Archive for the 'Success' Category

The only 3 ways to become a better copywriter

January 16th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber GJ writes:

“How do I become a better copywriter? Do you have any suggestions
or tips?”

There are really only 3 ways I know to become a better
copywriter:

1–Write.

Start writing copy. Then keep on writing it.

Do class assignments. Write copy for clients … or your own
products … or both.

The key is to write a lot and never stop, as it takes around
10,000 hours of practice to become really great at copywriting or
any other skill.

2–Read.

With only one exception, every copywriter I know is an avid
reader and eager students of all sorts of subjects.

To become a better copywriter, you need in-depth knowledge of
your industry and market — which you can get in part through
reading.

You also become a better copywriter with a vast storehouse of
knowledge on many different topics, and you never know which will
become grist for the copywriting mill … and again, you get that
largely from reading.

3–Study.

Your studies are twofold.

First, study the craft of copywriting and the discipline of
marketing — through books, courses, seminars, conferences,
articles, and so on.

Second, study the promotions that are working in the marketplace.

Tip: if you see a promotion that is running over and over, study
it most carefully.

Why?

Because it must be working; otherwise, the marketer would not
keep using it.

These 3 tasks are not difficult, which is why I call them easy.

(And by that I only mean that the learning is easy. The
successful “doing” can be very hard.)

They all involve reading and writing, which if you are a writer,
is in all probability fun for you.

But, while you can learn the basics of copywriting fairly
quickly, you can then spend a lifetime honing your skills; I work
on mine every day of the year.

Which is why I did not say becoming a great copywriter is quick.

But it is fun.

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Category: Success, Writing | 3 Comments »

Turn failure into success

December 5th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Vince Lombardi famously said, “It’s not whether you get knocked
down; it’s whether you get back up.”

Rocky Balboa elaborated on this idea a bit more eloquently here:

As I look back on my decades as a writer, I can tell you I got
knocked down plenty of times … and had many bad things happen
that made me feel I was a failure.

Just 3 quick examples (and I could give you many more):

#1–Failed newspaper career.

Even though I majored in engineering, I wrote every day for the
college daily newspaper, and got it into my head that I might
like to be a newspaper reporter.

I sent out many resumes. The only interview I had, which a friend
from the college paper who had graduated ahead of me helped me
get, was with the Buffalo bureau of the Associated Press.

I went, had the interview, and took 3 tests — writing,
intelligence, and spelling.

And they didn’t hire me.

#2–Failed short story writer.

When I was a teenager, I submitted a short story to Galaxy
science fiction magazine — and they bought it. I was ecstatic!

But then the magazine folded. My story was never published, and
the promised check never came.

After that, I continued to submit my short stories to the science
fiction and literary magazines, and could have papered my bedroom
with all the rejections. And made no more sales.

#3–Failed science writer.

My junior year at the University of Rochester I wrote an article
on the school’s laser fusion research laboratory:

http://www.sciencefictionprediction.com/articles/laser-fusion.pdf

The lab’s communications and PR director liked it so much he
offered me a summer job as a science writer under him.

I was thrilled beyond words. But then he called me shortly before
the beginning of the summer break with some bad news: the
funding got cut and he couldn’t hire me.

I was crushed.

***However, for all 3 of the above failures, all was not lost…***

Without having heard Lombardi’s advice or being told it by anyone
else, it turns out that I kind of did get back up from these
knockouts, albeit on a small scale.

#1–Writing for newspapers.

In the late 1970s, right out of college, I moved to Maryland and
went to work as a technical marketing writer for Westinghouse — a
job I loved so much I am still good friends with the guy who was
my boss there today.

I then called the editor of Baltimore’s then-alternative
newspaper, City Paper, and asked if I could meet with him.

He agreed. We talked. And I started freelancing for — my dream
come true — a real newspaper … and even got paid.

#2–Getting my short stories published.

My dry spell in short stories continued on and off over the
ensuing decades, though I wrote very few additional stories
during that time.

But out of the blue a couple of years ago, an editor at Quill
Driver, a California book publisher, read some of my stories
posted online.

“If you’ve got a dozen more, we’ll put out a collection in
paperback,” he said.

I did, and in 2016 they published my first fiction book, titled
“Freak Show of the Gods and Other Tales of the Bizarre.”

#3–Becoming a published science writer.

I did not give up on science writing, either.

I reviewed science books for a small magazine “Science Books and
Films.”

Then had my first hardcover science book, “The Science in Science
Fiction,” published by Benbella in 2005.

