How to become a better copywriter


This is a guest post from Andy Maslen. Andy is a copywriter by trade and Managing Director of Sunfish, a writing agency. He is the best-selling author of Write to Sell and Persuasive Copywriting and founder of the Andy Maslen Copywriting Academy.

1. What is the main difference between digital marketing copy and digital content in general?

I think marketing copy is trying to change someone’s behaviour right now, whereas digital content is trying to change someone’s behaviour at some point in the future.

You could also look at it from the reader’s perspective, which I strongly recommend, and realise that people aren’t interested in reading marketing copy in itself, whereas digital content, if it’s done right, is intrinsically valuable.

As an example, a landing page promoting a new book about blues piano playing will try to sell you the book, and you might read it because you like the idea of being a better piano player. But you are also aware that you probably won’t get any tips right now but you will be asked for money.

A video with accompanying notation and chord diagrams, showing you how to play St James Infirmary Blues would be interesting for its own sake. Of course you might then decide to just learn from the video and forget about buying the book.

2. Publishers are master storytellers. Have you seen any good examples of this extending to marketing copy?

I must be brutally honest and say, no. If I might, I’d take issue with your question. Isn’t it the authors who are master storytellers? In my experience, which stretches back to the mid-1908s, publishers get very hung up on features rather than benefits, and tend to focus on facts rather than stories as their primary marketing tools.

My own publisher, Kogan Page is an honourable exception. Here is the opening from the web page promoting my latest book:

‘We ordered coffee, cut open a human brain and discovered the secret of persuasive copywriting.’

It’s in the past tense, which signifies a story. It’s a narrative. It has characters. It has action. And it’s intriguing. The reader wants to know more.

Interestingly, probably the most famous piece of direct marketing copy of all time was a sales letter for the Wall Street Journal. It raked in $2 billion between 1974 and 2005 and it begins like this:

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both – as young college graduates are – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Again, you’re powerless to resist.

3. What would you say is the most important thing to consider when writing sales copy?

Easy. Your reader. Forget about your book. Forget about your author. Forget about everything except this one thing: what interests your reader. In this case your reader is both the reader of your marketing copy and the reader of the book (assuming they buy it).

Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, autobiography or text book, your reader is asking the same, simple question: what’s in it for me?

4. Do you have any case studies where a change in copy has made a significant impact?

I have a couple. One is a cautionary tale. I write copy for a well-known weekly business magazine. Some years ago now, one of their marketing managers told me she had taken some marketing copy she’d been using successfully to their legal department to give it the once-over.

The lawyers changed six words and the response-rate went to zero. Oops.

The other is a more upbeat tale. I wrote some letters for a publisher who published reports on subscription. In a split-test, my copy led to a 10% uplift in renewals. What did I do differently? One, I engaged the reader’s emotions. Two, I told stories. Three I gave them an explicit call to action.

5. If we want to get better at writing copy, which blogs should we be reading?

Um, well, mine <winks>

To be honest that seems like funny advice for publishers. If you want to get good at something, it’s far better to buy a book. These have the imprimatur of quality in a way blogs don’t.

If you insist, for beginners, is good. And



Related Articles

Sign up to our Newsletter


* indicates required

BookMachine Ltd. will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. Please let us know all the ways you would like to hear from us:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices.