Good to Great Copywriting in 24 Hours
Selling eBooks vs. Selling Print Books
Bloggers: How to Deal with Criticism, Haters and Trolls

Good to Great Copywriting in 24 Hours

David Ogilvy, the godfather of advertising once wrote, “Never send a memo or a letter on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning – and then edit it.

David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy: One of the greatest ‘Mad Men’ that ever lived.

We may have abandoned the letter, but we shouldn’t abandon common sense.

Before sending an important email, or publishing any writing of significance, our words need time to incubate. A lot can change in 24 hours. The moment your ideas are projected over the web, they can’t be reclaimed.

And that’s a damn shame. Half of what I have written has been published in the moment; skewed by hot air, passing moods and half-truths. The other half just wasn’t very good.

The Producing Mindset vs. The Consuming Mindset

The longer I spend on a piece of written work, the further detached I become from the final product as it is meant to be consumed. If I spend 3 hours carefully weaving words in to a landing page that is designed to be read in 20 seconds, my producing mindset has strayed considerably from what matters most: the consuming mindset.

That’s not a bad thing. But it is a problem if you write with one eye and review with the other. Use both eyes for each task. And make sure they are fresh.

Fact: Completing a final draft and then proofreading 5 minutes later is a recipe for disaster. Your editor should never be the sidekick.

Even the best copywriters are prone to misjudging their eloquence when the ink is still drying.

Your thoughts need time to settle. The creative mind must detach before any critical analysis.

Only after this separation can you scrutinise your work with the indifferent gaze of a consumer; he with no predisposition to artistic value.

I find there are three steps that help me to detach from my work.

Adopt the Next Day rule.

Ogilvy said it best. From the moment you put the finishing touches on your work, the incubation period begins. Let the work sit for 24 hours and then revisit. You will notice discrepancies and pacing problems that were not visible while you were far away in the creation mindset.

All great writers and designers rely on moments of inspiration. But you won’t know that you are truly inspired by greatness, or overswept by crud, until the morning after.

My portfolio of domains says as much.

When I don’t follow the Next Day rule, I invariably wake up to a new dotcom and a stinking hangover.

Well, shit. EndangeredHipposForSale.com. It felt so right at the time.

When does it not?

Good copywriters too often rush their ideas to the market. Great copywriters let them stew just long enough to take them straight to the bank.

Create a library of inspiring role models and highlight their best work.

I find one of the best ways to pinpoint shortcomings in my work is to be surrounded by examples of greatness when it matters most.

In my office, I have cut-outs from the direct response industry’s crème de la crème. They say you can tell a lot about a man by his five closest friends. You can tell a lot by his desk, bookshelf and Internet History too (especially the hour it was last emptied).

  • If you want to write an awesome sales page, read 5 relevant examples from copywriters at the height of their profession. Do this after your ‘final draft’.

  • If you want to create an effective conversion funnel, rifle through your inbox and find receipts for every product you’ve bought in the last 6 months. Analyse why you bought it. Compare.

  • If you want to produce great wireframes, visit the websites you admire most. Why are they so easy to browse? What might you borrow?

Modelling your work in this manner is advantageous for many reasons.

You will gravitate towards proven techniques, even if you can’t lay a finger on them, while developing all new awareness of your weaknesses.

But there’s a catch.

It’s important you turn to your role models after the creative process regardless of whether you use them before. By doing so, you will compare like-for-like as finished works, not as whimsical brainfarts that have yet to take shape.

Devouring a folder of great landing pages is unlikely to influence your bottom line unless you compare honestly the final similarities in your own. Only then can you truly mark progress (and correct faults).

Source feedback from the people that matter.

Something that has become painfully clear from my years in the affiliate business is that the word ‘expert’ is an abomination.

The only expert is the customer. We must not be snobs about that.

Great marketers are no more blessed than the average Joe, but they possess two key traits. Ruthless persistence and a knack for hearing everything.

