For Copy Newbies - How to Handle Critics

15 replies
Here's the scenario:

You write an advertising piece for someone and it gets posted on the Web. Then out of the blue, someone that claims to be the next Gary Halbert comments on a blog or whatever that it is not worthy of a dime.

In my opinion, this means one of several things:

1. The critic is so successful, he or she has loads of free time on the Web to roam around and criticize other people's work... for free.

2. Even though the critic may know their craft very well, they are hoping that you will recognize their "greatness" and then proceed to get you to:

a) Take their very expensive course
b) Be your high priced mentor or
c) Gain ego gratification from making you feel bad

3. The critic is hoping that their arrogance will make others recognize their greatness in copywriting and siphon off clients by making you look bad.

Notice:

I'm not talking about anyone on the WF, because I've gotten so much help here I can't believe it. (Especially from one individual whom I respect and admire dearly. He has been such a huge help, and I hope I can pay him back some day.)

I do realize that I am a Jr. copywriter and I know what my limitations are. But if you are learning copy and working with clients, I have some advice concerning these types of critics.

First, writing is an art, not a science and some people will like you and others won't no matter what you do. If you try to please everyone, you will give up out of frustration.

Second, the bottom line is the real indicator of your success. I remember years ago, there was a company called Cannon Films. It was run by 2 Jewish guys that knew how to make a profit, and they made the first Chuck Norris films and a bunch of grade B movies. They certainly weren't the same caliber as Kubrick and Coppola.

However, at the time, they were turning a hefty profit and as far as success went, they were the only guys on the block that were actually debt free in their business and operating in the green.

When 60 minutes asked one of them what they thought about a famous critic's opinion of their movies, the producer/owner said, "He is a man that merely gets paid for criticizing other people's work."

So, my advice to anyone that gets criticized by a "guru critic" is to work your butt off and be diligent in your craft. At the end of the day, everyone's opinion of your work is worth what they posted it online for, which is usually nothing. (Unless it is someone you know and respect, and solicited their opinion.)

Oh, by the way, this business isn't just about advertising copy. You have to know how to deal with people, market your services, and handle your finances in a way that puts you in a position where you are not STRESSED.

God Bless,

ELMO
#copy #critics #handle #newbies
  • Profile picture of the author Jack Sarlo
    Just test it out and then you'll know if it sucks or not?
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9627522].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      In my opinion, this means one of several things:

      1. The critic is so successful, he or she has loads of free time on the Web to roam around and criticize other people's work... for free.

      2. Even though the critic may know their craft very well, they are hoping that you will recognize their "greatness" and then proceed to get you to:

      a) Take their very expensive course
      b) Be your high priced mentor or
      c) Gain ego gratification from making you feel bad

      3. The critic is hoping that their arrogance will make others recognize their greatness in copywriting and siphon off clients by making you look bad.

      Notice:

      I'm not talking about anyone on the WF, because I've gotten so much help here I can't believe it. (Especially from one individual whom I respect and admire dearly. He has been such a huge help, and I hope I can pay him back some day.)
      Right here you acknowledge that there is a fourth possibility:

      4. The critic hates to see people making stupid, preventable errors and doesn't mind spending the time to point them out so that other people won't have to experience the negative consequences of preventable mistakes. It's a form of generosity even if it may look like bullying.

      Why do people like you discount the possibility that some folks enjoy sharing what they know - even when you have direct personal experience of others having that as a motivation?

      Marcia Yudkin
      Signature
      Check out Marcia Yudkin's No-Hype Marketing Academy for courses on copywriting, publicity, infomarketing, marketing plans, naming, and branding - not to mention the popular "Marketing for Introverts" course.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9627642].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        Right here you acknowledge that there is a fourth possibility:

        4. The critic hates to see people making stupid, preventable errors and doesn't mind spending the time to point them out so that other people won't have to experience the negative consequences of preventable mistakes. It's a form of generosity even if it may look like bullying.

