SKILL SETS: COPYWRITING
Positioning Statements: Build Your Core Strength
by Susan Kendrick
Welcome back to the copywriting gym. Like “Copywriting Fitness: Testimonials” in the March issue, this article is designed to help you train to win positive responses from potential book-buyers.
What Is Positioning?
Your positioning message—which is aimed at readers, booksellers, distributors, reviewers, the media, and other decision-makers—is the centerpiece of all your book-marketing efforts. Along with buy-me-now bullet points and testimonials, it provides the key reasons people should care about and buy your book.
From the idea stage through the manuscript stage to production and then to marketing, book publishing is not for the weak or fainthearted. It’s an endurance event. This means you need to create and maintain a winning positioning message that will see you all the way to the finish line, sale after sale.
Remember: the way you write your marketing copy will lead people either to act on it or to ignore it (see “Copywriting Fitness” in the March issue for a refresher course on how to avoid torpedoing your credibility).
Think of positioning as explaining where your book stands in relation to three things: your readers, your market, and your competition. Then use this trilogy to decide what you will say about your book to position it as the leading resource on its topic.
The Where and the What
Your positioning statement should appear on your book’s back cover, in the opening paragraph of a pitch letter to media people, and elsewhere. It’s that at-a-glance, core elevator speech where you quickly outline the following:
what your book is about
who it’s for
what it does for its readers
how it does that better than any other book
why that is relevant right now
Although the positioning statement should give people the reason they need to buy your book, it shouldn’t—and this is important—provide all the details; people need just enough specific information to arouse their interest and trust and whet their desire for the benefits the book offers.
Presenting your positioning message in a problem/solution format is often a good approach. Showing how the book addresses a commonly held but not always helpful belief is another. The following positioning copy (part of the back-cover copy on Live a Vibrant Life by Dawn King and Robert King) does both:
You can eat great, but still not feel great. Additives, preservatives, chemicals, and even your own biological terrain prevent you from absorbing even the most nutritious food. “But, I’m practically living out of the health food store!” you say. Not enough. Even organic and raw foods aren’t the answer anymore. Dive into this refreshing look at using supplements to meet each of your body’s major health needs–for results you can feel! Live a Vibrant Life gives you a simple, step-by-step plan to immediately boost your total health.
Building Positioning Power
Even on a small piece of book-marketing real estate, like a back cover, positioning copy should give your readers an at-a-glance sense of what’s inside your book and how powerful a force it can be in their lives, careers, relationships, and more.
Positioning answers this question: Why this book and not another one?
For example, suppose your book contains 105 mouth-watering recipes or 10 financial planning tips. So what? Lots of books have great recipes and tips. Say how yours are different or how you target a specific area or need that has not been addressed until now.
The positioning copy below (from back-cover copy for Your Business or Your Life by David Shepherd) shows one way to distinguish a book and to send the message that the book will have a long, long life. Published in 2001, in very different economic times than we are facing right now, this book—and the way it was positioned—is just as relevant today, if not more so, than when it was first published.
Shepherd’s less-is-more approach links what’s most profitable for your business with what’s pleasurable for you. No more sacrificing one to benefit the other. And it works! Here, in one unified system, Shepherd boils down the best of the best—8 critical steps that represent decades of research and real world testing with thousands of entrepreneurs. Your Business or Your Life is an indispensable guide for the owner or manager of any small business.
Positioning copy is not about features or benefits per se; in fact, benefits are better conveyed with a powerful set of bullet points. What the positioning copy must do is instantly and clearly communicate what about this book makes it special and important, what separates you and your message from the crowd. Doing this right means making a connection with targeted readers so that they get it.
Five Positioning Questions to Ask Yourself Right Now
Your answers to the following five questions will help you create a strong positioning message that will sustain you through all your book-marketing efforts, from prepublication sales, to book release campaign, to ongoing marketing and relationship building with booksellers, the media, joint venture partners, and more.
How does this book address targeted readers’ wants, needs, hurts, hopes, or deepest desires?
What do targeted readers already know about the topic, and what does the book bring them that’s new?
What differentiates the book from comparable titles already on the market—what’s new and different about the author’s ideas, perspective, approach, process, focus, experience, background? What’s new and different about the content of the book? In other words, why this author and this book, given the competition?
Is the book a “first” or an “only” in some way?
Does it fill an important gap in the information available on this topic? What’s been missing that it addresses?
Once you’ve drafted your positioning statement, strengthen this core message until it becomes a lean, chiseled body of copy that sells your book and author expertise, time and again.
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, back-cover sales copy, testimonials, and other book-cover copy, as well as brandable business names and taglines. Their clients have won major book awards and received national TV coverage. To learn more, visit WriteToYourMarket.com.To read more of Susan Kendrick’s articles, visit BookCoverCoaching.com.
The Word-Gym Checklist: Eight Things to Keep in Mind When Creating Your Positioning Copy
1.Know your market, what’s already out there, and what makes this book unique.
2. No long plot summaries; keep things short and to the point.
3. Write so that people can easily visualize what you’re talking about.
4. Use conversational language and speak one-on-one to your reader.
5. Use “you” language.
6. Be straightforward and leave the fancy jargon behind.
7. Write as if the clock is ticking. It is! Research shows that people will spend less than 15 seconds looking at back-cover copy, never mind actually reading it from start to finish.
8. Finally, ask yourself, “Could what I am saying here be used to describe any other book?” If the answer is “Yes,” or even “Maybe,” drill down to what makes your book truly special in the marketplace and valuable for your reader.
Words to Write Copy By
Starting in 1948, with no clients and a staff of two, David Ogilvy made Ogilvy & Mather into one of the eight largest advertising networks in the world. Today it has approximately 359 offices in 100 countries.
In his book Confessions of an Advertising Man, Ogilvy listed 32 things he had learned during his years in advertising. He said the most important thing was how you positioned your product. Results, he claimed, were based not so much on exactly how the advertising was written as on how the product being advertised was positioned.