Category: General

When I’m not writing about me, I’ll be writing about stuff…any stuff. Here is where this stuff lives.

nhwriting torquay torbay commercial freelance copywriter

You Can’t Win ‘Em All

A week or two ago I received an email from a web design company I work with regularly. I write copy for their clients on a regular basis and usually my feedback is very positive (I have to blow my own trumpet a little you understand, in case someone reading this is looking to hire me!)

However, on this occasion the appraisal from the client was less than glowing which promoted the usual self-reflection that all professionals – no matter what their field – commit themselves to.

I’ve been in this game long enough not to be upset by criticism; when you’ve had work published in national newspapers and international magazines and had a blog post referenced by the New York Times you must be half-decent. But disappointing clients is something I never take lightly, so I went through everything: my notes, my drafts, my final article, with a fine toothcomb to see what insights I could draw from the comments.

I also decided to blog my ideas about the best process to follow when responding to negative feedback; and here it is:

1. Always Offer a Free Redraft

I offer two. The vast majority of your clients will not bother you for a redraft if they are only making the odd tweak, but if your hammer has missed the nail I think you owe it to them to try again – in your own time. This is also good customer relationship management and may turn a bad experience into a positive review (more about that later).

If you have done your preparation properly, and had an in-depth meeting with your client about their preferred style, amount of copy, audience etc. then you should never be so far off course that a redraft is too time consuming. Of course, if your client has had a complete change of heart – which does sometimes happen – you might want to introduce a contract clause that underlines that any free redraft has to be ‘within the scope’ of the original brief. You do want to maintain a good impression where possible but you also need to protect yourself from those clients who will never be satisfied with anything.

2. Read and Re-read your Feedback

You need to understand exactly what it was about your work that your client didn’t like. If they haven’t provided you with any reasons, I suggest asking them for clarification (along with your offer of a redraft). I would hope that a commercial writer isn’t going to be hauled up on the basic points of spelling and grammar, but you will often find that it is your style or audience that is the sticking point (which are really two sides of the same coin).

Of course, a professional writer should adapt their style to fit the client and their audience, but there is also a natural author’s voice that will shine through. If that voice tends to be patronising, sentimental, snarky or formal you might want to spend some time deliberately writing in an unfamiliar style. If you tend to write long, descriptive sentences practise writing some short, sharp, punchy copy. If you are always critical of a subject you are writing about, try to write a review that focuses only on what you really liked. This will help you to overcome your natural tendencies and become a more flexible writer.

3. Read and Re-Read the Brief

If your work is at odds with your customer’s expectations then it is nearly always your fault – not theirs. When you receive your project brief it is your responsibility to seek any clarification that’s needed. If my clients live or work within 50 miles or so of Torquay (Torbay) I make a point of offering to meet with them – at no extra cost – but everyone gets a telephone conversation if they want onw, wherever they are situated.

Of course, some briefs will be more demanding than others. For example, you may have a client who is trying to be all things to all people. It can help to ask them to list two or three words that describe the style they want to convey (for example, formal, professional and trustworthy or young, hip and chic). Make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet before you start work – perhaps by summarising the brief in your return email.

The two questions you really have to ask every time are: ‘Who are your audience/customers?’ and ‘What do you want them to do after reading your ad/brochure/article/webpage.’

When you receive negative feedback, try to pinpoint where in the preparation process things went awry – and then work on changing that in the future.

4. Prevention and CPD

My partner is a nurse and she is expected to carry out a certain amount of continuous professional development each year to comply with her registration. I don’t see why this should be any different for a professional writer.

Preferred styles change, grammar evolves and writing for the internet becomes more of a specialism, tied in as it is with marketing and PR. Be aware when new stylebooks are released and get hold of a copy; familiarise yourself with Google updates so you know how to write for the search engines as well as for people; find out which new words have been added to the dictionary. Try to allocate time each week (or even each day if you’re keen) to improving yourself, both as a writer and a marketable business.

5. Make the Most of your Reputation

Reputation management is big right now, largely because the search engines are prioritising businesses and organisations that attract good reviews. They are reacting to the fact that customers tend to act on ‘social proof’ before buying a product or trying out a service, reading and trusting what their peers say. It makes absolute business sense for the search engines, who work on matching customer desires with those who are likely to satisfy them, to highlight those who are already making their customers happy.

