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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seven Ways to Ensure Your Copywriting Clients Keep Coming Back for More


Today's guest post is from freelance writer and copywriter David Sumner.

David also contributed a popular guest post to this blog, The Best Writing Apps for Writers, a few months ago.

He has some great tips in this latest post on how writers can keep their clients enthused with their work and coming back with repeat commissions...

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Many people think that simply having a passion for writing is the key ingredient for launching a successful freelance copywriting career. However passion, while vital, is not the only thing you need.

So how can a copywriter fire up their pen to ensure their clients keep coming back for more? Here's a personal list of tips that have helped me...

1. Know the task inside out

The first step in creating professional standard copy is to ensure you know all the dimensions of the task inside out.

When negotiating with a client, it's simply not enough for the client to say, "Write me some advertising spiel about these shoes". You will need clear instructions and guidelines from the client about the specific needs and desires that they have for their copy. Do they want to break the mould with the text, for example, or are they simply looking for a standard effort copy that covers the basics?

2. Know the target audience

Delivering great copy that speaks to the needs of the reader is only possible if you, the copywriter, know the exact target group that the text is aimed at.

Effective marketing copy should deliver the needs of your client by arousing the interest of the reader in the product or service that is being advertised.

This principle is absolutely fundamental to the creation of professional copy, as even with short texts or slogans for advertising campaigns, you need to be able to connect your copy to the aspirations and interests of the audience that will read the text.

3. Understand the identity of the client

Is your client a young, hip web design agency, operating with a start-up mentality, or are they a legal firm with decades of history and experience behind them?

The identity of the client is a key factor you must pay attention to. The nuances of the text will have to match the personality of the client exactly. No matter how good the quality of the copy, if the tone does not match your client's identity and image - their brand, in other words - then the copy has failed in its primary purpose.

4. Do your research

In this harsh economic climate, copywriters are being forced to become less picky with the sort of freelancing jobs they take on. Gone are the days of specializing in the creation of copy for certain themes only.

Of course, while acquiring a diverse CV is no bad thing, in order to really "connect" with the copy that you are creating, you will need to deepen your research. Requesting thorough specifications for a product will bring depth to your copy, to ensure that it speaks to the reader with an interest in the product.

If you are writing on an unfamiliar topic, then learn how the product or service can actually solve problems on a daily basis. This way, you can connect to the reader on a fundamental level, as everyone wants a service or product that makes their life easier.

5. Learn some SEO basics

The world of Search Engine Optimization has moved on since the early 2000s. In particular, search engines such as Google have become more sophisticated, and the quality of the text on a website (with regards to the research taken to write it) is nowadays more important to its ranking than whether or not the page is stuffed with targeted keywords.

That being said, however, ensuring that a desired keyword appears within the title of your piece and is perhaps highlighted in bold a couple of times within the text can only help improve the SEO value of your copy for the keyword in question.

6. Treat the reader as an intelligent human being

There's no need to use simple, cheesy catch-words such as "BRILLIANT!" "AMAZING!" or "DELICIOUS!" within your copy. These cheap advertising phrases will convince no one of the qualities of the product or service that you are writing about and will turn off most readers from the copy altogether. The modern consumer is smart and should be treated as such.

Put yourself in their shoes and talk to their needs on a human level rather than bombarding them with catch-phrases and marketing speak. Moreover, strike a balance and avoid writing in overly scientific or poetic language to ensure that the central message is not lost on the reader.

7. Get to the point

When a casual visitor comes to a web page their attention can ebb in seconds if the text fails to attract their interest straight away. Including attention-grabbing text at the start of your copy, typically rhetorical questions or an opening line about a personal experience, will entice the reader to continue reading.

Another key principle is to inform the reader of the benefits of the product to them as quickly as possible, rather than leading them on a goose chase around the text. The latter can be tempting if you are being paid by the word; however, the chances of being re-hired by an agency to write copy will greatly improve if your texts are engaging but also succinct.

These are just some tips that every freelance copywriter looking to survive in this economic climate must take note of, in order to ensure that their inbox is always crammed with messages from satisfied clients offering them further work.

About the author: My name is David Sumner from twago, Europe's largest online mediation platform for customers and freelancers working together on projects in the fields of translation, copywriting, web design, programming and graphic design. I've got a passion for writing and am constantly trying to engage with the reader in new and effective ways.

* * *

Thank you to David for an interesting and informative article.

Copywriting is a contentious subject and I know that not everyone will agree with all of David's points.

