Monday, January 30, 2017

COMMIT: 20 Ways to Win

Happy New Year! Perhaps you’ve made a resolution…or two…or three…to make 2017 a year of change for you. Fine. Good first step.

Even more important: get committed, really committed, the message of a recent, highly acclaimed book by Linda Formichelli,

One Woman’s Story

Linda Formichelli two decades ago wanted to become a professional writer and break free of working in the corporate cubicle. Baby steps might have sufficed, but she found that she and her family had to commit to this goal big-time. She changed careers, moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina, economized on time and money, wrote articles, editor queries, and cover letters non-stop, homeschooled their son…all to fulfilled her personal commitment to become a prosperous freelance writer. It worked.

Giant Steps, Not Baby Steps

Though we are advised to eat the elephant one bite at time and take that journey of a thousand miles one step at a time and heat that frog slowly, Ms. Formichelli disagrees: sometimes, baby steps will NOT get you where you want to go. Giant dreams require giant steps.

Committing works four ways: explosively quick results; boosted motivation: success feeding upon success; victories that energize you.

20 Ways to Win

Here are this author’s 20 tactics (her words, my explanations):

“Embrace discomfort.” If it’s comfortable, you aren’t stretching enough.

“Clear the decks.” Abandon lesser projects and concerns.

“Make it non--optional.” If it is really worth doing, then you MUST do it.

“Connect your goal to a larger purpose.” Why are you doing this, really?

“Go big or go home.” Half-measures won’t win.

“Check in with yourself.” Is this what you really want?

“Put some skin in the game.” The more you risk, the greater your motivation to succeed.

“Read 10 or more books on the subject.” You’ll nearly be an expert.

“Overwhelm your goals with sheer numbers.” Barely enough is likely to be insufficient. Recall “shock and awe” attack. Nothing succeeds like excess?

“Make a list of 100 ideas.” Don’t settle for listing 10. Some of the next 90 are likely to be gems.

“Do a 30-day challenge.” We can endure almost anything for a month.

“Fill every spare moment.” Be like those ladies who knit while doing something else, almost anything else.

“Deliberately move faster.” You can accelerate if you decide to.

“Surf your way to success.” The Web can be your friend.

“Measure everything.” Management gurus advise: if it isn’t measured, it doesn’t get done.

“Hire help.” Not all tasks are suitable as do-it-yourself projects.

 “Divide and conquer.” Utilize specialization and division of labor.

“Crowdsourcing.” The ultimate in getting outside involvement.

“Gear up.” You can’t do something with nothing. Buy the essentials, at least. Investment enhances motivation.

“Make space.” You’ll need elbow room or even a whole room. Find space at home or perhaps rent it.

“Let the competition spur you on.” If Mr. X. or Ms. Y. can do it, so can you, right?


Ms. Fornichelli gives the encouraging example of her family’s migration south and her successful freelance writing career, requiring the family’s whole-hearted commitment. She gives the counter-example of their unsuccessful effort to keep their cats from destroying their furniture, an effort marked by half-measures and failure. (Cats rule!)

In my own case, I rescued my college sweetheart from a difficult situation, changed location, jobs, and career, downshifted my living arrangements and my other expenses, and was blessed with the marriage that I had always hoped for.

The Bottom Line for Top Performance

“Faint heart never won fair lady” the adage goes. Whether in love or war or career, one must commit fully to achieve great outcomes.

What have you done wholeheartedly and succeeded at? What do you want to commit to for 2017?                                                                                        
Please join the conversation.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his business website, His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.


Published in somewhat different form at

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I almost got paid to write some books rather than to coach or edit. For nearly a day this prospect had me feeling high.

A representative from “Fake Publishing” (not its actual name) contacted me on Twitter, where I am active in writing about politics, science, and writing. He indicated he had liked what he had read of mine, went to my site,, and liked that, too. He asked whether I would be interested in getting paid to write books for his company. 