As a commercial writer, you can maximise the chance of positive reviews by prompting happy customers to visit your Facebook or LinkedIn profile and wax lyrical about you. Perhaps you could put a link or note on your invoice or as a part of your email signature.

And what about bad reviews, I hear you ask?

Simple; you include a prompt to get in touch with you to remedy the situation. Remind them of your redraft promise or even offer a refund if you feel this is deserved. The odd negative review will not destroy you, but it is better to prevent them if you can.

And Finally

As a caveat to much of the above, there is one situation that most freelance writers hate and dread – the client who also employs a freelance editor or reviewer as a ‘quality check.’ Unless they pay really well, the quicker you can excuse yourself from that kind of set up the better.

Why?

If you were a paid editor or reviewer do you think you would be employed for long if everything you reviewed was passed without comment? Exactly. In this scenario, you are doomed to be asked to redraft copy for the most ambiguous and illogical of reasons. Your sentences are too long; now they’re too short; this point needs elaboration; this one labours the point…etc.

Of course, it’s only right that the client’s team or even a trusted friend gets to have a look over the final copy before approval, but the client really should be able to decide for themselves whether you have fulfilled the brief or not.

 

Image Copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

nhwriting torquay freelance copywriter neil hocking feedaread

Quality Self-Publishing for Free: FeedARead

It sounded too good to be true when I first heard about them, but when the first author’s copy of my first self-published book arrived through the letterbox, I knew I had made a good decision.

Now, if anyone asks me who to use if they want a bookshop-quality paperback book created for a minimum of fuss and expense, I always suggest FeedARead.

Here is what I like about FeedARead:

It’s free to publish your book. That means you can create a paperback book which can then be ordered from the FeedARead website. Whether you sell one copy to your mum or a million copies to your global fanbase it will not cost you a single penny. Even if you never sell a copy ever you won’t have lost out financially.

Now I can think of three circumstances where you may want to spend some cash.

First, unless you are selling to a very specific audience or are confident in your own marketing abilities you might be tempted to pay FeedARead the £88 (or $140 for US authors) to distribute your work to their network of outlets which include Amazon, the Book Depository and Barnes & Noble.

Second, if you ever need to amend anything once your book has been published, however minor that change is, you will need to create a second version of your book which will incur an admin fee of around £20-£30.

Third, you can order any number of author’s copies of your book for which you pay a reduced rate.

Another thing that I like about FeedARead is that they don’t suck you in with the free publishing offer and then try and hard sell you the extra distribution service.

 

Great quality paper. FeedARead do not scrimp on the paper weight and finish. The result is a classy, off-white finish which will not look out of place alongside any of your traditional bookstore-purchased books. I was particularly impressed at how good the black and white images we included looked (just make sure you aim for as close to 300dpi resolution as you can).

 

Decent royalty rates. FeedARead offer attractive royalty rates, particularly when ordering through their site (as this means there is no ‘bookseller discount’ to pay). As of June 2015, one sale of a book retailing at £7.99 (the minimum price allowed for a 200-page paperback) will net the author £3.27.

 

Ease of use and support. With a wealth of onsite information, handy templates and an intuitive publishing workflow, it is relatively simple to upload a book for publication. If you do have an issue, the support team are there to provide assistance. For example, the sheer number of high-res images in our book made our file to big for the system to handle. However, a quick email to support was all it took to find a convenient and effective workaround.

 

Of course no service is perfect, so in the interest of balance, here are two areas where I think there is some room for improvement:

 

No colour images inside. As things stand, the only colour you will see in your finished work is on the cover. Any coloured images included in your document will be converted into greyscale although, as said above, they do reproduce very well. I hope FeedARead will work on this area, even if they can just include the option for a number of colour plates on the inside (as in those old-fashioned paperbacks).

 

Cover template is quite basic. I may have been spoilt by using InDesign and Photoshop, but I found the limited options for designing a cover on the FeedARead site quite frustrating. Having said that, they are a publishing company and not a design suite so perhaps I am being a bit unfair. The best route is to get a professional graphic designer in, give them your brief and the FeedARead cover specifications and get them to send you (or to upload directly) the final result as a high quality JPEG image file. Just make sure they are on call for assistance; there is nothing worse than having to clumsily resize and crop a cover image because the lettering won’t quite fit within the guide lines.

 

And finally, one big thing to note is:

 

You are responsible for all content! FeedARead are not an editorial service and have no responsibility for the accuracy or presentation of your book. If your manuscript is littered with typos and grammatical faux pax then so will your book be! Likewise, if your text is poorly aligned, the point size is too big or you accidentally changed font halfway through, this will be replicated in print (although you can always pay the admin fee and create a new version if you can’t live with any errors).