I do, though, agree strongly with him that getting under a prospect's skin and really trying to understand his or her needs and how the product in question can address them is crucial. And to do that, you really do need to understand the product and the market yourself - and if you don't already understand it, research it. Only then will you be able to create copy that really does speak to prospects and convince them of the value of buying your client's wares.

If you have any other comments or questions for David (or me), please do leave them below!

Photo Credit: Let's Go Shopping! by James Vaughan on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Novelrank: A Brilliant Resource for Tracking Your Amazon Sales

A few weeks ago I discovered a great, free service called NovelRank. If you have any books or e-books for sale at Amazon, you should check it out too.

NovelRank provides an easy method for keeping track of your title's sales rank and actual sales, almost in real time (the stats are updated hourly).

NovelRank is an independent site set up in a public-spirited way by author and programmer Mario Lurig. It uses Amazon's own API to access the sales statistics for any title.

As mentioned, Novelrank is currently free to use (though donations are welcome), and it works with all the main Amazon stores (.com, .co.uk, .ca, .de, .fr, .co.jp, .it, .cn, and .es).

Signing up at NovelRank is quite straightforward. Just go to www.novelrank.com and click on the Track Your Book button. After registering, you will be asked to add some details about your book (e.g. the ASIN code), so that NovelRank can identify it and start tracking it. Note that tracking is not retroactive - it will begin from when you successfully register your title.

Once your book is in the system, you will be able to view the stats for it at any time by clicking on User Admin in the main NovelRank menu, then clicking on the title you want to track. You will be shown a summary box such as the one below for my book Start Your Own Home-Based Business.

Below this, you will see a graph charting how the book's sales rank has been rising and/or falling. You may need to click to update this. Here's a chart showing the fluctuating sales rank of my book in November.

Every time there is a sale, there is a spike as sales rank rises, followed by a gradual decline if no other sales occur.

That is by no means the end of what NovelRank can do. For example, you can access RSS feeds that will update you every time one of your books is sold or your sales rank changes. You can also download a widget to display your book's Amazon sales rank on your blog or website.

Finally, I should add that you can - of course - use NovelRank to track sales of books you haven't written as well. As a freelance editor as well as writer, I have set it up to follow the fortunes of several books I have edited (e.g. Free Stuff Everyday by Mike Essex), as well as my own books and e-books.

* Have you tried NovelRank yourself? What did you think of it? And are there any similar services for authors you would recommend? Please leave any comments below!


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Monday, November 21, 2011

How Blogging Can Help an Aspiring Writer


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from freelance writer and blogger Kimberley Wilson.

Kimberley is a big believer in the value of blogging to writers. In this post she explains some of her reasons...

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Writers stuck on a project - whether it's a novel, a piece of journalism, or anything else - might be well advised to turn to the blogosphere to find inspiration and hone their writing skills.

We don't often think of it this way, but the web is basically a huge writing community built on the zeal of bloggers and social media users, filling the online world with content at a dizzying pace.

Bloggers are more or less renegade writers, breaking compositional norms and sharing ideas and content on their own terms. A blocked or frustrated writer could learn a wealth of valuable lessons from joining the world-wide blogging community.

Still not convinced? Ponder these points...

Learn to write shorter, punchier content

It's no secret that short but information-rich material rules the written content on the web.

Expert bloggers have learned to modify their writing to avoid verbosity; they write just what needs to be read and no more. As the average web surfer spends less than five seconds deciding whether they want to remain on a site, bloggers have little time in which to capture their reader's attention.

Learning this habit can be invaluable to aspiring writers in all genres, particularly if they tend to overcomplicate their sentences. If they turn to blogging, such writers will quickly learn the merits of producing pithy, attention-grabbing material.

And there's no shortage of inspiration to draw from on the web; simply search some of the more popular blogs in your area of interest to discover what style of writing resonates with readers.

Diversify your writing style

Writers who've grown weary of the same writing style could find a refreshing change in the freestyle blogging method.

One of the biggest attractions of blogging is that there are no real rules: you write what you want to write about in the style you wish to write in, ignoring what others may say. You can tackle subjects and writing methods that your daytime writing job would never grant you.

Writers should use blogging as a means to navigate new creative landscapes, to push the boundaries of their writing in new and exciting ways. And best of all, blogging allows you to pursue all these ventures on your own time, without interrupting your day-to-day life.

For example, say you're an experienced copywriter for a marketing firm looking to take a new direction in your writing career. Unless you've saved up a substantial nest egg, you're not suddenly going to quit your day job in order to explore new areas of writing. So what do you do? You experiment with new writing methods through a blog.

Say you have a long-standing interest in narrative poetry - you can use your blog as a platform to experiment and hone your craft, and get feedback from readers before you consider submitting your work for publication.

