Kelly Wimmer is a copy writer and query consultant whose clients include several top New York publishing companies. Before going renegade, she was an editor at William Morrow/Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins, and later, a literary agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. She's worked with New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, Edgar, RITA, and Agatha award winners, and Booksense Picks.
Kelly specializes in writing copy that gets you noticed—whether your target audience are shoppers in a bookstore or agents looking for the next big thing. She especially enjoys working with (as yet) unpublished authors, bringing their dreams of publication to reality through perfect pitches and irresistible queries. To learn more, visit www.scribblescribblescribble.com/kelly.
In this tight market, sometimes your best selling tool is also your cheapest one—your own passion. No one knows better than you why your product is unmissable, and what problems it can solve in your customer’s lives (yes, even if that product is yourself). If you had an hour to sit down with every customer and tell them about your passion, you know they’d be sold. But, nine times out of ten, you don’t have an hour of their attention. Often, you only have a paragraph, or even a sentence, as they’re shuffling through emails or browsing blogs.
Sure, one day you’ll be huge and be able to hire a whole team of people to write those sentences for you. But when you’re just starting out, it’s often your job to communicate your passions to your buyer on your website, in pitch letters, and through press releases. Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind when you’re staring at a picture of your product and a blank word document and wondering, “now what?”
DO: List the dilemmas your product will solve (again, even if the product is yourself).
Will appearing on a spot give a producer one less minute to fill? Spell it out. Will your cookies save a guy from getting sentenced to a week on the couch for screwing up Valentine’s Day? Call that out too. You know why YOU want someone to buy your product, but look at it from the other side. If your customer’s motivations aren’t clear to you, you can’t make their need clear to them.
DON’T: Forget the customer may have aspirations of their own—just as you do.
When I write back of book copy for love stories, I know many of the potential readers may already be in relationships—hopefully great, happy ones! So why should they want to read about another couple falling in love? To make it more tempting, I go looking in the story for things that they might want for themselves someday—be it a heroine who owns a flower shop, or a hero with an incredibly sexy accent. It’s my job—and yours too—to speak to their wildest dreams, even if it’s done it in a very subtle way.
DO: Find the right voice.
No, I don’t mean singing to the customer, American Idol style. But how would your ideal customer email his or her friends to tell them about something really exciting? That’s the same voice you want to use in your sales copy. If you’re pitching to the grandma set, kill the snark and exclamation points. If you’re selling to a corporate CEO, get up to speed on a few of-the-moment buzzwords. And by all means, if your customer is under 20, get thee to the bookstore and buy a couple of magazines with the Jonas Brothers on the cover, so you know your voice isn’t making you sound anything but of the moment.
DON’T: Leave your copy static.
The beauty of selling online means it’s cheap or free to change your pitch as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. And if you’re using buzzwords as mentioned above, keep them fresh. For example, as of this writing, paradigms are still shifting like crazy, but “thinking outside the box” is so overused now that it’s, well, inside the box.
DO: Set the stage, using every sense you can.
Remember those imaginary cookies I mentioned earlier? What do they smell like? What sort of kitchen would you see them in? What will the recipient of such a gift feel, see, and experience? In other words, deliver the perfect customer experience to them on paper, and they’ll want to have that experience in real life.
DON’T: Turn out sloppy copy.
Is there anything worse than looking at a beautiful necklace online and reading about how it features “ruby’s” and “saffires?” Typos and grammatical errors cheapen your product. Who knows why we as shoppers notice these things and let it affect the total impression of a product, even when that product has nothing to do with spelling, but you know we do. So do what it takes to make your copy letter -perfect, even if that means hiring a copy editor now and then. You’ll make that money back if you get it right, but if you get it wrong, you’ll never know why people aren’t clicking “BUY’ on that shopping cart or finding your site in search engines.
And the number one DO: If all else fails, keep it short.
(See? Short and sweet makes its point, and fast.)