One quick tip for writers to save money

This applies to anyone buying anything online but we writers need every trick we can get. That’s so even if the trick and the tip in question is really small.

This is really small. But it’s saved me enough over the years that I want to be sure that you know it too:

When you’ve picked an item on an online store and put it in your shopping basket, open a second tab and google the name of the store plus the phrase ‘voucher’.

Nine times out of ten, you won’t get anything useful. Nine times out of ten you will be told there are discounts available for that reseller and there aren’t, it’s just to get you to click through or join up or something. But once in a while, and just often enough, you get 5%, 10% and 20% discount vouchers.

Usually what you get is some code word or serial number: copy that and you’ll find a spot to paste it on the online store’s checkout page.

If it worked every time, I’d have told you before. But it happens enough that Angela got an extra present this Christmas.

Weekend read: a tale of two supermarkets

Well, it’s Tesco and Sears. Both have supermarkety bits to them, both do more, both have interestingly turbulent times. I’m just terribly interested when unstoppable companies stumble: IBM was invincible and now it’s still gigantic and successful but you barely think of it. Microsoft, much the same. Now Tesco, surely royalty of UK supermarkets if not yer acksual king, has taken a kicking.

There’s a schadenfreude element, I suppose, and I’m not embarrassed by that when, for instance, the company falling from a dizzy height only got to that height through blatant copying of another firm. (Did you hear the joke when Apple’s Tim Cook came out as gay? Word was that the head of Samsung was going to come out as more gay.)

But speaking of Apple, I’m also interested really interested when big companies turn around. Apple was within 90 days of bankruptcy and look at it now. Maybe this all speaks to me because I’m a freelancer and a writer: I don’t have a multi-billion dollar business nor, crucially, thousands of employees but we get the ups and downs, we really get them.

So this pair of unrelated but oh-so-very-related articles from the Harvard Business Review makes an absorbing read. First this about Tesco’s woes:

Tesco’s chairman has resigned in disgrace. The company’s market value has more than halved to an 11-year low as it acknowledged overstating profits by hundreds of millions of dollars. And a humbled Warren Buffett, after opportunistically raising his stake in the company after a surprise profit warning, confessed to CNBC: “I made a mistake on Tesco. That was a huge mistake by me.”

Tesco’s Downfall Is a Warning to Data-Driven Retailers – Michael Schrage, Harvard Business Review (28 October 2014)

And now one about how Sears has faced stumbles before but manages to get up and have another go:

It’s easy to suggest that perhaps it’s simply run its course; after all, over the last 50 years, the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has shrunk from about 60 years to less than 20, as more than one business thinker has pointed out. Founded in 1886 as a mail-order watch retailer, Sears was already 71 when it became an original member of the S&P 500 in 1957. At the hoary age of 128, it had beat the odds twice over when it lost its place to chemical maker LyondellBasell at close of trading this year on September 4th.

But perhaps its current woes are just a blip in a long, long history of facing and rising to challenges. A trip through the HBR archives shows just how cutting-edge the company has been in so many ways for so long

Sears Has Come Back from the Brink Before – Andrea Ovans, Harvard Business Review (28 October 2014)

Did I say this already? Buy 1Password right now

I definitely urged this in the latest edition of The Blank Screen email newsletter – do sign up for your free copy – and if I’ve met you on the street in the last few days I’ve undoubtedly pressed you on the issue. But I don’t think I’ve said it here and I must.

Buy 1Password for iOS now.

As in now. Please rush.

Well, you can take a little bit of time because it’s on sale and will be for at least a short while: it’s not one of those instant on, instant off sales. And as ever with things I recommend on sale, it is more than worth its full price so if you miss the discount, shrug it off.

So you know, the sale price goes thisaway: 1Password for iPhone is briefly £6.99 UK or $9.99 US (instead of £9.99 UK or $17.99 US). Check the maker’s website, though, because there are many options if you’re using more than one device: 1Password official site.

It’s a password manager – creates great passwords for you and then, this is the key part, both remembers them all and pops them into websites for you – and it’s also especially good at holding all your credit card details and, again, popping them into websites when you say Go. It’s also very cross-platform: I use it daily on Mac, iPhone and iPad but there is also a PC, Windows and Android version. They all play nicely, too, so if you’re a PC user with an iPhone or a Mac user with an Android phone, you’re fine. Possibly schizophrenic, but fine.