Network with fellow writers

As I said before, the web houses the largest number of writers in the world.

These millions of writers span every possible genre, and present a limitless pool of potential colleagues for an aspiring writer to connect with.

A novice blogger can search out authors of related blogs either through social media or by old-fashioned Google searches. New bloggers may be surprised to find the majority of bloggers and blogging communities to be friendly and hospitable. A writer need show only a little initiative online to access the wisdom of countless fellow writers.

Byline: This is a guest post by Kimberly Wilson. Kimberly is from accredited online colleges; she writes on topics including careers, education, student life, college life, home improvement, time management, and so on.

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Thank you to Kimberley for a thought-provoking article.

I absolutely agree about the value to writers of blogging. I would add that blogging can also be a good method to attract more buyers/readers for your books, and more clients for your writing services.

It can also provide an additional income stream in its own right (e.g. through running Google AdSense ads on your blog and/or promoting affiliate sales). And some bloggers have even been offered book publishing deals!

I should also mention that I recently wrote a full-length course for writers on how they can maximize the benefits they get from blogging. This will be published early in the new year by The WCCL Network - and naturally, readers of this blog will be among the first to hear about it!

If you have any comments about the article, or questions for Kimberley (or me), please do leave them below.

Photo Credit: Beach Blogging, after Cassandre by Mike Licht on Flickr.


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing Weekend Workshop Near Hay-on-Wye This Spring


My colleague Lorraine Mace has asked me to mention a weekend writing workshop she is running next May in association with her co-author Maureen Vincent-Northam.

Here is a slightly edited version of their press release...

Writing Magazine columnist Lorraine Mace, and co-author of The Writer’s ABC Checklist, Maureen Vincent-Northam, will be leading a weekend workshop at the beautiful Baskerville Hall Hotel near the book town of Hay-on-Wye this spring.

Arthur Conan Doyle was a regular visitor to Baskerville Hall and, although the final story was set in Devon, the idea for one of his best-loved works, The Hound of the Baskervilles, was born after hearing of the local legend.

Cracking the County Magazine Market (the morning workshop) covers: analysing your market, finding unique ideas to fit your county, interviewing subjects, quotes and how to use them, the value of photographs, creating an arresting outline and writing a winning query letter.

That Elusive Flash of Success (the afternoon workshop) covers: the art of condensing a complete story into 500 words, tantalising titles, attention grabbing opening paragraphs, effective use of dialogue, characters to believe in, tiny touches to bring settings to life, satisfying endings and originality - old themes given a unique slant.

The workshops will be held on Saturday 19 May 2012 with an overnight stay for attendees at the historic hotel. Places on the course are limited. The cost is 135 UK pounds per person, which includes both workshops, hotel accommodation, and meals.

It sounds a wonderful opportunity to spend a weekend with fellow writers in a beautiful part of Britain, enjoying tuition from two successful writers who (among many other things) are co-authors of the popular Writer's ABC Checklist, which I reviewed a while ago in this blog post.

For those who may not know, Hay-on-Wye is a small Welsh market town famous for having over 30 bookshops, and also hosting a major annual literary festival. The town is situated just within the Welsh side of the border with Herefordshire, England.

For more information about the course, please visit http://writersabcworkshops.lorrainemace.com. Alternatively, if you have any comments or questions, please post them below, and I'm sure either Lorraine or Maureen will drop by soon to answer them!


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Buy a WCCL Writing Course as a Christmas Present!


As you may know, this blog is kindly sponsored by my publishers, The WCCL Network.

WCCL publish a wide range of software, including my writing courses, as listed below...

Kindle Kash

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days

Quick Cash Writing

Essential English for Authors

The 10-Day E-Book

The Wealthy Writer (co-written with Ruth Barringham)

At this time of year, I'm guessing some of you may be looking for suitable Christmas (or Hanukkah) gifts for a writer in your life. If so, perhaps one of my courses - or another WCCL product such as Travel Writing Secrets - might fit the bill?

All WCCL courses are written, edited and formatted to the highest professional standards, and the many unsolicited testimonials (such as these for Write Any Book in Under 28 Days) give some indication of the value buyers have found in them.

With economies around the world struggling and another tough year in prospect, we all need as many strings to our bow as possible right now. A WCCL course can help equip anyone with the skills they need to succeed.

Buying a WCCL product as a gift for someone else is quite straightforward. Just go to the relevant sales page and click on the Buy Now link. On the SWREG payment page that appears, fill in your payment information under Billing Details on the left, then UNCHECK the box on the right that says 'Shipping Address is same as Billing Address'. You should then fill in the recipient's details in the boxes that appear on the right (see screengrab below).

