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 Product Creation

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”.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you probably already know that Facebook has a ton of users.

But why should you care?

Because it’s those users that can make your pockets fill up.

Now I know you’ve probably seen other software showing you how to advertise on news feed ads and put opt in forms there.

But what if you could do that or something similar on your fan pages, groups, or even your own personal status?

And instead of having content post to your groups, fan pages, and statuses, that you have very little to any control over, how about being able to curate ANY content to those places on Facebook?

Even if you don’t own the group?

And place an image that links to an opt-in?

You’re probably getting chills!

Well now it’s possible and I want to introduce you to a new software that can do all of that and more!

FB Content Pro

With FB Content Pro, you have 11 sources to curate content from and can easily use clickable images to redirect anywhere you like on Facebook.

But don’t take my word for it.

See it in action with the ‘live’ demos and you’ll be glad you took a look at this one.

4 ways to overcome writer’s block

Posted July 12th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Content Publishing

Direct marketing maven Ted Nicholas offers these 4 tips for overcoming writer’s block:

1. Do a non-writing activity so you have a clear mind for creative purposes.

2. Never write when you’re tired.

3. Never write when you’re busy. Says Ted: “I don’t think anyone can write well when watching the clock.”

4. Don’t write in bits and pieces. Once you’ve turned on your creative energy, you need to keep it flowing. “I don’t stop until I complete a draft,” says Ted. “I try not to stop even for meals.”

Full disclosure: I am in total disagreement with the last tip, as was the late Gene Schwartz. But Ted is one of the greats, so I include it for your consideration.

I prefer to work on a job in one-hour increments until I tire of writing that piece. I then put that project aside and immediately turn to another one. I also find it energizing to alternative between short writing projects—like this e-newsletter—and long projects like half-hour-long video sales letters.

Source: Today@TargetMarketing, 4/18/14

Not always, says author Beth Erickson, who suggests that you try new markets, write whatever strikes your fancy, and if it makes you more comfortable, use a pen name when experimenting with subjects outside your primary focus.

I recommend an 80/20 ratio: 80% of your writing projects should be in familiar areas where you have skill, expertise, and knowledge. Doing so ensures you are profitable on a per-hour basis.

But 20% of your writing projects should be in new products, new markets, new venues, or new forms. This keeps you fresh and prevents you from getting bored.

I am probably more 90/10. But I would never be 100/0, for the aforementioned risk of boredom and getting stale.

For instance, a writer whose work I admire, TB, writes exclusively about the silver market.

Yes, he’s enviably efficient, productive, good, and respected. But if I wrote about nothing but one subject 24/7, I would go out of my skull.

Source: Writing Etc., 3/12/14

Rapid Content Wizard

As you know, creating high-quality content is a time-consuming process…

Even if you outsource it, it’s expensive and still takes forever to get back…

Then you have to kick it back for corrections, etc.

It can be a nightmare.

Now take a look at this video and discover a top-secret method that is causing HUGE shockwaves
in the marketing industry right now…

Imagine 100% automated software that:

- Uses Drag and Drop Content Creation (or Fully Automated)
- Posts automatically to your websites
- Has INSTANT monetization and commissions streams
- Automatically integrates images, videos and more…
- Promotes your new content AUTOMATICALLY
- Even posts directly to Facebook Pages, Timelines and Groups
- Creates Full SILOS, Loaded with Content in 60 Seconds or Less…

It does all this and a ton more, but you have to see Rapid Content Wizard Lightning Edition in action to really appreciate the power here.

I have personally never seen such an awesome marketing tool that does so much at such a huge discount…

This software is currently on pre-launch pricing and is incredibly discounted right now…

So go check it out and see how this will help you with ALL your content needs.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of content marketing—marketing based on dissemination of free information that is useful and interesting to prospects.

I use content marketing all the time for myself and my clients and have been doing so for over 3 decades.

But, in an article from Target Marketing, Craig Fitzgerald writes: “Relevant, meaningful, authentic content is the key to inbound marketing. It’s paramount to attracting customers to your brand and keeping them engaged.”

Really? Content is “the” key? Not persuasion? Not copy? Not salesmanship? Not offers? Not benefits?

Well, in some cases, maybe. But always? No way.

Content marketing is particularly effective in several situations:

1. Your sale depends on convincing prospects that you and your company are the top experts or authorities in your niche or technology.

2. The prospect desires to become a more educated consumer of what you are selling. Example: I have copywriting clients who want to know more about copywriting so they can better judge the copy I and others write for them.