        Why do people like you discount the possibility that some folks enjoy sharing what they know - even when you have direct personal experience of others having that as a motivation?

        Marcia Yudkin
        Yeah, as someone who studied her ass off and still managed to convince herself she didn't know jack shit, I enjoy sharing what I know now that I know I know it.

        Make sense? Might be the lack of coffee.

        Many of my posts are about getting people to step back and really look at their stuff. Or to try and prevent people from making those all-too-common mistakes that happen in the first couple years.

        And sometimes, I do come at it from a rather annoyed perspective. Sometimes we've been asked the same question 20 times in the last few days. Sometimes the person asks for opinions when they're really just hoping someone will pat them on the back and declare a piece of trash well done.

        So my advice applies to everyone really: suck it up. Get a thicker skin. If you ask for advice and get it, consider yourself lucky. Many people here CHARGE for the kind of advice they're giving you here for free. And since you're not paying them, they're not taking the time to mince words to spare your ego. There's no relationship there that merits that kind of special treatment.

        And another thing - a thank you goes a long way. I'm not talking about the "Thanks" button. I'm talking about reaching out to another human being who's tried to help you and writing a genuine note of thanks.

        A few people have reached out like that to me, and any time I see them post I'm inclined to jump in and see what they're up to, if there's anything I can do to help. Many of those people also have my personal email so they can reach out at any time.

        To reiterate: ask yourself what the opportunity is in this criticism? If it's warranted criticism, use it to learn and grow. If it's not, let it go like water off a duck's back.
        Signature

        Aspiring copywriters: if you need 1:1 advice from an experienced copy chief, head over to my Phone a Friend page.

        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9627837].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
          After 8+ years of being a freelance copywriter, I can honestly say there are more nay-sayers and critics on the internet than you could possibly imagine.

          It doesn't matter how well something you wrote converted (or didn't convert), someone will find fault with it.

          So here's my four-part advice:

          1. Develop a thick skin professionally.
          2. Check your ego at the door everyday.
          3. Feed your brain healthy food. I'm not talking about actual food (although it's a good idea). I'm talking about what you read, watch, and listen to everyday.

          Here's a good example.

          Everytime I watch the evening news, it depresses the hell out of me. So I don't watch it. If a story is big enough, then I'll skim it online. Or more likely, I'll ask one of my friends or family members who do watch the evening news everyday for the cliff-notes version. Instead, most of the time I watch/read/listen to self-improvement programs, marketing programs, and the like. IMHO, this habit is a big reason why it's extremely rare that I'm ever depressed.

          Last but not least...

          4. Adopt the 10 commandments of Spec War that courtesy of Richard Marckino. If you're not familiar with Mr. Marcinko, he's the creator of Seal Team Six and has created a very successful series of books called Rogue Warrior. In the front of each fiction book is his 10 commandments. While Mr. Marcinko wrote them in terms of military warfare, the same concepts apply to how many veteran/senior copywriters think and treat junior copywriters... at least that's my opinion so take it as such.

          Someone else put them to music here:


          At the end of the day, ignore the critics and focus on getting winning results for your clients instead.


          Best of luck,

          Mike
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628181].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author NickN
            Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

            After 8+ years of being a freelance copywriter, I can honestly say there are more nay-sayers and critics on the internet than you could possibly imagine.

            It doesn't matter how well something you wrote converted (or didn't convert), someone will find fault with it.

            So here's my four-part advice:

            1. Develop a thick skin professionally.
            2. Check your ego at the door everyday.
            3. Feed your brain healthy food. I'm not talking about actual food (although it's a good idea). I'm talking about what you read, watch, and listen to everyday.

            Here's a good example.

            Everytime I watch the evening news, it depresses the hell out of me. So I don't watch it. If a story is big enough, then I'll skim it online. Or more likely, I'll ask one of my friends or family members who do watch the evening news everyday for the cliff-notes version. Instead, most of the time I watch/read/listen to self-improvement programs, marketing programs, and the like. IMHO, this habit is a big reason why it's extremely rare that I'm ever depressed.

