For more than 3 decades, my clients and I have used one simple marketing strategy that still works like gangbusters today for generating new business and establishing yourself as a recognized expert in your field: writing a book.

Specifically, writing a book on your specialty—your area of knowledge or expertise related to your product or service.

Just having the book as a credential helps legitimize you as an authority and can set you apart from others in your niche.

But the real secret to marketing with a book is to give your book away to as many potential clients as possible.

You can do this by offering the free book in an ad or mailer, through a landing page online, through mentions in e-newsletters (yours and others), through PR and many other ways.

One of my clients has built a highly successful business by giving away thousands of copies of his book—not cheap, because it’s a big hardcover book.

If you look at people who are recognized thought leaders in their specialties—Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Tom Peters, Seth Godin—virtually all of them have written one or more books.

Why is it a good marketing strategy to offer your book free to potential customers or clients? 3 reasons.

First, as marketer Jeffrey Lant has said, “A book is a brochure that will never be thrown away.”

Your sales kit may end up in the trash or be deleted with a click. But the book is kept on a shelf where the prospect sees it every time he walks into the room, reminding him of you and your service.

Second, if your book mostly tells readers stuff they already know, your prospects will nod their heads in agreement as they read and become convinced you really know what you are talking about.

Third, of the people who buy your book online or in a bookstore, a certain number will contact you to inquire about your services. An inquiry from someone who read your book and then liked it enough to call you is about the most qualified lead you can get.

I have used both physical books and e-books (both PDF and Kindle) in my marketing with excellent results.

But I favor a paperbound book. It is simply much more impressive to the prospect that you have written a ‘real’ book vs. an electronic book. It has more impact. It’s more memorable.

Note: If you publish your book with a mainstream publishing house and the book goes out of print, the publisher will ask whether you want to purchase the remainders at a deep discount.

Jump on this offer. It will give you a big supply of “brochures that will never be thrown away” for pennies on the dollar.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

How often must you post fresh content?

Posted August 9th, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Content Publishing

Content has become so important that 4 out of 10 marketers surveyed by Visage publish original content one or more times every day.

A third of the marketers surveyed publish new content weekly, and 15% published original content once a month.

You definitely need an employee or vendor dedicated to writing all this new content for you, or at least curating it from other authors in your company.

Source: KoMarketing

PublishVaultNo matter what type of blog site you publish to, this is a MUST-HAVE app (plus they are offering unlimited WordPress publishing).

Imagine being able to publish content to ALL of your WordPress blogs…under ONE ROOF!

Imagine not having to login and out of multiple sites just to make a simple change to your blog post.

Imagine an all-in-one platform to publish content, meta information AND schedule content drip campaigns AND have access to professional content writers at your fingertips…

This is what PublishVault can do.

PublishVault provides simple, yet advanced features:

[+] Contributor & Editor Calendar to Manage Content Posting Schedule
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[+] Idea Hub Allows you to Research on Auto-pilot
[+] Integration with the Latest SEO Plugins for Optimized Content

I challenge you to find a better solution that streamlines your publishing workflow for for under $100.

Here’s a little secret for increasing your writing productivity and output that I learned from Isaac Asimov, the prolific science and science fiction author of 435 books.

Asimov said the secret to his voluminous output was to have multiple writing projects simultaneously.

I do the same and urge you to also. Why?

If you only have one writing assignment, and you either fatigue or hit a roadblock (e.g. you are waiting for a critical piece of background research from the client), then you are stuck, can’t
continue, and have nothing else to do, so the rest of the day is spent in limbo.

Asimov said, “I always have multiple writing projects. That way, when I get stuck or tired, I put Project A aside, pull out Project B, and start typing.”

With the variety of multiple writing projects, I am never stuck, always engaged and energized, and never bored.

Another reason for Asimov’s prolificity was that he loved his work.

“When people ask me to name 10 things I love to do, I answer: write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, and write.

“Oh, there are plenty of other things I like to do. But as far as things I love to do? Writing is it.”

He often said that, like me, he loved cold, gray, dreary, rainy days because it meant he could stay inside all day writing without guilt.

He loathed sunny, warm days because people expected him to go out and do things they thought were fun but mostly bored if not outright tortured him.

“On a recent sunny day, my young daughter Robin skipped into my office and asked, ‘Daddy, can we go to the zoo?'” Asimov said.

“I go because I love her, but I leave my heart behind stuck in my typewriter keys.”

I close with my favorite Asimov story…

When Barbara Walters interviewed Asimov, she asked, “What would you do if you knew you only had 6 months to live?”

Without missing a beat, Asimov replied: “Type faster.”

My kind of guy.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article here extolling the virtues and advantages of having your book published by a real publishing house vs. self-publishing.

This prompted subscriber LP to write, “Just wondering if there is ever a time or situation where self-publishing has merit.”

Yes, LP, I can think of several.

First, for whatever reason, you are in a hurry to get the book published.

From the day you turn in your book manuscript, it can take 6 to 12 months for your book to get published.

