Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Why I do not subcontract

November 25th, 2016 by Bob Bly

RT, a potential copywriting client, recently asked me:

“Bob, if I hire you, do you farm out the work to a junior
copywriter, or do you write the copy yourself?”

I directed RT to my home page at and told him to
scroll to the bottom. There, it states:

“Unlike many top direct response copywriters today, Bob Bly does
not hire junior copywriters to work on your promotions. If you
hire Bob, he writes every word himself — an advantage available
from no other source.”

I didn’t used to have this on my home page years ago, because
back then the idea that the copywriter you hired would fob off
the job to someone else was unheard of.

But things have changed in recent years.

And now, among senior copywriters, it’s commonplace.

But I have never done it. And I never will.

I figure if a client pays my fees, which are not astronomical but
also not cheap, he should get me.

If you are a client and you are going to use a “cheap” newbie
copywriter, why not hire him directly?

I told RT what I tell all my clients and prospects:

“When you hire me, I write every word. And I never subcontract
your copy or any portion of it to other writers.”

I’m not saying it’s wrong to subcontract work out to other
vendors. It’s done all the time in many field.

I’m not even saying it’s inherently wrong in copywriting.

But I do know the clients who hire me very much care that the
copy is written by me, and not some junior copywriter.

And that’s what they get. Every project. Every time. Me. And no
one else.


Category: Writing | No Comments »

Top 7 Reasons Why Anyone Can Succeed as a ?How-To? Content Writer And Make Money Online

November 4th, 2010 by Bob Bly

Excerpted from my new book, How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit.

1. It?s easy to get started in how-to writing: ?How-to writing provides a quicker, surer entry into publication than many other writing categories. Vast hordes dream of writing the Great
American Novel, but the group of writers who dream of writing the Great American Guide to Growing a Greener Lawn is a bit smaller.?

2. How-to writing pays extremely well: ?Some of the best-selling books of all time are how-to books. If you follow the plan in How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit, I think you can realistically get to the $100,000 to $200,000 a year income level within 12 to 24 months.?

3. You don?t need to be the world?s greatest writer: ?To succeed as a how-to, do-it-yourself, or self-help author, you don?t have to be the next Shakespeare or even the next Stephen King. Can you explain something or teach a skill in a clear, organized, entertaining fashion? Then you can succeed as a how-to writer.?

4. You don?t need to be the leading guru in your field: ?You do not need to be the leading practitioner, scholar, or expert in your field to write a book about it. As noted by author and speaker Fred Gleeck, you only need know more about your subject than 90 percent of the people out there. ?Don?t worry about the other 10 percent; they?re not your market anyway,? says Fred.?

5. Whether you know it or not, you have unique knowledge to share with a paying audience: ?If you think you are not an expert in any subject, I doubt that?s really true. Every person has unique skills, training, and experiences. You are an ?expert? in your life and many of the things that make up your life.?

6. Even when information is free, demand for knowledge is high: ?Even in a world dominated by Google, the wisdom, knowledge, and guidance people are seeking are in short supply. As librarian Richard Yates once observed, ?We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.? As a result, the public?s appetite for how-to material is insatiable, and?despite the Internet user?s mantra that ?information should be free??readers eagerly open their wallets to obtain it.?

7. The guided step-by-step plan in How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit shows you everything you need to do to be a success: ?By following the comprehensive plan laid out in this book, you can earn a comfortable six-figure annual income from your writing. And you can do it when and where you want, while writing what interests and pleases you. You can work at home?no boss, no commute, no suit and tie, no alarm clock.?

For more information visit:


Category: Online Marketing, Writing, Writing and the Internet | 78 Comments »

A Million Books

April 14th, 2010 by Bob Bly

An article in today’s PW Daily notes that there are over a million books published each year — about 75% self published and 25% traditionally published.

Assuming publishers work Monday through Friday, that’s a staggering 4,000 new books published per day!

CV, an editor, told me that what’s wrong with book publishing today is that there are too many books published. Given these latest statistics, it’s hard to argue.

Do you think the glut of books is bad for aspiring authors, because there’s already too much to read out there — and too much competition for new books?

Or do you think it’s positive, with so many new authors getting their books out these days through either traditional publishers or self publishing?


Category: Writing | 94 Comments »

Another Nail in the Newspaper Business’s Coffin

October 25th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Newspapers are dying not only because readership is dying off, but also because few journalism students have any incentive to work for them.

When I graduated college, writing for a newspaper was glamorous — a dream come true.

After all, Superman … Clark Kent … was a newspaper reporter!

Even though I didn’t have a journalism degree (I majored in chemical engineering), I sent letters and resumes to 300 newspapers.

I got only one interview — the Associated Press in Buffalo, NY — and they didn’t hire me.

Today, if you graduate with a B.S. in journalism, you have no incentive to write for a newspaper.

It isn’t glamorous — print media are moribund — and to add insult to injury, it pays poorly vs. the Internet.

According to an article in the Folio: Superbook 2009 (p. 9), the average salary of a journalism major going to work for a daily newspaper (where pay is much higher than weeklies) is $28,000.

Beginning TV journalists don’t fare much better, with an average salary of $29,300.

The highest paying job for journalism majors is online, where the average salary is $37,400 — 33% higher than newspapers pay.

Is there ANYONE reading this blog who writes for newspapers or wants to?

If so, given the decline of the medium and the lousy pay — why?


Category: Writing | 515 Comments »

Do Typos Matter?

September 10th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Do typos in promotional materials matter?

