SKILL SETS: COPYWRITING
Copywriting Fitness: Testimonials
by Susan Kendrick
Welcome to the copywriting gym. This article and others to come in the Copywriting Fitness series are designed to help you train to win positive responses from potential book buyers.
Most publishers are good at educating themselves about the various marketing materials they will need. Sell sheets, book-cover copy, catalog copy, press releases, pitches to distributors and to TV and radio talk shows, and the like are on the standard To Do lists. But the way publishers carry out these tasks can do more to damage their marketing efforts than to help them.
All marketing materials require copywriting, which means that you can’t rely on your general writing skills, the ones you use to create, critique, or edit book manuscripts and other kinds of content. Flexing your promotional muscles demands a special skill set.
The basic copywriting rules include:
Stress the benefits to the reader.
Use “you” language.
Show what makes your book different from others in your market.
Break down your sales copy into bite-sized chunks for better readability.
The goal of good copywriting—and of these basic rules—is to make a product stand out as highly desirable for a specific, targeted audience.
Now, a word of warning: Better to use fewer bells and whistles and have your book regarded as a work of substance, than to go overboard in your descriptive zeal and lose your prospects in the process.
Mastering copywriting skills requires understanding what will work for you and what will work against you. The way you write your marketing copy will make you look like either a trustworthy expert or an uninformed wannabe; someone who knows what else is out there for a defined audience or someone who is clueless about their own market; someone who is an intelligent, reliable partner or someone who will stay on the fringes of their market because no one believes in their expertise.
Tough going, huh? The good news is that once you get the hang of copywriting, the copy you create will translate easily into all your marketing materials. With minimal tweaking, it can be used to create pieces of various lengths, for various recipients, and for a range of marketing needs.
The other good news is that, among all the mistakes you can make, the one that will do the most damage may also the easiest to spot and fix: exaggeration. Yes, you want that sizzle that makes people buy. Just don’t let the sizzle burn you!
The Exaggeration Trap
Writing with confidence is one thing, but positioning your book as the latest and greatest, best possible book on your topic for everyone out there is quite another. Exaggerated or over-the-top description can mark a publisher as an amateur at best, and a charlatan at worst. Beware of outrageous claims or even generalizations that you simply cannot support, and that people reading your material will know you cannot support.
Remember that when people are looking at a book as a potential solution to a problem they face, a response to a need they want to fill, or a source of interesting information or entertainment, they are looking in other places as well. Just a few examples: They are reading other books, blogs, Web sites, and newsletters; listening to teleseminars, podcasts, and music; and watching TV, YouTube, and movies.
Remember, too, that because you need to market to a clearly identified reader and buyer, your copy must demonstrate that you offer the specific solution that a specific type of reader and buyer is looking for. One-size-fits-all claims won’t appeal to your potential readers or anyone else.
Making grandiose claims about either the importance of or effectiveness of your book demonstrates a lack of knowledge about your market. It also shows lack of respect for your readers, trading partners, and the media.
So, how do intelligent, well-meaning publishers get caught in the exaggeration trap? Sometimes by misinterpreting that well-known copywriting basic: Stress the benefits.
It’s tempting to take that copywriting rule too far. To stress benefits in a productive way, keep these three related rules in mind:
The Path to Powerful Blurbs
Copywriting for promoting books generally includes at least three elements: positioning statements, bullet points, and testimonials. We’ll zero in on positioning statements and bullet points in upcoming issues, and focus here on testimonials.
Copywriting that involves testimonials affects not only you, but also the people who agree to let you use their names in support of your book. You want to take especially good care of these relationships now and going forward.
To ensure that testimonials for your book are believable, specific, and relevant—and to improve the odds of getting good quotes from busy people—you can draft testimonials yourself for selected celebrities and/or authorities to review and approve or amend. High-profile experts will appreciate your genuine interest in what you can do for them as well as in what they can do for you.
One approach is to create several general comments for each potential provider of a testimonial. Each of these comments should say something specific about some aspect of your book, such as its message, its usefulness, what makes it different from other books in its market, or how it will make a difference for people looking for information on this topic. This means constructing quotes that focus on the book rather than revealing anything in particular about the person to whom the quote is attributed.
Another approach is to write a customized testimonial for every potential quote source. The copy for these must be based on research about each person you want to approach. Do this by reviewing their books on Amazon.com or on their Web sites. Google their bio information, accomplishments, current projects, and the like. Then take what you’ve learned and weave it into a quote that showcases this person’s expertise and promotes that in subtle ways.
Where Good Testimonials Go Bad
Here are some examples of the kinds of overwriting and exaggeration that you need to avoid, because they will make testimonials work against you instead of for you. You don’t want to risk damaging your reputation, your book’s reputation, or the reputation of the people who are giving you their support.
The author is celebrated around the world as the leading expert on ___________.
Really? Around the world? The leading expert? This had better be true. Unless you are Tony Robbins, reel this one in and be more specific: “He speaks to and coaches organizations in the United States and ## other countries on how to _________.”
The author unleashes unprecedented power in all individuals who follow her methods.
Really? Unprecedented, as in never before possible? And in all individuals? Stop the presses! Surely no other books on personal power are needed, because readers finally have the single answer that works for everyone. How about replacing that copy with: “Her methods are helping individuals face financial change [or whatever the right specific is] with new levels of confidence.”
The steps in this book will improve every area of your life quickly and easily.
Really? Every area of my life? Quickly and easily? Sign me up! I sure hope I’m not disappointed when I get to the last page and my life is pretty much the same as when I started. Don’t give self-help a bad name. Be specific in your claims: “The steps in this book provide simple ways to be more respected as a partner, parent, and co-worker.”
With a little time in the copywriting gym, you can take control of the credibility that great quotes can give your book. The book gets the credibility boost it needs, and the people kind enough to lend their good names to it look good too.
Susan Kendrick and Graham Van Dixhorn are partners at Write To Your Market, Inc., which specializes in positioning and branding books to sell. They develop book titles and subtitles, book series and business names, back-cover sales copy, testimonials, and other buy-me-now book-cover copy. Their clients have won more than 21 major book awards and received national TV coverage. To learn more, visitHYPERLINK “http://www.WriteToYourMarket.com” www.WriteToYourMarket.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, visit www.BookCoverCoaching.com.
The Word Gym Antiexaggeration Checklist: Fifteen Words to Avoid in Your Copywriting
Use “first” and “only” if and only if this is absolutely, positively, demonstrably true—in which case, you should not only say so, but say so loud and clear.
The bigger the claim, the more you need to support it by being believable, specific, and relevant.
Check for word length.Sometimes a longer word makes a claim seem inflated.