If you cannot wait that long, self-publishing is the answer; you can get your self-published Kindle e-book on Amazon in as little as a few weeks.

Second, you want total control over the contents and design of the book.

Publishers edit books and demand authors make requested changes. The publisher also has the final say on book design.

If you want your book a certain way, and don’t want to be told how to write or design it, self-publishing is the alternative to mainstream publishers.

Third, you are a master marketer and believe you can make more money selling the book directly to consumers on your own.

Robert Ringer self-published his mega-bestsellers and sold them through brilliantly written full-page newspaper ads before selling the paperback rights to a mainstream publisher for a lot of money.

Many other master marketers—including Bob Kalian, Joe Karbo, and the late Melvin Powers—made a lot of money self-publishing…more than they probably would have made in mainstream publishing.

Fourth, you are a professional speaker, business owner, service provider, or self-employed professional, and you want copies of your book to sell or give away.

When you publish with a mainstream publishing house, you get only a 50% author’s discount on copies you purchase, making it prohibitively expensive to give away a lot of copies of the book. Such a margin is too small to warrant selling the book on your own.

If you self-publish a paperbound book, the cost per copy can be low enough to make it a practical giveaway or product you sell.

Fifth, you have been turned down by mainstream literary agents and publishing houses.

Not everyone who wants to write a book can get it published, which is precisely why traditional publishing is more exclusive and prestigious.

If publishers say “no” and you believe in the book and want to see it in print or online as an e-book, self-publishing can make that happen.

The “Bible” of book self-publishing is “The Self-Publishing Manual” by Dan Poynter.

The authoritative guide to marketing your book is “1,001 Ways to Market Your Book” by John Kremer.

SH, an author who has had multiple books published by traditional publishers and now coaches new authors, says, “I typically advise my clients to self-publish successfully, and then approach publishers with a track record. It makes for a much more balanced negotiation.”

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

“I’d be interested to hear your take on the ongoing feasibility of selling information products given the growing influence of content marketing, i.e. the provision of free information in order to attract and educate prospects.

“Is the easy availability of free information raising the bar on what information products you can sell, and in what ways?”

The answer is: well, yes and no. You see, people have been selling information products for decades, and marketers have been giving away information on the same topics for just as long.

So why do people shell out big bucks for information products on subjects for which plenty of free content is there for the taking?

Several reasons:

First, the free content is typically created as a marketing tool. Therefore, the producer is more concerned with whether it fulfills the marketing objectives rather than helps the reader achieve his or her goals. So although many a free e-book and white papers look well designed and seem well written, the content is often very light on how-to specifics.

Second, the rule for free vs. paid content seems to be as follows: in your free content, you tell people WHAT to do. In your paid info-products, you show them HOW to do it. So information products cover ground free content marketing skips over.

Third, people don’t pay that much attention to the free content they download—precisely because it is free and therefore has low perceived value. On the other hand, when someone pays $39 for one of my e-books, they usually study the material thoroughly.

Fourth, free content used to attract and educate people is usually written by marketing people and copywriters who are not subject matter experts. They are mainly regurgitating second-hand knowledge they got from interviews and Google. Paid information products are usually written by people who are experts and have successfully done the thing they are teaching. The marketing writers almost never have done it.

Fifth, free content is written either by a faceless corporate marcom professional or by a hired copywriter or ghostwriter the reader hasn’t even heard of before. People trust gurus. They have a small set of gurus they follow. Therefore they would rather buy an e-book by the guru they trust than read a free whitepaper a corporation is using to generate leads for widgets, software, or whatever they sell.

Sixth, free content is basically “soft sell” advertising; its purpose is to sell the marketer’s product or service. It’s a promotion. My info-products don’t sell anything because I have already been paid for them, and therefore my focus is on delivering maximum value for the customer’s dollars, not getting you to buy something else.

Seventh, while a ton of free content is available to both consumers and business buyers, B2B marketers are as a rule more active content marketers than B2C companies. So it’s somewhat more difficult to sell information products to business buyers than to consumers, and especially difficult to sell info-products to executives and professionals at large corporations. Small businesses are a much easier market and eagerly buy info-products on business topics.

But yes, LW, to answer your question, read point #2 above. To please buyers in an era of free information, your paid information products must tell people how to do something they really want to do. Not just what to do, but how to do it—specific step-by-step instructions with loads of detail. Or tips, tactics, and strategies that, if implemented, will enable them to achieve their goals that much better and faster.

One more point: Fred Gleeck and I have a rule that a paid information product should be worth at least 10 times the price you paid for it. If you want to charge $100, you must believe your product would be a worthwhile purchase for $1,000.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

In a Facebook discussion on the relative merits of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, MH writes: “The only reason I could think of someone wanting to publish a non-fiction business book via a traditional publisher would be access to retail distribution in airports where executive decision-makers still buy books during travel.”