You can use the best designer in the world, the best developer, the best copywriter and the best photographer too. It matters not one iota unless the people that need to be converted – your customers – are invested in the ‘fix’ that you are proposing.

What is a fix?

The fix is your product.

It’s your brand positioning, USP and execution rolled in to one. When you ask Joe Bloggs to part with his wallet, you are suggesting a fix; an improvement to his busy life. Asking the wrong questions, highlighting the wrong motives, or ignoring his biggest concerns will remove any chance of a sale. Your irrelevance is punishable by the sound of crickets.

Fact: Only a fool spends thousands of dollars advertising a fix that hasn’t been tested outside the confines of his imagination.

There are two methods of sourcing feedback that I rely on.

  • Pre-launch ‘over the shoulder’ feedback.

  • Post-launch analytical feedback from software.

Pre-launch feedback

When you gain confidence in a skill; be it writing, designing or developing; you tend to search inward for validation. The greater your talents grow, the more resistant to third party feedback you are likely to become.

This is detrimental in many fields, but particularly so in advertising.

A great writer might never spot his weakness until he stands behind a reader, watches silently, and resists the fist fight of wits.

One of the best ways to realign with the consumer mindset is to ask for feedback from friends, family or colleagues. What do they think of your work? Really?

For the sake of coaxing honesty, never let it be heard that the work belongs to you.

Always resist the artistic urge to justify your creation. “Well, the background is red because…

Pandering for full marks is never helpful. It is just your egoic mind fucking with you. Accept critique for what it is. Better yet, act on it.

‘Over the shoulder’ feedback is as priceless as it is courageous to obtain.

It may be painful to realise the gulf between what a consumer needs and what your artistic genius wants to give them, but it is always the correct decision not to waste dollars in blissful ignorance.

Post-launch feedback

I sometimes wonder what the likes of Ogilvy, Schwartz and Bernbach would have made of the technology that we have at our disposal today.

Advertising remains the art form it always was. But tracking results has become a science.

For all this article was intended to warn you of the 24 hours prior to considering something ‘done’, the following 24 hours are just as important.

If you are launching an ad campaign, a website, a sales letter or a new squeeze page, technology is your saviour. It is now possible to source feedback from the faceless masses just as they are landing on your work.

How will you know that they are liking what they see?

Traditionally, we relied on sales. A positive ROI was the only footprint that mattered. Now we can use eye-tracking, scroll maps and hot spots in real-time. Give it ten years and I’ll be damned if we can’t stare up the nostrils of our target markets.

Here are some popular real-time visitor analysis tools you might consider:

Remember! No matter how polished your final work may be, there is never room for satisfaction. Not if you place a value on the heaps of data at your fingertips. Your competitors already do. And they will use it to put you out of business.

Ten Commandments for Better Writing

Here is the famous memo David Ogilvy sent around his agency on the 7th September, 1982. Print it out and keep it handy.

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.


Recommended This Week

  • Have you read Premium Posts Volume 6? Grab instant access to the PDF, and learn how to dominate affiliate marketing. Ca-ching.

  • Be sure to check out Adsimilis, the official sponsor of Premium Posts Volume 5 & 6. Adsimilis is one of the most effective networks in the world for CPA affiliates. Lots of offers, lots of high payouts, lots of exclusives. Sign up now.

Selling eBooks vs. Selling Print Books

Here’s a question. Would you rather author a mediocre book gathering cobwebs at Barnes & Noble – or a hugely profitable eBook with a fraction of the prestige?

One glance at the Internet Marketing landscape and you should be calling me a fool for begging the question. eBooks are cheaper to produce, more lucrative to sell, and a whole lot easier to distribute.

Why, oh why, would anybody bother with print publishing in the 21st century?

More specifically, who in their right mind would choose the traditional route through a publishing house when it’s a million times easier to self-publish through services like Lulu and CreateSpace?

Why I Love and Hate Selling eBooks

I’m no stranger to selling eBooks. I spent the first half of my online career bitching about them, deploring the very thought of committing my ideas to a PDF in a shitty $5 cover-art.