I responded that, depending on the topic, this would suit me just fine, and I offered to do so for a few cents per word. He continued to be interested, and we scheduled a phone conversation for the following morning. Excited, I went through my 300-odd blog entries and my monthly articles for and my memoir, Ting and I, and came up with dozens of possible topics I could write up for them. I assumed we would be discussing his needs and my suggestions and come to a “meeting of the minds” on a topic. Money was not my paramount consideration, although it is the sincerest form of flattery.

When we spoke the next day, it became clear that what he wanted was ghostwriting. He said he was impressed with my credentials and my writing and that Fake Publishing has orders for books that professionals, like doctors, pay to have others write for them. The real author is to be a “ghost,” not to be credited in any way, but rather the “professional” is to be the person associated with the book. 

I said I would not do this for two reasons: First, some credit (even in the acknowledgments) is part of the reward for writing the book. Second, and more important to me, participating in what I see as fraud is distasteful. Claiming credit for a book one did not write is a form a plagiarism, big time, despite its being quite common---for politician’s books, for example.

Years ago I helped a very successful writer who had gotten wealthy, partly through ghostwriting books. He paid me for the bulk of my contributions, which he used for part of the book he was writing for a doctor, but he stiffed me for the last 20% of what I wrote. I was helping him ghostwrite a book. Perhaps I was aiding and abetting fraud. I should not have been surprised that, to a degree, he cheated me, too. The adage goes, “You can’t cheat an honest man.” I might add, you are likely to be cheated when dealing with a dishonest person.

If you are dealing with a professional who claims to have written a book, beware. Check his publishing company out, if you can. I’d give you this advice: don’t trust a plagiarist or his enablers.


Excerpted from my recent book, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available through OP and online booksellers like and Next section gives a different opinion from a ghostwriter herself. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Learn from a Cartoonist?

Scott Adams, successful author and entrepreneur, is best known for his highly popular daily cartoon strip, Dilbert, chronicling the workplace ups and downs of this nicely nerdy engineer and his odd workfellows, which include a pointy-haired boss and colleagues who make an art of work-shirking. 

Adams has written a valuable, enthusiastically reviewed book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. “This is the story of one person’s unlikely success within the context of scores of embarrassing failures,” encouragement for those of us who feel on the edge of success but not yet ensconced there. Rather contrarian, it serves as an “on the other hand” for the advice we often receive.

It’s Mostly Luck

Who, where, and what you are is largely a matter of chance Adams argues.

Even so, you can improve your chances. Adding a skill, even at a modest level, “doubles” your chances for success: public speaking, psychology, conversation, grammar, persuasion, a second language, business writing, basic accounting, the Internet, even design basics. He lists about a dozen useful skills. These skills become part of your “stack of talents.” The more of them, like tickets to a lottery, the more likely you are to capitalize on an opportunity and win.

Passion Is B.S.

Adams learned this from a commercial loan officer who shied away from lending to entrepreneurs who were long on passion: “…the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet.” Finance trumps fervor.

Goals Are Not Golden, Not Enough

Yes, without goals, we are adrift; specific goals can keep us motivated and on course. And yet…a goal we repeatedly fail to reach is discouraging, sapping our energy. Better, Adams argues, is to have a system, a method we stick to and regularly reward ourselves for doing so.

Lose 20 pounds? Nice idea for some, but if progress is slow, the diet is dropped. Instead, we must change our eating habits, adopt a new system. Every day we stick to the new regime is a victory. I did this myself this year, dropping 10% of my weight by greatly restricting carbs and replacing them with salads and proteins. The daily “victories” helped me maintain my new weight. I confess I did keep track of both what I was eating and how much I lost.

Failure Is the Raw Material for Success

Adams describes numerous failures on his way to success as an author, entrepreneur, and cartoonist. “If success were easy, everyone would do it. It takes effort.”

Somewhere in the mound of your unsuccessful efforts is likely to be a success. “The trick is to get the good stuff out.”

First, you generate the mound. Adams amusingly describes his own pile of trial-and-error. From failure comes knowledge…if the failure is faced squarely, and if it doesn’t kill you. Next comes success.