3. The prospect will be more successful if he has a deeper understanding of your product or service. Example: you offer search engine optimization (SEO) services and need to educate prospects so they appreciate what you are doing for them and why you are doing it.

But what Craig omits is that there are many marketing situations in which the prospect has no desire to learn more about what you do or how it works and in which their trust in you is generated through vehicles other than content.

For instance, a guy named JM at a firm called Z&Z is my CPA.

They do no content marketing. Or if they do, they have made no effort to target it at me or even show it to me. I have never been on their website.

And if they do produce content, I have no interest in it, wrong-headed as that stance may be.

The reason? Accounting bores me to tears. I prefer to turn everything about my books and taxes over to a CPA whom I can trust—JM—and let him do his work with as little involvement on my part as possible.

My trust in JM comes not from content he may have published…which I have never seen…but from the fact that I have known the owners of Z&Z for decades.

And that they are visible in the local community. That visibility includes a charitable organization in which JM’s partners and my late father were both active.

So I have no interest in content about income tax preparation. And therefore, content marketing won’t sell me your accounting services.

Similarly, think of local businesses like your town pizza joint and neighborhood dry cleaner.

No pizza parlor or dry cleaner I have ever dealt with publishes content on how to make a pizza or how to clean clothes. That’s not what their customers would want. It’s not how those products and services are sold. Content marketing is irrelevant.

My problem with marketing experts like Craig who are evangelists for the flavor of the month (in this case content marketing) is that they think their favorite methodology can be applied with a broad brush to every business, which is not at all the case.

This problem extends throughout the marketing community to every channel that is new, hip, and trendy, including content marketing, SEO, blogging, infographics, mobile, apps, and social media.

The evangelists insist what they have is the next big thing…that it renders every other marketing method obsolete…and that everyone should be using it.

Utter nonsense.

They also act like they invented it—also utter nonsense, as I ran my first content marketing campaign in 1980…and others were doing it decades before that.

We just didn’t call it content marketing. We called it “selling by giving away free information”.

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”.

Though e-books are becoming mainstream, you’re missing “half the market” by not publishing your works in real hard books. For many varied reasons, there are still people who would prefer to hold a book, not a tablet, in their hands.

So if you’ve ever wanted to have your very own physical book, then you need to be on this recorded webinar called “Profiting From Real Books…Real Fast

In this training you’ll discover from A to Z how to publish actual, physical books in step-by-step detail based on a “Print on Demand” process. This means that your book will only be printed when someone actually orders a copy of it.

And if you’re a Kindle publisher you’ll see how to leverage your Kindle content into physical books and develop yet another potential income stream!

As an author or publisher, if you’re not doing this you’re simply leaving money on the table. Click the link above and get started!

Content Curation Plugin

Here’s your chance to set up UNLIMITED Sites (only during this promotion) with the automated Content Curation Plugin and never have to worry about content for your sites ever again!

In fact, you can go out after LOADS more niches and dominate with a blanket approach because you won’t need to keep the sites updated; this incredible plugin will do that for you.

It will pull the latest content, CURATE it for you, blend it with other sources, even add in IMAGES and VIDEOS (that are completely legal to use) and post the updates for you on whatever schedule you choose.

INCREDIBLE!

But developer license special offer is only for 3 days!

You will be so glad you do have it.

Are you tired of wasting time writing content? Spending hours upon hours in front of a screen researching, writing and revising your content?

Or maybe you tried outsourcing and learned the hard way by losing hundreds of dollars in expenses.

We all know that we can’t live without content. It’s the life blood of any online business.

But, Why does it have to be SO boring and take up so much time?

Dejan Murko and his team of 6 programmers felt the same way.

They too knew how it felt to waste precious time and money developing content.

And that’s why they’ve developed what is being known as the ultimate cure for lack of content.

They’re arming you with the power to dominate any niche, get more traffic, make more profit, AND spend more time doing the things you love.

Imagine having unlimited content available to you at the click of a button?

Imagine if this resource was a’ Google-Like’ search engine that would allow you to insert your target keyword, hit “search” and it would instantly deliver HUNDREDS of ready-to-publish content that you can use on your sites?

Imagine if this same search engine allowed you to preview the articles, AND download them either as-is OR in Spun format, just in case I wanted to use them across multiple sites.

Imagine if you also had access to over 1,000 e-books that you can easily rebrand to build your list or to sell?