            Last but not least...

            4. Adopt the 10 commandments of Spec War that courtesy of Richard Marckino. If you're not familiar with Mr. Marcinko, he's the creator of Seal Team Six and has created a very successful series of books called Rogue Warrior. In the front of each fiction book is his 10 commandments. While Mr. Marcinko wrote them in terms of military warfare, the same concepts apply to how many veteran/senior copywriters think and treat junior copywriters... at least that's my opinion so take it as such.

            Someone else put them to music here:

            Ten Commandments of SpecWar - YouTube

            At the end of the day, ignore the critics and focus on getting winning results for your clients instead.


            Best of luck,

            Mike
            I don't think this advice should be overlooked. The internet is a blackhole of negativity. I've gotten away from a lot of message boards and social media because it's pretty depressing how critical and judgmental people are when they're cloaked in internet anonymity.
            Signature

            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628195].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    OP -- why not link to a few examples? I'm not sure what blogs or boards the OP is referring to... It would be interesting to see examples of what's bugging him...

    With regard to critiques on this board -- I definitely appreciate the info and advice given freely here, even when it seems "mean spirited" or even backward and uninformed. A lot of "gems" are posted here too! You just have to be smart enough to separate the wheat from the chafe.

    There is, however, one important thing missing from the critiques, I notice. If copy is bad, everyone comments. The worse the copy, generally, the more attention it gets.

    If the copy is pretty good, however -- silence. The thread sinks and dies with little attention.

    Critiquing horrible copy is fun and can provide insights to rank beginners. But these are generally insights they could pick up themselves in independent study. Critiquing horrible copy doesn't help people who are smart enough (and motivated enough) to learn on their own. As such, it's largely a waste of effort on behalf of the people trying to help.

    Conversely, pointing out why the rare good example works is more valuable, but you see little of that here.

    The other thing missing is discussion of good copy that isn't 30, 40, 50 years old. Most of the swipes people tout here are "classics". Few threads point to anything from modern times.

    ...So those are my gripes about copy critiques.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628385].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
      Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

      The other thing missing is discussion of good copy that isn't 30, 40, 50 years old. Most of the swipes people tout here are "classics". Few threads point to anything from modern times.

      ...So those are my gripes about copy critiques.
      The problem with sharing modern controls is that they immediately get ripped off and copied. It may be direct competitors or other niches but your copy gets taken and used by other people who didn't pay for it. This doesn't sit well with your clients which is understandable...if you spent thousands of dollars for a salesletter and put even more money into split-testing, PPC, etc, then you'd be unhappy about someone else ripping off/cloning your control too. It doesn't sit real well with you as the copywriter either. Several well-known copywriters have had to send out cease and desist letters to other copywriters who ripped off their copywriting website salesletter and were using it to sell their own services.

      A small personal example... a number of years ago, I launched my own multi-variate testing tool. I ran a WSO on it initially and had a headline or sub-headline (don't remember which one it was) which said my testing tool was like "split-testing on steroids". Within 6 months, there were over a dozen other WSOs where their product was like "xxx on steroids".

      I take it as a back-handed compliment but that's because it was a minor swipe from my copy. If one of my current controls got ripped/cloned, I probably wouldn't be real happy about it.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628484].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author splitTest
        Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

        The problem with sharing modern controls is that they immediately get ripped off and copied. It may be direct competitors or other niches but your copy gets taken and used by other people who didn't pay for it. This doesn't sit well with your clients which is understandable...if you spent thousands of dollars for a salesletter and put even more money into split-testing, PPC, etc, then you'd be unhappy about someone else ripping off/cloning your control too. It doesn't sit real well with you as the copywriter either. Several well-known copywriters have had to send out cease and desist letters to other copywriters who ripped off their copywriting website salesletter and were using it to sell their own services.