Well, somebody must have woken me up and splashed coffee up my nostrils. It sure didn’t take long for money to change my attitude.

I eventually sold out jumped on the gravy train and started publishing them on this very site. I now have six fully fleshed volumes of Premium Posts, a title that I specifically chose to avoid having to use the term ‘eBook’.

There are obvious advantages to the eBook model.

In the 12 months since Volume 1 went live, I expect revenue to nudge past $100,000 from zero marketing spend. While that is certainly not ‘baller status’, it’s personal justification that I made the right decision in asking people to pay for my best blog posts.

You might have noticed that I no longer have ads on this site. That’s a positive upside to monetizing through the eBook model. I make more money by dedicating pixels to my own real-estate.

In terms of fast, easy money – selling eBooks is infinitely more appealing than taking my ideas to a publishing house and spending the best part of 18 months ball-dallying back and forth.

The downside to the eBook model is that it’s tarred by default.

How many piece-of-shit guru products grace the marketplace?

Before any of you smartarses reply with “Six, all of yours“, let me turn your attention to the insanity you’re confronted with with every time you log in to Clickbank.

Crazy eBook Ideas

No niche escapes Clickbank unscathed.

There are gazillions and bazillions of “WTF?” eBooks burning consumer trust as we speak.

A whole raft of them belong to the Make Money Online space, but let’s not be too inclusive. Very rarely does a niche escape without at least a handful of shoddy eBooks stinking up its ranks.

The problem with eBooks is that just about anybody with an FTP client can smuggle one on to the web, and it doesn’t have to be verified or edited by a reputable agent along the way. Christ, many eBooks are available without being proofread by their own creators. What does that say?

No great writer justifies his claim with the opening statement, “I once wrote an eBook.

It just doesn’t happen.

But many great writers do leverage authority by saying, “I’m a published author.” Especially if their book hasn’t been self-published out of vanity (or industry rejection).

I’m sure this is nothing you haven’t heard before. Why does respect matter? Who cares about aiming for the airport’s bestseller shelf when you can make fast, easy money by distributing digitally without even sniffing life outside your mother’s basement?

It matters to real writers who care about their craft as much as they care about their bottom line. It’s an enormous achievement to publish a book through the traditional means.

For me, it’s the pinnacle.

Acceptance as a professional writer.

An acknowledgement that you’re more accomplished than the whimsical step-aunty who keeps threatening to turn her diarrhea of half-thoughts in to a bestselling novel.

The Pros and Cons of Traditionally Publishing a Book

Is it any wonder that so many writers choose eBooks to distribute their ideas when the road to Barnes & Noble is littered with snail-mail rejection, drawn out contracts (if you’re lucky) and scarce reward for the small fish?

For many reasons, it would be impossible for me to release my Premium Post content through a traditional publishing company. It typically takes at least 12 months and sometimes up to 3 years to get a book published. By the time my book hit the shelves, affiliate marketing might actually be dead.

You must first decide between approaching publishing houses directly or going through a literary agency.

If you are a well-known name, or have a stack of accreditation on your mantlepiece, it’s possible that a publisher will take you on based on the book concept and your reputation.

Likewise, if you have an insatiable audience of 250,000 subscribers waiting to devour your every last word, it shouldn’t be too long before a publisher is blasting your door down for a slice of the pie.

Their chief concern is selling enough copies to make a profit, and with an army of fans, you tick the right boxes. There’s a market attached to your name. People waiting to buy your precious hardback. That alone can be enough to secure a book publishing deal.

For lesser known names with smaller followings, a few thousand subscribers is by no means a guarantee that a publisher will share the vision of your million dollar idea. It’s better than nothing though. I find myself in this bracket. I have enough readers to justify an industry presence. But not enough readers to rename myself Sir King Honeybadger of the Affiliate Marketing Masses.

Give it 4 months. I’m working on it.

