The secret to asking the right questions: Follow the story

Do you remember a TV character called Columbo? He was a detective with one squinty eye who was a master of questioning his suspects. He was pretty awkward himself. He had a limping gait and kept his head cocked on one side. He wore a crumpled overcoat. His targets often underestimated him. And that is the way he liked it. He’d ask them questions that seemed stupid. Then, just as they were leaving the interview, he’d say, ‘Just one more thing.” And he’d fix them with his squinty gaze and ask a killer question that showed up everything they were saying as a lie. I loved Columbo.  Read More


Is ‘wibble-wobble’ a desirable quality in your book design?

Poor design and printing can really let your book down. You have gone to all the trouble to write 25,000 to 45,000 words; now put some effort into the presentation of your ideas. I’ve been known to reject a book, even though I wanted to read it, because of poor design. Of course, I might be biased. In a former life, I was a graphic designer and a print-production manager – I’ve got baggage.

There are a few classic errors that really scream ‘amateur’ when it comes to design and printing. And wibble-wobble – or the lack thereof – is one of them.  Read More


The path to business success: Write a book

The path to business success is often one of personal change.

Jacqui Pretty, the founder of The Grammar Factory, did not set out to start a business offering an editing service. Pretty planned to start a copywriting company. There was just one problem with that idea: she quickly discovered she hated copywriting. Despite her background in the publishing sector, she found writing draining.

“What I found difficult was constantly producing new content,” Pretty says. “I could do that on a short term basis, but it was creatively draining to do that constantly. I didn’t want that to be my business.”

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Structure your book without sacrificing creativity

Writing is like running. Authors need to warm up their creative muscles every time they sit down to express themselves. The structure that you apply to your writing process and to communicating your thoughts is the equivalent of the runner’s warm up.

In fact, as I sat down to write this blog, I started in about six different ways – and deleted each one (I can’t believe I still do that after 20 years!). Then I finally asked myself: what am I actually trying to say? I wrote down four key points. Then I looked at the order of them, rearranged them, and here we go.  Read More


How to judge if your book topic has been ‘done to death’?

Could there ever be a productivity book to top Stephen Covey’s international bestseller – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? It seemed impossible until Timothy Ferriss published The Four-Hour Work Week. Done. Until Dermot Crowley published Smart Work. Productivity might have been done to death, but the global appetite for productivity books never dies. We all want help to squeeze more out of our day, to achieve balance, to work smarter. It’s called an ‘evergreen’ topic.  Read More