HIGHLIGHTED: Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Photo of Ann Handley

Author Ann Handley

Writing is easy. Writing well is hard. (But with some practice, you can do it.)

If you’re a content marketer, you probably spend a lot of time at the keyboard. You may not think of your emails, tweets, and creative briefs as “writing with a capital W,” but it is writing nonetheless. You may as well be good at it.

Ann Handley is very good at writing. So good, in fact, that she can help you become a better writer. Ann’s bestselling book “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” is an excellent tutorial for novice and experienced writers.

I read “Everybody Writes” a few years ago when I interviewed Ann at Content Marketing World. I decided that my own writing needed a bit of improvement, so I descended on Ann’s book with my trusty highlighter. Ann’s book on writing is the book that professional writers read for inspiration and instruction. Continue reading

Write a Website, Not a Novel

Stack of keyboards

Write less. Write better.

Never use ten words, when you can say it in five. Never use a ten-buck word, when a five-buck word will do.

These are old phrases that I remember from my days working as a journalist. The idea was not to dazzle people with your thesaurus, but to communicate and report your story. Save the flowery language, they used to say, for your novel.

If you’re developing your content strategy for your new brand website, be sure to include a section in the style guide about writing. Let your whole team know that the purpose of your website is to serve the needs of your users. It’s not an opportunity to stretch your legs as a writer and express yourself with brilliant prose. Continue reading

Content Strategy Tip – Write Awful Content

Here’s a novel content strategy for you. Make some awful content. And when you’re done with that, make some more bad content.

How is that “content strategy,” you ask? Good question.

This year I published a book called “Creating Comics from Start to Finish.” It’s a book for people who aspire to create comic books. I included a section for writers where I offered the concept of the “Rule of 10.”

I won’t go into the whole thing (buy the book), but the Rule of 10 is all about practice. Specifically, if you are a writer, you need to create 10 stories before you even dare to pitch your stuff to an editor. By writing these 10 stories, you will write through your clichés and stiff storytelling. You will write through your amateurish experimentation, which nobody should have to pay for. Continue reading

3 Easy Email Marketing Tips to Improve ROI

Few things in the modern world are as ubiquitous as email. In a few short years, the medium of email went from being a small part of the online experience to a centerpiece of our professional and personal lives. And yet, oddly enough, many marketers are unsure of how to properly utilize email as part of their branding campaign.

Here are three tips for getting the most out of your email marketing efforts. (Why only three? Well, for starters, email marketing is a massive topic that is far too important to tackle in just one blog post. So let’s just start with three and see how that goes.)

1. Understand How Images Load
These days, many of your target customers have the ability to receive HTML email, which means that you can include snazzy images. But many email programs do not show images when the email is opened. That means your splashy email may not display as intended until the user clicks “load images.” Be sure to design your emails, so that key messages display on the preview mode.

This video by my friend and technical advisor Chris Cullmann details how to optimize the images in the body of an HTML email. Note how certain techniques that work well on a website (white navigational text on a black background), just doesn’t work on HTML emails. Listen to Chris. He’s smart. Continue reading

Write Less, Say More

As most copywriters will agree, it’s actually more difficult to write less than to write more. It’s easy to blabber on until you get around to making your point. That’s fairly easy.

Write tight. Now that’s hard.

This is especially true online. People aren’t necessarily looking to “read” your magical prose. They are looking to get to their destination content. They want you to help them get there with the least amount of clutter. Words — when abused — can be clutter.

Google is a company that is always trying to gain an extra edge in efficiency. Their famously austere homepage shows that they want nothing to stand in the way of your search.

Google gave Gmail a makeover. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their old homepage, they provided a side-by-side comparison. According to Google, they cut some 250 words from their copy. They are literally saying more by saying less. Or at least using fewer words.

It’s important to recognize when your reader actually wants more detail, particularly when they are trying to determine if your product or service is what they want. At that point, you need to give them the information they need to make a decision about your product or service.

