OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Authors need copywriting skills these days – whether it's writing the description for your book sales page or effective blog posts, it's important to be able to communicate effectively.
In today's podcast, I interview Mindy McHorse who is a successful freelance copywriter who doesn't believe in the myth of the poor writer shivering in the garret. We discuss her tips for improving your copywriting as well as building a business.
In the intro I talk about some of my insights from the FutureBook conference, my NaNoWriMo experience and the upcoming release of Exodus.
Interview with Mindy McHorse: Copywriter
Mindy McHorse is a freelance copywriter and marketing specialist as well as the editor of The Barefoot Writer Magazine.
- Mindy always wanted to be a writer but not a starving artist, so she went into management and “real” jobs. But she didn't fit with the traditional model of commuting and office work, so she decided to become a freelancer. She found out about AWAI – American Writer's and Artist's Inc which has a lot of information and training for copywriters.
- She researched copywriting and found it was a viable career option with a considerable potential for income. It seemed like the best-kept secret in writing for a living. Of course, her business didn't take off immediately and she had to do some training around what effective copywriting was and also start networking with other copywriters. She also needed to acknowledge it as a business, which was a mentality shift. It's been five years now and Mindy loves it!
What is copywriting anyway?
- Copywriting is persuasive writing that includes a call to action. It is writing with an end goal in sight e.g. people buy your book, or subscribe to your list.
- Persuasive doesn't mean it has to be fake and ‘salesy'. It's about writing a message that connects with the right person, and gives them something valuable and the action they take is something they want to do. Yes, there is an element of hype in some copywriting but it is dependent on the niche you're writing in and what is appropriate. I mention hyperbole, which is a kind of hype, that we all use in the book blurb. There are many levels of copywriting and it's about what you as the writer wants to focus on.
Tips for copywriting
- Speak to the reader, rather than focusing on yourself. Using the word ‘I' is a red flag.
- Go beyond the features and look for the benefits. The reader doesn't want a 246 page paperback, they want a story that will transport them to another world and give them an emotional rollercoaster.
- Include a call to action. Direct the reader to buy your book, or download a sample, or click to subscribe. People actually take more action if you tell them to do it. Saying “click here now” will actually increase your conversion rate.
Why your author blog isn't working
- The headlines on most author blogs are pretty bad. There is an art to headlines and means the posts are more likely to be read and shared on the social networks.
- Use benefits and keywords in the headline e.g. the headline to this post is “Copywriting and making money as a writer” – isn't that more interesting than “Interview with Mindy McHorse” which doesn't say what is in the article.
- Think: Useful, ultra-specific, urgent, unique
- Don't be clever with headlines. This is not a fiction book title. Use words that are obvious, not obscure. You are giving a promise to the reader.
- Write your post first and then your headline.
Copywriting as a business
- If you start writing as a business in any form, there will be people who are on the journey with you, so connect with others.
- Anything can be improved. Editing is a way to improve our writing. In the same way, we need to improve our online presence over time, BUT you need to get started and improve over time. Don't wait until everything is perfect based on your fear of judgement and failure.
- #1 recommendation: Setup a profile on LinkedIn. [ I'm not sure this is so effective for fiction authors, but for non-fiction it is definitely a must-do ~ Joanna] Include things that make you unique, showcase where you are with your writing. Don't include your employment history unless it relates to your writing. Connect with people in your industry and other writers.
- Other writers are not your competition. There is such a great need for paid content writing, there will always be enough to go around. This is not a ‘zero sum' game. Writers are your support group and your community. This is co-opetition. Be generous and help each other and this benefits everyone.
- #2 recommendation: Setup your own website so you have a base for people to find you on the internet. Start your email list so you have people to talk to, and market to over time.
How to make money with copywriting
- Decide on what your writing goals are, and also what your income goals are. Many people who want to write don't do it for the money. But if you want to make an income, you need to find the best way to do that.
- Become connected within the community – use your online platform to showcase your writing. Go to conferences and meet people. Understand who to approach. Magazines and newspapers don't pay well, sites that cater to the lowest bidder don't pay well either.
- Decide on your niche. You'll make money money, more quickly if you pick a topic as you can be a specialist. e.g. Business to business, health, pet industry etc. You can then target companies and sites within that. They also need to understand the value of good copy, which means they will pay more.
- The Barefoot Writer is a magazine from AWAI that Mindy edits. It is for a magazine and community of people wanting to make a good living with copywriting. It includes info on choosing a niche, how to get business and features of successful writers.
You can find Mindy at MTM Copywriting where she has great blog articles and tips for copywriting. She is also on twitter @MindyMcHorse