So on that note, I will signpost you to my Book Services page. I can also recommend some graphic designers with experience in cover design. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Image copyright: ra2studio / 123RF Stock Photo

Pack a Punch with Your Copy

Image licensed under CC-by-2.0. Author: Peter Harrison
Image licensed under CC-by-2.0. Author: Peter Harrison

Unlike in a verbal conversation, there is no second chance for the copywriter to grab the attention of the receiver. Your copy will need to instantly hook your reader and start pressing his or her buttons to maximise the chances of them responding in the way you want (buying a product, clicking a link, visiting a page, etc.)

Here are a few tips to invigorate your writing:

Use Power Words
Psychologists have found that certain words are so powerful that they can actually cause physical changes, for example speeding up or slowing down the heart rate. There is much debate among copywriters as to those words which command attention, but two words crop up time and time again: ‘you’ and ‘because’. It seems that we find it hard to resist being addressed directly, or to being presented with a ’cause and effect’ scenario.

I am also a big believer that words related to sex and death are inherently powerful. The following blogger organises power words into categories.

Power Words Blog

Do you have power words that you find particularly compelling? Let me know in the comments.

Paint a Picture – or Write a Melody
This does not mean you have to wax lyrical about the benefits of your product and service. Try using the power word ‘imagine’, before engaging the five senses by talking about sensations and experiences rather than dry facts. An advanced tip is to slip into the modality of the person you are addressing. For example, a group of musicians might respond to phrases like: ‘does that sound like a good idea?’ or ‘feel in tune with your surroundings’, while a chef might react favourably to a ‘tasty suggestion’ or a ‘life full of flavour.’

Cut down on jargon

Unless you are certain that your audience will understand your industry terminology, opt for using clear, simple language. In fact, long words in general are best avoided. Avoid the other extreme as well; there is a fashion for short, snappy phrases but overusing these can come across as ‘salesy’ and insincere. Opt instead for a natural conversational rhythm which mixes short sentences with longer ones. Always read your copy aloud before sending it as this will help you decide whether it ‘reads right.’

Good luck and, as always, please respond with your own tips.

SEO nhwriting Torquay Torbay copywriter speech writer Paignton sports journalism

One Quick SEO Tip for Your Business

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a minefield, and it can be bewildering to the beginner. Whether you’re handling your own SEO or letting a company handle it for you, you will have to incorporate relevant keywords into your content.

But how do you know which keywords to use?

I suggest that you use the Google Keyword Planner to check what people are actually searching for (not what you think they are searching for). It’s a free tool that you can access via your normal free Google account.

a) Select the top option (Search for new keyword and ad group ideas)

b) Fill in the three fields available (your product or service; your landing page and your product category)

c) Click search

d) Find a trade-off between Average Monthly Searches and Competition (columns can be ordered for ease of use). Ideally you will find a relevant phrase or two with low competition and high search volume. These are your ‘gold nugget’ keywords (and this process has helped me rank a client second for his chosen keyword with purely organic [i.e. unpaid] search).

e) Add those words naturally into your content


A little bit of research will give you the edge over your competitors who will often be simply choosing phrases like ‘restaurants Torquay’ or ‘swimming pools Paignton’. If you type these phrases into the Keyword Planner you will be amazed at how few people are typing these phrases in! Either that or they will be very competitive.

I specialise in writing SEO-rich articles/blogs and, for an affordable price, can even perform keyword searches on your behalf to unearth those rare gems.

Or if you prefer to buy your space on Google, I can handle your AdWords campaign. As a member of the Google Partners program, I even have some generous discount codes to get you started.

Contact me to find out more

Neil

 

 

 

Photo by Olybrius

Three Seconds to Save a Career: Why Writers Need to Invest in Cover Design

Today’s blog post is kindly provided by ActuallyWeDo(TM), a British creative design studio.

Three Seconds to Save a Career: Why Writers Need to Invest in Cover Design

Photo by Olybrius
Photo released under CC-by-SA 3.0 Licence. Author: Olybrius

It’s taken you years of toil and sacrifice to complete your precious novel and months of painstaking editing and re-editing to make it worthy of a publisher’s attention. Now, as your pride and joy sits on the wooden back shelf of a bookshop, or on the infinite virtual shelves of cyberspace, you have a window of seconds, maybe as few as three of them, to guide a reader into your inner world.

