ETR Insider Report: Slash and Burn

I had the chance this past week to pick the brains of two world-class copywriters.

Jay Livingston and Charlie Byrne were both in Baltimore for a conference I attended. We met in a ballroom of the Engineer’s Club. Beneath the soaring ceilings and baroque embellishments, Jay and Charlie revealed some of their personal secrets to writing money-making copy.

Now I’m not going to tell you everything they said. (I’ve got to keep some secrets to myself!) But one thing they both agreed on is the power of ruthless editing.

Jay noted that he often gets to the main idea of his sales letters only after he’s written several pages. Once the “real” point makes its appearance, he goes back and hacks away the build-up.

Charlie finishes his sales letters at least a few days before they are due. Then he gives them a little time to breathe. After ignoring them for a couple of days, he prints them out and reads them. “It gives me a chance to see them with a fresh perspective,” Charlie said. Then he does a “slash and burn” on any paragraphs that ramble or just don’t fit.

What do Jay and Charlie end up with after all this trimming? Sales letters that make tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of dollars every year.

All writers have a tendency to fall in love with their own words. To make sure you stay on message whenever you write a sales letter, follow this advice from Samuel Johnson: “Read your own compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”

[Ed. Note: Writing copy that sells is one of the most powerful skills you can develop. This fall, ETR’s own copywriting master, Charlie Byrne, will be revealing some of the most important keys to writing money-making copy at our 2008 Info-Marketing Bootcamp. Not only will you come away with secrets to making sales, you’ll also leave with 12 ideas for making $1.2 million (or more!) in 2009.]