer Fail #18: How to Increase Your Subscribers Ten-Fold.

Okay, so you have your blog, you have your niche. You love your niche. It’s helpful, it’s interesting and it’s relevant. You’re posting daily – you’ve got the first few months written out.

Now what?

Now you need to give people a reason to sign up right now.

Many people who visit your blog will be 50/50 on signing up for it. They’ll see you have great content. But people get a lot of e-mails, and the last thing they want is one more.

Unless you can prove that signing up, not just visiting, will be worth their while.

Which means: you need to give away your best stuff.

I’m not just talking about a collection of “the best of me” – I’m talking about an e-resource or book that promises immediate usefulness in the lives of those who click. Something you took time and energy to create. Something that makes people talk about you and your content.

For me, I took about a week to dig deep and research my “How to Be Well-Read in One Year or Less” e-resource. It’s only three pages, but it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. It’s relevant to my topic. And it’s incredibly useful – I use it myself about once a month at least.

I’m adding to that collection of resources my current series (with bonus materials) – “25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published (And How to Fix Them).” I’ll be offering this in addition to my three other free resources as an incentive to subscribe.

So, how do you go about creating an e-resource and sending it to subscribers? It’s actually very simple.

  • First, come up with your resource idea – it needs to be relevant to your blogging topic, and promise immediate usefulness.
  • Second, write it up.
  • Third, download a free pdf converter like Nitro Reader. Convert your file to pdf.
  • Fourth, sign up or an e-mail marketing site like Mailchimp or AWeber. I use AWeber, and they are phenomenal – they are expensive, but since they have increased my subscriber rate by TEN-fold, they’re well worth it. When I went to an advertiser with my blog stats, they happily offered to pay me a monthly fee worth double the cost of AWeber.
  • Create a “Sign Up Form”, and in your “reply” e-mail, attach your e-book.
  • Now, add the Sign-up form to your blog – you can check AWeber videos and ask for help on this (I did!) and they will be MORE than happy to assist.

Now you’re done!

I’m not exaggerating when I say since adding my incentives my blog sign-ups have increased times ten. It’s the best move I ever made, relative to blog traffic.

Now brainstorm some useful resources, and get them out there TODAY.

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Breakfast Blend 09.18.14

A Forgotten Key to Preaching – PRINCE ON PREACHING: “One of the most undervalued skills for effective preaching is Scripture saturation. With the dominance of a media culture, the perceived need for being thoroughly saturated with texts in general and the biblical storyline in particular has diminished.

The Five Most Persuasive Words in the English Language - COPYBLOGGER: When it comes to assembling persuasive copy, like any other construction job, you need to rely on your skills, experience, and toolbox. The toolbox of the writer is filled with words.

How to Memorize – HEAD HEART HAND: Unfortunately, few students are taught how to memorize, usually resulting in lots of inefficient and ineffective trial-and-error methods. Some of the following tips are based on research and some on my own experience of learning and teaching.

Why I Love George Whitefield – CROSSWAY: “This year it’s the 300th birthday of the great 18th century evangelist, George Whitefield. He’s less famous than his contemporary, John Wesley, because he didn’t really write hymns and didn’t start his own denomination. So what’s to love about George Whitefield?”

David Mitchell on Writing Routines – EXPLORE NOODLE: “I have kids [so] my routine has to fit in around being a dad. But that’s okay — in real life you can’t wait around for the Muse to show up, you have to look at the clock, think “I have 45 minutes before I have to be at the school gates”, and work out a scene or polish a piece of dialogue, etc.”

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Writer Fail #17: How to Become Your Own Editor.

I was really happy with the final draft of my book.

Really, I was.

But I had this nagging sensation. Something in my deep subconscious was telling me: “The ending doesn’t work.” I couldn’t have told you why. I re-read it, again and again, and I still couldn’t have told you why. It seemed good, on the surface.

But deep down, I knew – something was wrong. And no matter how long I looked, I couldn’t figure out what it was.

So, I did something I hadn’t done yet.

I took a break.

For about a month, I let my work sit, all alone. I tried not to think about it, or touch it. Out of sight, out of mind. The nagging feeling didn’t go away.

But as the weeks went by, I found something new surfacing: the nagging was returning, but now it was different. It was returning with solutions. Whereas before it was like a pea-green cloud hovering thick over my head, now it would come back and part a little for me.

And, bit by bit, I came to see that my ending had three crucial flaws. And I knew exactly how to fix them.

It’s great to discipline yourself to write every. single. day. Yes, that’s key. But before you publish, or send it to your editor, I implore you – sit on it. Let your brain sift through some of the kinks on its own. Then return to it later, and read it straight through.

You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish when you refuse to work.

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Breakfast Blend 08.16.14

How to Overcome the Myths of Creativity – FORBES: “We’ve convinced ourselves that certain jobs are for creatives and the rest of us don’t need to exercise our creativity in our jobs. But  every organization needs the new and useful ideas that come from its people. To get them, we need positive reinforcement as our people build back their courage to start creative thinking again…Here are his best tips for fostering creativity in your company and your life.”

