Using Evernote to write books

It’s a piece from so, you know, there’s not going to be a lot of criticism here but still:

Every day, people rely on Evernote to compile, catalog, organize their research and writing.

For author and chief Business Insider correspondent Nicholas Carlson, Evernote was the primary tool he used to write a 93,000 word book. In six weeks.

That boils down to an average of 2,500 words every day.

This week, Nicholas stopped by our Redwood City HQ to talk about how he used Evernote as the comprehensive writing workspace for his newly published book, “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!”

How to Write a 93,000 Word Book With Evernote – Taylor Pipes, Evernote Blog (18 January 2015)

Read the full piece.

Feeding your specialism: finding enough to write

The problem: you’re writing about a particular topic so much that you become known as an expert. Perhaps you’re not, but you’re more expert than most people so you get asked more, so you get the chance to write more. Since this is hopefully a topic you’re interested in and especially if you are also being paid, this is all very good news.

Except it means you have to keep coming up with the goods. Finding new material, finding new things to write about. I was trained as a journalist when the job required you go out and find things and I lament that now it’s more a job of finding other people’s articles online.

But here’s someone else’s article online. It’s about how to find other people’s articles online. Before this gets too meta, it’s also about feeding your interest so that you can find these and your favourite subject doesn’t become a chore to you.

[Once] your career is up and running, suddenly you face a new challenge: finding the enough stories for your specific beat. Becoming a science writer seems like a great idea until you realize you have to come up with, say, 52 unique science-related stories a year. How do you keep it up?

…How do I find the best stories for these beats? In my case, it comes down to a three-pronged strategy: reading news, following my interests, and asking questions.

Every weekday, Monday through Friday, I publish two stories on The Billfold. How do I come up with 10 new personal finance stories every week? I read a lot of news. Every morning, I get up and start reading sites like Slate, The Atlantic, and The New York Times to look for topics I can turn into stories.

Ask a Freelancer: How Do I Find Enough Stories for My Particular Beat? – Nicole Dieker, Contently (24 February 2015)

Do read the full piece.

Practically an ad for FileMaker Pro

It’s a video with jaunty editing, a kind of indie-pop-folk-happy soundtrack and lots of folk looking very happy with their computers. The only thing that stops this being an actual ad is that they ain’t paying me and I’m not trying to sell you anything.

Take a look at it, though, would you? This is aimed at small business owners and its a promo for FileMaker Pro, a database service. I used to run my Radio Times On This Day research through FileMaker Pro, I wrote The Beiderbecke Affair book using it, I like FileMaker Pro a lot.

And you can find more details about FileMaker on its official site.

Read faster, if you must, but retain more

I don’t believe in speed-reading techniques but then I don’t have to: I naturally read at around 600 words per minute and I also type at around 120wpm. But my retention is poor: I am fantastic at scouring for information but if you ask me detailed questions about the whole text I’ve just taken in, I will be below average.

So that’s what makes me interested in advice that says you can read faster yet retain more by visiting Wikipedia first. Hold on. Wikipedia. O-kay. I’m listening, warily…

There is a relationship between background knowledge and reading comprehension. The more you understand about a particular subject, the more “hooks” keep the facts in there. So if you are going to read a book on a subject you don’t know much about, check out the Wikipedia article on it first to prep your brain to retain more.

How to Become a Faster Reader – Ryan Battles, (17 July 2014)

That’s the one bit that interests me in an article that (ironically) takes a long time to read. But if you want to read faster or you’re just curious to see if Ryan Battles is his real name, do take a look at the full article.

How to email the person you want

Be careful with this. People who keep their email addresses quiet usually do so because otherwise they get writers like us bombarding them. But if you and I are the only ones who figure out their addresses, we’re not a bombard.

Nonetheless, use this when you are sure it is your best way to reach someone. Also, it won’t always work. And, last cautious bit, this is how to find their address: it isn’t what you should say to them.

Are you still here?

Right, do this.

You’re looking for Alan Phabet and you know he works at Dewey Decimal Ltd.

Google up the company’s website and go there. Look for Alan’s email address as, afterall, if it’s there, your job is done. Most likely the only email address you’ll see is a generic That will be the one they push in front of you. If they have the company phone number, ring them and ask for Alan’s email address.