        A small personal example... a number of years ago, I launched my own multi-variate testing tool. I ran a WSO on it initially and had a headline or sub-headline (don't remember which one it was) which said my testing tool was like "split-testing on steroids". Within 6 months, there were over a dozen other WSOs where their product was like "xxx on steroids".

        I take it as a back-handed compliment but that's because it was a minor swipe from my copy. If one of my current controls got ripped/cloned, I probably wouldn't be real happy about it.
        Actually I was thinking more along the lines of posting admirable copy you've found on other websites or in magazines and such, rather than your own copy. Isn't that copy vulnerable to adaptation the moment it's published? ... So it likely won't harm the writer much if it's linked to from here.

        Come to think of it, people here post examples from other sites often, asking "why does this work" or "what do you think of this". But it's rare that they post modern stuff that looks like a classic in the making, stuff to analyze because it's just so good.

        I understand what you're saying about posting your own examples though. Gotta add, however, that using the "on steroids" phrase is likely not a rip-off. Saying something is like "xx on steroids" is just part of modern vernacular. You see it on tv, in mags -- all over the place.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628561].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
          Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

          Actually I was thinking more along the lines of posting admirable copy you've found on other websites or in magazines and such, rather than your own copy.
          But how do you know that admirable copy is converting? Unless the product owner, copywriter, or someone else in the know says something, nobody will know if it's converting well or not. Obviously, something like a ClickBank product is an exception because you can look at the product's gravity... unless it's not listed in the marketplace and is invite-only for JV's.

          Isn't that copy vulnerable to adaptation the moment it's published? ... So it likely won't harm the writer much if it's linked to from here.
          Depends on the deal for the copywriter. If they're getting paid royalties on that salesletter, then it definitely could hurt them.

          Come to think of it, people here post examples from other sites often, asking "why does this work" or "what do you think of this". But it's rare that they post modern stuff that looks like a classic in the making, stuff to analyze because it's just so good.
          Depends on the niche. The WF is geared towards the IM niche so most of what is talked about here is IM-related. After that, there's a lot of talk on bigger ClickBank niches like weight loss, dating, etc.

          I understand what you're saying about posting your own examples though. Gotta add, however, that using the "on steroids" phrase is likely not a rip-off. Saying something is like "xx on steroids" is just part of modern vernacular. You see it on tv, in mags -- all over the place.
          I'd agree the example I shared could be a modern vernacular. The thing is, it happened in a very select marketing fishbowl (the WSO board) and all within 6 months of when I launched my WSO in the same marketing fishbowl.

          I wasn't upset about it... more like in awe (and sometimes dismay) on how many people swiped the phrase and used it afterwards. Not every one of them used it well or in a way that made any sense.
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9629148].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author splitTest
            Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

            But how do you know that admirable copy is converting? Unless the product owner, copywriter, or someone else in the know says something, nobody will know if it's converting well or not.
            Fair enough.

            Still, there are certain ads and letters you can just tell are done well. For example, no one had to tell me that the "secret trick I play on my ex-husband" ad worked. That one's so clearly done well, any copywriter would know it's a winner.

            With certain ads, you can see the elements are all there. Maybe it won't convert because timing, list, product, and offer are all weak, but as copywriters we can tell strong messaging when we see it.

            Secret trick I play on my ex-husband ad

            I'll bet there are up-to-date examples that jump out like that. Just sayin...
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9629576].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    Kubrick's 1st Film: Fear and Desire
    Coppola's early effort: Dementia 13 Dementia 13 - Watch & Download | BnWMovies.com

    Everybody has to start somwhere.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628657].message }}
  • They say everyone is a critic.

    And copy is one of THE most subjective things there is.

    What I like you might hate and vice versa.

    So in the wonderful world of copywriting…

    It does help to develop a thick skin.

    And do leave your ego outside (somewhere far away so it doesn't get in the way).