Now I will have my second science book published by Quill Driver
later this year.

So what is my point in telling you all this?

Simply that Lombardi and Balboa are right.

Getting knocked down isn’t failure, only a setback.

It’s temporary failure unless you give up for good. Then it
becomes permanent.

Yoda said, “There is no try, there is only do or not do.”

Not to argue with a Jedi master, but I think he greatly
underestimates the value of trying.

As billionaire Mark Cuban once said: it’s okay to fail many
times, because you only have to succeed once to make it.

Or as the motivational speakers are fond of telling us: “There is
no failure, only feedback.”

Chumbawamba sang in Tubthumping: “I get knocked down, but I get
up again.”

I have. Plenty of times. But I am still alive and kicking.

“Never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill.

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Make money with the college of knowledge

September 19th, 2017 by Bob Bly

There’s a lot of money in teaching the business, tasks, and
skills you have mastered … and the information you have
researched, learned, and produced … to others who seek them.

Collectively this is the knowledge business, or as I like to call
it, “the college of knowledge” — packaging your knowledge as
products and services to sell for a price.

Including: ebooks … newsletters … special reports … books …
online courses … webinars … seminars … college courses …
conferences … boot camps … coaching … consulting … DVDs … audio
CD albums … training … membership sites … Facebook groups … the
list goes on and on.

So, how is it that a “knowledge business” even exists? What makes
it possible?

The key to it all a simple principle George Clason wrote about in
his book The Richest Man in Babylon:

“That which one man knows can be taught to others.”

That’s the premise — proven since the dawn of humankind — on
which today’s knowledge business is based.

Now, some who want to get into the knowledge business protest,
“But I am just ordinary; I don’t know anything others will pay
for.”

This is almost never the case.

As my colleague Dr. Gary North warns: “The great mistake of most
small business people is to imagine that their detailed knowledge
of their niche market is widely dispersed.

“On the contrary, hardly anyone knows it. They are owners of a
capital asset that others do not possess and have no easy way of
possessing it.”

And will therefore pay handsomely to obtain.

Another objection I hear is: “Well, I know something about topic
X. But I am not the world’s leading expert. So how can I presume
to teach others?”

Info marketing guru Fred Gleeck astutely notes:

“You don’t have to know more about your topic than anyone else in
the world. You just have to know more than 90% of the people in
the world.”

And either you do now … or can get to that level with some work
on your part.

Widely quoted research shows it only takes 1,000 hours to be
competent at something. And it requires 10,000 hours of practice
and study to become a master of it.

Also, if you know the subject and how to teach it to others, you are
a better source of knowledge transfer than other experts
who perhaps know more than you — but are lousy teachers, as so
many are.

The next objection is: “There is so much information available
for free on my topic already on the internet, why would anyone
pay me for the same information they can already get on the web at
no cost?”

Here’s the thing: What is widely available online is just data
and information.

But in the knowledge business, we don’t merely sell data and
information … although, both are usually part of our offerings.

What sets us apart is that our paid info products and services
provide:

>> Data we have collected through long effort that others in fact
do not have.

>> Deep knowledge gleaned from our data and long experience.

>> Analysis of the data and knowledge to show what it means and
how our customers can benefit from it.

>> Actionable ideas tested and proven to enable those using them
to achieve the desired results.

>> Wisdom to understand what will work in a field, what won’t,
and to consistently know the difference.

In other words, mere data and information are often free for the
asking.

But actionable ideas on how people can use it for their gain are
in short supply … and again, people will pay you handsomely to
get this knowledge.

One more fact about the knowledge business:

If you gain a fan base and become a recognized authority in
your field, people will pay a premium for your knowledge.

If you don’t, they are less likely to do so.

Also, it doesn’t take a huge audience to make a good living in
the knowledge business.

If you build a list of just 10,000 fans and each spends only $100
a year with you, your gross annual income is a million dollars.

Not too shabby.

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Category: General, Success | 15 Comments »

More of this + less of that = success

September 15th, 2017 by Bob Bly

As noted in an earlier issue of this newsletter, I believe that
today many people — and in particular, many younger people — are
fascinated with bright, shiny objects (BSOs).

By “BSO,” I mean they embrace the new, trendy, hip, and cool …
and as a corollary, eschew the old, the proven, and the tried and
true.

This favoring of BSOs over tested methods and ideas is true in
many fields, but especially so in marketing.

I contend that doing so is an egregious error.

