Good copywriting doesn't have to be difficult.

by vip-ip
16 replies
Hey everyone,

I'm one of those guys who believes that we often make things harder than they need to be.

Why pay $97+ for an ebook when you can learn from my experience - not theory - for free? In this thread, there are no tricks, no secrets, and no sales pitches to you the reader - just my experiences and consequent advice. Personally, what I'm about to discuss comes to me on autopilot: I just take it as common sense now a days, so I hope that my tips will help someone out there!

Let's simplify copywriting.

So here's a bit about myself: I'm a student at UMD, I've done various projects like graphic design and general web development, but lately I found my niche to be content creation (articles, web pages) and copywriting. It's my favorite because it makes me more money, and as a student I'm in constant need of rent, food, and entertainment money (not to mention tuition!)

I've authored probably about 10 copies that I'd consider professional, and every time I write a new one I learn something new. I am by no means a true expert yet, because there is certainly someone out there with more versatility, more experience, and more know-how, but I do want to share something special with you.

---------------------------------------------

There are many guides out there on how to make that "Killer Copy," and I've never bought a single one of those. All the information you need can be found online, for free - you just have to look for a bit. When it comes to copywriting, it's way different from article writing, but you already know that: your purpose is to SELL a product, not to INFORM about it. Selling someone something requires a call to action, rather than just fluid sentences that make you interested in a product.

Here is my personal formula for a great copy that won't only satisfy your copy buyer, but will also help that buyer pay for itself through sales on his site. This, in turn, will bring you repeat business from the same clientele.

1) Get as many details from your client before you even begin thinking about what to write.
Before, I found myself rushing to get to writing before I even knew what I needed to accomplish. A lot of low-charging writers say, "here's an ebook, let's throw some catchy headlines and hopefully the client will like it." Besides the basics like the name of the product and its author, I usually ask for this information before I even draft an outline of the sales page:
- Who is your target audience?
- Can you send me any applicable graphics?
- How much will you be selling the product for?
- Do you have any authentic testimonials for me to use?
- Can I see a copy of the product to familiarize myself with what I'm trying to sell to your visitors?
- Are there any particular things that you want me to include? Any bonus products?
- Will you be offering a specific money back guarantee?
- Who will be your payment processor?
Other questions may apply based on the particular product that you need to promote. I've written on topics ranging from get-rich-quick schemes to male enhancement pills; as you could imagine, I would need different ideas from each individual client before I can get a sense of what they want to see, what their buyers need to know before buying, and how I can tweak that information to make them buy it.

2) Make a rough draft of the outline
Remember what they taught us in English class in high school? I knew I should have paid attention, and I'm glad I did: an outline does half of your work for you. This is the brainstorming stage. This is the point of the outline - you're getting your ideas down, before you actually put time and effort into copywriting. The format is simple:
Code:
I. Introductions
   i. First main idea
      a. Point one
      b. Point two
   ii. Second main idea
      a. Point one
      b. Point two
...
...
II. Sales Pitch Body 
   i. First main idea
      a. Point one
      b. Point two
   ii. Second main idea
      a. Point one
      b. Point two
...
...
III. Closure
   i. First main idea
      a. Point one
      b. Point two
   ii. Second main idea
      a. Point one
      b. Point two
...
...
Things you want to do in your intro: introduce the topic and briefly highlight the short-term benefits of the product, establish author credibility, and tell a personal story of success using the product. The point is to glue your readers' eyes to the page, and keep them there until they read through everything and decide whether they want to buy or not to buy.

Things you want to do in your sales pitch body: discuss the details of the product, make an email form to build a list of laser-targeted leads for later use, list product testimonials, and pitch the price and money-back guarantee.

Things you want to do in your closure: reinforce the message of success, strengthen buyer confidence by repeating the money back guarantee, and offer them to buy the product. Allow them to sign up for the mailing list if they are unsure about buying yet. :rolleyes:

After your outline is done, send it to your client for approval. Ask them for their honest opinion and suggestions for changes. In 90% of the cases, they will point out something that you missed, or something that needs to go because they dislike it. This doesn't make you an insecure writer, which is what other writers might think - it actually does the opposite. By discussing the clients' needs, you appear as a provider of a professional, responsible service - which is what you are!