    And if you have to, listen to the critics (but why bother? - unless they really do have something useful to say).

    Better to be your OWN judge and jury (for goodness sake it IS your work).

    If clients criticise they probably aren't.

    They tend to either comment or they don't "get" how and why copy works.

    So with great diplomacy you help them understand the techniques.

    Never let them sabotage your epic masterpiece.

    And with the finished promo.

    Sit back and YOU'LL either be right or wrong.

    Because your copy will work or it won't.


    Steve



    P.S. If it doesn't work, just fix it till it does.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9628681].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    Originally Posted by elmo033057 View Post

    Here's the scenario:

    You write an advertising piece for someone and it gets posted on the Web. Then out of the blue, someone that claims to be the next Gary Halbert comments on a blog or whatever that it is not worthy of a dime.

    In my opinion, this means one of several things:

    1. The critic is so successful, he or she has loads of free time on the Web to roam around and criticize other people's work... for free.

    2. Even though the critic may know their craft very well, they are hoping that you will recognize their "greatness" and then proceed to get you to:

    a) Take their very expensive course
    b) Be your high priced mentor or
    c) Gain ego gratification from making you feel bad

    3. The critic is hoping that their arrogance will make others recognize their greatness in copywriting and siphon off clients by making you look bad.

    Notice:

    I'm not talking about anyone on the WF, because I've gotten so much help here I can't believe it. (Especially from one individual whom I respect and admire dearly. He has been such a huge help, and I hope I can pay him back some day.)

    I do realize that I am a Jr. copywriter and I know what my limitations are. But if you are learning copy and working with clients, I have some advice concerning these types of critics.

    First, writing is an art, not a science and some people will like you and others won't no matter what you do. If you try to please everyone, you will give up out of frustration.

    Second, the bottom line is the real indicator of your success. I remember years ago, there was a company called Cannon Films. It was run by 2 Jewish guys that knew how to make a profit, and they made the first Chuck Norris films and a bunch of grade B movies. They certainly weren't the same caliber as Kubrick and Coppola.

    However, at the time, they were turning a hefty profit and as far as success went, they were the only guys on the block that were actually debt free in their business and operating in the green.

    When 60 minutes asked one of them what they thought about a famous critic's opinion of their movies, the producer/owner said, "He is a man that merely gets paid for criticizing other people's work."

    So, my advice to anyone that gets criticized by a "guru critic" is to work your butt off and be diligent in your craft. At the end of the day, everyone's opinion of your work is worth what they posted it online for, which is usually nothing. (Unless it is someone you know and respect, and solicited their opinion.)

    Oh, by the way, this business isn't just about advertising copy. You have to know how to deal with people, market your services, and handle your finances in a way that puts you in a position where you are not STRESSED.

    God Bless,

    ELMO
    "A Statue Has Never Been Set Up in Honour of a Critic."

    -Jean Sibelius
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9629261].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author AmericanMuscleTA
    Critics are critics.

    You could take a sales letter written by Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy, any of the greats, ask 10 other copywriters to critique it, and you'd get 10 new sales letters.
    Signature

    David Hunter | Duke of Marketing | Real Estate Agent
    www.DukeOfMarketing.com

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9631976].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author elmo033057
    I am amazed that this subject got this many responses! The last time I came on here, nobody had a thing to say about this post, so I thought it died. LOL!

    Here is my critique of all of you:

    I love you guys. The reason I decided to learn copywriting was because of this forum and the talented individuals on here. I actually never thought about this craft until I started learning from the people on here.

    So, as far as critics go, I am networking with the best and they are on this forum.

    Where else can a complete stranger get expert advice from a group of highly seasoned and talented writers? OK, I guess there are other forums, but I'm used to all of you now, so I trust and appreciate you.

    So, thank you all for being kind, snarky, professional and helpful.

    God Bless!

    ELMO
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9631991].message }}

Trending Topics