Why?

Two reasons.

First, to paraphrase George Santayana — “Those who forget the
past, don’t learn from it.”

Or more to the point, as Martin Cohen writes in his book Reason
and Nature:

“The notion that we can dismiss the views of all previous
thinkers surely leaves no basis for the hope that our own work
will prove of any value to others.”

To me this is “axiomatic,” which means it is irrefutable logic
and always true.

Think about it: if you dismiss the views of all who came before
you, then shouldn’t the next generation conclude they can learn
nothing from you?

Second, the problem with BSOs is: they are untested and unproven.

That makes them highly risky and more likely to fail.

By comparison, the tried and true is tested and proven.

That reduces your risk of a big failure … and increases the odds
of success.

How does this translate into direct marketing?

Well, many times I have come up with an initial selling idea for
a product.

When I run it past the client, they say — “That won’t work; we
know because we have tested it many times, and in each test it
always failed.”

A BSO fan would argue:

“Well, just because you guys couldn’t get it to work doesn’t mean
it won’t work now. Get some cojones and try it my way!”

Not me. As an old-school direct response guy, I am grateful the
client knows the idea has been tested and proven ineffective, as
it saves me from writing something that will more than likely
bomb.

I thank them, go back to the drawing board, and brainstorm, both
on my own and often with them, to find a new idea with the
potential to be a winner.

Other old-time direct response copywriters tell me they agree
that the surest and most likely route to a winner is to take what
is tested and proven, dust it off, and give it a new twist.

As my old friend, superstar copywriter Richard Armstrong, wrote
in an article for AWAI:

“I believe there’s a much better word than creativity to describe
what we’re really striving for in this business: Ingenuity.

“What you really want to do is study what’s worked in the past.
Find out what’s working now. And see if you can come up with a
way to do the exact same thing … only better.

“If you do that, I guarantee you catch more customers … and
eventually more clients, too!”

In copywriting, it is rare to find something under the sun that
is entirely new.

More often, winning comes from saying the same old thing, but
saying it in a fresh and compelling new way.

And then test, test, test.

Don’t assume your idea, whether old school or BSO, is the best.

You don’t know. You have to test.

In marketing, as the great Claude Hopkins wrote: The only way to
settle the question of whether an ad will work is with a test,
not with arguments around a table.

And then, once we direct marketers roll it out, while continually
testing to beat our control.

Back in my day, people at Madison Avenue ad agencies hated the
tested direct response control.

They believed in their intuition and subjective judgment of their
peers: If everyone at the agency or my friends in advertising
think my ad is clever, funny, or creative, it must be good!

This in part explains the gross ineffectiveness of so many widely
admired national ad campaigns for major brands produced by the
big ad agencies.

My friend, motivational Rob Gilbert, says the key to success in
virtually every walk of life is:

“Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t work.”

Pretty simple. Common sense. And good advice.

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The worst prospecting technique ever invented

August 29th, 2017 by Bob Bly

This happens to me with some regularity:

A person emails to criticize something I have produced — often a
book, ebook, info product, or one of my landing pages or web
sites.

Sometimes they are nice … but more often, a bit snarky.

And wouldn’t you know it, almost all of these emails end the same
way: “Hire ME to fix it for you!”

This doesn’t work, for 3 reasons.

First, you don’t start off any business relationship by insulting
the potential client or customer.

After all, client you are insulting may have done the work you
are saying sucks — not something he is likely to take kindly too.

Second, the person emailing me has only criticized. But they have
not presented a single shred of evidence that they are qualified
to fix it and can improve results.

Third, they think you are unaware of the problem, and that they
are somehow doing you a service by bringing it to your attention.

What they do not realize is: we already know about the problem.

We just haven’t done anything about it either because (a) we
haven’t had time, and it is a relatively low priority or (b) we
don’t agree with them that it is in fact a problem.

And not because we are stupid, lazy, unskilled, or unaware.

For instance, former subscriber (I unsubscribed her) PZ wrote:

“Last week I purchased Writing Brochures for Fun and Profit
ebook. Please issue a credit to my Paypal account.

“I’m more than disappointed, this just feels like a rip-off.

“While some of the ideas are still good, referencing mainframes,
VCRs, and tape reels is not only ridiculous it’s going to send
younger readers to Google.

“Below is a copy of my receipt, and screenshots of a couple of
the most absurd pages.

And of course, PZ moves in for the close:

“If you are interested in having this and other materials
updated, please do get in touch. I do a lot of editing and
updating to repurpose old material.”