Again, if that works, job done. Assuming it doesn’t, though, go back online and google exactly this, including the quote marks:

“” at

That searches for every email address listed anywhere on that particular site. Yet again, if you find “”, job done.

Most likely, you will get a few different addresses and none will be the one you need. But you’ll see that Noreen Umber’s email is, for instance, and Edward Xavier Cel’s is If I saw that, I’d take a shot at Alan Phabet’s address being

It might not be, though. Maybe you will have to try it and hope, but you can check it out a little bit more. Go back to Google and this time search thisaway, again including the quote marks:


That searches the entire web for that email address and sometimes, there it is. Alan’s written extensively in some professional journal and he’s given his email address because he wants those readers to contact him.

Professional journals or anything like that can be useful in this stuff. LinkedIn is surprisingly good too: you’re meant to use that service to find who you have in common and get them to introduce you but sometimes you also get a lot of detail from a straight search.

I’ll not say this all depends on luck because it’s really about how you and the person you’re trying to reach works. But if you are very unlucky and the sole thing you can find is that tedious, there are still two things you can do.

I’d say the first thing is to phone the company back and this time ask to speak to Alan Phabet. Be ready to make your pitch, whatever it is, in case you do get him. But more often, you’ll get an assistant. Pitch to them, if it feels like they’re willing to spend a moment with you. Ask them for Alan’s address. They might give you their own address in which case email them immediately with thanks and your pitch for Alan.

And last, if they won’t give you any address or if whoever answers the phone won’t put you through, go back to the website and that tedious enquiries address. You never know, it might work for you.

One quick side tip: when you’re first checking out a company’s website, if you find a newsletter or anything where you can sign up to be notified of things, sign up immediately. I had a thing where I did that and when I phoned the company a moment later, the producer said something like “Oh, hello” – because she’d just been reading to see who this guy was who had signed up on her site. By the time I rang, she was on my website and that was like she was pitching me to herself.

It just takes three secon – sorry, what was that?

From New York Magazine (via 99U): it takes just three seconds to break your concentration and make it hard to carry on with your task. So yes, sure, answering the phone is guaranteed to do that – but so is just hearing it ring.

Things like text messages, social media notifications, or a random email notice may be all it takes to distract you. Even if you don’t read the messages, check the notification, or open the email, as this new research shows: all it takes to break flow is a quick chime from your browser or buzz from your phone.

Even a 3-Second Distraction Can Screw You Up – Melissa Dahl, New York Magazine (14 May 2014)

Dahl’s article doesn’t say a huge amount more but it does reference the original research so check that out. And hat tip to 99U for spotting it all.

The statistics behind BOGOF

I’ve noticed that whoever walks in to a supermarket at the same time as me is who will walk out at the same time too. We are driven around stores like machines, guided to what we want and where they want us to buy it, then kicked out as quickly and profitably as possible. I’m fascinated by how these stores work and so this article held me up this morning.

Once Dangler has set up his basic pricing rules, he’s ready to start testing out potential discounts and special offers to try and improve sales. He goes for an aggressive price cut on the own-brand natural yogurt, cutting the profit margin to a few pennies, and the volume of predicted sales balloons as a result. It turns out that people are really price-sensitive when buying cold desserts. Alas, a large proportion of the gains is offset by a drop in branded sales, meaning the idea would probably result in worsening relationships with suppliers in exchange for a modest increase in profits. We keep searching for the optimal solution, with every small change having an immediate trickle-down effect on related products. It’s like a chaos theory testing suite, with each price being a flap of a butterfly’s wings. The only thing missing is a button to make the system automatically optimize everything, you still need humans to input scenarios.

Along the way, I discover phenomena like asymmetric cross-price elasticity — an eight-pack’s price affects sales of four-packs more strongly than vice versa — and the fact that a “buy one, get one free” offer is more cost efficient than a straight 50 percent price cut (that’s because some people will still take just one).

You Priced This Milkshake – The Verge

Read the whole piece to find out who this Dangler is and how while this is an article about American supermarkets, it is featuring software owned by Tesco here in the UK.

The Onion: Study Finds Working at Work Improves Productivity

WASHINGTON, DC—According to a groundbreaking new study by the Department of Labor, working—the physical act of engaging in a productive job-related activity—may greatly increase the amount of work accomplished during the workday, especially when compared with the more common practices of wasting time and not working.

Full story: Study Finds Working at Work Improves Productivity – The Onion 5 November 2007