Google Chrome is the most popular web browser, but if you’re just using basic, vanilla Chrome, you’re missing out on some key functionality known as extensions. Chrome extensions can help authors! They can make you more productive, help you improve your writing, and give you more time to write.
Which extensions help improve your writing and make you more productive?
Many of these Chrome extensions for authors also exist for Firefox, Edge, and Safari, so you’ll still find this information useful even if you don’t use Chrome as your default web browser.
What is a Chrome extension?
Think of a Chrome extension as an app you install into your browser to add cool functionality and time-saving assistance.
The number one Chrome extension I recommend for authors is Grammarly. Grammarly fixes your grammar on the fly. I recommend using the paid version because it offers more advanced grammar fixes and because, as a paying customer, you are not the product being sold.
I regularly recommend that authors pay for services because, as I’ve said before, the food is free for the chickens in the coop because they’re the product being sold.
I recently heard that many free tax return preparation sites sell your tax returns to Facebook. If you didn’t pay a person or service to file your tax return, Meta now has your tax return, and your data is being sold. Your privacy is for sale when you’re not the customer.
Grammarly is much better than Chrome’s default spellchecker. Besides correcting your spelling mistakes, it suggests ways to tighten your sentences. It also helps clarify your wording and evaluates your tone.
For example, Grammarly put an angry face under one of my sentences and gave me a notification that said, “Did you mean for this to sound angry?” Since I didn’t want to sound angry, Grammarly suggested some less angry wording.
When you use Grammarly as a Chrome extension, it works on every website you use. It will check your grammar when you’re writing an email in Gmail, Yahoo, or other webmail providers. It also works when you’re composing a blog in WordPress, writing an email newsletter in MailerLite or ConvertKit, posting on social media, or interacting on AuthorMedia.social.
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The second Chrome extension I recommend for authors is a paid service called 1Password (Affiliate Link). It’s an encrypted password vault that I’ve used for decades.
It’s a great service because it will generate a strong, unique password for you, and then remember and store that password for you. No more keeping a notebook, spreadsheet, or document with manually entered iterations of your favorite password.
The famous 23andMe data breach that happened recently “was caused by customers reusing passwords, which allowed hackers to brute-force the victims’ accounts by using publicly known passwords released in other companies’ data breaches.” Using the same password on multiple websites makes you digitally vulnerable.
You can use Chrome’s default password saver, but that only works when you’re in Chrome. Plus, I don’t trust Google with my passwords.
But 1Password works across all my devices and browsers. I can access all my passwords with one super strong password that unlocks the encrypted vault. Using a password vault is a much more secure system than trying to remember the passwords in your head. That is a bad system because you won’t remember which username or email you used, and you’ll inevitably reuse a password.
Once you get 1Password, all your password problems disappear, and your life becomes easier. Reusing passwords or making different versions of the same password is irresponsible. I do not recommend that practice because it is a recipe for trouble.
You need a strong, unique password for every website.
To find out if your email address has been in a data breach, check out Have I been pwnd?
Keepa tracks the historical price of products on Amazon, and it now supports ebooks and audiobooks. I’ve been using it for years on Black Friday because it tells me whether a product is really on sale or not. I try to only make purchases on my laptop (not my phone) because I want to use my Keepa Chrome extension. Sometimes, the Black Friday price is higher than the normal price.
Keepa provides a graph of the product price history so you can see whether it’s trending up or down or staying the same.
It’s useful for authors doing competitive research. If you’re competing against a handful of authors and you want to see whether they’ve raised or lowered their prices, Keepa can tell you. Keepa will give you a chart for every book on Amazon so you can see what that product’s price has been doing.
I wish Amazon would make this information public so we wouldn’t have to use an extension like Keepa, but I’ve been very happy that Keepa informs my purchases. When I make recommendations and announce a sale on AuthorMedia.social, I use information from Keepa to make sure the products are truly on sale.
AdBlock turns off advertisements, helps websites run faster, and makes them a bit more secure. Occasionally, you’ll need to turn it off because it will break your ability to use some websites. I don’t use AdBlock personally, but many authors like it.
News sites are almost unusable because they have so many distracting and disorienting ads. AdBlock may make such sites more usable.
5. Just Read
Just Read will turn any webpage into a readable document. The extension takes away all information except the content. I’m often stunned at how short a blog post or news article is once you remove ads and other distractions around the content. Just Read makes reading a web page much easier.
You don’t need AdBlock and Just Read, but I would experiment with both to see if they help reduce distractions.
6. Open SEO Stats
Open SEO Stats is more for webmasters than for authors, but I felt obligated to include it because I use it so often. It provides information about a website, whether yours or somebody else’s.
At a glance, you can see the meta-description as well as H1 and H2 tags. When I’m reviewing websites on a patrons-only call or an office hours call, Open SEO Stats is my go-to tool. I use the paid version because the free version is crippled.
I wanted to add a recommendation for an extension that can temporarily block your access to certain distracting websites (I’m looking at you, Facebook), but I couldn’t find one that didn’t invade your privacy.
Google’s Chrome Web Store is very transparent about what information extensions can access. All the website-blocking extensions I reviewed were pretty invasive, so I don’t feel good about recommending a specific extension, but I do recommend them as a category. If you’re okay using a website-blocking extension with its terms of service, or if you find a good paid extension, please comment under this post.
I love the idea of setting a boundary for yourself so you can’t visit Facebook or X for the hour you’re supposed to be writing. For an hour, that extension can help you focus on writing and avoid online distractions.
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Bonus Marketing Lesson from the Umstattd Kids
My wife and I recently were cleaning the kitchen after dinner when our daughter came in offering to sell us pretzels. She’d put small pretzels into little Ziploc baggies, and she was pretending to be an entrepreneur. But we had just finished dinner and had to decline to purchase, and she felt sad that we didn’t want to buy her pretzels.
I saw it as an opportunity to teach my five-year-old some marketing skills. So, I said, “The key to selling something is to offer people what they want when they want it.” I reminded her we’d just finished dinner. We weren’t hungry, so it wasn’t a good time to sell pretzels.
She paused momentarily and said, “Okay, I guess I’ll just sell them to the boys.” I followed her to the living room only to find my two-year-old and four-year-old sons munching on pretzels they had “bought” from my daughter with pretend money.
It occurred to me that she had tapped into an even more powerful principle than selling people what they want when they want it. She understood her target audience. In fact, my daughter understood her target audience better than I did. It turned out that the boys had not enjoyed my cooking nearly as much as I thought they had, and they were still hungry after dinner.
My wife and I, who liked all the complex flavors of the meal, were full. But the boys wanted simple flavors like salt and pretzels. My entrepreneurial daughter seized the market opportunity and made some quick fake money by selling pretzels to her brothers.
So often, you get good general advice on podcasts like this one. It’s good to understand marketing principles, but it’s not a replacement for doing the work to get to know your target reader, whom I call Timothy.
Ultimately, what works for other authors and their readers doesn’t matter. What matters is what works for you and your Timothy.
Measuring, experimenting, and knowing who you’re targeting is important. Because if you’re trying to sell pretzels to adults, you shouldn’t try right after dinner. But if you’re trying to sell pretzels to a two-year-old right after a dinner he didn’t like, you may hit the sales jackpot.
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