In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: The Lessons We Learn (a guest post)
* Thanks, and guest posts
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“[I]f the market [target audience] determines what works, … what good is a critique in advance?” Matt Perryman
“Creating the impression that copywriters need critiques is lucrative business.” Matt Perryman
Topic: The Lessons We Learn
a guest post by Matt Perryman
I wanted to relate an anecdote that relates to your post on crawling befor you walk. Your post made me laugh because it’s not limited to fiction writers.
In my day job I’m in the marketing and copywriting world. Copywriters who write for heavy-hitters in the direct sales world have their own version of the ‘critique’ myth.
When I first got into that game, I believed it all. The guys in the big leagues, who often claim mega-millions of dollars in sales (some of them even legitimately), all tell the up-and-comers that you’ve got to write and rewrite and, oh yeah, get your letter critiqued.
I found this suspicious from day one, for one reason. The key maxim of direct marketing is Test Everything.
The idea being, your target market is the only thing that should determine whether or not a mailing succeeds. If you hit a grand slam, the letter (called a control) is a hit. If it bombs, it’s no good.
Bearing in mind here that a 5% response is considered a knock-out. 2-3% is more the average.
I found this strange because, if the market determines what works, and given the slim margin between win/loss, what good is a critique in advance?
How the heck can I rewrite a letter when I have no idea what will pull before we test it?
Yes, there is a value in pointing out basic flaws in structure and the like — far more of a concern in sales copy than fiction — but these factors can be easily overblown.
Anyhow, I dropped into a Facebook group last year when I came across a thread discussing a campaign recently launched by one of the big players in the direct sales world.
The folks in the group, some of whom are “names” in the copywriting space, were all tearing apart one part of the sales page for that campaign.
The same people who preach “know your market,” “test everything,” and crafting sales copy to fit your own data were “critiquing” this piece of writing with ZERO knowledge of the target market, the response rate, the goals of the letter, or the financials.
They critiqued based on what THEY wanted and THEY “knew.”
That’s when it hit me.
The whole scheme of getting your sales copy critiqued is not about writing better sales copy. It’s about feeding the paid membership programs for copywriters who know that they can charge thousands of dollars a year (or more) for advising early-career copywriters.
Creating the impression that copywriters need critiques is lucrative business.
And a good fraction of them don’t even listen to their own advice.
The lessons we learn, huh?
* * *
Thanks, Matt, for this revealing topic.
Maybe best of all, “Creating the impression that copywriters need critiques is lucrative business.”
Yes. Like creating doubt in a person’s abilities drives a lucrative business. Those who know better and push the myths anyway should be ashamed of themselves.
Think of all the hundreds of “how-to” books that mimic each other, all repeating the same tired few pieces of ridiculous advice: that you need outlines (or signposts or whatever), revision, critiques, rewrites, and polishing. Sigh.
Folks, I’m always looking for good guest posts if you’d care to write one. Just send it to me in the body of an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I accept your post, I reserve the right conduct a very light edit.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Half-Price Sale” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/half-price-sale/.
The Journal…………………………………… 220 words
Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)
Day 1…… 2371 words. Total words to date…… 2371
Day 2…… 1305 words. Total words to date…… 3676
Day 3…… 1107 words. Total words to date…… 4783
Day 4…… 1201 words. Total words to date…… 5984
Total fiction words for May……… 5984
Total fiction words for the year………… 11777
Total nonfiction words for June… 220
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 80830
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 92607
Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.
6 thoughts on “The Journal: The Lessons We Learn”
The lesson is the same in so many industries, whether it’s writing, fashion, finances, sports equipment, real estate, education, whatever: you can make lots of money exploiting people’s insecurities.
Exactly. Same with drug dealing too. You create the insecurity (the need), nurture it, then sell a “cure” for it. Quite the scam.
“Creating the impression that copywriters need critiques is lucrative business.”
That is exactly the rationale for doing the same thing for fiction – there’s money in them newbies. Editors, beta readers (paid), proofreaders, critique groups, vanity publishers’ many forms of ‘help’ – if it’s not money to be had, it’s petty ego satisfaction, lording it over the critiqued.
There are lots of books on craft out there, and no one in person to reinforce the ‘do it my way’ schtick. Learn from them, take what you specifically bought or borrowed the book for, see if it works for you, move on. Then, when you get there, it’s all you. IMNVHO. YMMV.
Great guest post. Maybe it will help some fiction writers see it to look at another creative track. Copy, paste, same thing!
Thanks! I’m sure Matt appreciates it.
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