Copywriting is a pretty broad field. It includes blogging, newsletters, social media, articles, emails, advertising, even screenwriting—but for my first year as a full-time copywriter, all I did was write product descriptions.
I’ve already written about my initial frustration with that job, and how I eventually came to see it as an opportunity to develop my writing voice, test new techniques, and fine-tune my style.
In this post, I’d like to share the 9 tactics I learned that guided my approach to writing product descriptions over that year—with some examples.
Here we go.
You’re browsing for books on Amazon and hit the Look Inside button. How long do you give an sample before you move onto the next selection? Ten pages? Five? One?
In bygone days of traditional publishing, many authors thought it was downright unfair for an agent or editor to reject a submission after reading only five or ten pages. They didn’t realize most manuscripts are like digging in a dumpster—it rarely gets better as you go deeper.
Today, I suspect we’re lucky if a browser reads more than the first page. We must hook them in seconds. Given the choice between a great story that glides like ice cream over the tongue, or a great story with bits of nut shells to spit out, guess which one the reader will pick.
Here are ten self-editing tips so readers will glide through your prose straight to the Buy Now button:
There are two jobs paths out there that tend to get confused. One is technical writing. The other is copywriting.
They are not the same.
If you were to ask me for my number one stance on copywriting, it’d be this:
Dry, boring, technical jargon has. No. Place. In. Copywriting.
Technical writing is about providing facts. It offers details but leaves the ultimate decision to the reader.
Copywriting is about persuasion. It does everything it can to prompt the reader to make the decision you want them to make.
And you can’t persuade if you don’t write in a communicate tone.
Why not? Well, I could tell you . . .
But I’d rather just show you.
The foundation of good copywriting is good storytelling.
There’s a reason John Caple’s article They Laughed When I sat Down By the Piano, But When I Started to Play! is still considered one of the most brilliant pieces of copywriting of all time.
Caples didn’t simply make a pitch. He told a story. A story that spoke to his readers—their desires, their hopes, their dreams. And that allowed him to turn those readers into customers far better than any pitch could.
And that, in short, is the essence of copywriting.
There’s an ancient fable (as in, one I definitely did not just make up on the spot) wherein a young lad, foolish yet daring, seeks out an old, wise man for help.
Eventually (feel free to fill in here chapters of challenges, suffering, and brushes with death) he finds him. He collapses by the wise man’s feet and looks up at him with wide eyes.
“Answer me, wise man, for I have sought long and hard. How do I know how much description is too much and how much is too little? Where do I draw the line?”
The wise man, following in the footsteps of all wise men before him, raises a frail hand and slowly strokes his beard. “That’s a good question, my son. Fortunately, I know the answer.
“It’s all about intuition.”
I’m going to be honest with you.
I was very apprehensive about creating RE: Writing.
Even though I pitched it as my journey as a writer . . .
Even though I clarified that I’m still in the middle of that journey . . .
In the end of the day, I would be posting writing tips. Tips I would share with other writers. Tips I would advocate as being crucial to know.
And yes, RE: Writing has other things, too. Musings. Personal stories. Inspiration. Whatever this was. But it also has tips.
My apprehension wasn’t because I felt I didn’t have the right to share those tips. The things I write, I whole-heartedly believe. They’re things that I have used over and over again to shape my own career.
I was concerned, however, that my wellspring of tips would eventually run dry.
And after I shared everything I’d learned, what else would I have to post?
I first “met” Tom Starita several weeks ago on LinkedIn. He shared with me that he’s a two-time novelist—that his second book, Growth and Change are Highly Overrated, came out in December, 2016. Recently, Tom and I sat down to talk about his books, his experiences, and the lessons he’s learned.
This is his story.
The Quintessential Writer
Picture, for a moment, the quintessential writer. The sort of writer that we all grew up wanting to be; the type of writer that doesn’t answer what he or she does with, “I’m a writer,” but, “I’m that writer.”
Maybe you picture someone specific. William Shakespeare, quill in hand, poised over a play; George Orwell, writing the title of Animal Farm. Perhaps you see Harper Lee, writing the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, or JK Rowling, sitting on that crowded train, the plot of Harry Potter developing in her mind. Maybe all you see is a faceless form, head tilted away from the light so it can’t be seen. At some point, however, I think all those images start to take the same path. The writer reaches for a writing tool—a pen, a laptop, a vintage typewriter—and writes.
One thing I don’t think anyone sees the writer doing is pausing. Putting the pen back down. And reaching for a rulebook to check that he’s doing things right.
I decided to something a little different this week. Instead of a typical blog post, I’m like to share a short exercise in imagination. The topic: what would a job interview be like if it went like a fantasy story?
The heavy wooden door creaked as I pushed it open.
“Hi. I’m Jack. Jack Green. I’m here for the interview?”
“Of course.” The man behind the polished oak desk raised a hand and gestured to the chair in front of him. “Please. Have a seat.”
I did, taking a moment to survey the office. It had the kind of eccentric furnishings you usually only see in the homes of reclusive billionaires. Bookshelves, crammed with dusty tomes, lined the walls; a gleaming steel sword leaned against the fireplace, stained faintly with what I told myself was rust. A suit of dented armor hung on a stand. A fake skull—at least, I really hoped it was fake—sat atop the interviewer’s desk.
Unique selling point: The X-factor to any product or service. That one thing that makes it stand out. Also known as USP.
Maybe you’re writing a LinkedIn profile summary. Perhaps you’re prepping for an interview. Whatever the case, there comes a point where you’re faced with an uncomfortable question:
What is my unique selling point as a writer?
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.