3) Confirm the outline
Have it set in stone before you begin drafting your ideas. This will provide a clear understanding between you and the client as to what's expected of you, and what the client is expected to pay for.

4) Sales brainstorming
Now that you have a good understanding of the product, you need to separate fact from fiction. All sales involve a bit of BS, and your job is to make it look authentic. Here's what I do: I make a list of 30 unique catch-phrases, slogans, or headlines (call them what you want), and "sleep on them." What I mean by that is, I come up with the ideas over the course of the day, or before going to bed, and then review them in the afternoon the following day. Sleeping legitimately helps you sort your thoughts out, and get a fresh look at things when you wake up. So from those 30 ideas, I pick my 10 favorites. I send those to my client and ask him which ones he likes best. If he doesn't like any, then guess what - you have 20 more to impress him with A bit of effort a day ahead puts you days ahead of the curve in terms of the writing process! Isn't that pretty cool?

5) Writing, re-writing, and re-writing again
You want your copy to be between 1,100 and 1,500 words. Different products will require different text size, so ask your client about what they're looking for. I can usually bargain with the buyer a bit, sometimes as low as $100-$120, but I think one-fifty a fair price for my services: similar agencies with trained professionals charge thousands on the end, and I can do the same work for a fraction of the price.

Editing your rough draft of the sales copy is key. The more times you do it, the better it'll be, I guarantee it. In theory, I never deliver my "BEST" sales copy final, because if I proof read it again, I would probably be able to improve it.

Copywriting is a great endeavor for me. Keeping my client's budget and word count in mind, from start to finish, I tend to spend about 8-12 hours on one copy. Do the math, and that ends up being 15 bucks an hour for work from home - not too bad for a Business student in college, AND I get experience in writing and sales at the same time :p

---------------------------------------------

So, that's my formula, everyone. Simple, time-tested, and proven to get you money if you put effort into getting the word out about your services. Just get in the habit of being honest, communicating quickly, and delivering on deadlines, and you'll be getting clients by word of mouth like I have been for the past... I don't know... I'd say, 12-13 months?

I regularly charge $6 per 100 words, but I discount it to $5 per 100 words for fellow forum members. I also offer repeat-buyer discounts to encourage my clients to work with me instead of paying a lower premium elsewhere; that way I develop a personal relationship with someone who keeps sending me more and more work, which is what I want!

Please tell me what you think about my article, hopefully you've enjoyed reading about my journey and will find some tips that you can also adopt in your work ethics down the road!

Best Regards,
vip-ip.
#copywriting #difficult #good
  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    Hi vip-ip,

    Welcome aboard and I appreciate you contributing.

    Not trying to invalidate your experience, but I believe your insistence on "free" is holding you back. I also believe yours is inappropriate advice if one is serious about moving forward rapidly and with confidence.

    The fact you are charging for a sales letter by its word count is indicative. No successful copywriter I know charges by the word. That's article writing pricing logic.

    Plus who told you sales copy should be between 1000 and 1500 words?

    I could go on, but suffice to say your post is riddled with comments I find suspect.

    Still I understand you mean well and want to contribute.

    - Rick Duris
    Signature
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  • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post


    5) Writing, re-writing, and re-writing again
    You want your copy to be between 1,100 and 1,500 words. Different products will require different text size, so ask your client about what they're looking for. I can usually bargain with the buyer a bit, sometimes as low as $100-$120, but I think one-fifty a fair price for my services: similar agencies with trained professionals charge thousands on the end, and I can do the same work for a fraction of the price.

    Editing your rough draft of the sales copy is key. The more times you do it, the better it'll be, I guarantee it. In theory, I never deliver my "BEST" sales copy final, because if I proof read it again, I would probably be able to improve it.