After all of your creative endeavour, the harsh truth is that your success will be largely down to the part of the book that is most readily available to potential readers – the cover. And apart from the small bit of blurb that you have carefully crafted for the back, it is the overall cover design that will either prompt a browser to pick the book up and turn it over – or cause them to ignore it and walk (or click) away.

Yes, it’s unfair. Life is. But you may have more control over the cover design process than you think – particularly if you are self-publishing.

Research your Options

Some traditional publishers will insist they design the book cover – after all, they are paying for the rights to the manuscript and it’s their name as well as yours that will be on the finished product. However, publishing houses are businesses operating in an increasingly competitive market with slim profit margins. Medium and small houses may be delighted to relinquish control over costly cover design – you can only ask. Of course, if you decide to self-publish, you will have to take care of the cover design yourself.

There are good reasons for authors to retain as much creative control over their book covers as possible. Obviously, nobody knows your book as much as you do, so working with a competent graphic designer is your opportunity to ensure that the cover art reflects the inner essence of your book, whether it is a novel or a work of non-fiction.

Why Go Pro?

At this point you might be thinking that the only way to be sure that the cover truly represents what’s inside is for you to design the cover yourself. Unfortunately the truth is, even should you successfully interpret the inner meaning of your book to the cover, there is still a very high risk that the appearance will look cheap and amateurish. Communicating the values of the book and making sure it looks professional are two tasks that must be achieved to secure confidence in your book and convert the interest into a sale.

A professional graphic designer will have that valuable outsider perspective that you will be lacking, enabling you to bounce ideas of one another as you explore your options. There are many approaches to the art of book cover design: you want it to reflect the vision you have always had as an author, while at the same time making sure it is interesting to others and has commercial credibility, something that a publisher will be very keen to see. A bona fide graphic designer will work with you to develop your cover through a series of ideas, drafts and consultation to help deliver your dream design. Image selection and manipulation, colour choices, balance between text and image, ISBN Barcode inclusion and synopsis text are just some of the things to be considered.

Even if you are going down the eBook route, designing a good cover is not as straight-forward as you might think. Ensuring that your cover design will work cross-platform in a variety of sizes such as full-size, preview, thumbnail, and sizes suitable for download on multiple eReader devices is important for providing the reader with an enjoyable browsing experience, and for online success. As one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, competition between eBooks is growing by the day, and an outstanding cover is becoming an increasingly vital tool for the would-be online author.

Moving Beyond ‘The Book’

Many experienced graphic designers know how to create clear, effective brands for businesses, organisations and individuals. As a writer you should be looking at your book, and you, as a brand and using this brand to utilise the many promotional avenues available to you. Creating a unique look that sets your book and you apart from the crowd is important. A talented graphic designer can not only boost your book sales, they can also help launch your writing career.

Please comment to share your favourite book cover design and why you love it?

nhwriting & Acton-Coles: Reaching Millions!

imagesnhwriting has partnered with the Acton-Coles Counselling Clinics to help bring support and guidance to a global public.

nhwriting and Michael Acton-Coles had previously provided a series of informative articles, on a range of psychological issues, for a local Torbay publication.

This month, an article titled, ‘We Need to Talk’, has been published in Flybe Business, an airline magazine with an audience of 1.25 million.

The article promotes the value of online counselling for the business traveller and aims to help make psychological help more accessible to everyone. Michael Acton-Coles is determined to prove that counselling can truly be for you, any-place, any-time.

To read the nhwriting and Acton-Coles article in full, click this link and turn to page 11 of the online version of the magazine. Better still, contact Stream Publishing and order a print version.

For more information on the Acton-Coles Clinics, visit the Acton-Coles website and the Acton-Coles entry in the Counselling Directory.

If you want help reaching a bigger audience with creative, effective writing then please contact nhwriting.

£125 Public Relations Package Now Live

NewsWith company budgets under pressure, public relations has never been more important, especially to small or medium businesses and organisations. Effective PR is a low-cost – sometimes free – alternative to paid advertising, and can lead to significant media interest. Ineffective PR is a waste of time, rendering your business practically invisible.


Getting Beyond the Desk
I have come across so-called ‘press release distribution services’ that guarantee to get your press release on the editor’s desk. Frankly, that rings alarm bells to me: getting a press release to an editor is the easy part; ensuring that it is presented well, contains real news values and is grammatically sound is where the real skill lies.
Whether you want a stand-alone press release or a full PR service, I will take responsibility for ensuring your message stands the best chance of seeing print.