Imagine if this search engine was online based, so that you can use it on a Mac or PC and access it from ANYWHERE in the world?

Sounds awesome, right?

That’s EXACTLY what Dejan and his team created.

And for the next few days you’ll be able to access this amazing cure at a HUGE discount.

Big Content Search

* Big Content Search *

Subscriber SJ asks, “Can you give us your take on the advisability of writing for the content farms like Demand Media Studios (Ehow)?”

A content farm is a business that hires multiple writers to churn out articles that clients post on their web sites to improve their search engine rankings.

In my experience, the writers who write for content farms are for the most part minimally skilled. Often English is not their native language, which shows in their writing.

Articles from content farms are typically produced by writers who are not experts in the subject. They just go on Google and cobble together an article on the topic from 5 or 6 other articles they find online—frequently without giving credit to these sources.

Content farms are famous for the miserable fees they pay writers. One I saw offered $5 per article. How good are those $5 per article writers? Not very.

And I know that from experience: I stupidly hired a content farm writer to write content for my chemistry website.

In an article on careers in chemistry, she actually wrote “People interested in a career in chemistry should study chemistry.” Duh.

Unbelievably, she also wrote in the same article “Chemistry is a good career for those who are fond of atoms.” I am not kidding. This at least gave me a good laugh.

Writers have a long tradition of getting started in their freelance careers by writing for low pay or no pay.

Back in the day, it was mainly for small magazines that paid writers in contributor’s copies. Today, the articles are for websites, and they are written more for search engines than human readers. The content farms seem not to care much what’s in the article or how well it is written as long as it contains the right key words.

Subscriber MZ, a freelance writer, notes, “An infinite supply of low, low, insultingly low paying outlets have cropped up like an unkillable fungus. It’s made a lot of writers very angry. Not only do we refuse to work for these absurdly low rates, we feel deeply offended that our work could be valued so poorly.”

“But I am a beginner,” you object, “I need to get some writing samples to launch my business.” However, if the samples are articles published by content farms, good clients are unlikely to be impressed.

A better option than working for peanuts for content farms is to get hired by real clients for smaller, noncritical assignments until they get to know you well enough to try you on a bigger project.

For instance, a newsletter publisher might not hire an untested writer to write a full-length promotion for them. But they might hire you to write an article for their free e-newsletter, a special report used as a subscription premium, or some banner ads. And they will pay you a fair rate for the work.

So my advice to SJ and all other freelance writers is to avoid content farms like the plague. They are truly the cesspool of the freelance writing profession.

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 was thinking about it the other day, and I reached the conclusion that the #1 difference between good writers and amateurs is as follows.

Many writers who are amateur, mediocre, bad, or just not worth reading write mostly about their personal opinions, thoughts, stream of consciousness, and feelings—in other words, whatever bubbles into their minds.

This is why so many blogs are utter crap: Bloggers can write whatever they want. There is no publisher or editor to say, “Hey, this isn’t good; don’t publish this!” Indeed, they can and often do publish everything that pops into their head. Exceptions? Of course.

Good writers—those worth reading—have something unique, valuable, or useful to say. And what they say is not just whatever they think. It is a distillation of wisdom produced by experience, observation, study, and activity.

In other words, good writers are good because they know something and can offer value by sharing it with their readers.

Average or bad writers don’t really know anything, and so their writing is vacuous, without valuable or hard-won ideas, wisdom, or knowledge.

“Write what you know” is old advice. The problem is a lot of people who write don’t know anything, or at least do not know anything that other people also want to know. And so they have nothing to write about.

Therefore it follows that if you want to be a good writer instead of an average or bad writer, you must gain knowledge, wisdom, or experience so you have something of value and interest to write about other than your feelings and thoughts.

Here are some suggestions for acquiring the base of knowledge that can transform your writing from low value to high value:

1 – Read widely and constantly. As insurance billionaire Arthur Williams once observed, most of humankind’s knowledge can be found in books.

2 – At work or in your personal life, take on a difficult task or project that no one else wants to do. If you succeed, you can write your own ticket selling your expertise to others both in your writings and as a consulting service.

Example: My old college friend EG led his company in an early SAP (software) implementation and then made a handsome living as a SAP expert.

3 – Have more experiences. Instead of watching TV, be on the board of a nonprofit like my colleague BK, or buy and run a bar like my writer friend CF. Or be like my friend DY who built a shack in the middle of the woods, lived there for a year, and then wrote a novel about it. The more you do, the more you have to write about.