My best option is to write the book, approach an agent and pray that I haven’t sold his goodwill down the drain on an acai berry subscription in the recent past.

Many publishing houses will refuse to even look at your manuscript unless you go through a literary agency.

The agency is the middleman. They will negotiate better rights for your work, including the essentials that are difficult to secure when you’re flying solo: translation rights, brand ownership; even movie rights if you hit the jackpot. In return, you give them a slice of your advance, which may or may not add up to a handful of magic beans.

Ah yes, the advance.

The idea of being paid before you’ve finished the job will be music to the ears of those who’ve pummelled Elance for article gigs in the past. You can expect to receive an upfront payment based on projected book sales if a publisher agrees to send your crazy ideas to print.

You’ll usually receive 50% of your advance upfront, and 50% when the manuscript is turned in. Times are changing, however, and some publishers are now dividing the payment in to deliverable milestones. A subtle way of saying “Write, monkey, write. We haven’t got all decade.

That leaves a crap ton of writing to be done, and very little immediate financial return. Possibly just enough to brush your teeth and wolf down a Rustlers between rewrites.

Far from being a ticket to your first million dollar mansion, securing a book deal is actually quite a damp squib in the financial stakes – particularly for first time writers.

Rough estimates of a first-time advance range from the low 4-figures to $35,000. Much depends on the publisher, genre, your credentials and how much a faceless fat cat likes your schtick. Non-fiction authors traditionally receive more than those writing fiction.

While the advance makes for some nice coin on a rainy day, it’s certainly a low return when you consider the investment of time. And especially how much you could make slinging eBooks in the same time.

Do you know what meticulously researching, structuring, writing, editing and then tearing up 80,000 words feels like it? No, me neither.

I can imagine it’s about as pleasurable as shagging a lamp post over and over again.

Seth Godin says it best: “Book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business.

So who’d be a traditional author?

Thankfully, there’s an upside. If you write a massive bestselling hit that lands at number 4 in the NY Times and gets translated in to 17 different languages, momentum becomes your best friend. You’ll never have to worry about driving sales from AdWords coupons ever again.

Score a 4-Hour Work Week style success and the royalties will make you very rich indeed. If we go by the traditional theory that you can expect to make around $1 for every book sold (after your advance has been earned back), you need only sell a cool 1 million copies before you can call yourself a millionaire.

But how many books sell like the 4-Hour Work Week? It’s only a tiny, tiny minority.

The average deluded writer is probably more likely to win the lottery.

Most books hit the shelves, gather some dust, then disappear to be talked about only in the author’s Twitter bio.

The actual marketing of the book is a responsibility that publishers are increasingly passing on to the authors. Only a very small selection of books receive the Fifth Shades of Grey publicity treatment.

And that’s just as well or my list of ‘Undeserving Writers to Hunt Down and Punch in the Face‘ would grow immeasurably huge.

The Fallback: Self-Publishing Print Books

At the top of this article, I referenced two popular self-publishing platforms: Lulu and CreateSpace.

These platforms allow you to self-publish physical copies of your book and sell them on a single order basis.

If Cousin Jeff wants to buy the novel you’ve been bragging about all over Facebook, he can place an order and have it shipped to him. You might only receive 25% of the sale, but that’s still a much better rate than any traditional publisher will offer.

In the past, this form of ‘vanity publishing’ required ordering in bulk – potentially hundreds of copies at a time. Many self-published authors would thus end up with an attic full of yellowing pages and unshipped reminders of their broken dreams.

A situation not too dissimilar to the episode of Alan Partridge where his Bouncing Back memoir gets pulped.

Tragic times.

The ‘indie publishing’ scene has grown at a rapid rate over the last few years. The arrival of Print On Demand services has reduced the risk behind self-publishing while also providing a welcome middle ground. If you feel that your book deserves a physical testament to its awesomeness, you can produce one for very little cost.

Unfortunately, the stigma of being self-published still remains.

