With four best-selling books on copywriting under his belt – not to mention more than 12 years working as a marketer in the corporate sector – Andy Maslen is fast becoming one of the UK’s most popular copywriters.
I caught up with him to find out more about what influences him, how he works and to find out once and for all what the most essential word in copywriting is.
With a nod to Twitter, and as a challenge to get right to the point, we aimed to keep each question and answer below 140 characters.
We didn’t do too bad…
AllGoodCopy: So, you’re the last guy speaking at a copy seminar and everyone’s heard everything by now… what’s the one piece of advice you’d offer?
Andy Maslen: Too many people are simply recycling other people’s ideas. So give a case study, with results if possible, showing what YOU do.
AGC: Fair play. And right now, I guess what you’re doing is The Andy Maslen Copywriting Academy. It’s just launched, right? What the plan with that?
AM: The plan is to help copywriters get better at their chosen craft. Free resources, courses and a community with profiles and a forum.
AGC: On the craft of copy, what’s your preferred copywriting ‘format’, or should I say ‘speciality’?
AM: It has to be direct response. A lot of younger copywriters think it’s old-fashioned. But it’s still where the big bucks are.
AGC: Couldn’t agree more. So, of copywriters past and present, who’s your biggest influence?
AM: David Ogilvy, for his pioneering work on direct mail, and Drayton Bird, whose books I bought within days of starting out.
AGC: Ogilvy is a big influence for a lot of writers these days, and rightly so. What piece of his advice do you find yourself quoting the most?
AM: “I don’t want you to tell me you find my ads creative. I want you to find them so compelling you buy the product.”
AGC: I was going to ask what your favourite book on copywriting is, but I think I might have an inkling.
AM: I’d have to go with Ogilvy on Advertising. It’s not just about copywriting but it sets our craft into the wider context.
AGC: You’re right. OK, from a different angle then: when it comes to non-copywriters, who has had the biggest effect on your writing?
AM: Steven King, for his emotionally-charged storytelling but spare style; E.B White and William Strunk Jr for The Elements of Style.
AGC: I’ve always found P.G. Wodehouse an interesting non-copywriter; he forced himself to write at least 1,000 words a day. What’s your routine?
AM: 8.30-11.00 – very productive – write lots. 11.00-2.00 – off the boil – sales and marketing. 2.00-6.00 – productive again – do more writing.
AGC: And what’s your biggest writing ‘quirk’? I tend to pace a lot and strangely chop my hand as though practicing karate.
AM: I write speeches while out walking the dog. Marching through the fields declaiming to a non-existent audience.
AGC: Ha! I’ve been guilty of that myself. If you had to pick five words that you always had to use in every piece of copy, what would they be?
AM: Free. Easy. Quick. You. Now.
AGC: A good selection. Would you go with them in that order? I’d be tempted to put ‘You’ at the top.
AM: You. Easy. Quick. Free. Now. That’s almost a sales letter right there!
AGC: When it comes to targeting emotions with copy, do you think there are certain emotions that are more effective?
AM: Fear. Envy. Anxiety. People are more afraid of missing out or losing what they already have than they are greedy for more stuff.
AGC: I think you’re very right there. What’s the best example (that you can think of at the moment) of those emotions in practice?
AM: OK, how about this, from MoneyWeek: “Three financial timebombs that could damage your wealth in 2012!”
AGC: Ha! The chap who wrote that’s a good friend. A good writer too. What’s the one piece of copy you wish you’d have written?
AM: The Wall Street Journal letter written by Martin Conroy in 1974. $2bn in sales and counting. Or David Ogilvy’s Rolls Royce ad.
AGC: And finally, as I like to ask everyone… what’s your favorite novel?
AM: Pickwick Papers. It makes me laugh out loud every time. Dickens was a master – and not a bad salesman either.
You can find out more about Andy’s new Copywriting Academy by visiting www.andymaslen.co.uk