    Copywriting is a great endeavor for me. Keeping my client's budget and word count in mind, from start to finish, I tend to spend about 8-12 hours on one copy. Do the math, and that ends up being 15 bucks an hour for work from home - not too bad for a Business student in college, AND I get experience in writing and sales at the same time :p
    Thank you for posting vip-ip.

    However, the whole paid by word-count thing is a certified "mugs game".

    It doesn't serve you or your client.

    Any sales letter should be as long as it needs to be to make the sale. Which often leads to long sales letters. Last month I took a 5 page letter a company was using and re-wrote it into a 33 page letter. The result? It doubled conversions.

    They had no other sales letter they use which is longer than 5-7 pages. So if I'd charged by the word, and estimated it would take an extra 9,000 words to double conversions... which it did... they would have thought I was trying to milk them.

    By charging a set "per letter" fee... I wasn't hamstrung by a silly word-count... and I could sell and sell and sell, until the letter did the product full justice. Giving the client a hot new letter... and me another notch on my belt.

    So win for client and copywriter.

    --- Ross

    P.S. If it takes you 8-12 hours to write a letter I applaud your speed. I am the tortoise to your hare however... coming in around 80-90 hours... but then I'm also factoring in bathroom breaks.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jag82
    Hi Vip-ip,

    Actually both Rick and Ross are being very diplomatic
    in their reply, and they did not shoot you down from the off.

    Really...NO copywriter in their right mind will charge
    by the number of words.

    It's almost ridiculous.

    There's definitely no such thing as a word count limit
    in sales copywriting.

    If you are selling a complex technical software...will
    you only use 1,500 words?

    Word limits remind me of school essays or article
    writing. Not applicable to a sales letter...unless
    the medium you are in or the size of the ad space
    you take dictate that limit.

    If not...as Ross said...your sales message has to
    be as long as it takes to sell.

    Also...I'm not sure how you can write a good proper
    sales copy in 8-12 hours.

    The research alone can take me that long.

    The research...assembling...refining will all add
    up to a lot longer. At least that's for me.

    While I believe you want to contribute with
    well-meaning intentions, some of the inputs clearly
    indicate to me that you need some major re-think.

    - Jag
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnny12345
    Hi Vip-ip,

    As others have already pointed out, copywriters don't count words. They write as much copy as it takes -- but not more.

    In addition, the outline you showed is great if you're writing articles. For copywriting... not so much.

    I. Introductions
    i. First main idea
    a. Point one
    b. Point two
    ii. Second main idea
    a. Point one
    b. Point two
    ...
    ...
    II. Sales Pitch Body
    i. First main idea
    a. Point one
    b. Point two
    ii. Second main idea
    a. Point one
    b. Point two
    ...
    ...
    III. Closure
    i. First main idea
    a. Point one
    b. Point two
    ii. Second main idea
    a. Point one
    b. Point two
    ...
    ...
    There's something called "AIDA" (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). It's the basic formula that virtually ALL copywriters follow (in some variation).

    Why? Because that's how the sales process works.

    You stated that you have never read a copywriting book. And, in all honesty, it kind of shows.

    If you're serious about copywriting, I would suggest that you read several. Start with Victor Schwab's book. It's called "How To Write A Good Advertisement."

    You'll find that it's well worth the small $14 price.

    After that, read the books by Caples, Hopkins, and Sugarman.

    Those books will give you a good start. I think you would benefit greatly from reading them.

    Best of luck to you,

    John
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hancox
    Hey "vip-ip".

    You're right. "All the information you need can be found online, for free - you just have to look for a bit".

    However, there's also a humungous amount of CRAP on the Internet, too.

    Back when Google reported how many pages they indexed, I think the figure reached over 1+ billion pages ... and that was some years ago.

    Even if we assume a mere 0.01% is about copywriting ... that's 10,000 pages.

    10,000 pages ... much of which will consist of rehashed, respun "articles", some stuff dishing out "opinions" and bad advice.

    A complete newbie who doesn't know his John Carlton from his Joe Schmarlton has little way of distinguishing the cream from the crap.

    While your article has many valuable and useful points, as others pointed out, the 1,100 - 1,500 words advice is pure crap.