Once you have made your payment, you'll receive an email from WCCL/MyHelpHub with instructions on how to register and activate your purchase. Forward this to the recipient of your gift, and remind them that, to activate the product, they will need to enter your email address (the one you used to purchase the product), and not their own.

And that's all there is to it, although WCCL do have a 24-hour customer-service website at www.myhelphub.com if you run into any snags.

Of course, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below. You might also like to check out this blog post in which I listed all of WCCL's writing-related courses and products.

Enjoy your writing, and watch out for more festive-themed blog posts from me in the weeks ahead!

Photo Credit: Wrapped Presents by Muffet on Flickr.


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Friday, November 11, 2011

Feminist Flash Fiction Writing Contest

I thought some of you might be interested in this feminist flash fiction contest from the UK-based Mookychick website.

It's free to enter and open world-wide. The first prize is 100 UK pounds (or your country's equivalent), publication with a link to your blog or website on Mookychick, and a one-year digital subscription to BUST magazine.

To enter, you have to create a haiku, poem or flash fiction under 200 words, and it needs to relate to an aspect of feminism.

One other - slightly unusual - rule is that you have to post your entry on a blog or website, but there are plenty of options for this. They say: 'A blog, a Tumblr, a DeviantArt account, a website to call your own. A place where you can put words.' I'd imagine that posting on myWritersCircle would be acceptable as well (though you might want to double-check this with the organizers).

To enter, you will then have to email the organizers with the URL where your entry is published. Please see the contest information page for details of exactly what is required here. You are allowed to submit multiple entries if you like, as long as each entry has its own URL.

The closing date is 30 November 2011. The shortlisted entries will then be judged by a panel of noted feminist writers and activists.

One point I did check on myself is that the contest is open to men as well as women. You don't have to be female to write from a feminist perspective, of course!

Good luck, and do let me know if you're a winner!


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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How to Create a Video Book Trailer Using Windows MovieMaker

A little while ago I published a post about my colleague David Robinson and the video trailer he created to help promote his new novel. You can view that post by clicking here if you like.

Well, I'm delighted to say I managed to persuade David to produce a full-length guest post on how exactly he creates his trailers - and the good news is that the method he uses is so simple (not to mention free) that almost anyone could do it.

I should just mention that the post below includes screenshots and an embedded video; so if you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog for them all to display properly.

Over to David, then...

* * *

Trailers are becoming more important in book marketing, and it's surprising how easy they are to produce.

In order to put together your trailer, you need:

• Images
• Captions
• Music or commentary
• Video editing software

Video software is expensive, but fortunately for our purposes Windows MovieMaker is adequate, and it's free. I use MovieMaker Live because I run Windows 7. Older packages (XP, Vista) may need earlier versions of the programme.

Here's a screen shot of MovieMaker when you first open it.


You should spend some time playing with MovieMaker, familiarising yourself with the menus and the way they work. When you're happy, add your images one at a time. That process is as simple as browsing and importing them.

They should say something about the book/service you have to offer. As a novelist, I have tremendous leeway. I can turn almost any image into a brooding scene from a murder mystery. If you're an entrepreneur, if you turn out non-fiction, your options may be more limited.

It's surprising how many images you DON'T need. For my latest effort (a Christmas novel due out December 1st - see below) I used only 10, and one of those was repeated. Yet the trailer runs for 1 minute 45 seconds. I interspersed the images with text screens which helped carry the trailer forward. On the MovieMaker menu, these are headed "Title" (ringed below) and that leads us nicely on to...

Text

You can apply a caption to each image. Once the photograph is in place, click "add caption" (ringed above) and type your words in. There is no point my going into what you should say. My captions and title screens give hints as to what the reader can expect in the novel. Someone selling a business manual would ask different questions, make different points. If you're an entrepreneur, you should know how to construct your sales material already, and your captions and title screens are simply a condensed version of it.

MovieMaker has a selection of frame transitions. Arrowed below, they're on the animations tab. It's one of the last things I do. Select each frame in turn and apply a transition to it. Captions, when they're overlaid on images, can also have transitions. Play with them, learn what you can do, and make them pleasing on the eye.


The range of animations available is quite restricted, but with sufficient variation, you can still turn out an entertaining sequence.

As you build your trailer, you will notice that each image/title screen has a default running time of five seconds.

Sometimes it's too long, and at others, it doesn't seem long enough, so you can adjust the length of each frame. Music is what governs the running time of my frames, and adding music is the hardest part of the process.