Really, MH? Because I can think of at least 7 additional advantages of traditional publishing over self-publishing:

1. Traditional publishing is more prestigious than self-publishing.

People are impressed when you tell them your book was published by John Wiley & Sons, largely because they can’t do it. They are less impressed when you tell them you paid to have it printed at Kinkos, because anyone can do it.

2. Many newspapers, magazines, and other mainstream media outlets won’t even consider reviewing your book if it is self-published. They only treat books from real publishers seriously.

3. The money flows the right way: from publisher to author.

As soon as you sign a contract to write a book, you get an advance check from the publisher even before you’ve written one word. Once the book sales pay back the advance, you get royalties.

By comparison, in self-publishing you have to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars to book designers, printers, and other vendors you pay to create your book.

4. You get a free editor, book designer, printer, and proofreader.

When you write a book for a traditional publisher, they assign an editor who edits your book, and also a proofreader who checks the galleys for errors. If you are a self-publisher and you use an editor and proofreader (many do not), their fee comes out of your pocket. Plus, they design, typeset, print, inventory, and distribute your book for you, also free of charge!

5. Self-publishing a book is a ton of work that I don’t have time for. With traditional publishing, once you write the book, other people, as just noted, handle the production and distribution for you.

6. If a self-publisher uses print-on-demand technology, you can print books one at a time, but the cost per copy is high. You can save money by going to a short-run printer and printing 1,000 to 3,000 copies, but it’s a big cash outlay and where are you going to put them?

7. Self-publishers say that mainstream publishers do no marketing for your book. But they do: I have been on dozens of radio and TV shows, courtesy of my book publishers’ PR departments.

Self-publishers do their marketing entirely on their own, and the sad fact is that the vast majority don’t know how…and as a result, sell very few books.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Anyone who says unequivocally that self-publishing is the cat’s pajamas is kidding themselves.

Lots of self-publishing evangelists tell me there is more money in self-publishing and that traditionally published books make no money. My reply: Stephen Covey, Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Dr. Phil, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson, Scott Adams—the list goes on and on. (Patterson makes $90 million a year.)

LT says: “In the digital world, anyone and everyone can be an author, regardless of experience, expertise or industry track record. A book contract doesn’t automatically confer expertise. But it does assure that the material—and the author—have been vetted by a third-party editorial and publishing team with a huge investment in the writer’s credibility.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Subscriber TT writes: “How often do you ask the audience for what they want to read vs. composing what you want to write?

“I see a lot of content people now firmly suggesting that we should only create large projects when they have been validated.

“In the back of my mind though, I wonder if that doesn’t somehow mute the ‘crazy ideas’ out of the possible and turn most projects into market-friendly, gray-scale stuff.

“On the other hand, once enough money is generated to allow for creative freedom there is probably a lot more leverage for doing whatever the hell you want.”

The short answer is: when it comes to my how-to writing, mostly I write what interests me.

Why this works: I am much like my readers, so if something interests me, it is most likely going to interest a lot of them too.

However, there are two major exceptions to this.

First, some of what I write, like this article, is in response to specific questions different readers, like TT, ask me.

And once in a blue moon, I ask my online subscribers what they would like me to write about by doing a survey of my subscriber list using Survey Monkey.

But even when I have asked readers what they are interested in, or am answering a reader’s question, I still write what I want to write.

In copywriting, it is slightly different: my clients tell me specifically what they want written; e.g. a sales letter selling a dietary supplement; a whitepaper about recycling electronic equipment.

But even then, I am writing what I want to write, because I only take on assignments that interest me.

When TT refers to “content people” he probably means corporate types responsible for content marketing.

I am not sure how he is defining “validated”. Or to what degree the topic is validated before the OK is given to create the content.

In my experience writing content for corporate employers and clients, management already knows what information its prospects want.

And so they go ahead and create it with no formal market research, survey, or validation other than their own experience, instincts, and knowledge of the marketplace.

When it comes to deciding what to write about, heed the immortal worlds of best-selling author Dr. Benjamin Spock: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

But when writing copy or content for a client or employer, you may have to change your tone, or your language, or your format, or a million other things to make a piece of writing better. But none of that should inhibit the inherent “you-ness” of what you write, advises HubSpot.

“Don’t try to adopt someone else’s voice, even if it sounds really, really good,” they recommend. “They’re better at being them than you are, anyway.”

Source: Hubspot report, The Marketer’s Pocket Guide to Writing Well

Once again subscriber WG writes; this time she asks, “What do we do when somebody copies our writing and places it on their website?”

In other words, what should you do when someone uses your content without your permission?

Years ago, I was reading a marketing magazine—let’s call it Magazine X—when I came across an article that caught my attention.

It noticed it because I had written it—and published it in another magazine—and this magazine had reprinted it under another author’s byline!

Turns out they weren’t stealing; the other author was. He retyped my article and sent in the manuscript to Magazine X. They did not know it was stolen and had no reason to think so.

I had my lawyer send him a scary, threatening letter. In short order I got an apology and a check for a thousand dollars.

In the Internet age, some people argue that it’s smart to let other people use your content, because it spreads your ideas, generate traffic, and raises your visibility with search engines.