Reviews are seen as the driving force behind bestselling hits. And most reputable journos will refuse to touch a book that hasn’t come to market through the traditional means.

Note: There are exceptions. Sites like Kirkus Indie and PW Select operate on a pay-per-review basis. I have doubts that paying to be reviewed alongside other desperate self-published authors is worth the money, but I may be wrong.

Successful print books – the few that make it – have a much greater capacity to spread around the world and capture the imagination of a giant audience when compared to your average popular eBook.

You need only look at the raging Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon – a series that was originally self-published – to see how getting a physical book to market can lead to bigger and better things.

Many publishers will swoop to pick up vanity projects if they gain momentum (and enough sales).

Where Next?

Personally, I can see the merits in both extremes of the eBooks vs Print Books argument.

From a purely financial perspective, there is no better way to distribute content than by slinging eBooks. I charge $34.95 for my Premium Post products and pocket about 95% of the sale, unless an affiliate has referred the customer. Both the markup and the profit margin are miles apart from what I would receive by releasing a book through a publisher.

My eBooks also take just 15 days to bring to market, compared to the year it would require to get a hardback on a shelf. Let’s not even consider the odds being stacked against a publisher accepting it in the first place.

What does that mean for you guys?

If you’re an Internet Marketer looking for the fastest road to profit, do yourself a favour and stick to slinging eBooks. It will get you there in a fraction of the time.

My problem is that I’ve only ever been a reluctant Internet Marketer. Writing is my passion.

Getting a book published professionally through the traditional means – and received well – is the ultimate acid test. You can’t pass it without being one of the best at what you do.

That means more to me than the money I make from eBooks, which is why the Premium Post series will be ending soon.

My next challenge is to step away and brainstorm how I can write a book that will sell millions rather than thousands.

It’s a huge task, biblical in scale, but exciting in the sense that it puts me back on the tail of what I saw myself doing before affiliate marketing came along and replaced my ambition with a thousand quick ways to make money.

Every affiliate marketer needs to be working on something more fulfilling than peddling somebody else’s links. There comes a tipping point where it’s no longer satisfying. I do it because it makes me money, but that’s where the relationship ends.

So, here’s another question…

If you won the lottery and had 148 million Euros deposited in to your account tomorrow, would you still be doing affiliate marketing?

Most people will answer a resounding “No“.

I don’t blame them.

Well, at what point will you be earning enough money to focus less on affiliate marketing, and more on the work that you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life?

The answer was quite a kick in the balls to me. I’ve been earning enough money for a long time. I just didn’t want to push myself with a challenge that I was likely to lose.

No doubt, I’ll probably still lose. Bestselling authors are a rare breed, and chance has as much to do with perfection in the making of their success. But it’ll be fun to try.

And failing all else, if I can set a world record for most ball references in a manuscript, I’ll be chuffed.

Have you had success with the eBook model? Would you ever consider the traditional publishing model? I’d be interested to hear your experiences.

Recommended This Week

  • Premium Posts Volume 6 was launched last week and as usual, the response has been awesome. Grab your instant access to the PDF and read some highly lucrative confessions from your competition.

  • Be sure to check out Adsimilis, the official sponsor of Premium Posts Volume 5 & 6. Adsimilis is one of the most effective networks in the world for a CPA marketer to sink his teeth in to. They are particularly dominant in the dating vertical, with industry leading payouts. If you are a dating affiliate, you need to be on Adsimilis. Simples.

Bloggers: How to Deal with Criticism, Haters and Trolls

There are three things you can take for granted when you run a highly opinionated blog.

Criticism, haters and trolls.

The first in that list, criticism, is perhaps the hardest to swallow.

I believe one of the reasons why so many blogs die is because their owners find it tough to deal with the raft of criticism when their writing reaches a wider audience.

When you stick your neck on the line and make your opinions heard, it can take a while for the first criticism to appear. Many times, bloggers will get used to a small crowd of praise and positivity towards their posts. Followers congregate much sooner than haters, and it’s only when a brand verges on the realms of notability that the haters are likely to come out of the woodwork. It’s at this point that many bloggers, in my opinion, get trigger-shy.