You may prefer a single musical track running all the way through. Because I need to create drama, I vary the track, and I prepare it in advance using the Audacity freeware. MovieMaker provides for fade in/fade out on soundtrack, but it's quite basic.

Whatever you do, don't use copyrighted music. You may think it's fun to overlay your trailer with the current number one, but you leave yourself wide open to prosecution for copyright infringement. I use the work of Kevin Macleod, who permits the free use of his music in exchange for a credit.

I don't use verbal commentary. Because I also produce podcasts, I have the equipment, and again I use Audacity, but marrying a commentary to a sequence of image transitions would, I imagine, be a long process. Don't let that put you off. If you feel you have the skills and the necessary equipment, then go for it.

The one piece of advice I can give is don't use a combined headphone/microphone set up. These usually sit so close to your lips that plosive consonants (P, B, F) literally come through as a mini-explosion on your finished product.

To finish off your trailer add your credits (option on the MovieMaker home screen) and then upload to YouTube. Beyond that, it's all about letting the world know it's there. I embed the finished videos into my website and blog, and I publicise them through Facebook and Twitter.

It's impossible in a short piece like this to go into great detail, but MovieMaker is not a difficult program to master, and if you do get stuck, there's plenty of help on the web. Timescales will probably vary. My latest trailer (see below) took a day and a half to produce, edit to the required standard, and upload.


Do they work? Because I publish through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, it's impossible to say where sales come from, but the trailers have increased visitors to my site, and in October my sales certainly increased.

Download MovieMaker Live at http://www.windowslive.co.uk/essentials/moviemaker
Download Audacity at http://www.download-audacity.com/
Find the Music of Kevin McLeod at http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

Byline: David Robinson is a prolific novelist with 11 titles available for the Kindle and three more currently in production. You can find him at http://dwrob.com and his YouTube channel is at http://www.youtube.com/user/Dwrob96

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Many thanks to David for an informative and inspiring article. Do take a moment to check out his trailers, including the one above and the one for A Halloween Homicide on my earlier blog post.

If you enjoyed this post, please spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and so on. And obviously, if you have any comments or questions for David (or me), please do post them below!


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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Two New Nick Daws Books - Just in Time for Christmas!

Sixty Second Science books
Thought I'd let you know about two books I wrote a while ago, which have just been published by my regular clients The Lagoon Group.

The books - pictured above - are 100 Science Myths Explored and 100 Science Mysteries Explained. The brief was to write them in language that a 12-year-old could understand, but that an adult with an inquiring mind would still find enjoyable.

The books were actually very interesting to research, though challenging to write. One item I found particularly difficult was trying to explain what is at the heart of a black hole in 250 words or less, in terms a 12-year-old could understand!

To give you a flavour of the books, here's a sample article from 100 Science Myths...

A goldfish's memory only lasts three seconds

MYTH!

This commonly-held belief has been proven to be completely false.

Research at the University of Plymouth, England, in 2003 demonstrated that goldfish could learn to remember a daily routine.

The goldfish in the Plymouth study were trained to push a lever in their tank to earn a food reward. When the lever was set to work for only one hour every day, the fish soon learned to operate it at the correct time each day.

Other studies have shown that goldfish have a memory span of at least three months, and can distinguish between different shapes, colors and sounds.

ORIGIN: One (slightly tongue-in-cheek) theory is that this myth arose as a method of making goldfish-owners feel less guilty about keeping their pets in small bowls.

If the fish can't remember anything that happened more than a few seconds ago, so this theory goes, they will never get bored with their tiny homes!

In fact, goldfish are more intelligent than we give them credit for. They can even be taught tricks, such as swimming through a hoop, using the same reward-based training methods used with circus animals.

Goldfish really aren't as stupid as we've been led to believe!

As the above may indicate, the books are written in US English, as America is Lagoon's most important market.

The books aren't actually that easy to find online. They are sold as novelty items rather than through bookshops, so they aren't currently available on Amazon (as far as I know). You are most likely to see them in standalone displays at gift shops, tourist attractions, drugstores, and so on.

I did, however, find them on sale at this rather unlikely online venue, at the bargain price of 5 UK pounds each. The series (though mine are the only two books in it) is known as Sixty Second Science.

A perfect stocking-filler as Christmas approaches!

Update: The books are available in a few more online stores now, including the British Heart Foundation store in the UK and this store in New Zealand. Keep searching online for "Sixty Second Science" or the book titles to see if there is a distributor in your country yet.

Just heard that the US stockists are http://www.familygamesamerica.com The books aren't on their website at the time of writing, but you can email them for ordering information.


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