Copywriting Secrets of the Masters: Michael Masterson
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How to Enjoy the Writer’s Life Even if You Can’t Write Like a Professional The most productive and, next to JK Rowling, richest writer in the world is James Patterson. If you don’t know him, he is the author of ―Don’t Blink‖ and ―The Postcard Killers‖ as well as 48 other best-selling books in the past 10 years. By almost any perspective, Patterson is a hugely successful writer. But he doesn’t have the normal gifts that one would typically attribute to writers: a brilliant mind, a passion for his work, etc. Instead, he has a certain set of skills that he employs over and over again and then leverages by hiring apprentice writers to do most of his work for him. They do 80% of the work, following his directions. Then Patterson edits their manuscripts for pace and tension – key elements in narrative fiction. By providing the outline and the editing, Patterson insures that his books have the Patterson feel. This is something that any successful Master Copywriter or Internet guru can do. In fact, I know quite a few well-known gurus who have junior writers ghost writing their essays. In some cases these ghostwriters are good, in others no. When they are not good they degrade the reputation of the guru. But what Patterson does is smarter than that. He gives his apprentice a byline. That makes the transaction more honest and it provides the apprentice with a reward that is much greater than money. Several of my clients – well known financial and health authors – could have bigger businesses if they could produce more copy. But so far they have www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
refused my suggestions to do so. They don’t want to use apprentices, they say, because they don’t believe anyone can write as well as they can. Another reason – one they don’t admit – is because they don’t want to share the credit with anyone else. These are both ego problems. And as you’ve heard me say many times, ego and laziness are a writer’s primary vices. Patterson proves that you can maintain quality (such as it is) in your product, continue to promote your name and expand your production in multiples by using apprentices. By taking advantage of competent researchers and writers who are willing to work for him, Patterson puts out eight or more books a year. And in 2010 his annual earnings are estimated at $70 million. This essay, though, isn’t about James Patterson. It’s about Peter de Jonge and Andrew Gross and Michael Ledwidge*, three of the many researchers and writers who have earned lots of money and in some cases became bestselling authors on their own simply by working as an apprentice to the master. I’m talking about aspiring writers who, for whatever reason, never were able to break through the glass ceiling that keeps more than nine published authors out of ten to sell fewer than 100 copies of the books they write. The opportunity to become an apprentice writer for Patterson at this moment is limited, but there are hundreds or even thousands of chances right now to make a very nice six-figure income helping professional writers do their jobs. I’m talking about a new profession – one that before the Internet did not even exist. I’m talking about becoming an apprentice writer/researcher to the direct response information business.
I’m talking about a pretty exciting opportunity. It’s exciting because it’s brand new and growing fast, which means the barriers of entering it are very small and the rewards are still very great. Let me give you an example. Several years ago Judith Strauss and I wrote and published a little book of diction calledWords that Work. It was a selection of words that appeared in Early To Rise’s ―Words to the Wise‖ column that has been running daily for almost 10 years. At the beginning of this year I wanted to do another edition but, for some reason, Judith was not available to work with me on it. So I reached out to AWAI to find someone to help me. Typically when I call Katie, I’m looking for a copywriter. But this time I wanted someone who could do some basic research and compose simple sentences. Finding a skillful copywriter, even when you have Katie Yeakle next door to you, is not easy. But it’s a much simpler job to find someone who knows how to track information down and summarize it in simple, concise sentences. I found someone – a retired grant writer and sometime artist who began working with me last month. Her job was pretty straightforward. I’d send her lists of words that I wanted to cover and she’d look at several dictionary definitions and craft one that was the simplest version she could of the various iterations. It was a three thousand dollar job and it would have taken her, I figure, about 45 to 60 hours to complete the task. After I had edited a dozen or so words she understood both what I wanted in terms of a definition and also my style of writing, so I could see it was going to be easy for both of us to finish the job. Her compensation, because we were moving quickly, was going from $50 an hour to $75.
In addition we have become language buddies along the way. We send each other interesting articles on language (including whatever Bob Bly writes) and have fun talking about usage. From this good experience I decided to expand the book from just another collection of words that work to something I’m calling ―One Thousand Words to Know Before You Die‖. My idea is to present one thousand words or terms that comprise much of the most important thinking in Western literature from the time of Homer to the present. Instead of limiting my usage comments to diction and grammar, I’m going to talk about how these words added to or subtracted from the history of knowledge from Greek times to the present. It’s a more ambitious book to be sure, but it’s also a book that’s more fun to write. My researcher’s job is pretty much the same, but she’s having more fun now in helping me select and cull words and in learning about the many artistic, cultural, political and literary ideas that have shaped the way smart people think today. Plus, she’s also got a bigger assignment now. I upped her compensation from $3,000 to $10,000 and I’m going to give her a percent of sales as well. Her compensation has now gone up to about $100 an hour and it could end up being two or three times that if the book sells well. The point of this anecdote is to introduce you to a new industry that is developing thanks to the explosion of information publishing since the Internet exploded in or around 2000. It’s a new type of career, one that allows you to enjoy all the fun and challenge of being a professional writer (and some of the upside income potential) without having to have mastered the fine art of fiction or persuasive writing. I mentioned this idea to Katie and Rebecca several months ago when I was looking for someone to help me with another book Don Mahoney and I are www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