I pondered this question after receiving a mailer from a local company that gives writing workshops.

In the third paragraph of a self-mailer describing their writing workshops, the copy reads: “We hold them in around a conference table in a wood-paneled office.”

Of course, it should say “We hold them around a conference table in a wood-paneled office.”

In a mailing for a writing teacher, this error stands out like a sore thumb.

But do typos like this really matter in marketing materials for other businesses?

For example, would you not hire a plumber because of a typo in his Yellow Pages ad?

Or would you refuse to visit a cosmetic dentist because of a spelling error on her web site?

Do typos matter?


Category: Writing | 928 Comments »


August 3rd, 2009 by Bob Bly

Experienced copywriters know that strong language has greater effect on the reader than weak, watered-down, mealy mouthed prose.

And now a study in the journal NeuroReport proves the power of strong language to regulate human feeling and experience (as reported in Time, 8/10/09, p. 15).

In the study, 64 college students were asked to immerse their hands in ice water for as long as possible. They were allowed to talk. But in one test, the students were permitted to swear; in the other, they could not.

Result: swearing not only allowed students to withstand the icy water longer but also decreased their perception of pain intensity.

The researchers found that people have an emotional response to swearing, which increases heart rate. The emotional response somehow triggers the reduction of pain.

Am I suggesting that we curse in copy? No.

But I AM advocating use of conversational language rather than stiff formal prose or “corporatese” in your copy.

Write naturally, in a way that sounds like people talk — only cleaned up and smoother flowing, without all the stumbles.

Unsure of how colloquial vs. formal to make your copy because of your audience? Then follow this rule of thumb:

If you have to err on the side of being TOO conversational vs. being TOO formal (because of your client or the audience you are writing for), err on the side of being too formal rather than being too high falutin.

In my 3 decades as a copywriter, no PhD, scientist, engineer, or programmer has ever complained to a client of mine that the web site or brochure I wrote for them was too easy to read.


Category: General, Writing | 627 Comments »

The 2 Inviolate Rules of Asking Strangers for Help

July 29th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Virtually every day I get at least one phone call or e-mail from some stranger asking for my help or advice or to answer a question … with 99% of them, of course, not offering to PAY me for my time and trouble.

If you want to approach someone you view as an expert or guru to ask a question or get advice, here are the 2 rules you should follow to maximize your chances of getting a positive response:

1–Don’t waste the person’s time.

2–Be cooperative.

ML, who called me just a few minutes ago, violated both these rules in short order.

She was looking for a ghostwriter to help her write her memoirs. It’s a service I don’t offer. I told her so immediately, and offered to hook her up with a ghostwriter who could help her (I know several good ones).

“Well, let me tell you my story,” she interrupted, and began telling me about her adventures in WWII as a nurse or whatever her book was about.

Why? I already said I was not the one to do the job. Why would I be interested?

So I cut her off, not because I am rude, but because I am extremely busy, asking her to go online to the Vendors page on my site so I could show her who to call.

“Oh, I hate the web and e-mail and all that stuff,” she told me, indicating that she couldn’t be bothered to do as I instructed.

I gave her the URL anyway and wished her luck.

“What is it you do?” she asked me, like I have the inclination or time to chat with her while deadlines press in all around me.

“I’m a copywriter,” I answered.

“What is that?” she asked, as if I now would spend time giving her a tutorial in the writing profession.

When I told her she could find out everything she needed to know about my services again on my web site, she seemed stunned, and I politely wished her luck and ended the call.

My colleague CM, a top copywriter, tells of similar experiences, where readers of his newsletter get angry that he won’t stop what he is doing to hear them read their headlines to him and get a quick opinion — all without paying him, of course.

CM is less calm about this than I am. “Don’t they $#%*&* realize my TIME is for my PAYING clients?!” CM complained to me.

A lot of our readers — people who get our free newsletters but do NOT buy or services OR our paid products — ask for our help, and are surprised and offended when we put limits on the free help we are willing to offer.

Would you ask a dentist you didn’t go to to examine your teeth for free? Would you ask a gas station where you DID buy gasoline to fix your engine for free?

Then why expect a writer to work for free?

Harlan Ellison says it best: “The writer should be paid.”

Do you agree? Disagree? Why?


Category: Writing | 791 Comments »

When Freelancers Piss Off Clients

June 24th, 2009 by Bob Bly

HH, a freelancer I hired to write an e-book for me, sent me the first draft of the manuscript today as an attached Word file with his e-mail.

He ends the e-mail: “P.S. I’ll send me [sic] invoice under separate email.”

My question: Why, HH?

I just got your FIRST draft a minute ago. I haven’t even opened the file, much less reviewed it. And I certainly haven’t given you my comments so you can make the necessary revisions for the next draft.

Sending an invoice along with your product is bad form — it leaves a bad taste in the client’s mouth. He feels the only thing you care about is getting paid, not whether the copy is good.

But sending an invoice with a FIRST draft — when the project is not yet completed — can really piss off the client, as it did me in this case.

BTW, our agreement calls for payment upon completion.

To me, completion is an acceptable manuscript. Most publishers and business clients feel that way.

If the term “completion” is too vague, this rule of thumb applies: any ambiguity in the agreement is the fault of the vendor, not the customer.

If HH expected a check upon submission of a first draft, he should have specified that in his agreement and has me sign it.

He did not.

So what do you think?

Did HH make a major faux pas with his client — me?

Or am I getting crabby and difficult in my old age?


Category: Writing | 111 Comments »