So I have been doing A LOT of writing. Between blogging, emails, writing books and then just business copywriting (sales copy, product descriptions, etc.) I feel like my days are filled with words…in a good way because I like words quite a lot! That said, I wish I had not cheated during typing class in high school (there were no computers then and who knew that typing would be a skill that would drive everything?)
With all this writing I have some observations, tips and resources that I have been collecting for a while now to share and today is the day!
Being A Brilliant And Creative Writer
First off, almost no one feels like a brilliant and creative writer. I have listened to a bunch of podcasts about writing books lately (more about that later) and almost everyone feels like a schmoe when they put words to paper. Blogging is a little less tortuous because of the transitive nature of blogs, but I was just talking with a friend the other day about how the posts I think are BRILLIANT rarely rank well and the ones that are “meh” light up the night which leads to…
Being a brilliant and creative writer is not about being perfect, it is about writing A LOT, training your brain the way that you would train for an athletic event. When you first sit down to write, the blank paper looks like Siberia, big and white. But if you write consistently, you don't have to “get back in shape”, your brain just kicks in and starts churning out stuff.
Additionally, if you have a lot of books or blog posts or sales pages, some of them will work better than others. In a perfect world we could just have one epic work that everyone flocks to, but in actuality, it is the cumulation of having lots of things that makes someone successful.
What If You Are Stuck
Because I come from the marketing world, we all know about having a “swipe file” and it is not creepy like “plagiarizing” is. A swipe file is used to collect inspiration so that when you are stuck you can just check out what someone else did and get going again.
TIP: It used to be hard to accumulate a swipe file, these days I use Pinterest to get my swipes all in one place. This is my opt in pop up box swipe file that I use for inspiration when I am stuck for words to use in my copy.
The other thing to do when you are stuck is to just write something. It might be the crappiest blog post ever written or the worst-sales-copy-ever, but the act of writing will lead to better writing or at least something that you can edit when you get done. The WORST thing that you can do is wait for the urge to strike you…a big hint, it rarely does and never when it is convenient. Schedule your time to write like you schedule all your other appointments.
Pick The Proper Tools
This is a biggie. Many people write in Word because it is what they are used to but it is not a great option for most writing. Here are the tools that I use and the reasons why…no affiliate links, just my favorites
Writing Books – I have a new love, Scrivener. With one of my business buds I am writing a book a week for a year. That means 52 perfect customer profiles to see who we are writing for, 52 outlines, 52 files to save for Amazon (and maybe someone else down the line). The wicked cool thing about Scrivener is that you can make a book file that has the writing AND your research AND a scan of your scribbles and then split screen them so you can see them at the same time…bliss. PLUS if you are doing Amazon publishing using a Mac, save yourself about 20 hours trying to make it work, just get this and it spits one out automatically. Not sure I would use this just for blog posts and business writing, but I might!
Writing Pretty Books – Prior to this year, I have only made pretty books (fewer words, lots of formatting and pictures). If you are making ebooks that you are NOT going to upload to Amazon but use as a giveaway on your site or to print out, nothing can touch InDesign by Adobe. The nice thing is that you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars to get it anymore, you can rent it month to month through Creative Cloud and they do give BIG discounts if you are any kind of student.
Writing Blog Posts – For the love of God, DO NOT write your blog posts in Word and then copy them over to your blog looking all pretty and formatted. Word has horrific extra formatting that should never get into web pages. Instead, write your text in Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac) and then paste it into the Text pane of your blog post.
Book Writing Tips
Writing books is not as hard as I thought. We have been churning out a book a week for a month or more now and while the first ones were not that great, even in this short time, we have gotten better and the process has become easier.
- You probably have some “stuff” laying around that you can use to get started with your first book. We had about 6 books almost ready to go (although looking back, it is almost easier to use them as a brief reference and write the book-book from scratch.
- You should make an outline. We spend a little bit of time laying out what we are going to talk about and what order it is in.
- Don't try to write a perfect book. Write a good enough book, have someone else check it for grammar and typos and ship it. Then write another one.