    If you had put that into an article on EzineArticles, a newbie would be reading that and getting started in a BAD way, trying to limit their copy to within that narrow parameter.

    And that's WHY people will often pay for information products, and why your knowledge and learning will always be limited when you limit yourself to learning what you need, based on the "free" stuff on the Internet.

    Free usually comes at a "price".

    Besides, I can GUARANTEE to show you things about copywriting that you'll be hard pressed to find on the Internet, even if you spent an entire WEEK searching.

    Some "insider" secrets are THAT well preserved

    Anyway, I didn't mean to intrude on what was otherwise quite an effective pre-selling piece ... but with a lot of experienced copywriters in this forum, your advice is naturally going to be devalued when you make statements like you did regarding the word limit.

    Plus, although structure is important ... the real art and skill of copywriting is knowing precisely what WORDS to replace with "Point one", "Point two", etc.

    Finally, 8-12 hours? I presume that doesn't include going through the product itself, right? (You DO go through the product, don't you?)
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  • Profile picture of the author Collette
    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..I've authored probably about 10 copies that I'd consider professional, ...
    Hint: professional copywriters don't refer to their copywriting projects as "a copy" or "copies".

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ... When it comes to copywriting, it's way different from article writing, but you already know that: your purpose is to SELL a product, not to INFORM about it.
    Actually, the BEST way to sell something IS to inform the prospect. That doesn't mean you have to bury the prospect under a mountain of irrelevant information. It may, however, require the copywriter to sift through a mountain of information to find the most compelling angle, proof elements, call to action, etc. that is relevant to the prospect.

    Assuming you're not writing pure BS.


    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..1) Get as many details from your client before you even begin thinking about what to write.
    Before, I found myself rushing to get to writing before I even knew what I needed to accomplish. A lot of low-charging writers say, "here's an ebook, let's throw some catchy headlines and hopefully the client will like it." Besides the basics like the name of the product and its author, I usually ask for this information before I even draft an outline of the sales page:
    - Who is your target audience?
    - Can you send me any applicable graphics?
    - How much will you be selling the product for?
    - Do you have any authentic testimonials for me to use?
    - Can I see a copy of the product to familiarize myself with what I'm trying to sell to your visitors?
    - Are there any particular things that you want me to include? Any bonus products?
    - Will you be offering a specific money back guarantee?
    - Who will be your payment processor?
    Other questions may apply based on the particular product that you need to promote. I've written on topics ranging from get-rich-quick schemes to male enhancement pills; as you could imagine, I would need different ideas from each individual client before I can get a sense of what they want to see, what their buyers need to know before buying, and how I can tweak that information to make them buy it.
    Not a bad start, but for a pro, it's just a start. Pros take whatever they can get from the client, and use it to begin their own research.

    Clients are often so close to their product that they have all sorts of misconceptions about the value of the product and its desirability to the target market. Some clients even have the target market wrong.

    Pro copywriters don't just take anything the client hands them and regurgitate it. They help the client bring their product to market effectively.

    That's why pros spend lots of time and money learning how to be good at what they do.

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..2) Make a rough draft of the outline
    Remember what they taught us in English class in high school? I knew I should have paid attention, and I'm glad I did: an outline does half of your work for you. This is the brainstorming stage. This is the point of the outline - you're getting your ideas down, before you actually put time and effort into copywriting.
    Before you go into an outline, I would suggest you have another quick chit-chat with your client. Go over the results of your research, possible copy themes, and agree on the direction of the copy.

    Then you can use an outline to help you write your first draft. Which you will then edit until it is in decent shape for the client to review. My clients would be royally pissed if I sent them an outline for review.

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..3) Confirm the outline
    Have it set in stone before you begin drafting your ideas. This will provide a clear understanding between you and the client as to what's expected of you, and what the client is expected to pay for.
    I think what you're referring to here is the service agreement between you and your client. Which is something you should have in place before you even begin reviewing the background material.

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..4) Sales brainstorming
    Now that you have a good understanding of the product, you need to separate fact from fiction. All sales involve a bit of BS, and your job is to make it look authentic.
    I'm gonna have to emphatically disagree here.

