Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Jr2 Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net
Writing Web Copy That Works
You are getting sleepy. (Hey, knock it off, not from my column—from the hypnosis coming over you.) When you awake you will no longer be a novelist.
You can’t write effective Web copy the way you write a novel. Why? People don’t read a Web site the same way they read a book.
Did you see the movie Gross Anatomy back in the late ’80s? It starred Matthew Modine and Daphne Zuniga as two med-school students. Matthew’s character barely cracks his textbooks, but still does better on tests than Daphne’s character does. At one point she asks him, “How do you get such good grades without putting hours into studying?”
He replied, “I just memorize the sentences in bold.”
When you write your Web copy, realize that most people skim and only read the sentences in bold.
Your fiction might be 95,000 words long. Your Web copy needs to be a bit shorter. Okay, waaaaay shorter. Do you read blogs? Ever looked at the length of a fave blog and said, “Oooh, looks extra long today; I’ll get back to that post.” Do you get back to it? Me neither.
People on the Web might be looking at Facebook, checking Twitter, reading their favorite blogs when they stumble across a reference to your site. They’re used to clipping from site to site to site. There’s a rhythm to their surfing and it’s typically fast. If your site presents them with War and Peace, they’re gonna skip your site.
There are always exceptions. If your site is geared toward teaching or training—for example Randy Ingermanson’s excellent site Advanced Fiction Writing—your content can be extensive. But most authors are trying to reach readers, not writers. (At least I hope you’re trying to reach readers, they’re the ones who will make your book a success or fish wrap, which makes me wonder why so many authors devote extensive space on their sites to provide writing resources. But I digress.)
Keep these principles at the forefront when you’re crafting Web copy:
First Person v Third
If I took a survey, I’m guessing 90 percent of you would say first person is the most intimate way to write novel. Then why do so many authors write their Web sites in third person as if some mysterious journalist has taken over their sites? Readers want to hear from you, not your inner reporter.
I talked about this in my March “Quantum Marketing” column, but it bears repeating. We know the opening line of our novels must grab an editor or agent or reader’s attention. Why don’t we apply this truth to our Web sites? Why do so many authors open with some rendition of “Welcome to my Web site. I’m so glad you stopped by!” Say something original.
Why did Jesus use so many stories? Yes, because people remember stories. Why do they remember the stories? They capture people’s imaginations. Or put another way, stories entertain.
Realize you are either engaging (entertaining) people or boring them when they come to your site. The best entertainers (and novels) do what? They convey a sense of personality. They are unique. They engage their audiences. Your Web site has around
three seconds to accomplish this. We’ll talk about how to do this visually in a later column. For now we’ll talk about doing it with words. Make your words funny or educational, or use them to convey a compelling serious truth . . . but whatever your words, make them unique. Make them entertain.
We Still Don’t Get It
This has been repeated ad nauseam, but since I still see a vast number of author sites with this problem, I have to repeat the resounding faux pas. Your site should not be about you. Once more. Your site is about your reader, not you. In Marketing 101 we call this feature/benefit.
a. My name is Jim Rubart. I’ve been a professional marketer for over twenty years. I’ve written over a thousand radio and TV ads, and consulted and trained many high profile businesses as well as authors.
Which guy would you be more interested in working with?
What do your readers want? Tell them how you can help them get it.
Yes, they want to know more about you, but only because they think you can give them what they desire. People are, uh, self-focused. Oh, let’s just say it. We’re selfish. We go to people’s sites because we want to be entertained, informed, inspired. How are we addressing those desires in people with our Web copy?
Address those desires with effective copy and you will get them to take the action you want them to. (You do know what action you want them to take, right? Sign up for your newsletter, go to your blog, head for Amazon to buy your books, etc.)
Sorry, the theme music has started, I have to get off the stage, but take a fresh look at your Web copy with the above in mind. Your readers will thank you.
And I thank you for reading more than the sentences in bold. I love ya for it.