Conservation of Energy Is not Limited to Physics

While we can increase our personal energy---sleep enough, eat well, keep active daily---we have to note what drains our energy, too; avoid the negativity of much of the news of the day and the people who are pessimists rather than optimists. Pay attention to how you feel; recognize uppers and downers.

Affirmations: Effective or Just Seem To Be So?

“I, Jane Dough, am going to be a best-selling writer.” That’s an affirmation. Repeat it often, and it appears to improve your chances of reaching this goal.

Scott Adams gives specific, rather spooky, examples from his own life of his affirmations that came true. He gives the arguments on both sides of the question of whether an affirmation really changes your chances or only seems to. He concludes it costs you nothing and may well be of benefit.

The Best Advice on Success

“If you want something, figure out the price, then pay it.” You have to decide rather than merely want.

Seeking to be successful, and paying the price for it, may seem excessively selfish, but doing so can allow you to enjoy your life, help others, and not be a burden on anyone.

Adams estimates he will consume about a tenth of the wealth he has gained, with the rest going to “taxes, future generations, start-up investments[D1]  and stimulating the economy.” Failed enterprises do not long support their owners, their employees, or their communities.

Doubt the Experts

Some truths are self-evident; some are simply expert opinion. Though experts have a better record than non-experts, they also make serious mistakes. Advice must be taken with skepticism.

“If your gut feeling (intuition) disagrees with the experts, take that seriously.” Going against expert opinion may lead to ideas that open opportunities for you that others have overlooked.

Although sometimes you should doubt even popular cartoonists.
What are you doing to add to your skill set? What have you done to improve your “luck”?
Please join the conversation.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his business website, His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.


Published in a slightly different form at


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Selling Your First 1000 Copies

Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book is Tim Grahl’s contribution to the art or science of marketing your book. His method relies on a strong email list, applying a system of:

Permission: “Without permission, your communication efforts risk being ignored, deleted or otherwise tuned out.” Grahl’s key: a mailing list of willing recipients. “Earning such permission is the art of motivating website visitors to grant permission to stay connected.” In other words, letting you add to the clutter of their email. “Having a direct connection to an individual’s inbox gives authors a way to communicate to their readers where they regularly spend their time.”
You get their permission by attracting them to a website with an offer, exchanging the offer for something you value, their email address. People pay more attention to most items in their email inbox, nearly 100%, than they do to items on Twitter or Facebook, more like 1%. You want them to get to know you and vice-versa. “…your #1 goal as an author should be to grow your email list as much as possible.” Look into MailChimp, Aweber (, and Constant Contact.
 “…two overarching rules: (1) make a specific, compelling offer and (2) expose them to the offer multiple times.”

Content: Use their permission; deliver to them valuable content regularly, and share it freely and publicly, giving it a chance to go viral. Share more than you feel comfortable sharing. Grahl (2013) gives many examples of success by sharing, as your following grows faster, your connections increase and improve, and your reputation soars. Consider bonus offerings besides the book. “Fans want more.”

Outreach: Expanding and deepening your connections, outreach, starts with empathy, identifying with the feelings and thoughts of another. Help others. Zig Zigler is quoted, “You can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people to get what they want in life.” Grahl claims the investment is worth it: “Long-term career plans require long-term thinking.” Over time, you will have connections to both fans and influencers, the latter being more lucrative. Fans you give one-to-many communication. Influencers you give one-to-one interaction.
For recruiting readers, Grahl recommends:
1.   Profile your readers.
2.   Identify where they spend their time.
3.   Create an introduction approach to their platform(s).

Selling: This is the goal of the system. Boost yourself. Ask others to buy, having stimulated their appetites. “Leave them wanting more.” Tell stories that help you connect emotionally with your readers. “Enthusiasm sells. Let it out.” Make it easy to buy and ask them to.        

Building the system:  Mass marketing especially depends on building a system to manage the multitudinous contacts. Do it.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of work I like to do; My email list is paltry and filled with friends rather than potential customers. Your talents, taste, and experience may be quite different.


Excerpted from my book, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available from OP and from online booksellers like and