Why Even a Novelist Should Know How to Write Strong Copy

by Joel Friedlander on February 6, 2013 · 11 comments

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by Dana Sitar (@DanaSitar)

Dana Sitar is a freelance writer and the blogger behind the useful writer’s blog DIY Writing. As she says, a DIY writer is “self-defined, self-driven, determined, and willing to try it all.” Right now Dana is introducing her first ebook, A Writer’s Bucket List: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket. Here she offers her thoughts on why writers need to be copywriters, too.



To many a novelist, copywriting seems like an unattractive concept. Using your acclaimed writing skills to make money for some nameless company, stripping down your beautiful art to a few staccato sentences and flashy words, and becoming a shill for a bunch of boring products doesn’t sound like the writing dreams you had in mind. But don’t be too quick to shun the style.

Fiction authors spend a lot of time developing strong skills for creating characters, incorporating tension, drawing a reader into their world, etc. But when it comes to finding a platform and connecting with readers, that style of storytelling won’t cut it. For these, any writer will benefit from understanding the basics of writing compelling copy. Even if you don’t want to work as a shill, studying the skills can boost your overall writing and style and career.

Here are a few areas where strong copywriting skills will come in handy for you as a novelist:

Bio

For social media, your blog or website, self-published books, guest blog posts, your Amazon Author Central page, and more, you’ll regularly have to supply your own author bio. If you’re like most novelists I’ve met, you’re not very good at this, because the style you use for fiction is not appropriate for your bio. Learn the basics of copywriting, and your bio will shine well above your peers AND guide readers toward your desired action steps.

Flash fiction/Short stories

copywritingApply those copywriting skills directly to your fiction!

Copywriting is as much about telling a story as any other writing, but in the most concise and compelling way possible. Take what you learn about telling a story to make a sale and apply it to short stories, and you’ll have a tale that draws in readers and carries them through a twisting plot without a single wasted word.

Social media

Powerful messages on social media are key to building a following and connecting with influential people. Especially with a limited platform like Twitter, you’ve got few words to capture the attention of your audience, which means you need to optimize every word.

Email

The bloggers, press, agents, and other writers you’ll contact throughout your career all have one major thing in common: they are getting tons of emails just like yours. Learn to get your message across in a few quick, strong lines, and you will make their day. You can do that by treating your email like sales copy—short, sweet, and to-the-point (and, if it’s good, never too salesy!)

You can learn how to write good sales copy without compromising your creativity! In a modern industry where writers are expected to wear multiple hats, mastering multiple writing styles will give you the well-rounded edge you need to succeed.

If you’re unsure where to begin—and your Google search for “how to be a copywriter” is returning a bunch of those icky sales-focused scheisters you’re trying to avoid—here are a few sympathetic and reliable resources:

The simplest way I’ve found to strengthen my copy, however, is to be forced to adhere to a tight word count. Give yourself a few practice “assignments” that restrict your word count—commit to writing your bio in 25 words, writing a 500-word flash fiction on a prompt, and tweak your tweets until those 140-characters are golden. You’ll quickly learn where you can trim the fat in your writing.

copywritingDana Sitar is a freelance journalist and indie author. Her latest ebook, A Writer’s Bucket List, is a launching point for all of the possibilities of being a writer, a kick-in-the-butt for those who don’t know what to do next, and a simple guide to help writers forge their own unique career/life paths.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 5 comments… read them below or add one }

    Will Gibson February 6, 2013 at 8:15 am

    I have participated for years in a 101 Word short story contest sponsored by a local arts and entertainment newspaper. This flash fiction exercise has taught me to be concise and succinct and has been a major contributor in improving my writing. And it has allowed me to follow that most important adage of fiction, “How long should a book be? Long enough to tell the story and not one word more.”

    Reply

    Dana Sitar February 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    That’s a great exercise! Exactly – when you realize you can tell a story in 101 words, filling 80,000 with fluff seems ridiculous. You’ll make every word in that novel count, and it will be AMAZING.

    Reply

    Amber Polo February 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Great advice!
    All kinds of writing teaches skills that help in writing fiction.
    Like listening to conversations help find each character’s voice.
    With marketing writing in my background, when I see others try to write press releases and blurbs and give advice – use half the words and twice the paragraphs.

    Reply

    Dana Sitar February 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    “half the words and twice the paragraphs” – That’s perfect copywriting advice!

    Reply

    Shirley Ford February 12, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Great article. I write reviews for a local newspaper. I have to tell it all in 250 words or less. Anything over, they will not print it. I find it such a good excercise in cutting out all the unnecessary stuff.

    Reply

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