    A pro doesn't NEED to BS. A pro finds the value in the product - no matter how small - and presents that value in the best possible light.

    There is no need to "make it look authentic" because it IS authentic.

    THAT'S your job. Otherwise, you're lying to the prospect. Lying isn't 'professional'.


    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..5) Writing, re-writing, and re-writing again
    You want your copy to be between 1,100 and 1,500 words.
    Again, emphatically disagree. This would only apply if you are writing for a medium that limits the number of words.

    You want the length of your copy to be as many words as it takes to sell effectively. No more; no less.

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..Editing your rough draft of the sales copy is key. The more times you do it, the better it'll be, I guarantee it. In theory, I never deliver my "BEST" sales copy final, because if I proof read it again, I would probably be able to improve it.
    Proofreading is also a good way to catch typos like "proof read"


    And finally, if you were going to do THIS:

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ..I regularly charge $6 per 100 words, but I discount it to $5 per 100 words for fellow forum members. I also offer repeat-buyer discounts to encourage my clients to work with me instead of paying a lower premium elsewhere; that way I develop a personal relationship with someone who keeps sending me more and more work, which is what I want!

    I can usually bargain with the buyer a bit, sometimes as low as $100-$120, but I think one-fifty a fair price for my services: similar agencies with trained professionals charge thousands on the end, and I can do the same work for a fraction of the price.
    You probably shouldn't have led off your post with THIS:

    Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

    ...In this thread, there are ... no sales pitches to you the reader - just my experiences and consequent advice.
    I will agree though, that you're probably charging what you're worth.
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  • Profile picture of the author vip-ip
    Wow!

    This has been a great read. Although I have charged by the word before, you guys wouldn't be the first to tell me that that's wrong. I've read 3 books on copywriting since the last time I wrote one, and a lot of what you all have said reinforced the advice I've seen in those books.

    As far as the word count goes, I did limit myself to 1,100-1,500 words in most cases. However, in retrospect, I've realized that this was either because A) the client specifically requested a short letter, B) the client didn't care much about what I delivered (they weren't a really effective business owner, to be honest) and did not give me much information to work with, or C) I felt like the letter could sell with less words better than with more words, so I continuously revised it to shorten it rather than to lengthen it.

    Those were inappropriate reasons.

    Also, I wanted to elaborate on why I said that the purpose of the sales letter is to sell, and not to inform. In my experience, people that look at my client's copies either A) know what they want, or B) know the topic of a product they're looking for well enough to not need be informed. This also ties into my limiting my word count, although I will agree that "a good sales copy's length is as long as it needs to be to sell."

    I know I'm young and I'm still learning, but my persistence is what will keep me going in the right direction. Although I've been mercilessly burned in this thread, it's been a better teaching tool than any thread I've started before on other forums ... and this is like my 3rd post!

    So I can righteously say, thanks

    Best Regards,
    vip-ip ...
    Signature
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    • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
      Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

      I've read 3 books on copywriting since the last time I wrote one, and a lot of what you all have said reinforced the advice I've seen in those books.
      You wrote a book on copywriting? Really?

      Oh my goodness. I've been doing this for the better part of 20 years and I still don't think I'm copywriting book author ready.

      But good for you!

      - Rick Duris
      Signature
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    • Profile picture of the author Collette
      Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

      Wow!

      ...I know I'm young and I'm still learning, but my persistence is what will keep me going in the right direction. Although I've been mercilessly burned in this thread, it's been a better teaching tool than any thread I've started before on other forums ... and this is like my 3rd post!

      So I can righteously say, thanks

      Best Regards,
      vip-ip ...
      Actually, I'd say it's your ability to take a drubbing, learn from it, and come up smiling that will keep you going in the right direction.

      There isn't an experienced copywriter here who hasn't been torn from limb to limb by a merciless critique.

      And any good copywriter will tell you that, to be good - nay, great - you will never stop learning.