Preaching Christ from Proverbs – ARMCHAIR THEOLOGY: “Wisdom or wisdom principles failed because they could not produce perfect obedience in believers, but could only serve to show, in an even greater way, the need for something more than these rules and principles. In other words, wisdom failed because it could show Israel what a God-fearing life should be but it could not produce that life.”

C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity – THE GOSPEL COALITION: “C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity is one of the most acclaimed and influential Christian works from the 20th century…But there must be a reason why it’s so poignant, even today. In C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity: The Crisis that Created a Classic, Paul McCusker offers an explanation for the soul-stirring effects of reading Lewis’s classic.”

A Four-Part Interview with MacArthur on Preaching – LEADERS DON”T PANIC: “Recently I had the opportunity sit down with my former mentor and preaching legend John MacArthur. I asked John some critical questions about expository ministry. Over the next several days we’ll post these videos.”

5 Scientific Reasons TEDx talks are Wildly Addictive – PREZI: “In the last ten years researchers studying brain scans have learned more about the science of persuasion than we’ve ever known in all of civilization. That means we know what moves people, and we can prove it scientifically. After analyzing more than 500 TED presentations (adding up to over 150 hours of talks) and speaking directly to successful TED presenters and leading neuroscientists, I’ve discovered that the most popular TED presentations share five common elements that are all based on the science of persuasion. Best of all, you can use these five scientific principles to create more awe-inspiring presentations.”




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Writer Fail #16: Why Writing What You Love Isn’t Enough.

It’s okay to write for yourself. The first time. After that first draft, however, it’s time to move on – you need to write for someone.

Stephen King puts it this way: On the first draft, write with the door closed. On the second, write with it open.

When I first wrote both my fiction and non-fiction books, I wrote mainly for me. Like I said, this is a good start, because it means you’re writing something you’re passionate about.

But if you don’t then think: “Okay, what is the exact profile of the person who is going to be reading this?” then it’s like butchering a cow, carving out a perfect tenderloin, then setting it on the table for your guests raw.

Writing something you love is half the work. If you don’t do the other half, you still have a great product – it’s just not consumable.

Upon the second submission of my manuscripts to my publisher, my editor looked at my metaphors and verbiage and said: “You’re writing a book for teenagers, Nick. You really think they care about Shakespeare, Greco-Roman mythology and dead theologians?”

I thought, “Well they SHOULD!” Besides, I don’t like zombies.

But upon taking my editor’s advice, I found my writing began to transform – I was digging deep into youth culture, trying to understand the way they think, and the stories they love, and the people they admire.

And soon, writing became an act of love.

So, you need to decide who it is you’re writing for. In fact, even better – pick someone. Pick a real person you know, and go back through your manuscript and read it through their eyes. Rewrite everything to make them curious, to make them laugh out loud, to make them think. It’s not commercialism – it’s an act of love.

You might say it’s the difference between a clanging gong and an orchestra.


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Writer Fail #15: How to Write so People Want to Read More.

When I first sent my work to my publisher, I knew I had it in the bag. I had so many zingers, one-liners and well-put-together phrases – there was no WAY I could be rejected.

I really did. Looking back, I see some of that phraseology and think, “That was pretty nice.”

But went I sent it in, I promptly receive a, “This is okay, but it’s not what we’re looking for.”

“Not what you’re LOOKING FOR!?” I thought. “You have no taste. You have no style! You don’t UNDERSTAND ME.” I had spent hours upon hours perfecting every sentence – how could they not like it? It was driving me crazy.

So, I asked: “What is it you don’t like about this?”

They politely pointed out a few phrases in my work – well written, to be sure…but irrelevant. Confusing. Misplaced. It was all over the place, like paint splattered on an empty canvas.

Then I realized what I’d done. I’d broken the cardinal rule of writing, in all of my perfecting: I failed to kill my darlings.

I don’t know who said it first, but it’s true. Writers – you need to kill your darlings. Cut out everything that is irrelevant, no matter how poetic, funny or eye-popping it is. Cut it. The problem with my original work wasn’t the style – it was the substance. I had sentences I’d so finely tuned, that sounded so magical in my ears, that I didn’t want to let them go…even though they no longer fit my message. And because I failed to kill my darlings, I failed to produce something people wanted to read. My publisher was right – I was being artful, not helpful. People who wanted their ears tickled might read. But that’s about it.

Here’s an exercise William Zinsser does with all of his students: he takes their work, looks it over, then says: “This is good. Now cut it in half.” They object. They always object.

But time and again, says Zinsser, students come back with something 10x superior to what they’d created before. Why? They killed their darlings – those little irrelevancies that tickle our ego, but fail to contribute to our cause. And when we do that, we provide people with material they MUST read. All of it is relevant. All of it is useful. All of it is the cream of the crop.

And so people read on.

P.S. My editor did a version of this exercise with me, by giving me a word-count for each chapter I wrote, and had me outline the chapters bit-by-bit before I began. It did wonders for the final manuscript. You might consider doing the same to yourself – set a word-count, and see if you don’t write something 10x better than the original.


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Breakfast Blend 09.11.14

Haddon Robinson on Elements of a Good Sermon: YOUTUBE – Robinson addresses a few keys to what makes a sermon great.