If you are on a PC or Android, my reason to urge you to buy 1Password is solely that it is so very good. Indispensable. I went from wondering why anyone would want such a thing to having it on my iPhone’s front screen and using it literally every day. Literally literally: there’s a thing I have to do every single day and I do it through 1Password because it’s so much quicker.


If you’re on an iOS device, there is an extra delightful urgency to all this. Buy 1Password for iPhone or iPad on sale today and you will get the next version for free. The next version will be a significant upgrade but it won’t cost existing users anything and you will be an existing user.

I am an existing user, I am a now very long-standing existing user, and I’m excited by this – I don’t use the word lightly, I actually am excited – because of what’s coming in the next version.

The next 1Password will be the first or at most among the very first apps to use Apple’s new Extensions feature that lets one app use another. I told you that I do this thing every day: it’s using a website that I have to log in to and on my iPhone, I have to remember to go to it via 1Password in order to have the password app pop my details in. If I’ve just gone there via Safari, I either nip back and forth to 1Password, copying out my secure details and pasting them in to Safari – or I quit it all and start the job again in 1Password.

From the next version and Apple’s iOS 8, I will be able to just call up 1Password right from within Safari and have it do my doings for me. If I have the new 1Password, iOS 8 and a newer iPhone than I currently have, I’ll be able to tap my thumb in order to get it to enter secure details for me.

I’d say that if I were you, I’d buy 1Password now. But if I really were you, you’d already have it.

Fantastical for Mac (briefly) half price

This is the Mac version of the genuinely acclaimed calendar software. I use Fantastical 2 for iPhone and iPad a lot and it took a lot to get me to try it. Apple’s iPhones and iPads ship with a calendar that I’m happy with so to even get me to look at another, less then getting me to change over to it, tells me a lot about how useful Fantastical is.

And yet I’ve not bought it on the Mac yet. On iOS devices, it works in the same way as the regular calendar – its functions are better, I would say, but it’s an app and it fills your screen, it’s the same in that sense. On a Mac, though, not so much. Back in April when I had realised my love for Fantastical 2 for iPhone was true, I explained my reasons for not buying the Mac one thisaway:

I don’t need Apple’s Calendar any more. Not on my iPhone and iPad. It’s still the calendar I use on my Mac: currently Fantastical for Mac is a menu drop down and I think I heard it may become a more fully-fledged app so while I continue getting used to it, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

Three Calendars, No Waiting – William Gallagher, The Blank Screen (11 April 2014)

We’re now a few months on and Fantastical 2 for iOS has been updated, there’s no sign of a new version for the Mac. Plus, the current version looks rather good. I should bite a bullet and try it – and now is the right time since it’s on sale for half price.

That makes it £6.99 UK or $9.99 US on the Mac App Store.

Read more on the official site which also has this explanation of what Fantastical does:

The Mac calendar you’ll actually enjoy using

Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun:

Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke
Type in your event details and press return
…and you’re back to what you were doing with a shiny new event in your calendar!

Fantastical’s natural language engine is expressive and intelligent so you can write in your own style. Even better, Fantastical automatically recognizes the location of your event and can even invite people from Contacts (Mavericks and Mountain Lion) or Address Book (Lion and Snow Leopard) to your event.

Fantastical for Mac – official site

EverDock (briefly) on sale

Why are these things only ever briefly on sale? So that we rush to get them while we can. And that’s fair enough this time: EverDock is a fine piece of work and the only reason I’m not rushing is that I already did.

EverDock is just a place to pop up your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, tablet, any of that while it charges. But it’s the one dock. Whatever you’ve got, whatever you change to, the same dock works for it all. And it’s a chunk of metal, heavy and solid, that sticks very nicely to tables.

It was originally a Kickstarter campaign and I backed it with a pre-order for two double docks. Both of which are doing fine service all these months later.

Cult of Mac currently has a deal on where you can get a single dock for $39 plus postage. Do it. Even though it means you’re signed up for life to Cult of Macs torrent of deals. Go through this link to make sure you get their deal price.