Two last questions I see about writing books are 1) how much should you charge and 2) how long should they be. I can really only answer these in regard to Non-Fiction. We charge $2.99 for between 5,000 and 9,000 words. If the book was going to be longer than that we would split it up into two books so we didn't have to charge that much and no one had to read that much in one sitting.
The funny thing to me is that it is functionally about 7 blog posts for me (I write AMAZINGLY long blog posts). The difference is that the work is not off the top of my head, has two viewpoints and is more cohesive. We feel really comfortable charging three bucks for the answer to a specific problem that people are having with their business. Now, pricing and length are different for everyone and are MUCH different for fiction.
Writing Blog Posts
Now, this is something I know a lot about! We have two main blogs (marketingartfully.com and mandmmonsters.com) and about three others that are industry or location specific (real estate marketing, coaching and local denver).
I have been blogging since 2006 and have had this blog since 2008. I get about 15,000 hits a month on this one site and post about once a week here except in December when I try to post every weekday for a month.
Writing blog posts is easy now, but when I started they were heinous. My very first post (I had to go back and look it up) was “Seth Says…Gobble Up Market Share” with 300 words, no SEO and no picture. It took time to understand what I was going to talk about and how to make it relevant so other people would want to read it. I think the BEST part about when you start out is that no one is paying attention so you can get better before anyone notices how lame your writing is!!!
Two resources I like for blog post headlines are:
- 5 “Five-Minute or Less” Blogging Tips That Yield Big Results. I’m Using Tip #1 in This Title
- Your Headlines Suck. Here’s What You Can Do About It
Writing Good Emails
One of the things that I am super proud of is that our email open rates are generally comparable for marketing messages (maybe a little higher) but that we CRUSH the industry standard click throughs. This comes because our emails are well titled to be interesting, well written so people like to read them and lastly, have calls to action in them so people know what to do next.
The top post on Marketing Artfully is 100 Great Email Subject Lines.Written over a year ago, this little gem churns out hits to my site showing that this is something that everyone struggles with.
Here are my top email tips:
- Ditch the bland autoresponders. Some years back it was cool to set up a series of 200 autoresponders that would go out to your readers when they signed up for your email list. These were folksy and chatty and tried to get them to fall in love with you. Fast forward to today, the world is inundated with email, Facebook, texts, tweets and all kinds of messages. Today you better have something awesome that they can use or act on or you will be just one more delete.
- By sending bad messages you train people to ignore you. We have a dear friend whose emails mostly go into a spam folder on my email because he sent out all kinds of messages with cute headlines that were not actually for me. I got conditioned to ignoring these and so when there was something important I missed it entirely.
- Make sure every message has a purpose. If you need them to do something, just talk briefly about that one thing and then link out to what they need to do. If you are trying to build relationships, don't hit them with a buy, buy, buy message. Get really clear on what the purpose of each message is.
First off, stop thinking that business copywriting is hard. It is not hard once you know exactly what it is that you are selling and exactly who you are selling it to! The hard part comes when you are just trying to sell whatever is in front of you with no background or motivation from the buyer.
So pick a person who is your perfect client and think of them when writing your copy. What do you have to say that would make THAT person buy what you are selling? I KNOW, your product or service could appeal to LOTS of people, but who is the perfect person? (we are writing a book about this for next week so keep your peepers open if you struggle with this!!!)
There are just two resources that you have to check out for business copywriting:
- Brian Clark at Copyblogger has LOTS of GREAT free information about business copywriting
- Perry Marshall (yes the Adwords guy!) think about it, who has to be a better copywriter than someone who only gets three lines of text to sell you something.
Video Transcripts, Quotes and Other Funny Bits
When you get in the writing groove you start noticing other opportunities for words. One thing that I have noticed is that some people are not writer-y. They don't like to type and even if they do, they don't like to sit their butts down in a chair for days at a time.
Gary Vaynerchuk comes to mind here. What Gary does is pull out words from the videos he makes and recordings that he does. He makes graphics of his quotes and has transcribers record what he talks about instead of him having to do the physical act of writing. If you got the bottom of this post and are not a writer, run away and find something productive to do with your time! But beyond that, find ways to leverage the talents you do have and pull the words out of there!