Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writing Great Copy by Jim Rubart

If we want to be successful writers, we need to be involved at some level in marketing our work—whether we like it or not. So during the month of November, our Writer’s Journey Wednesdays have been dedicated to a four part series on the subject. Jim Rubart is an author and professional marketer. Please welcome our friend as he shares his expertise with us.

Marketing Series
Part IV

Writing Great Copy

I get paid to write ad copy: Radio spots, TV spots, Web sites, brochures, back cover copy, proposals, one sheets, etc.

So do you. (Get paid to write copy.)

You think if you’re not in advertising you don’t write copy? And don’t get paid for it? Sorry. EVERYTHING you write is copy.

When I first dove into the world of publishing I figured if someone could write an entertaining, surprising novel, they could certainly write entertaining, surprising Web site copy, or e-mails, or readers letter, or a sales proposal.

Wrong, Jim! Want to play again?

Over time I realized copy writing is a skill that takes time to learn, just like writing a book or article. But you can do it. And it can pay huge dividends.

What’s one of the first rules of writing a novel? Make sure your first line has a hook. Make it surprising. Make in memorable. What are we taught to do at the end of our chapters, be they fiction or non-fiction? Leave our readers with a question. An issue unresolved. A mystery. So they’ll jump to the next chapter. We must think the same way with everything we write.

When you entertain and surprise editors, agents, and other writers with your words, you will be liked. Sorry, not fair, but it is reality. And that leads to opportunities.

Whether it’s an e-mail, a letter, a proposal, a note to your husband, wife, kids, friends it’s copy … and you get paid; poorly if you’re boring people–making them skip over your words–or paid well if you entertain them, or give them pertinent info or inspire them.

How do you start writing better copy? Look for it everywhere. Collect the pieces you like. Study them.

During a layover in Salt Lake City recently I treated myself to a heart-attack-on-a-bun at the airport Burger King. I saved the bag ’cause I liked the copy.


It stands out in a sea of bland fast food copy. There’s a distinct voice to it, an attitude. Made me smile. And I’ll probably think of Burger King a bit more fondly in the future.

Here’s an actual e-mail I sent to a potential client of mine I’d been trying to reach but hadn’t heard back from:

Hey _____, please choose the appropriate response and send back at your convenience:
___ Jim, sorry, I’ve been slammed! I’ll get back to you after Thanksgiving and we’ll set a time to connect.
___ I’m on the 1st tee at Pebble Beach. Where are you? We can’t wait for you much longer.
___ I heard you ran into my cousin at your writer’s group and she told me the truth about you.
___ I heard you played in the Golf-O-holics with my other cousins Bob and Tim. Anyone who takes part in something making fun of alcoholics is no friend of mine.
___ I’ve joined the PGA tour. No time for the ad game anymore.


He responded twenty minutes later:

You’re a funny guy! I pick…

___ Jim, so sorry, I’ve been slammed! I’ll get back to you next week and we’ll set a time to connect.

I’m flying out in the morning and will return Monday afternoon. Let’s talk then and set a time.

Be blessed. Weirdo!

Your turn. Love to hear how your copy grabbed someone by the mind and didn’t let go.

Jim Rubart is a professional marketer whose clientele has included ABC, AT&T/Cingular, and Clear Channel Radio. He is also a professional speaker, and writes recurring columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. His first novel ROOMS comes out this April from B&H Fiction. Jim and his wife and their two teenage sons live just outside Seattle, Washington. You can catch up with him at and

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