Why You Need a Swipe File
If you’ve been hanging around AWAI long, you’ve heard the term “swipe file.”
In copywriter lingo, it’s a file of good copy that works. This can be a printed file, a folder on your computer, or both.
It should be full of copy that makes you want to take action and gets the point across, in your opinion. It’s stuff you wish you had written.
The point of this whole exercise is to have ideas to riff off when you write your own copy. You won’t be using these headlines, bullet points, and other elements straight up, but you’ll be modeling them.
A swipe file is essential when you’re just starting out. It will be your greatest inspiration and a key part of your copywriting education. You’ll run across techniques you’ve never seen before, as well as new ways of doing things you thought you already knew the best way to do.
But here’s the thing I’ve discovered …
It doesn’t have to be traditional direct-response copy. For example, one of my successful headlines, Seven Meals From Anarchy, was a rewording of a quote from a book of quotes I keep nearby.
I also use magazine covers for bullet ideas. And fiction titles for headline ideas. Swipe files are everywhere … even billboards and road signs could be the spark that gives you your next hook for your copy.
Without a swipe file, you’re relying only on your own knowledge and education. With it, you get to build on the knowledge and imagination of other great authors, copywriters, and thinkers from around the world and throughout time.
So how do you get started? In my article “Apprentice Yourself as a Copywriter,” I talk in depth about the importance of building a swipe file. Here’s how to start:
- Begin by copying or saving the best ads, letters, and emails you see every day. These are the ones you get more than once. The more often you get an ad, the better it’s working … otherwise they couldn’t afford to send it out.
- To make sure you’re seeing a lot of great copy, get on as many lists as possible, both physical and email. Make sure you set up a separate email account for marketing lists. The easiest way to get on a list is to buy something by mail in the niche you are in. Getting on a list is also covered in the Six-Figure Copywriting program.
- Look outside traditional direct response for ideas. Browse the bookstores looking fro what captures your attention. Notice everything … color, font style, titles, subtitles. Look at what’s on the bestseller racks, and take note of what’s on clearance and NOT selling. Ask yourself why.
- Start your swipe file today, and add to it every day, even if it’s only one item. Make a commitment to spend a few minutes every day building your swipe file and looking through it. (Recently, I’ve started using Evernote to collect and search my swipe files.)
But don’t take my word for it. Consider what 2012 Bootcamp Speaker Clayton Makepeace says: “Every professional copywriter keeps a swipe file – a collection of proven direct response promotions – and for good reason. Building a swipe file is easily one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your career as a copywriter. “
The best copywriters use swipe files. If you want to be one of them, this is a fundamental technique you must use to improve your copy. It’s also one of the easiest things you’ll do as a copywriter to build your knowledge and skill.
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 »