They realise that with a growing readership, there are so many more toes to stamp on than there were before. The provocative, truthful and energizing posts get thrown out of the window, replaced by non-offensive and fence-sitting gibberish. They are less keen to offend, or risk a great backlash. They would rather satisfy every eyeball to the point where their voice becomes weak and mixed, or they will abandon the blog altogether.

It’s a great shame. Some of my favourite bloggers, through no coincidence, attract more than their fair share of haters and trolls.

Haters and trolls are irritating. But they are not the end of the world. What really can frustrate is the justified criticism. There are two forms of justified criticism: a difference in opinions, which is unavoidable and not a bad thing. Or a hole in your argument, usually the result of lazy posting or ill-considered comments.

A few months ago I wrote a supercharged negative review of Rich Dad Poor Dad. I wrote it in about 40 minutes after devouring the book in all of its gory mediocrity. Now I’ll admit, I got carried away with some of my criticism. But I wasn’t expecting it to reach the Top 5 on Hacker News and send thousands upon thousands of Rich Dad junkies my way.

In retrospect, I have now adopted a ‘no post goes live on the day of writing‘ policy. The cooling off period allows me to read the post with fresh eyes and detect any unnecessary exaggeration, or to add extra reasoning where needed. I believe I was also guilty of ‘small blogger syndrome’.

I wrote the post expecting it to appeal to my usual motley crew of readers, which it did, but I got lazy – and perhaps defeatist – in not considering what would happen if the post actually ventured outside my usual readership. The result was tens of thousands of new readers either loving or hating (depending on their take on the book) my preaching to the choir.

That lesson has taught me a lot about best practices for those running highly opinionated blogs.

Firstly, keep your usual readership in mind, but don’t fall in to the trap of preaching to the choir. Always aim to challenge and win over new readers. Avoid simply ‘phoning in’ posts. A lot of bloggers never venture beyond cult hit status because they’re too paralyzed with fear to overcome the criticism they might receive from existing readers for growing as a brand.

This can backfire spectacularly if your writing becomes so niched-in that your arguments are dripping with in-group bias. The outside reader sees only a very closed mind, even if your followers love you.

Secondly, if you are going to make a controversial statement, prepare to be challenged by those who stumble upon your views with their own fully fleshed arguments to the contrary. In essence, prepare for criticism before it arrives. You can’t slag off people, concepts and arguments and expect your blog to be a widespread success without very sound reasoning to back up your points.

Nothing intimidates haters and trolls like a confident voice in charge of his views and muse.

Objectively, however, criticism and mixed opinions are unavoidable. If you get lazy with your argument, and that argument goes viral to be seen and rebuked by thousands of readers – many ruffled by your obnoxious 24 year old entrepreneur posturing – you’ve only got yourself to blame. A cooling off period is essential.

Re-read your work and play Devil’s Advocate. What are the weak points? What statements are poorly backed up? It’s easy to miss these vital factors when you hit the Publish button while your cheeks are still flushed with writer’s venom.

I’m slowly learning that the best time to publish new material is when I’m in a neutral mood. Not angry, not sad, not overwhelmed with joy (psst, last spotted in 1997). Tilted emotions typically lead to skewed views on the world. You will attract rightful criticism, and rightful criticism is always the most demoralizing to your work if not learnt from rapidly.

It’s fine to write material when you’re in those moods. But when you are the editor of your own content, it’s important to separate the ego from the neutral observer. You can’t do this by publishing 5 minutes after writing.

And what about those haters and trolls? They can surely only be a good thing. They are the evidence that your brand is sticking, and moving in the right direction. The best way to deal with such urchins is to carry on as you were. Embrace the disagreements, and those occasionally hateful voices. At least it means you’re being heard.

Recommended This Week:

Copyright © 2009-.