Today is the 1 year anniversary of The Art and Business of Online Writing.
I started writing this book right at the beginning of the pandemic. I was stuck at home. I had just scaled back my ghostwriting agency, Digital Press. And all of a sudden, I had a ton of time on my hands. It had also been almost 4 years since I had published my first book, Confessions of a Teenage Gamer, which was a memoir about my teenage years as a professional World of Warcraft player.
It took me 4 years to write my first book.
And it took me 4 months to write my second one.
Why my 2nd book took 10x less time to write:
I started writing my first book my senior year of college. And back then, I still subscribed to the belief system that in order to be “a writer,” you needed to bleed your way through whatever work of art was currently in focus. In some strange, almost masochistic way, the longer that first book took me to write (and the more chapters I re-wrote and re-wrote), the “better” I thought it was.
It wasn’t until I hit publish and sent it out into the world that I realized how wrong I’d been.
All I’d done was making the process harder for myself.
With my second book, The Art and Business of Online Writing, I decided to start eating my own dog food (which are the same principles I teach other writers in Ship 30 for 30, a cohort-based masterclass helping people start writing online).
All my success writing on the Internet—accumulating 100 million+ views, being published in major publications like Harvard Business Review, having my own column with Inc Magazine, and going viral hundreds and hundreds of times—hadn’t been me following the same playbook as Hemingway, Faulkner, or Dostoevsky.
My success in the digital world had come from my invention of a new rulebook for myself.
- One where I didn’t hide my work away from the world for four years—instead, I Practiced In Public and published works-in-progress on social sites like Quora and Medium.
- One where I wrote, clarified, and refined my topics with my audience as I went.
- One where instead of aiming for “perfect,” I started aiming for “good enough, quickly.”
As a result, my 2nd book outsold my first book by a wide margin. And The Art and Business of Online Writing has since gathered a cult-like following in the realm of emerging digital writers.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book, visualized.
1. Give away 99% of your best writing for free. Monetize the last 1%.
2. In the game of Online Writing, volume wins.
3. The Golden Intersection of great writing is: Answering The Reader’s Question x Telling Them An Entertaining Story
4. You are not the main character in your story. The reader is.
5. If the “sweet spot” of an online article is 800 to 1,200 words, then your job as a writer is to pack as much value into your Main Points as possible — without inflating the piece’s word count.
6. The size of your audience is a direct reflection of the size of the question you’re answering.
7. The Curiosity Gap in your headline tells the reader what this piece of writing is about, who it’s for, and what it’s promising — all without revealing the answer.
8. It’s only “clickbait” if you fail to keep your promise to the reader.
9. Anytime you fail to deliver on your promise to a reader, you’ve lost them.
10. Consistent output is the secret to every growth metric on the internet: views, comments, Likes, shares, etc.
11. Data doesn’t lie. But data is also a reflection of the external crowd, and not necessarily your internal compass.
12. If your goal is to be a successful writer, then social platforms are for publishing first, and consuming second.
13. When it comes to writing online, platforms will always change, but the rules will stay (pretty much) the same.
14. Categories are created at unlikely intersections, spotted by writers with an intimate understanding of one or multiple sub-categories.
15. What makes a badge of credibility valuable isn’t really the badge itself. It’s how the writer chooses to wear it.
16. The inverse rule of “Specificity Is The Secret,” is “The Broader You Are, The More Confusing You Are.”
17. When I was in college, one of my teachers used to say all the time, “If your story is reliant on the reader making it past the first few pages, then chances are, your story doesn’t need those pages.”
18. Categories are how we organize information in our minds. Define your category and you’ll know where readers “fit” you into their minds.
19. Successful writers play the game of Online Writing consciously. Unsuccessful writers play the game unconsciously — and then wonder why they aren’t succeeding.
20. There are 2 types of writers today: those who use data to inform and improve their writing, and those who fail.
Want to get started writing online?
Grab a copy of The Art and Business of Online Writing. This is the ultimate playbook for writing in the digital world, and is exactly how I’ve built myself on the Internet over the past 10 years.