I immediately wrote back:

“Why would I want to hire you? I can’t think of a single reason.

“We are going to refund your money, unsubscribe you, and block
you from our shopping cart and our email inbox.

“PZ, you are starving to death with a loaf of bread under each
arm.

“Because what’s important is what you said in your email: the
ideas are still good.

“Do you reject books like Ogilvy on Advertising, Scientific
Advertising, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and the
Bible because they were written years ago?

“If so, how sad for you. For you are the one missing out. That I
didn’t update mainframe to distributed computing, the cloud, or
whatever has absolutely nothing to do with the value of the
course you bought.”

Two important takeaways if you are a buyer of business and
marketing advice, a seller of services, or both:

1–Technology is transient. But human psychology has not changed
in 10 centuries.

2–Criticizing someone’s business and then offering to come in and
help them make it better is absolutely the worst prospecting
strategy on the planet.

To me, the best I can say about PZ is that she, to turn a phrase
from Coolio, is living in the “Idiot’s Paradise.”

KM, another writer/ignoramus trolling for business, wrote a
letter to my friend, RA.

He said RA’s direct mail package was terrible, and for a fee, he
would rewrite it and make the copy much better.

RA and I had a good laugh over this, because (a) the package was
selling the product like hot cakes and (b) it was written by one
of the top copywriters in the country — RA himself.

And that’s my third takeaway:

3–Talking about stuff without knowing the facts is a good
opportunity to make yourself look like a total idiot.

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Category: General, Success | 7 Comments »

Advice for aspiring novelists from a very successful one

August 4th, 2017 by Bob Bly

My friend Hunter Shea is a successful and prolific horror writer.

He is the author of more than 17 published novels including “The
Jersey Devil” (Pinnacle), “They Rise” (Severed Press), and “We
Are Always Watching” (Sinister Grin).

Anyway, Hunter recently told me an interesting story with a
lesson for writers that I want to share with you.

Take it away Mr. Shea….

“I attended only one writer’s conference in my life. It was close
to home in New York City, held in a college during the semester
break.

“Following my printed schedule, I went to a classroom to listen
to a famous thriller author talk about his path to publication.

“It was a packed room, so I had to take a seat in the back. I
noticed an old man sitting next to me.

“He leaned over and whispered, ‘You spend a lot of money on this,
kid?’

“‘You could say that.’ I’d spent nine hundred dollars I didn’t
have at the time.

“‘You see all these people?’ he said, pointing at the back of
everyone’s heads.

“‘Yeah.

“‘None of them will ever be writers. Come back here in ten years
and you’ll see the same faces.’

“‘Do me a favor. Hold onto your money. You want to be a writer?’

“I nodded, hoping the guy would quiet down once the author
started talking.

“‘Then go home and do two things. Read a ton. Then write a ton.
That’s all there is to it.’

“I quietly thanked him for the advice, enjoyed the talk by the
thriller author, and attended as many sessions that morning as I
could.

“Imagine my surprise when I saw that old man during the lunch
event stride up to the podium when he was introduced as the key
speaker for the day.

“That man was Elmore Leonard.

“Boom! I took his advice, and never again spent a dime on a
writing conference.

“Elmore Leonard saved me enough money over the years to buy a
brand new car. I wish he were alive so I could thank him
properly.

“If you’re going to spend your money, spend it on books to read.”

Thanks, Hunter!

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How I made $907 in 90 minutes eating Korean food

June 30th, 2017 by Bob Bly

One Friday night last month, after checking, answering, and then
deleting or filing in Outlook all my emails, we left the house at
6pm to get a quick dinner.

When we returned at 7:30pm, I checked my email again.

In the 90 minutes we were out, I had gotten $907 in info product
orders online, all for products I was not actively promoting that
week.

(We call these “over the transom” orders because we took no
deliberate action to generate them.)

No work on my part. Over $900 made while eating in a Korean
restaurant.

(Full disclosure: this is an isolated incident — and not a
typical Friday night.)

Some people work all week to make $900 in a 9-to-5 job that bores
them.

One that they must commute to and from on their own time and dime
— for a boss they don’t like

I tell you this not to brag, but to illustrate (a) the value of
having multiple streams of income and (b) the advantage of having
at least one of these be a stream of passive income.

Just to be clear, passive income is anything that makes money
without your direct labor.

Passive income streams generate cash flow for you on Sundays,
holidays, vacations, and even while you sleep.

