The “Techno-Phobic” Research Secret
That Helped a Once Unknown Author Sell 12 Million Books in Over 30 Languages!
Here’s a simple and barbarically low-tech idea that can cut the time it takes you to write a sales promo, doubling your productivity and output in the process.
It was invented by mega New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert and all it requires is some index note cards, a pen, and an old shoebox!
If you’ve never heard of Elizabeth Gilbert, you’ve no doubt heard mentioned the title of her huge 2006 bestseller Eat, Pray, Love (which was later turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts), which has sold over 12 million copies in over 30 different languages.
But don’t think she’s just some slouch “one-hit wonder” who happened to get lucky one day 15 years ago. Gilbert has also written nine other books since then — and each one of them sold extremely well.
So how did she do it?
Well, I’d say half her success came from mastering that crucial piece of the writing process that many writers (especially copywriters!) too often neglect because they’re too eager to jump in without doing their “homework” first.
And by “homework,” I’m talking about research.
Good, solid research is the backbone of any written project because it’s the material you use to shape your book, article, sales letter, email, etc. (Think of it like a sculptor who needs a big block of stone to chisel into to create his masterpiece).
But even when you’ve done your research, it can be easy to be buried underneath it all if you don’t organize it properly, potentially losing valuable ideas and information that’s essential to making your writing project essential.
That’s where Gilbert’s system comes in.
The system she developed is so simple that someone in high school could get it. In fact, that’s exactly where she discovered it (specifically, one of her history teachers taught it to her).
Here’s how she explained it in an interview:
“Mr. Kisco was my ninth grade Western Civilization teacher. And he was really hard-ass, a really good teacher, a really scary teacher. And he taught us how to write term papers. He taught this system that was very simple that involved index cards and a box to put the index cards in. And as you’re doing your research on the topic, you put divisions on the box on different subjects. And then every time you find a fact or a piece of information on a page, you would write one fact per index card — one piece of information per index card. And there was also a system that you would use for footnoting.
“So if the first book I’m reading would be ‘Book A’, so at the bottom of the index card, I would [write] ‘A’ and then the page that I found it on. So ‘A23.’ And then when I went on to the next book it would be ‘B46.’ So that way you could mix up the cards, and you could still remember where everything came from. Very simple. And then each card gets one fact only and each fact goes in the filing system under whatever subject it is from. And when you start to write, you’ve got all your facts at your fingertips in order.
“I’ve taken that system, which was used for researching, and I’ve grown it into a system I use for writing my novels because my novels are very research-based.”
LESSON: As you can plainly see, it’s an embarrassingly simple system to use. In fact, it’s downright primitive!
But it’s clear that that’s by design.
Because writing is a craft. And like any other craft, it can be mastered through rigorous discipline and ruthless consistency.
And the research is the part of the writing process that requires the most discipline and consistency because if you’re lazy about it, your work is going to suffer tremendously no matter how “good” a writer you are.
But this method will allow you to research the maximum amount of material you need in minimum time.
I know because I’ve already started using it to gather research for an upcoming novel and I also used it to research this book you’re reading now!
What I love about it is its old-school simplicity and practicality. I never have to toggle between different screens to access my research, and if researching directly from a print book, I can ditch the laptop completely and not have to deal with any internet distractions.
If you’re a copywriter, this method can dramatically decrease the time it takes to write and complete your copy and can save you a massive amount of time you spend looking for answers.
All of this means you’ll be able to take on many more client projects per year, which adds up to more money for you!
© 2021 David Lowenthal Enterprises Ltd.
David Lowenthal is an independent direct response fundraising serving libertarian and other freedom-loving nonprofits.
This chapter is part of his book 32 Jackpot Marketing Secrets from History’s Greatest and Craziest Persuaders! If you would like to discover more marketing secrets from some of history’s most successful entrepreneurs, copywriters, politicians, negotiators, lawyers, talk show hosts, actor/directors, political activists, and much more, you can download a copy of his FREE ebook, 32 Jackpot Marketing Secrets from History’s Greatest and Craziest Persuaders!, by signing up here.
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