4 – Associate with successful people. Soak up their knowledge and experience. Ask questions to find out what they know that others don’t. Then distill what you learn and pass it on to your readers.

5 – Take or teach a course.

For instance, in my early days in NYC, I took some Learning Annex courses on various career options such as music and business. I then wrote about what I learned in my John Wiley & Sons book “Dream Jobs: a Guide to Tomorrow’s Top Careers”.

I had been a technical writer at Westinghouse in Baltimore, and when I moved to NYC, I taught a technical writing course at New York University. The course became the basis for my McGraw-Hill book “The Elements of Technical Writing,” which I wrote in 1981 and is still in print today.

Nicholas Baker: “If you think your writing furthers life or truth in some way, then you keep writing. But if that feeling stops, you have to find something else to 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”.

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The 4Rs Of Content Management by Bob Bly

Posted September 13th, 2013 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Content Publishing

Subscriber DK asks, “Bob, do you fear duplication? Triplication of your work? 30+ years and mountains of books, articles etc. How do you keep it fresh without dusting off and repackaging old efforts? Perpetual originality is very impressive.”

What DK really is talking about is the shelf life of content and whether (and how much) you have to continually come out with new stuff.

I think the solution to managing and “curating” your content lies in the 4 R’s of content management: recycle, refurbish, reject, and replace.

1. Recycle: DK is partially incorrect in suggesting that you should not dust off and repackage old efforts. On the contrary, you should.

It takes a lot of time and effort to create good content. If you only use it once, you are wasting it. Why not get maximum usage out of your investment? You should look to repackage your content in multiple media and forums. I know of one writer who made thousands of dollars selling and reselling the same short article on travel to India to 37 different magazines and newspapers!

One of my mentors, the late Howard Shenson, was a consultant, speaker, and information marketer. Howard told me a secret: customers will buy the same information in a variety of formats: speech, seminar, audio CD, special report, article, etc.

In the 1980s, I wrote numerous articles on marketing for a trade publication called Business Marketing. When the articles were published, I shoved them into a file cabinet and there they sat, ignored and unused.

Many years later, when I put up my first website, I learned that websites should have a lot of content. So I dusted off those articles, scanned them, and posted them on the articles page of my website.

Result: an instant library of content for my site with no additional effort on my part. No one has ever said anything about the articles being recycled.

2. Refurbish: this means to make significant updates to your writings so that they are current. For instance, I wrote a book on copywriting, The Copywriter’s Handbook, around 1985. Of course, it had nothing in it about online marketing.

Fortunately the publisher asked me to update it for the 21st century. So I added sections on e-mail marketing, websites, and other online marketing for a revised 3rd edition that now sells on Amazon.

There are 2 categories of updates for content: (1) cosmetic (e.g. the original Copywriter’s Handbook referred to typewriters, which we have changed to PCs, and we had to update the price of a postage stamp for the new edition) and (2) substantial.

Make both when updating content. If a reader finds even one dated reference in your writing, they will assume the entire document is out of date.

When you update, indicate the current year for the copyright date of the new edition. And note that it is a revised edition on the cover.

Today’s Internet-spoiled readers assume anything with a copyright date older than 24 months is out of date. Ridiculous, but that’s what they believe. Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was published in 1936 and still sells well today.

3. Reject: alas, some things you write become so dated and stale that they cannot be saved and should be discarded.

An example is a book I wrote decades ago on producing brochures called Create the Perfect Sales Piece.

It was written before the advent of desktop publishing, so the production methods are obsolete.

But more important, so few marketers use print brochures today that the subject isn’t important enough to justify a new edition. So the publisher and I have let it quietly die.

4. Replace: I also wrote a book on direct mail, but when e-mail marketing began to replace direct mail as a preferred outbound marketing tactic, I wrote a book on e-mail (one of the first) called Internet Direct Mail. So rather than refurbish my direct mail book I replaced it with an e-mail marketing book.

3 key pieces of advice for managing your content:

1. Have a good filing system for all your content on your hard drive. Use descriptive subdirectories so you can quickly locate the files you are looking for.

2. Look at the content you already have every now and then. You’ll find gems you’d forgotten that deserve to be recycled or refurbished.

3. Create some regular mechanism that requires you to constantly write new content. That way, you’ll always have an ample surplus of content for products and promotions. Be sure to retain all rights to content you have written.

My content-creation mechanism is this e-newsletter and my column in Target Marketing magazine. For you, it might be a blog, articles for the business section of your local newspaper, or updated content for your website.

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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