And watch what sold me on the whole thing: here’s the video that the makers Fuz Designs did for Kickstarter:

Evernote Market reaches Europe

The Evernote company has just announced it will now ship to addresses in Europe. What it will ship is a collection of bags and clothing that are fine but also some hardware that is rather good. In particular, there is this:


That’s an Evernote edition of a ScanSnap scanner of which the company says:

The ScanSnap Evernote Edition, a collaboration between Evernote and Fujitsu, is not only the first of its kind – it’s the best in its class. You can put nearly anything in it, push one button, and with lightning speed it scans, senses, and autofiles your photos, receipts, business cards, and documents into your designated Evernote notebooks. Before you can walk away for a cup of coffee, you’ll get a simple notification to let you know Evernote has done your filing for you.

Except, you pay a lot for the Evernote colour and logo. I mean, a lot. This model costs £475 through Evernote Market but is functionally equivalent to the ScanSnap iX500 which you can currently get from Amazon UK for £318. In the US, the Evernote edition is $495 and the iX500 equivalent is $424 from Amazon USA.

I started telling you this because I thought it was good that Evernote Market was expanding outside the USA but now I’m just going to stick to Amazon. Still, take a look at Evernote’s description of the scanner as it’s good – and the market has other products.

Scrivener on sale for $20 (in UK too)

It’s the word processor for writers that just about every reviewer loves. I liked it very much in my brief use of the trial version last year: I had a particularly complicated and messy project and Scrivener made it feel manageable. I chucked in all these chapters that had been emailed to me, I sorted through duplicates and rewrites, figured out the right order and could then just work on it as normal.

I’d have bought Scrivener right there and then but for how that project required me to go back to the writer with Word files and we needed to have tracked changes. You can’t do that in Scrivener, so far as I can tell, so I didn’t get it then.

But I did today.

It’s temporarily $20. That works out to just over £11 UK and since the regular, Mac App Store price in the UK is £31, I was convinced. Sold. Bought. Using it now.

There is one extra cost: by getting this price you are going through a deal with Cult of Mac and that will also get you on their mailing list. Quite a bit. Still, I’ve bought a couple of things through them now. In fact, I’ve bought Scrivener twice: I got it for my wife Angela Gallagher last year in some deal then.

So the deals do come around but if you fancy Scrivener, now is a very good time to buy. Check out this link and do so in the next few days or it will expire.

There’s more to negotiation than money

If you’ve got a meeting with someone, they want to work with you. Or at least they want to want to work with you. Make the most of that meeting, get what you can and remember that the ideal is that you will be working with these people so let’s leave everyone happy. And at some point money is going to come into it but money is not all.

It’s a lot. Let’s not be daft.


Have more items than they have. Let’s say you are negotiating a book advance. They offer a $10,000 advance and they can’t budge higher.

That’s fine. Now make your list of other things: how much social media marketing will they do, what bookstores will they get you into, who has control over book design, what percentage of foreign rights, of digital rights, you can get. Do royalties go up after a certain number of copies are sold, will they pay for better book placement in key stores, will they hire a publicist? And so on.

Before every negotiation. Make a list. Make the list as long as possible. If your list is bigger than theirs (size matters) then you can give up “the nickels for the dimes”.

This is not just about negotiation. This is to make sure that later you are not disappointed because there is something you forgot. Always prepare. Then you can have faith that because you prepared well, the outcome will also go well.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Become a Great Negotiator – The Altucher Confidential



Free today – Lists To Do for iPhone

I've not used it, not even heard of it before two minutes ago – but on being told of it, I wanted to make sure you knew too. This fairly basic-looking tasks app, Lists To Do, is free for today only.

It's usually 69p so it's not like that will destroy your bank balance, but To Do apps are so important that it's worth checking out a lot of them. And a lot of 69p can add up.

So do take a moment to check this one out here.

See specifically when you should buy air tickets

hopperForget general advice about always buying on Tuesdays or always buying 6-8 weeks before you want to fly. Instead, use Hopper. Punch in the airport you want to go from and the one you want to go to. Then instantly see a really gorgeously detailed report that tells you exactly when to buy and when to go.


Hopper’s data is gathered via crowdsourcing so it is continually updating which means it is continually changing. So strictly speaking what you see is exactly the time to buy and the time to go as it appears now. But that is pretty good.

Go straight to trying it out for yourself at Hopper’s official site for this and also read the New York Times article that examines the service.