Rapport Means More Than a T-Shirt
Be wary of companies that claim to have close relationships with media publications. This can simply mean that the newspapers or magazines in question have agreed to accept a free pen or T-shirt!
Not all publications are alike and editors also have personal preferences and things that annoy them. I make it my business to establish real rapport with key editorial staff, cutting down on time-wasting practices. By making editors’ lives easier, the chances of PR success are significantly increased.

Prioritising News Values
The most important thing to understand about editors is that they usually have no interest in your business whatsoever. If you want media space (particularly free space) your news must be of interest to the publication’s readers, viewers or listeners. It will need to contain as many as possible of the following news values:

• Timeliness/proximity
• Conflict
• Progress/disaster
• Consequences
• Eminence/Prominence
• Novelty
• Human Interest
• Sex/Romance*

In addition, the key facts (who, when, where, what, why) should be at the top of any press release, along with reliable contact information.

£125 Public Relations Package
For £125 a month, I can offer a full PR service. This price includes:

• All press release/article copy
• All research
• Any basic design work (high-spec artwork can be delivered for an extra cost)
• All telephone calls
• One local face-to-face meeting (optional)

Each month, we will discuss which media to target together with relevant topics and editorial angle.

Important Note: This service does not guarantee free publication in any publication whatsoever. If you decide to pay for editorial space, all rates must be paid for by yourself.


*News values listed are inspired by those published by columnist/reporter Catherine V.McIntyre.

For an informal discussion about your PR project please call me on 01803 606092 or email info@nhwriting.com

£500 Newsletter Offer Now Live – Ad Consultancy Service Available

SureStart3Producing a quality, readable newsletter requires a surprising amount of time and effort, but the rewards are worth the effort. A good newsletter will:

• Keep your brand/organisation at the forefront of your customers’ minds.
• Build your reputation.
• Retain customers/members and attract new ones.
• Ensure customers/members remain informed about awards, events and important changes.

Newsletters can come in a range of sizes and formats, from a single page leaflet to a 24 page glossy magazine, and I am happy to customise a newsletter to meet your needs and budget.

As an example, for £500 an issue, I am currently offering an 8 page colour newsletter. Included in the price is a print-ready pdf document together with all associated editorial, journalistic, design and (if appropriate) advertising services, as detailed below:

Professional Editorial
Having studied Journalism at university level and with regular articles published in local newspapers; local and international magazines and high-profile websites and blogs, I have the experience and skill to turn even the briefest summaries into engaging and well-composed features, saving you time. Simply send me a few lines of text and high-resolution photographs (300dpi or above) and I will take care of the rest.

With experience of newsletter editing and close relationships with local magazine and newspaper editors I have a wealth of support and knowledge at my disposal.

Experienced Interviewer & Researcher

The media thrives on human interest stories and I highly recommend including original case studies and interviews in your newsletter. Simply give me the relevant contact details and an editorial angle, and I will conduct and transcribe an interview. Having interviewed a wide range of people, from celebrity sportspeople to single mothers and local authority figures, you can be confident of a high quality end result.

I also make use of the latest news feed technology to keep abreast of the latest happenings in your industry. If something of significant interest crops up, I will proactively contact you to suggest appropriate coverage.

Advertising Consultancy / Extra Services
With contacts in the advertising industry, I can also offer an advertising consultancy service on a generous commission basis. This will include advice on rate cards, ad sourcing and placement. To discuss, please contact me on the details below.
Working in partnership with experienced local graphic designers, I can create a truly unique, high-end, customised newsletter design. Please contact me on the details below for a quote.

Important Note: The above services exclude printing. For a printing quote, please contact me on the details below.
For an informal discussion about your newsletter project please call me on 01803 606092 or email info@nhwriting.com

Need a brochure that sounds as good as it looks?

Although I am a Torbay copywriter, I work with companies throughout the UK to create quality marketing materials that not only capture the eye, but engage the attention through the words used.

For example, check out the latest brochure for Street Fit, the dance fitness sensation created by Trap Media, based in Soho, London.

If you need someone to help with design as well, I work with talented local designers.

If you’re interested in a brochure, flyer, catalogue, manual or any other writing/design work, please call me on 01803 606092/07762 906818 or email info@nhwriting.com.