      Good luck to you.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jag82
      Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

      Although I've been mercilessly burned in this thread, it's been a better teaching tool than any thread I've started before on other forums ... and this is like my 3rd post!
      Dude,

      You get such strong reactions because
      some stuff you said struck a raw nerve.

      But you are willing to learn. And you
      are willing to put aside your ego to
      accept new perspectives.

      Good for you!

      Anyway don't see this as being "mercilessly"
      burnt. What about thoroughly enriched?

      - Jag
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  • Profile picture of the author vip-ip
    Rick, you must have misunderstood me. I've read 3 books on copywriting since the last time I wrote a copy for a client. I hope that makes sense now.

    Jag, I'm not a fan of watering the truth down - a merciless burn is a merciless burn

    Best Regards,
    vip-ip ...
    Signature
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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by vip-ip View Post

      Rick, you must have misunderstood me. I've read 3 books on copywriting since the last time I wrote a copy for a client. I hope that makes sense now.

      Jag, I'm not a fan of watering the truth down - a merciless burn is a merciless burn

      Best Regards,
      vip-ip ...
      I guess that Rick was pulling your legs but although I understand what
      you meant that's not what your sentence implied. The "one" pointed
      to a copywriting book and not a sales letter. Now your sentence is
      clearer because there is no guess at the antecedent.

      -Ray Edwards
      Signature
      The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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      • Profile picture of the author celia19O5
        yeah I guess this is a very interesting idea. why nor apply it
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  • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
    Canon of Medicine was written... a long time ago. It was written by Ibn Sina, a Muslim from Iran.

    This the THE book which is considered the best of it's kind and is still being used in a lot of the top medical schools.

    Here's the thing - you can get it from amazon.

    And, here's what I propose: Get the book, study the subject, then I'll be able to practice medicine.

    Why not?

    Who wants to be seen by Dr. Rezbi?

    Look, I hate elitism and don't like it when people go too far in defence of their profession.

    But, even Gary Bencivenga said he didn't get great at copywriting for about 10 years.

    And here we have people who come onto a copywriting forum claiming they can write after reading maybe a few books, sometimes not even that much. It shows in what they write.

    Like with all things worth doing, before you can do it, you have to learn HOW to do it.

    I've got at least nine books on copywriting, and maybe even more courses on audio and DVDs. And I've studied them.

    And I have a couple of mentors.

    And I still don't think it's easy.

    It's bloody hard work trying to get copy right.

    Maybe any Tom, Dick and Harry can write copy.

    I could sit down and write a novel.

    But, the questions is: Will it sell?
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  • Profile picture of the author vip-ip
    Rezbi,

    You've got a point, "Will it sell?" is always the bottom line.
    Every book that's helped me along the way to sell has been a good one.
    Surprisingly, many books have given poor advice that's only set me back.
    Or... maybe it was good advice, in a way that I learned what NOT to do?

    Best Regards,
    vip-ip ...
    Signature
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  • Profile picture of the author writeandreview
    Great thread. Proves the adage that we can learn more from our failures than from our successes.

    Vip-ip - seems like you're taking this "merciless burn" gracefully. Although, other than Rick Duris's poke at your grammar, I wouldn't consider any of the replies a "burn". Rather, I'd say they are more like educated corrections.

    Nothing about writing sales copy is simple. Adept craftsmen make it seem simple, but the production process requires a high level of creativity, general intelligence and a command of the language that few possess.

    (Not too mention the pride, ego and tenacity that propels the true greats. Take a look at some of the egos around here One of my favorites is Vin Montello. You can tell from his style that he's good and he knows it. It makes his copy both educational and a fantastic read.)

    A favorite quote:

    "The craft of copywriting demands an agile brain, a wide general knowledge, a high IQ and so intimate an understanding of the Queen’s English that one can abuse it with impunity."


    (And for your sake, stop calling it "copies". Someone up above already mentioned this to you but looks like you missed it. Unless there's some part of the English speaking world where this is colloquial that I don't know about, it just sounds silly. Stick(s) of copy, sales copy, page(s) of copy, project(s) are better choices.)

    - Matt Lashley
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