Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Editorials: Sound Off or Sound Like an Expert?

All right, maybe you've gotten the chance to do an editorial. You're thrilled, right? After all, this is simple. Editorial = opinion. All you have to do is put your opinion in the allotted number of words, and you're done. Easy money.

Not quite.

I always thought that, too. Then I had the fortune to have to take a class on editorials in graduate school. If I remember nothing else, I took away the fact that editorials are more than the rantings of an opinionated writer. Rather, a good editorial shows the reason behind the opinion. That's right, you have to change your formula to: Editorial = informed opinion.

Say you want to do an editorial on the dangers of fluoride in city water supplies. Option 1 is to spout off:

"Let's face it; fluoride is bad for us. There have been lots of studies proving it, but not one supporting its value."

Aside from the problem of how you're going to get an entire column out of that, it sounds weak. It's just your opinion, so why should readers pay attention? In fact, at this point, you sound like an enraged kook (all right, I wrote it...so I sound like an enraged kook). Try Option 2:

"Many cities put fluoride in their water supplies because someone out there has gotten the idea it helps us.

"A Stanford study by Hawkins and Cladell has proven just the opposite. They studied five cities with fluoride in their water supply and compared them to five cities without fluoride.

"The cities that used fluoride had a 57% higher cancer rate than those that didn't. In fact, their findings indicate that fluoride is more toxic than lead. Yet, there's not one study supporting the benefits of fluoride to teeth when taken internally."

Okay, there's no Stanford study. I made that up. Don't do that when you're writing a real editorial. However, you can see how much stronger the editorial text is when you have facts to back up your opinion.

Even from here, I can hear the wheels turning in your head. What about all the writers and broadcasters who publish columns or spout off on TV backed up by nothing but their own thoughts? They're professionals, and they're not "supporting" their opinion.

True, but who do you trust more--someone who spouts off their opinion, or someone who spouts off their opinion with seven different studies to back them up? Of course; the person with facts. There's no reason to listen to the other person unless you already agree with them and want an ego boost.

In the course of finding facts to back you up, you may find there are none. Or, you may find that you change your own mind because opposing evidence is more compelling. That's okay. Journalism is about finding the truth, and that means not lying to ourselves, either.

Make that part of your column.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I try to keep this blog strictly informative, but it's time for some shameless self-promotion.

I recently self-published a book of short stories through Lulu.com. You can purchase it through the button to the right. The price is $7.95. Hey, folks, I'm excited!

Buy it! Buy it!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Devil Is in the Details: Too Much Detail in Your Writing?

Detail is good, but when is it too much? Here's an answer by Vivian Gilbert Zabel.

Too Much Detail Stops the Flow
By Vivian Gilbert Zabel

Writing a good story requires the author have enough detail that the reader knows who, what, when, where, why, and how without over-loading with unneeded information. A novel can contain more detail than a short story, but paragraphs filled with exposition loses the reader’s attention. For example, read the following paragraph:

The angry man strode toward the French doors. The tall windows reflected the fire burning in the fireplace. The antique furniture shone with a high gloss. Candles provided the only light other than that of the fire. A glass of liquid sat beside a cut glass container on a small table in front of one sofa. A Persian rug covered high gloss wood floors.

The above paragraph describes a lovely room, doesn't it? What it doesn't do is move the story along. Unless all those details are needed for plot, then they don't belong in a story. Any that are needed should be woven into the story in such a way that the flow of the story isn't disrupted.

The angry man strode toward the French windows. His anger blinded him, but even if he wanted to see outside, the windows reflected only the fire burning in the fireplace.

"What were you thinking?" He whirled to face the woman who sipped from a glass before placing it on the table.

Two of the details are included into the action, giving enough detail to help the reader "see" what happens without de-railing the plot. As the story progresses, more of the details, if needed or wanted, can be included as part of the action or storyline.

Sometimes I've received reviews wanting to know more details than given or needed in the story. Short means just that, short. Everything cannot be included that would be found in a novel. An author needs to know what to include and what to eliminate to make the story alive and moving. Readers need to realize that wanting to know more about the characters doesn't mean that more information is needed, but that the writer did a good job of making the characters believable and interesting.

In a novel, when too much information in included at one time, those details that don’t “move the plot” forward, reader will skip those paragraphs to find where the story line continues. Just because one writes a book doesn’t mean that every single detail be included.

Therefore, we need enough detail to give readers a sense of where the action or story is taking place, but we shouldn’t include so much that the flow of the story is disrupted.