Yes, that can be true, but only when you are credited as the author with both a byline, your bio appears with the article, and it includes a link to your website.

If those three things are done—byline, bio, link to your site—then it may be beneficial for your content to be republished online or even offline.

However, the fact that it is beneficial does not give others carte blanche permission to use your material unless you say it is OK.

The following statement appears at the top of the articles page on my website:

“Media, bloggers, marketers, editors, publishers, webmasters—Need powerful content on your website or blog?

“You can syndicate and/or republish any of the articles on this page for free. Republishing our articles is quick and easy.

“All you have to do is include author attribution (byline/name of author) and the following statement, “This article appears courtesy of Bob Bly’s Direct Response Letter,” with a backlink to That’s it!”

I post this because yes, I want my content to get wider distribution, as long as it generates traffic to my site.

This blanket permission applies only to the content on the articles page of my site and not to anything else I write.

Before you go giving everyone permission to use and reprint your writing willy nilly, you should understand that content has monetary value—and maybe you want to get paid for yours instead of just giving it away.

A few years ago, one of my books on marketing went out of print, and the rights reverted to me, as is standard in publishing contracts—though you should always make sure this “reversion of rights” clause is in any publisher’s contract you sign; it is not always.

Literally that same week, a marketing company called and asked if they could reprint a chapter from my book as a lead magnet to offer their prospects.

I said yes, we negotiated the deal over the phone in 5 minutes, and a few weeks later, I gladly received their check for $10,000—the easiest money I ever made in my life.

Remember that story next time you convince yourself that content is a worthless commodity and you give all yours away for free.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

About once a week I get an e-mail with a subject line or first sentence that begins: “My new book” and then announces publication of the writer’s new book.

Here’s a tip: “My new book” may be the weakest phrase ever used in online copy.

The reason is twofold. First, the phrase begins with “my”, and the reader cares about himself, not you.

Second, the third word in the phrase is “book” and almost no one cares about your new book.

Reason: There are so many books in print today, the very word “book” is a turn-off, signaling a subject of no interest to anyone save the writer.

Back in the day, when we used full-page print ads and direct mail packages to sell books, we used the word “book” in the copy as little as possible because it creates an immediate boredom factor.

Substitutes include “material”, “guide”, “manual”, “program”, “course” and “instructions”.

You can say “book” one or two times in your copy, and alternate with the other terms above.

But if you are selling the book for money, do not use “book” in the headline or lead (if you are giving the book away as a lead magnet, then saying “book” up front is OK).

Another pet peeve of mine is that I hate it when well-meaning readers and fans send me their new book in the mail without asking me if it’s OK to do so.

I already have too much to read and the shelves in the bookcases in my office are already filled with reference materials for various writing projects.

Here’s the other horrible thing about the boom in self-publishing triggered by Amazon and Kindle today: it has caused an out-of-control proliferation of really bad books.

I know that sounds cruel, but as you know, I always give you the unvarnished truth.

And the vast majority of self-published books people send me should just not have been published in the first place.

When people take piano lessons, they are content to play for their own pleasure, and feel no compulsion to rent halls and give concerts, in part because they know they don’t play on a professional level.

But writers are not content to write for their own pleasure. They feel compelled to publish their writing and have it read by other people, hence the popularity of blogs, Facebook, and Kindle.

I have come to the realization that the books I write are not really that important, though some people do tell me they have been helped by them, and for that I am glad.

But I am not writing “Remembrance of Things Past” and most other people aren’t either.

We live in a world where print in general and books in particular play a much smaller role in society than they did a century ago.

Best to remember that writing a book today is a small thing and not terribly important to anyone other than the author—you.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Despite what you may think, I would never say that traditional publishing is inherently superior to self-publishing.

What I do say is that I personally prefer traditional publishing to self-publishing both as an author and a reader for several reasons.

First, when a book is published by a mainstream publishing house, it has been vetted.

That means in most cases, at least one entity—a publishing house—thought it was good enough to pay money for it. Not so for self-published books.

Second, traditional publishing is more selective.

A book published by a mainstream publisher has been approved by a committee or board of experienced book editors and marketers.

With self-publishing, there is zero selectivity: anyone on the planet can self-publish whatever they want, whenever they want.

Third, traditionally published books have been edited by professional editors.

Editing is quality control for written communications.

The vast majority of self-published books have not had an editor (separate from the author), and it is apparent in the lack of quality.

Tip: If you are going to self-publish your book, hire a freelance editor. You can find one at the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Fourth, traditionally published books have the edge in marketing, PR, and sales.

I have met many book reviewers for newspapers who will only review books by ‘real’ publishers and dismiss out of hand self-published books—wrongly, in my opinion, but that’s what they do.

The major publishers have sales reps that get books into bookstores vs. the self-publisher has no such sales force.

Traditional publishers admittedly do little marketing for the majority of the titles they put out, but the overwhelming majority of self-publishers have marketing budgets approaching zero.

