Tag Archives: writing

The Anatomy of Winning Web Copy

Anatomy FontCompanies have certain needs in terms of web copy: Home page, Services page, About Us page. Something like an About Us page is usually informational and more of a promotional “soft sell” on the company itself. But what about product pages, landing pages, long-form sales letters, email blasts, and other copy that requires more of a “hard sell”?

By “hard sell,” I mean copy that is intended to spur the reader to action. Often that means buying a product, requesting a quote for services, signing up for an email newsletter, and similar actions. If we are cold and heartless, we’ll call readers who take the actions “conversions.” If we are warm and fuzzy, we’ll call them “satisfied customers.” Here’s a little “cheat sheet” for hard sell web copy that I hope you’ll find helpful.

Usually, you should operate on the “problem-solution” school of copy. Present a problem your prospective reader has, sympathize with that problem, then offer a solution in the form of the product or service you are promoting. Some marketers refer to “pain points” when describing the needs of customers. What is causing the reader “pain”? And how does your product or service alleviate that pain?

Condense your message in the introductory paragraph. Problem and solution should be contained in that very important initial summary, and from there you can expand.

By about the end of the second paragraph, you should consider including what’s called a primary call to action. A call to action is an explicit urging/directive for the reader to take action. It can be as obvious as “Buy now!” or as subtle as “Consider XYZ Corporation for all of your IT management needs.” You’d think ordering the customer to “buy now!” just wouldn’t work in our postmodern age where everybody is so savvy to marketing techniques, but you’d be surprised how necessary it is to offer an obvious “path forward” for your reader.

Incorporating deadlines into calls to action can be an effective extra stimulus to the reader. You might stress that an offer is available only for a “limited time.” Creating exclusivity is also another effective call to action strategy. If you make the reader feel that they are being invited to a select opportunity that not everyone has access to, it might be the impetus they need to sign up.

Your ending is, of course, nearly as crucial as your beginning. Focus on limiting your single-page copy to 500 words or less—usually less. You should often include two elements: a secondary and final call to action, and something I call the Friendship Clause. This clause assures the reader that your company is their ally and friend, and that they are standing by to help with any questions or concerns. Links to Contact Us pages are quite common here. Short of buying the product there and then, the second-best action the reader can take (in many cases) is inquiring for more information. Give them every reason to do so.


Strategies for Adapting Your Novel to a Screenplay

This is a guest post from Bryan Keithley of FinallyFast Blog. Outside of his duties at FinallyFast he is actually a screenwriter by trade, so this is a topic near and dear to his heart.

You’re done with your novel, and you are of the opinion that it would make a pretty darned good movie. Should you consider adapting it? In a word, absolutely! Synergy is never a bad thing when it comes to your book property. Along with social media for promotion and establishing a writing blog to build an audience, why not build further momentum with a ready screenplay you can market to Hollywood producers along with the book?

Rather than tell you what software to use or how to format your script, let’s take a broader view and dive into general considerations you have to grapple with as you think about converting novel to script.

Compression – The chronology of an adapted script is often significantly different from the chronology of the original novel. Adaptation is a process of compression—things happening months or even years apart in the novel/nonfiction book are smushed together to “pick up the pace” for a 90-minute or two-hour film. Think about the timeline of your book, and how you might have to stack events closer together to increase dramatic interest for the screen.

Excision – On the topic of time, a book usually has significantly more subplots, events, and just plain narrative than a movie. You’ll likely need to simplify, and that means cutting out what might be entire episodes, subplots, or even themes. Dialogue is a natural target—characters in novels have much more leeway in terms of lengthy conversations than characters in films. Furthermore, you might find that several characters in your book are performing similar functions, espousing similar worldviews, etc. In a process called blending, you might find it worthwhile to merge those characters into one character for the feature screenplay.

Externalization – Written prose excels at being “in the head” of characters, whereas film has only limited ways to get inside the head of characters. So, you’ll find yourself needing to externalize thoughts, behaviors, and conflict. Show, don’t tell. If you describe at length a character being overwhelmed with anxiety in your novel, you might give him a nervous tic or have him pace back and forth in your screenplay.

Restructuring – Beyond the fairly cosmetic tasks of merging or cutting, you’ll need to find the objectivity and the courage to evaluate your novel in terms of the three-act structure and other conventions of Hollywood films. Think about the “hero’s journey” that often takes place in the Hollywood film. We are introduced to a single, willful protagonist whose life is somehow radically upset by some external event. Pitted against an equally strong antagonist, the protagonist goes about trying to restore what has been upset. By the end, a new status quo has been established, and the protagonist has usually grown or changed in some certain, permanent way. If your novel is missing this basic kind of through line, you may have to make creative choices to conform your story.

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