As George Clason writes in his book The Richest Man in Babylon,
“I wish an income that will keep flowing into my purse whether I
sit upon the wall or travel to far lands.”

On the other hand, with active income streams, you get paid only
when you are working.

Dentistry, for instance, although lucrative, is strictly an
active income stream.

Dentists have a saying: “Unless you are drilling and filling, you
are not billing.”

Most people I know have, for the most part, only a single stream
of income — typically the paycheck from their full-time job,
where they toil away to make someone else rich.

And unless you are getting a huge salary, that’s risky … although
back in the day, when I worked on staff at a Fortune 500 firm in
the late 70s, a corporate job gave one the illusion of security.
I know I felt safe in mine.

But no longer.

The scary part is that if you get laid off or the company
falters, you suddenly have zero income … except for a small sum
from temporary unemployment insurance.

Your income stops. But your expenses relentlessly keep on coming.

This sudden stoppage of your cash flow makes it extremely
difficult to pay your rent, mortgage, car loans, insurance
premiums, property tax, and kids’ college tuition — among many
other expenses.

When I became a full-time freelance writer in February 1982, my
main source of money was an active income stream — writing copy
for clients.

But even back then, I had a smaller passive income stream:
royalties from my hardcover and paperback books published by
mainstream publishing houses.

The nice thing about royalties is that your work can generate
ongoing income for you months, even years, after you write it.

For instance, I recently got a check from one of my publishers
for $4,856 … for the Chinese edition of a book I wrote in 1985,
which is work I completed more than 3 decades ago.

Some of the passive income streams various writers I know have in
place include:

–Book royalties.
–Copywriting royalties.
–Reselling your published articles to multiple magazines and web
sites over and over.
–Real estate investing.
–Stocks and bonds.
–Online information marketing.
–Options trading.

Action step: develop at least one active income stream and one
passive income stream.

Your goal: Build them to annual six-figure revenues. Each.

That way, if you decide to quite working someday, you can live
comfortably from the passive income stream alone.

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Category: Online Marketing, Success | 4 Comments »

The 80/20 formula for freelance writing success

May 26th, 2017 by Bob Bly

I hear from hundreds of freelance writers each year, many of whom
are not entirely happy with their careers.

And they fall into two distinct groups:

>> The first group is freelancers who are primarily pursuing
their literary or journalistic calling.

They mostly write plays, poems, movies, novels, nonfiction books,
articles, essays, short stories, screenplays, and whatever else they
are passionate about.

They love what they do. And find it fulfilling.

Only problem is: most writers in this first group tell me they
are hardly making any money … and are barely getting by.

>> The second group is freelance writers who pursue high-paying
commercial projects.

These assignments include technical articles for scientific and
medical journals … white papers … long-form direct response sales
letters … video sales letters … web sites … speeches … and many
other lucrative gigs.

Most of the writers in this group who reveal their income to me
say they are earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year or more.

As a result, they can afford to live in a nice house in a good
neighborhood … pay tuition for their kids at Ivy League colleges
… take great vacations at five-star resorts … drive late-model
luxury cars … and build a big enough IRA to retire secure for
life.

Only problem is: many tell me that, while this commercial writing
pays the bills, it doesn’t fulfill them artistically.

The solution for both groups is simple. I call it “the 80/20
formula for freelance writing success.”

The formula says you spend 80% or so of your time on high-paying
projects for commercial clients — and the other 20% on your
literary, journalistic, and artistic writings.

By spending 80% of your time on high-profit writing, you earn
enough money to provide well for your family — while remaining
freelance and avoiding having to work at a 9-to-5 job for someone
else.

But by spending the other 20% of your time writing for fun and
artistic fulfillment, you also get to write the things that
matter most to you.

And because of your cash flow from the high-paying 80% of your
work, you don’t even need to make a dime from your more literary
endeavors — although for some of us it does in fact generate
additional, and in some cases even significant, cash flow.

By the way, the magic of the formula is that you spend some time
writing what others will pay you a lot of money to write … and
some time writing things for your own pleasure, self-expression,
and amusement — whether they pay well, poorly, or not at all.

There is no magic, however, about the actual ratio. You can
adjust it to fit your temperament and needs. For instance, I do
90/10, not 80/20, and that works for me.

Full disclosure: the great advantage I have is that I actually
love writing the high-profit stuff — in my case, copy.

Some writers do. Others not so much. But the 80/20 formula works
in either case. Try it!

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Category: Success, Writing | 5 Comments »