There have been many self-publishing success stories throughout the years, but they provide only anecdotal proof that self-publishers can succeed.

I suspect—though I cannot prove—that there are thousands of Kindle e-books on Amazon produced by their authors that have sold less than 100 copies each.

Fifth, in traditional publishing, authors have traditionally been paid an advance of four or five figures before they have even written the book.

And we get a royalty on every book sold after the advance is paid back through book sales.

In self-publishing a paperbound book, authors traditionally plunked down thousands of dollars to print a couple of thousand copies of a book that might not sell five copies.

Admittedly, some of this is changing: Thanks to print-on-demand (POD), your self-published paperback can be printed one copy at a time, eliminating a large cash outlay up front.

As for advances, most mainstream publishers still pay them, but they are shrinking. And a small but growing number of traditional publishers are morphing into semi-vanity presses.

Some pay a flat fee and no royalty. Others require authors to buy 5,000 copies of their own book, essentially funding the venture out of their own pockets.

But, while it still exists even in a bastardized form, for me, I want my books published by a real publisher.

Yes, I’m prejudiced in favor of the traditional book publishing model, which is rapidly eroding. But it’s what I grew up with in my book writing career and it’s what I will stick with in my old age until it—and I—fade away.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Ideal length for whitepapers

Posted November 18th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Content Publishing

Whitepaper guru Gordon Graham says the sweet spot for whitepapers is 6 to 8 pages of content. Add a front cover, contents page, and about the company and you’re up to a total document of 10 or 11 pages. But what about those who say that readers want much shorter white papers today?

“Many marketing people today want to achieve the impact of a great whitepaper, without making the investment to develop one, and without asking their prospects to deal with a substantial document,” says Gordon. “But I don’t believe there’s any shortcut.” Graham says that anything with less than 4-5 solid pages of content is hard to call a “whitepaper” because there just isn’t the space to develop much of an argument. He adds, “The trouble with a 2-3 pager is that it almost always becomes a brochure or data sheet, without much capacity for reframing an issue, redrawing a market space, or helping a business person understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

“To me that’s the real definition of a whitepaper. So I’d say for sure, cut the flab and make your whitepapers as concise as possible. But don’t think 3 pages is going to do the same job as 6 or 8.”

Everyone Writes, But Should They? by Bob Bly

Posted September 22nd, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Content Publishing

My colleague Michael Stelzner recently did a podcast with a woman, AH, who wrote a forthcoming book called “Everyone Writes”.

AH is right: everyone writes. But I have always wondered whether everyone should write. And I have come to believe that they should not.

Reason: In the good old days, just because you wrote something didn’t mean it would be published. In fact, likely, it would not.

To get published, you had to convince a publishing house to buy your book—or a newspaper or magazine editor to print your article or your letter-to-the-editor…and most people were not able to do this easily. So what got published was vetted by professionals—and the quality reflected that editorial guidance.

But today, in the digital era, anything that anyone writes can be and often is instantly published to the Internet where theoretically millions of people can read it—and at least a
few people, if only just your Facebook friends or Twitter followers, almost certainly will.

Some people see this “everyone writes (and publishes)” phenomenon as a wonderfully liberating new age in human communication.

To me, it is the end of western civilization as we know it—and the death of literacy—and the heralding of an unceasing age of what I see as endless “content pollution”.

Content pollution is everyone publishing every thought they have, and almost everything that happens to them, without the benefit of an editor or publisher to filter what goes out into the ether.

I define the job of the editor as “quality control for written communication”. Without editors, which the Internet has largely removed from the equation, the quality of published writing has fallen to a new low—not an easy accomplishment.

Example: Facebook posts featuring a picture of what the person has just eaten for breakfast. The amazing thing is that some readers actually seem interested!

The ease of publishing blogs, online newsletters, online articles, posts, and the like has caused amateur writing to flourish. And that’s bad news for professionals: it’s difficult to command a living wage for something thousands or even millions of people are happy to do for free, even if you are ostensibly better at it.

People ask me why I take the old-school stance of preferring traditional book publishing with NYC publishers to self-publishing on Amazon with Kindle or on a website.

The main reason is this: with traditional book publishing, you know that at least one person—the editor at the publishing house—thought highly enough of the work to pay for it. That’s a quality control self-publishing is sadly lacking.

Normally at this point in my essay I suggest solutions or give tips for profiting from the situation.

But I don’t really have a solution to content pollution. People feel compelled to express their thoughts, and thanks to the Internet, can do so at any time—and are assured of at least some readers taking note.

There is nothing I can do to change the human compulsion to write and publish. I just wish more people who feel this compulsion would produce content at a higher level—that is, writing actually worth reading—and filter what they put on the web. Don’t you?

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Recently I asked BM, a marketing consultant, whether he was working on the new book he had told me months ago he was planning to write.

He replied that he was struggling with the question of whether to move forward with it.

“The the world does not need another marketing book,” he e-mailed me, sounding a bit down and dejected.

My first reaction was that BM is right: the world does not need another marketing book.