working on, a monograph on Barnett Greenberg, an obscure painter whose personal collection of works Don and I bought from his family’s estate. The person we’ve selected to help us with that book will also be doing research and writing sentences, but will not be responsible for shaping the book or revising it. It’s pretty much the same thing James Patterson’s apprentices do, but instead of fiction the subject is biography. If Don and I make this artist a known and collected name among collector’s of Jewish art and artifacts (a very lucrative niche market) this person will also enjoy a big pay check and plenty of perks including (if he wants) appearing on radio and television programs. In the old days (prior to 2000) researchers were drones that got paid little for endless work and were never recognized for their hard work. In today’s world of information publishing there are tens of thousands of writers and publishers looking for people who can help them produce the many published products that proliferate the internet. Just think about the demand: books, reports, essays, blogs, web content, eletters, e-magazines, surveys, research reports, scientific studies, marketing studies, religious writing, non-profit pamphlets, annual reviews, critiques, auto responder series – the list is endless. And thanks to the Internet, the market is growing. According to Google, the Web has already exceeded 1 trillion unique web pages (it’s estimated they index about 15 billion of those pages for search purposes). There are millions more pages created daily. If the market for professional writers has increased tenfold since 2,000 then the market for Internet Research Specialists has probably increased a thousand fold. What does this mean to you? If you’re thinking about becoming a professional writer but haven’t yet reached the level of compensation you want, this is the perfect opportunity to make great money as you go. www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
If you would love to live the life of a freelance writer but don’t have the patience or talent for it, this is also a great way to do that without mastering the craft of writing. One of the biggest future opportunities for Internet Research Specialists is in the direct marketing industry. Based on sales, direct marketing, as you may know, is a $2 trillion industry. It is bigger than traditional Madison Avenue-style advertising, as well as newspaper advertising. And since 2000 it’s growing at a rate of 5-7%, making it one of the fastest growing markets in the world today. If you read ―Automatic Wealth‖ then you know that the fastest way to become rich is to become an essential employee or contract worker for a fast-growing business in a fast-growing market. Information publishing is exactly that. Although many of them may not know it now, the easiest way for a professional copywriter to double his income is to double his output. But doubling your output without diminishing the quality of your work is not easy because of the enormous demand of research. I’ve said this a thousand times to AWAI members over the past many years. The most important single aspect of successful writing depends on the production of good ideas and the production of good ideas depends almost entirely on good research. That’s where the opportunity is for those who might want to get involved in this wonderful new industry. Gradually writers will begin to realize that they, like James Patterson, can make much more money if they can have apprentices helping them with all the research. And once they become comfortable using other people to do www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
the research, they’ll ask for more (simple sentences) like Don and I are doing. Eventually, this will mean great, lucrative new careers for thousands or even tens of thousands of smart, capable people who – for whatever reason – have decided they want the benefits of the writers life without putting in all the ―hard‖ work. The job of the Internet Research Specialists will be largely tracking support and documentation for the claims that professional writers want to make. Again, this is especially true in the area of direct marketing of published products. As Roy Furr recently pointed out in an essay in The Golden Thread: "Because the average prospect is skeptical, proof is an important part of any letter. People won't believe our claims just because we say so. Unless we're established experts, our claims are just opinions." What kind of research are Internet Research Specialists likely to be doing? Collecting and organizing information for:
Media mentions of the client or product Prestigious publications talking about the product, idea, or industry Scientific studies to back claims Scientists' opinions related to claims Charts, graphs, and graphics Real or implied expert endorsements Real or implied celebrity endorsements Quotes from credentialed sources Process information, or how the product (or ingredient) works Other highly-specific supporting information
Here’s what I’m saying:
There is already a market for Internet Research Specialists It is likely to be one of the fastest growing markets in the world By getting in now you can start making $50 an hour As your skills improve you can easily be making $100 or more in no time www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
To get in now at the bottom floor you will need to do two things: Quickly learn how to do quick and helpful research. Find clients. You can do the first by investing in AWAI’s new program that teaches that. It is called Secrets of Becoming an Internet Research Specialist: How to Surf the Web for Freedom and Profit. It’s an online program consisting of 13 chapters, split into two main parts. The first part — Chapters 1-6 — is all about what to do and how to do it. This is how you go from landing the gig to giving the client exactly what they want. This is what you do in your everyday life as an Internet Research Specialist. The second part — Chapters 7-13 — is what it takes to get paid. This is how to attract clients, get other people to sell your services for you, and develop the client relationship so they'll come back over and over again.
It also includes: Access to AWAI's exclusive members-only DirectResponseJobs.com Online Job Board. (Recently updated to include Internet Researcher gigs!) Special reports onHow to Deliver Superior Research by Learning One Crucial SEO Skill…Proof and Credibility: 10 Ways Your Research Can Make Your Client’s Copy Sizzle… andFive Other Research Projects to Boost Your Income A 3-part webinar series on marketing yourself as an Internet Research Specialist A brand-new white paper you can use to market yourself to writers called "Writers: How to Write Faster, Better, and Make More Money While You Do." www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
I wrote the first draft of this essay in 90 minutes (as opposed to several hours) by writing out the draft and leaving X’s where I needed facts and figures to support my argument. I sent it – as is – to my editor Jason, who contacted one of the AWAI-trained Internet Research Specialists he has on his contact list. That person got and finished the job in 24 hours and earned about $75 an hour for his efforts. It was good for him. It was good for me. And it can be very good for you if you contact AWAI. Find out more about AWAI’s Internet Research Specialist Program * Peter de Jonge is a former copywriter who spent several years on the Patterson assembly line before writing his first solo novel (Shadows Still Remain). Andrew Gross is president of HEAD Ski and Tennis and co-wrote some of the Women's Murder Club Series with Patterson before signing his own 3-book deal with William Morrow in 2005.
This article was originally published as part of The Golden Thread
"For more great free information on how to take your copywriting career to the next level please visit www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com and don't forget to collect your free Pro Copywriting Tactics Reports