Vivian Gilbert Zabel taught writing for twenty-five years, honing her skills as she studied and taught. An author on Writers (http://www.Writing.Com/ ), her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/vzabel. Her books, Hidden Lies and Other Stories, Walking the Earth, and The Base Stealers Club, can be found through book stores or Amazon.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Vivian_Gilbert_Zabel

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Selling Yourself as a Freelance Writer

Here is some nuts-'n-bolts advice on how to sell yourself...and therefore, your writing.

You may not be selling your services in the marketing arena, but the basic principles hold true: Keep it brief, show the editor/prospective client you know their market, show them what's in it for them (wait; didn't I write a post on that a while back?), and give them a call to action. Remember, the call to action doesn't have to be as urgent as Yuwanda's example if you're dealing with a magazine editor whom you already know has a 6-month lead time, but you should still place the idea of
taking action in the editor's mind.

Freelance Writers: How to Increase Your Business with a Simple One-Page Letter
by: Yuwanda Black

When I owned my editorial staffing agency and would put out a job opening for freelancers, I would get a ton of responses. If I asked for work samples, I would get slammed – even if the ad specifically stated to send, for example, “one writing sample on real estate investing.”

To quickly get through the pile of resumes, the first thing I would do is weed out anyone who sent more than I had requested. The point of this little story – more is not always better.

BUT, you may lament, “I want to show the client what I can do for them.” You can do this very effectively via a simple one-page introductory letter.

SECTION I: About you. In this paragraph, you simply want to state your name and give a very brief background summary and niche specialty. Eg:

I am Yuwanda Black, the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com. A freelance copywriter for over 13 years, I specialize in increasing the referral rates of real estate agents, mortgage brokers and insurance agents via newsletters, brochures, e-books, etc.

Whatever your written marketing needs, I can deliver measurable results. Samples of my writing/portfolio can be found at mywebsite.com (you do have a website, right?).

SECTION II: You know them. Illustrate to the client that you are familiar with his product, service, specialty, etc. and how you can improve it, supplement it, overhaul it, etc. for better results. Eg:

I noticed from your website (brochure, postcard, sales letter, etc.) that you have been in business for 5 years and service the xxx market. I can help you increase your sales by at least 15% over a year’s time (maybe more). How?

Studies (cite a source) have shown that consistent contact is the number one way to get clients to call YOU – and not your competitor. According to xxx (here you would input a reliable marketing stat), in your industry, only X percent of mortgage brokers do this.

Imagine how many more clients you can add to your business by becoming the go-to expert in your sector? I can position you for this – bringing in referrals for years to come!

SECTION III: The wrap up. Here, repeat their number one benefit of using you, eg, to increase their bottom line. Eg:

My job is to increase your bottom line. As a results-oriented professional copywriter, I know how to move prospects into your (not your competitor’s) paying customers when they’re ready to buy.

SECTION IV: The call to action. Ask them to do something – now!

Call today for your no-obligation consultation. I can be reached at:
PH: 000-111-1234
CELL: 111-222-3333
FAX: 222-333-4444
Email: info@inkwelleditorial.com
URL: InkwellEditorial.com

SECTION V: The P.S. (EVERY sales letter should have a P.S.). In this section, you can give a way a freebie (e-books are great for this) and/or reiterate a major benefit (eg, increase your bottom line by 15%).

Feel free to use a P.S. and a P.P.S.P.S.: With your free consultation, you receive a free e-booklet, “For Real Estate Professionals: 10 Ways to Turn Referrals Into Paying Customers.” This e-book is free, even if you don’t use my services.

5 Copywriting Tips for Your One-Page Letter

a) Use lots of white space and bold headings. Eg, between each section, create a bold heading that clues the reader in to what they’re about to read. Most people skim copy – especially from unfamiliar sources – this makes it much more likely to get read.

b) Write from a “what’s in it for the client” point of view instead of a “what’s in it for me” point of view. At every turn, reiterate how you can help them make more money, save more time, reach more prospects, etc. In business, most people either want to make more money or increase their referral ratio – these are safe objectives to state that you can help them with.

c) Make a connection: Eg, I read on your website; I heard in your seminar; I see from your brochure – everyone likes to feel that you have at least taken the time to know their business.

d) Give stats: This lends credibility to your “sales pitch.” It’s not just you saying x, a noted source can back up your contention.

e) Use a call to action: If you don’t ask them to do something, they may do nothing. So, use phrases like call today, log on to our website, subscribe to our newsletter, register for your free gift.

I guarantee you, if you follow the format outlined above, your direct mail and/or e-mail conversion rate will be higher, garnering you clients for years to come.

About The Author
Yuwanda Black is the publisher of http://InkwellEditorial.com: THE business portal for and about the editorial and creative industries. First-hand freelance success stories, e-courses, job postings, resume tips, advice on the business of freelancing, and more! Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less -- Guaranteed! Log on to http://InkwellEditorial.com to learn how.