A number of my readers send me their new marketing books without asking whether I want them. Note: If you were thinking of doing so, please do not.

And my initial reaction is usually that the book should never have been written or published in the first place.

Most of the books are a rehash of what has already been written about a zillion times before.

But when I drill deeper into thinking about marketing books, my viewpoint begins change.

Why? For starters, even if the material has been covered elsewhere, many readers still need to hear it again.

If they didn’t, their marketing would be performing a lot better than it is right now.

Second, the authors, whether business owners or consultants, have conducted and seen the results of many marketing tests, and in doing so may have picked up some learning that you and I can benefit from.

I have been a copywriter for 35 years, and to my amazement, I still learn new techniques and tips every week that help me write better copy and get better results. And the only way you can learn them from me is to read my books and articles or attend my talks.

Yes, 95% of what is in these marketing books may have been written about before. But there’s nothing wrong with that, given that we read largely for reinforcement—to master the principles and make them ingrained in our brains.

If we could truly learn all we need from one volume, there would only be a single self-help book sold at Barnes & Noble.

And, as pointed out by many people wiser than I, if you get just one good idea from a marketing book, it can pay back your entire investment in buying and reading the book 10X over or more the very first time you use it.

So my advice to BM is: if you feel a strong desire to write a marketing book, and you think what you have to say is valuable or fresh, or both, then by all means do it.

At best, you will create something that brings genuine value to your readers—value beyond what they paid for.

At worst, you will have enhanced your reputation by being the author of a published book.

I close with what I think is a relevant story…

About 30 pages into the writing of his first published novel “Carrie”, Stephen King became so despondent he threw the pages into the trash.

The novel would never have seen the light of day had his wife Tabitha not rescued the manuscript from the waste bin and encouraged him to finish the book.

Millions of readers and the King family are glad he did, right?

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

If you are skeptical about long copy, hype-filled promotions for “get rich quick” info-products…well, you should be.

Subscriber JE, recently complained to me, “One thing that bugs me is when people have one or two successes and then go out and sell their ‘system’.”

He says the reason these systems often don’t work for others who follow them is that “you can’t package up luck.”

What JE is talking about is perhaps the biggest flaw in the entire business of information marketing in general…and business success/self-help/personal improvement info-publishing in particular, namely, that just because certain steps worked for the author, that does not mean others following those steps will get the same results, and in fact, more often than not, they don’t.

One of the problems, as JE has accurately identified, is that the only test of the system is often the author’s personal success.

If you are a consumer of info-products on business and success topics, does the author have students who, following his system, achieved some levels of results, even if not equal to his?

If he has no successful followers, then I would pass on buying the course or program.

Why do so many info-product promoters teach systems based on their own personal success, only to have so many buyers fail to achieve anything close to their results?

Again, one reason, as JE notes, is luck. Luck plays a huge role in success and as JE says it cannot be packaged and sold, unfortunately. The info-product seller may have had luck, and he has no way to confer that luck on you.

Another reason why some info-publishers cannot transfer their success to others is that making their systems work depends on talents and aptitudes their buyers may not have, and the systems ignore this and do not show how to develop the talent.

For instance, my wife is a home decorator, and in her field there are info-product promoters selling all kinds of courses on how to succeed in the home decorating business.

But if you have no taste, no eye for design (and I don’t), your chances of succeeding in the home decorating business are slim to none.

And it may sound elitist to say this, but intelligence is also a prerequisite for success in many fields and it too cannot be packaged.

My youngest son is a computer science major at Carnegie Mellon, and despite my own degree in chemical engineering, I could not complete his course of study; I simply don’t have the aptitude or the mathematical ability required (and I was pretty good at differential equations, but I sucked at Fortran).

So as a consumer of info-products, how do you make wise purchases, and by that I mean buy courses that actually succeed in teaching you the skill or business covered?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Go to the websites of the big players in your niche of interest and mine the free content there. You can often get quite an education without shelling out a dime. For example, see the library of free marketing and copywriting articles on my site.

2. Start with their traditionally published books sold on Amazon. Often these books are a much better value and are more clearly written than their package systems courses and they contain 5X more info often at 1/5 the price or lower—as little as $10 a copy used.

3. Look for testimonials and reviews in which buyers don’t just say they liked the product, but say they actually achieved the results the product promotions promised.

4. Don’t overpay. If a course costs $1,000, there may be a $10 book on Amazon or a $29 e-book that covers the same ground as well or better. KT recently asked me to offer you his course on
entrepreneurship for $800. I did not, because I have products that essentially teach the same things for around $40.

5. Make sure the seller offers an unconditional 90-day money-back guarantee of satisfaction that does not require you to prove you followed the system correctly before they will give you a refund.

My experience is that sellers who require you to prove compliance with their system will always say you did something wrong as an excuse to avoid ever giving a refund.

6. Is the author/publisher accessible via e-mail or phone to answer short and simple questions without charge? If not, this is a negative, at least to me.

