What Else Can You Do with Your Copywriting Skills: An Interview with Beth Erickson

Beth Erickson worked as a tailor for around 15 years before going back to college. In 1995, she earned a degree in Communications and immediately went to work as a freelance writer. Although she wrote … and wrote … and wrote, she was still earning more as tailor than as a writer.

But that began to change in 1998 …

TGTE: What happened to finally turn your writing career around?

BE: I received that now-famous "Can You Write A Letter Like This" mailing. I was thoroughly convinced it was a scam. After all, I'd been working HARD for three years and felt lucky to earn $25 per assignment.

Then I saw it … an endorsement by Bob Bly. I'd already purchased a number of his books and respected him as a writer. I figured if he said the course was good, it was legit.

I faithfully did every lesson – but, in the end, I totally bombed the Languistics assignment. When I had the opportunity to get a copywriting coach, I jumped at the chance.

And that's when my writing income skyrocketed.

Within six months of finishing my coaching (and attending the '99 bootcamp), I was able to retire my tailoring shingle, generate a decent income as a writer, AND get my first novel published.

Since then, my income has steadily increased, I've had two more books published, our e-mag's subscription numbers have shot up, and my publishing company (http://filbertpublishing.com) has become Minnesota's newest publisher of book-length manuscripts.

TGTE: How did the skills you learned from AWAI improve your writing?

BE: Well… this is an embarrassing story. I'll tell it anyway.

I did fairly well in college. I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I KNEW how to write. In fact, I'd been working as a writer for three years prior to starting AWAI. I was good … and I knew it.

After I bombed my Languistics assignment, AWAI hooked me up with a writing coach. The first thing he asked me to do was send him some of my writing samples.

I sent all my brilliant essays as e-mail attachments. The e-mail went something like this:

Hey John,

I attached four documents. Hope it'll be enough for you to get a taste of my writing style.

{I went on to briefly describe each document.}

I look forward to hearing from you!

Have a wonderful week,

Beth

A few days later I received a reply that went something like this:

Hi Beth,

I can tell that you're going to be a very strong copywriter because you write great e-mails. The rest of your writing is pretty bad … but your e-mail was wonderful.

We can schedule our first call any time next week. Let me know what works for you.

Regards,

John

I was crushed. I thought I'd die of embarrassment. But I swallowed my pride, tossed everything I thought I knew about "good writing" aside, and learned everything I could from Mr. LaBine.

After we finished our work together, I retooled EVERY manuscript I'd ever written. Within a month, I'd found a publishing house for my first novel.

Looking back, my coach knew EXACTLY what he was talking about … and my writing skills have been utterly transformed from a boring academic style to … to … I don't know how I'd classify my writing style now. All I know is that it seems to be working.

TGTE: How did you use your AWAI skills to sell your books?

BE: It all started when I wrote a full Web page for Dan Case's book, "The Complete Guide to Writing and Selling Magazine Articles." After he uploaded the copy, he e-mailed saying, "You more than doubled … actually you tripled … my book sales!"

Hmm.

I immediately surfed to every publisher site I could find and discovered that NONE of my competitors were selling books with nice long descriptions modeled after a sales letter.

I went to our own sales pages and wrote sales copy for each book. Then, kaboom! Our sales spiked – and stayed strong too.

It's true: The more you tell, the more you sell.

TGTE: What are your current projects?

BE: I'm currently working on my fourth book, "101 Low-Cost (and No-Cost) Ways to Promote Your Writing." We're also constantly evaluating manuscripts for possible publication. So far, Filbert Publishing has signed authors from Wisconsin, Oregon, Texas, South Carolina, Canada, and the Philippines. We're still in the galley stages with all these projects and will launch the titles later this fall.

TGTE: How did you become a master at selling yourself?

BE: I don't consider myself a master at anything. I read voraciously and learn everything I can about copywriting, writing, and publishing. Then, I work like a dog to do everything I can to implement what I've learned.

However, to succeed as a copywriter, I think you need to not only send out sales letters, you also need to establish yourself as an expert. This means that you join your local Chamber of Commerce and are a fixture at Chamber events. This means that you write articles (maybe even a column in your local paper), teach classes, give seminars, and visit local schools to volunteer your time to teach students how to write effectively.

Once you're perceived as a local expert, your marketing efforts are a thousand times easier.

TGTE: Any other advice?

BE: Work hard. Always work on perfecting your writing skills. And understand that you'll never finish your education. If you want to succeed, you're going to read more books than you can imagine.

Keep your eyes open for new reading material. Read The Golden Thread – and when you see a book recommended there, purchase it. Trawl garage sales and flea markets for old titles. I picked up a WONDERFUL Throckmorton book recently at a flea market for ten cents.

I didn't begin writing copy so I'd become the No. 1 copywriter in the nation. I took the course so I could live life on my own terms while making a really nice wage. Decide what you REALLY want – then make every decision complementary to that goal.

When every decision you make moves you one step closer to your ultimate goal, you're on the path to success.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: August 11, 2003

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