Check out your own website. Could your copy go for a little nip/tuck? Is your otherwise smart, valuable service drowning in a sea of prose? If so, sharpen your pencils and start editing.

More reading:

My Books Get Three Stars

Two of my photo reference books received a three (out of four) star rating by a reviewer from Comics Buyers Guide (CBG). In the September, 2009 issue of CBG (#1657), the reviewer wrote, “I would recommend these books and photo reference to all prospective artists.”

Whoo! That’s good stuff. CBG is the world’s longest running magazine about comic books, so hopefully it inspires people to check out my books. You can advertise all you want, but a good review from a respected reviewer and publication goes a LONG way.

So far, I have published three photo books, which you can check out on my buddyscalera.com website. More to come in the future!

My First Self-Published eBook for Kindle

I’ve officially entered the eBook age. As an author, I have published my first eBook for the Kindle. Gimme a big “whoo hoo!”

To explore the technology, I wanted to get something up there on the Kindle store. So I took the complete scripts for my comic book series “7 Days to Fame,” reformatted it, created a Kindle account, and published it on Amazon.com.

7 Days to Fame eBook cover

7 Days to Fame eBook cover

Check out my 7 Days to Fame – The Complete Scripts eBook for the Kindle. It sells for a whopping 99 cents.

To be honest, it wasn’t very hard to reformat for the Kindle. Mostly it just came down to reformatting for the smaller screen and checking for bad line breaks and hiccups in the code. Just a few hours of work and now it’s done.

This isn’t the first time I was part of an eBook. There’s a transcript of a podcast interview that I did a few years ago with Paula Berinstein called Writing Comic Books: A Writing Show Interview and I was a technical consultant on the photo book Artist’s Digital Photo Reference – Landscapes.

But for me, this is much more fun, since I actually did the reformatting myself and published it. It’s…addictive.

Men & Boys Book Promotion

Just did an interview with the Pulse to promote my new book Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Men & Boys. This is my third pose file book for comic book artists, illustrators, animators, and everyone else who wants to improve their artistic craft.

Hope you like the article: The Boys of Scalera’s Comic Artist’s Photo Ref

Men & Boys

Comic Artist's Photo Reference: Men & Boys

Men & Boys Book Promotion

Just did an interview with the Pulse to promote my new book Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Men & Boys. This is my third pose file book for comic book artists, illustrators, animators, and everyone else who wants to improve their artistic craft.

Hope you like the article: The Boys of Scalera’s Comic Artist’s Photo Ref

Men & Boys

Comic Artist's Photo Reference: Men & Boys

Twitter’s Magical 140

According to Wired magazine, blogging is dead. Sad that the venerable blog post…which broke down barriers of publishing…may be on the way out.

In some ways, it’s true. Blogging was amazingly democratic. Anyone could be a published author, just by posting a blog. For a little while, media giants reacted to the voices of regular people, some of whom became self-appointed experts.

Over the last two years, though, the media caught up. Many top blogs are part of the established media network. Professional journalists and media channels are using blogs to attract, well, us. Now, that democratic blog landscape is being claimed by mainstream media, decreasing the ability of regular people to become key opinion leaders.

Part of the problem is that the blog post…usually pretty short…is just too long. Our attention span is waning to the point that a few paragraphs is too much mental lifting. See Me Read Book.

The predicted replacement? Twitter.

So, if I seem a little long winded to you, check out my Twitter account at http://twitter.com/BuddyWeb

Twitter posts (called Tweets) are limited to 140 characters. That’s about the length of one long sentence. For me, that’s usually two punchy, short sentences.

So, if you like someone’s writing, you can subscribe to their Twitter. Their random thoughts can be posted to Twitter. In best cases, Twitter posts are sharp, interesting, or funny observations. In worst, it’s agonizingly dull people sharing their banal lives.

And, as marketers see this shift, they are discovering new and interesting ways of leveraging the Twitter channel. Or at least as much marketing as you can do in 140 characters.

All hail the short attention span. Just do it quickly because we tend to bore easily!