7. Does the author continually refer to himself as a guru or genius, or brag about knowing celebrities, or use terms like “crush it”, or say he is the best or #1?

My comment: If you call yourself a guru or a genius, you probably are not. If a lot of others say you are, then maybe.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Subscriber WK writes: “I don’t see how content marketing works, given there is already so much free content readily available all over the Internet.”

“A marketing consultant we hired to help us promote our business suggested we write and offer a free special report. I objected, pointing out a Google search on X yields over a million results because so much content on X is posted free online for the taking.

“I concluded that producing yet another piece of content on X is unlikely to make us stand out and is therefore a waste of money. The consultant admitted that a glut of content on X exists and had no comeback to my justification.

“So I say the online information explosion has sounded the death knell for content marketing which no longer works. What say you, Bob?”

Despite WK’s sound logic, his conclusion about content marketing losing its effectiveness is wrong…fortunately for you and me.

Content marketing was a sound tactic when I entered marketing in the late 1970s. It works well today. And it will work well decades from now.

There are 5 reasons why content marketing is so effective despite the seeming glut of content on just about every topic under the sun.

First, human beings are inefficient learners.

Proof: by the time she has completed her undergraduate education and is finally considered ready to enter the workforce on a professional level, the average college graduate has spent 16 years going to school full-time.

Life is an unending education, and successful people are proactive lifelong learners. Therefore, they eagerly consume quality content that is relevant to their interests.

Second, human beings are slow learners.

As the old joke notes, if we were quick learners, there would be only one self-help book in print.

The fact that each year thousands of new books are published on subjects for which there are already thousands of books in print is proof that we need repetition—to hear and read the same thing over and over again until it finally penetrates.

Third, there are always new ideas and experiences to share.

New ideas are continually formulated, new methods are being introduced all the time, and every practitioner has unique experiences with lessons to be learned.

Package these methods, ideas, and experiences and offer as content, and you will attract people who are interested in what you have to say as well as what you are selling.

Fourth, content marketing works because it brings the content to the learner.

Yes, the answer to what most people want to know is probably published somewhere in some form online.

But most people either don’t have the time or skill to find it.

Content marketing works because it brings to their attention the availability of content they otherwise would not have known about on their own and makes it easy for them to download it at the click of a mouse.

Fifth, content marketing is not information marketing—it is knowledge marketing.

A Yale librarian once famously said, “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”

Good content marketers produce material that goes beyond data and information to the next level—which is knowledge, analysis, and wisdom.

Good content writers turn facts into actionable ideas and advice—something that many readers highly value.

Bottom line: Your prospects are drowning in information but starved for ideas and practical advice.

Content marketing—offering actionable insights on relevant topics free to your potential customers—works. Try it. You’ll like it.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

In a recent essay I rallied against the slacker mentality on the Internet that “information should be free”.

I noted, “Dry cleaning is not free. Automobile repair is not free. Gasoline is not free. Dental work is not free. You pay your doctor for a check-up. And the grocery store wants money before you walk out with your milk and eggs.”

I then asked the question: “Why should writers and other content creators alone be expected to work for free and vilified if they ask to be paid?”

And the response from subscribers was overwhelming in support of my argument that information is a product that can and should have a price tag like any other, and that the Internet notion that “all information should be free” is absurd.

For instance, JL writes, “The people who spout the ‘all information should be free’ philosophy are people who never created anything but opinions, which they are, of course, willing to give away to anyone who will listen.”

“People’s perception of help comes in the form of, ‘My hand is out, now you must give me something and I don’t have to pay for it,'” says WQ. “It’s the nature of sheep.”

JR weighs in: “The problem with the Internet has become too many people looking for the free answer. These people are not professionals nor are they serious about business. The basic rule of business (including information producers) is to earn a profit to continue to operate and thus continue to offer goods and services.”

MC points out, correctly in my experience, that “people who want free information rarely do anything with it anyway. Even if they do read it, they discount the value of it because they got it for free.

“In regards to your information, Bob, you paid a price, in either education or experience, to learn it. Why should someone else expect to get that same information from you for free without paying some price for it? Colleges are still charging for tuition and books, aren’t they?

“I think this all ties into this entitlement, Socialist mentality where some people feel that those who have (you, in this case) should be willing to share (for free) with those who have not, for the good of the collective.”

GB chimes in: “Though our entitlement-based culture works assiduously to preserve and enhance the myth that there is free stuff and all its attendant superstitions, nobody should work for free unless he freely chooses to do so.

“But even with such a voluntary disposition, one’s compensation then typically takes a form other than immediate monetary remuneration. Nobody works for no compensation, immediate or residual. And nobody is ‘entitled’ to the product of another.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I could fill another couple of pages with the replies, overwhelmingly supporting the notion that writers and other content creators should be paid for their work.

“It seems the millennial generation expects everything for free,” complains CD. “I have a son who is a composer of very fine instrumental music. He has hundreds of fans who rave about his music, but has yet to see anybody buy his albums. He gets .00001% of a penny when anyone listens to his music on the radio.”

And subscriber AS wisely makes the distinction that while free information is plentiful online, knowledge is in short supply and must be paid for:

“The problem is that most people confuse information with knowledge. In reality, information alone has little value. Everyone in the world can have all the information in the world for free, but it won’t have any real value to most of them. That’s because they don’t have a clue as to how to turn that information into knowledge, which does have value.”

AS continues, “Experience and wisdom are what you need to take information and use it to create knowledge. And knowledge is what has real value. And that’s what content creators really do. They take information and apply experience and wisdom to turn it into knowledge. And knowledge is worth something.”

Yes, the Internet has created, in the words of Harlan Ellison, a “slacker mentality” where people believe information should be free. But I was happy to discover that you, my subscribers, do not share that belief.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

A tip for self-publishers

Posted August 18th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Content Publishing

If you are self-publishing your book as an e-book, Outskirts Press advises you also offer it as a paperbound book for these 4 reasons.

First, readers still love an old-fashioned read. For die-hard book enthusiasts, there’s still nothing like a paperbound book.

Second, signed copies add value. An autographed hardcopy not only makes a great keepsake for friends and family but it may also be that extra push a stranger needs to make a purchase.

Third, you may not convince a news editor or a bookstore owner to get on the computer to enter a promo code and download a promotional copy, but you can usually get them to take a free hardcopy from you.

If you can get a paper book into their hands right away, they’re far more likely to review it, schedule an interview or put copies of your book on the shelves.

Fourth, a paperbound book makes a better keepsake than a digital edition. You probably would like your own archival copies, right? Something in print is a nice, tangible backup to your electronic book.

Tip: If you self-publish a Kindle e-book, use Amazon’s Create Space feature to make it available as a print-on-demand (POD) paperback.

Source: Outskirts Press Newsletter, 4/15/14

Content marketing is one of the big hot trends in marketing today.

But there’s a dirty little secret the content marketing evangelists won’t tell you…either because they don’t know or fear it will reduce their value if revealed.

Namely, the more generous your free content offer, the worse the quality of the leads your content marketing campaign will generate.

Decades ago, Ed Nash articulated the notion that lead quality and lead quantity are inversely proportional.

If you use tactics that boost lead quantity, you get all those extra inquiries at the expense of lead quality, because the tactics attract responses from people who like the free offer but are not necessarily potential customers.

Conversely, the more you do to qualify the leads your marketing generates, the better the quality of those leads, but the fewer you get.

Marketing with freebie offers, whether the giveaway is content or merchandise, is a tactic that carries with it the danger of boosting lead quantity, i.e. creating hoards of people who want your free white paper at the expense of lead quality.

For instance, I once saw a promotion aimed at farmers to get them to refer their neighbor farmers to the marketer. The offer: give us the names of 3 neighbors who buy seed for their farms and we will send your son a free football.

The marketer was flooded with response. But salespeople reported that most of the referral names were in fact not seed buyers nor farmers and those who had no interest in speaking to a sales rep and in fact resented their neighbor for giving up their names.

This campaign was submitted to a Caples Award contest in which I was a judge, which was where I saw it. Of course it did not win.

My friend Sy Sperling, founder of the Hair Club for Men (HCM), said they ran a free content offer on TV where they gave away a $15 book on hair loss. Result: a flood of freeloaders requesting the book, almost none of whom had any interest in coming into HCM for a free consultation.

Clearly, free content offers run the risk of requiring you to give away valuable material to people with no interest in what you are selling.

How can you make content marketing work better, and get requests for info from genuine prospects instead of deadbeats?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Make the content of your white paper or special report narrow and specific. Reason: Very few people will download a guide on “How To Size A Valve” unless they are valve buyers.

2. On the landing page where they can register to download or request your content, have 2 boxes to check—one offering free content and a second offering a free brochure on your product or service. Those who just request the content without also asking for product or service information are not good leads.

3. Ask qualifying questions requiring mandatory answers on the landing page. Yes, for each additional field, you will reduce conversion rate by about 10%. But you will also know from the answers whether the person is a potential customer or just a content moocher.

4. In your e-mail or other lead-generating sales copy, stress the product or service, not the free content offer. Relegate the free content offer to a secondary position in the copy, perhaps in the closing paragraphs or a PS. This way, people respond to your promotion primarily because of their interest in your product and only secondarily to get the freebie.

5. Conversely, if you build your ad or other promotion around the free content offer primarily or exclusively, up to 90% of respondents will be interested only in your freebie, giving you extremely unqualified inquiries and poor lead quality. However, this gambit can be profitable with a low cost-per-lead.

For instance, we did a content campaign offering a free e-book through an ad in an online newsletter. We paid $1,000 for the ad and got over 100 downloads, giving us a cost per inquiry below $10.

Let’s be ultra-conservative and say only 10% of those download requests were from actual prospects (I believe it was closer to 20%). That would give us a cost per lead (a lead being an inquiry from a qualified prospect) of $100—which given the high cost of the service was still very profitable.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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