How Habits Shape Everything – JAMES CLEAR: “In 1936, a man named Kurt Lewin wrote a simple equation that changed the way we think about habits and human behavior. The equation makes the following statement: Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment. [1]”

The Politics of Fiction – TEDx: “Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.”

Controversy: The Stuff of Stories – JT COCHRAN: “There is nothing more entertaining than a good story. And the one most entertained in the process is never the audience, though we often assume that is who it is. No. The most entertained of every story is not the recipient but the storyteller.”

Is Twitter Bad for Language? – HUFFPOST BOOKS: “Even basic analysis shows that language on Twitter is far from a degraded form. Below, I’ve compared the most common words on Twitter against the Oxford English Corpus — a collection of nearly 2.5 billion words of modern writing of all kinds — journalism, novels, blogs, papers, everything.”


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Writer Fail #14: Why Social Media Doesn’t Matter (Sort of).

A lot of social media gurus can tell you how to increase your facebook likes, drive your twitter followers or gear your writing toward pinterest users. There’s nothing wrong with these tactics. But the truth is, most people who want to be published are PROBABLY doing other things with their time.

When I first started building a platform, I focused a lot of time on trying to build an RSS feed. Then Twitter. Then Facebook.

But as it turns out, while these things aren’t wrong, they’re not the MOST important thing.

Believe it or not, study after study has shown that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, RSS, Goodreads, Pinterest or any other social media outlet do LITTLE in the way of driving people to your published work. Why?

They’re low commitment.

These are the cute but out-of-touch freshmen prom-date of the social-media world. Having 50,000 twitter followers might seem like a grand success, but there are a zillion ways to get 50,000 twitters, none of which are about winning people to your cause, your ideas, your passion.

So how do we spend our limited time building our platform?

Let’s just say you can’t beat the classics.

The magic formula is…Ready for it?….


Study after study (see “How to Sell Your First 1,000 Copies) has demonstrated that those who subscribe to your e-mail list are those who will buy your work. They’re the people who care so passionately about what you do that they’re willing to let you into their daily life. They’re willing to give you an extra-slot on the “I already have way too many of these” list. They are your disciples.

These are people who want to hear what you have to say.

Disciples buy books – not fans. So, if you only have time for one social media activity, use other tactics sparingly – focus on building that e-mail list.



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Breakfast Blend 09.09.14

What Effective Pastors Do with Their Time - THOM RAINER: “Leadership gurus will tell you that a primary skill of an effective leader is the ability to manage time for maximum productivity. Out of curiosity, our research team asked over 200 pastors to provide us an hour-by-hour calendar of a typical 168-hour week for them. Keep in mind that 168 hours represent all the hours in a week, so their reports included such mundane items as sleeping and eating.”

Get Your Own Platform Makeover - MICHAEL HYATT: “Are you frustrated that you aren’t getting the attention your message deserves? Do you know your message matters but can’t understand why more people aren’t finding and consuming the content you’re creating? Do you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels and not making any progress?”

Creativity Creep - THE NEW YORKER: “Every culture elects some central virtues, and creativity is one of ours. In fact, right now, we’re living through a creativity boom. Few qualities are more sought after, few skills more envied. Everyone wants to be more creative—how else, we think, can we become fully realized people?”

Write Until You Die – THE KILL ZONE: “People with regular jobs usually can’t wait to retire. A writer should never retire. Fight to be creative as long as you live. Do it this way…”

How ‘Gatsby’ Went from Flop to Great American Novel - NPR: “When book critic Maureen Corrigan first read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in high school, she was unimpressed…But today Corrigan considers The Great Gatsby to be the greatest American novel — and it’s the novel she loves more than any other.”

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Writer Fail #13: How to Make Your Writing “Pop”.

Full credit for this one goes to my lovely wife, Brenna. When she edited the first novel I ever wrote, she peppered me with questions: “Describe that bodily action for me – how does that work? What style of clothing is that? What KIND of brown?”

As she began to edit my work, I saw a recurring pattern: my work wasn’t realistic, because it wasn’t full of the little details that make it so.

Christopher Tolkien once noted in a documentary about his father that the one real magic trick his father (J.R.R. Tolkien) had was to imagine something, and convince us it really existed. How did he do this? Well – all of those pages and pages of detailed, vivid description you probably skipped the first time you read it?

That’s the secret.

Even IF you skipped the detail, knowing it was there did something to you psychologically, didn’t it? It made your subconscious say: “I don’t much care for it, but this guy does. He’s been there. It’s REAL.”

Stephen King notes in his forward to the Dark Tower series that what made Hansel and Gretel such an enduring tale wasn’t the witch, nor the candy-house. It was the bread-crumbs – it was this strange little detail that made the story oddly believable. When we think of that story, they’re the first thing that come to mind (unless you’ve seen some nasty 90’s film versions and were traumatized as a child…not that I DID, or anything…if that’s you, its more about the horror of seeing two kids who looked strikingly like your neighbors nearly tossed into an oven).

So – add those little details. Push yourself. What kind of candy bar? What sort of punch? What shade of red? It will do secret Tolkenian wonders.


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