A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
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One of the things I love about writing is that you’re never done improving.
One of the things I hate about writing is that you’re never done improving.
It’s both, isn’t it?
There’s always room to grow. (Frustratingly, awesomely.) There’s never a point where you check the box or punch the clock or consider the task (BOOM!) finished.
It’s like a lot of things in life, I guess. Public speaking. Personal relationships. Parallel parking.
There’s always room to get better. (Except me and parallel parking. I’m lying about that; I’m actually already very, very good at it.)
I learned that room-to-grow lesson (again!) this week when writing sales copy for the dust jacket of my new book. What I learned will help your writing, too.
Ready?! Let’s go!
(And as you exit the vehicle, please admire the mere inches (INCHES!) between the tire and curb.)
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“But I’ll never write a book,” you might be saying to yourself.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe you never will. (Although you can… if you’d like to.)
But you will probably write sales copy to market something you create.
You’ll have just a few hundred words to convince someone to take action.
Fill out a form.
Love you a little more.
<< Time out for a quick internal debate: is “love you more” an “action” someone might opt to take? Or is love instead a feeling that flourishes? Is “love” the goal? Or is “love” a byproduct? >>
The trick in parallel parking is to know exactly when to turn the wheel.
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The graphic above is the dust jacket proof for the new and improved (and 10% funnier) Everybody Writes 2.
All the yellow highlighted text needs rewriting.
Here is that text, condensed for space:
In the newly revised and expanded edition of Everybody Writes, bestselling author and veteran content marketer Ann Handley serves up practical, step-by-step advice on writing stellar communications for every facet of your business: from your website, to your emails, to your bite-sized social media posts, all the way to your marketing promotions.
This new and expanded edition includes fresh examples, tools, and resources to help you move forward confidently with your writing efforts, so that you can get the business results you’re looking for . . . without dreading the writing process!
In a time-challenged world dominated by short and snappy videos, click-bait headlines, Twitter streams, and Instagram feeds, the idea of focusing on writing may seem outdated, or at the very least ineffective. Counterintuitively, your writing skills are actually now more important than ever.
Customers are hungry to learn what you’re really about. Everybody Writes gives you expert insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production, and publishing, so that you can stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of your ideal customer. Handley offers both practical advice and inspirational guidance—giving you a winning formula to follow, while also helping you exercise your creative faculties to make your writing one-of-a-kind and deeply personal.
For any business owner looking to communicate better with customers and reap the business benefits of doing so, the revised edition of Everybody Writes is an essential addition to your bookshelf that you’ll be able to turn to for writing help in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
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Did you read the whole thing? You skimmed, right? Don’t blame you.
It’s bad. It’s ugly.
Let’s give that copy a glow up!
Conjure up your buyer.
Fix them in your mind with permanent adhesive.
Speak directly to them, reflecting empathy for the problem that you solve.
> What hell is your buyer in?
> What salvation does this offer them? (h/t Aaron Orendorff) (Hi, Aaron!)
Manifest what you hope they do.
Close your eyes. Literally SEE them take the action.
My approach: I thought of my buyers standing in the aisle of the bookstore. They flip open the book and read the first few lines. I see them nodding their noggin slightly: They recognize their pain. They feel SEEN. I hear a tiny chuckle. They walk toward checkout. They pull out their credit card. They swipe. They crack open the book and start reading while they’re still parked in the parking lot.
MANIFEST THAT ACTION.
<< Time out for a reality check: Does Manifesting actually guarantee a desired outcome? No. This is an empathy exercise. >>
<< But then again… maybe? What’s the harm? And what’s that line from Hamlet…? There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. >>
Write the salvation in 3 or 5 bullets.
Your salve eases the pain.
Odd numbers work best. That’s just science.
Bullets. Not paragraphs. This is a get-in/get-out situation.
Keep the phrasing of your bullets consistent.
Each bullet should follow the same construction. Don’t flip around between approaches, giving your reader whiplash.
One bullet should not begin with “You’ll understand how cats bark” and the next one begin with “Witnessing why barking cats confuse the canines…”
My approach: Whoopsie. I fumbled this one. Some of the bullets on an early draft started with nouns; others started with the conjunction “how to.”
It’s a small thing.
But why install a tripwire in the middle of a situation where you’re trying to encourage the reader to keep going…?
Mirror the voice.
Any sales copy should sound like the product it’s promoting. It should feel like the same author wrote it.
Don’t let it sound like marketing.
Another mistake I made. My first draft made me sound like I’m hawking Ginsu knives on QVC. (But wait! There’s more!)
“Calm down,” Inner Me said.
Do you believe your product helps people? Of course you do. Just say how.
(^^ Actual internal pep talk by Inner Me to Ginsu-Knife-Pitching Me.)
We don’t need to overcomplicate marketing. (Although we love to, don’t we?)
Consider word choice.
Discover sounds like more adventurous than learn.
Packed with is stronger than offers or contains.
Use action words you can see it in your brain.
Eyeball for white space. Read it out loud. Listen for the music and flow.
Always. Do this with everything you write.
This is 2022. White space is oxygen. We won’t read chunks of text.
Your goal is to appeal to the skimmers & scrollers. (We are all skimmers & scroller.)
Your goal is to stop the scroll.
The trick in parallel parking is to align yourself with the parked car in front of the open space meant for your car. Turn the wheel hard. When your front tires align with the back tires of the car you’re parking behind… STRAIGHTEN THE WHEEL NOW. CUT IT CUT IT CUT IT!!
… and glide in like a pageant queen.
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So what’s all this look like?
New sales copy for the dust jacket:
Everybody Writes is your essential guide to becoming a masterful marketer, writer, and storyteller.
We think the ability to write well is a gift bestowed on a lucky few. But that’s not true. Writing well is part habit, part knowledge, and part giving a damn.
We are all capable of better writing and better marketing. If only we had a clear approach and some useful go-to techniques. If only we knew exactly what would take our writing and storytelling to new heights.
Ann Handley, one of the world’s leading experts on marketing and business writing, packs Everybody Writes with proven strategies, fresh frameworks, and fun examples.
This brand-new, expanded edition offers you practical, step-by-step writing insight and storytelling approaches that you can put to work right away to transform your writing… and your business.
You’ll discover the resources you need to tell better stories, connect with your customers, transform your business—and have fun doing it.
It’s your essential guide to becoming a masterful marketer, writer, and storyteller… with a voice that’s all yours.
Inside you’ll discover:
- The resources you need to write ridiculously well—with a goal of creating deeper, richer customer relationships
- The joy and value of great writing (a clear, proven writing process)
- The way to create a unique brand voice
- Strategies for telling original stories that could come only from you
- Specific approaches to the top 20 types of content that marketers write
Everybody Writes will reshape how you think about your writing. It’ll transform how you market, and how your customers respond to your marketing.
We are all capable of producing good writing.
We all have the magic within us.
Be the writer you’ve always wanted to be. Start creating content your audience will love.
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What’s the ROI on great sales copy? IDK.
Let’s see how the new book is doing. It’s out .