New Blog Focus

I wear two writerly hats: one as a novelist/short fiction writer and one as a copywriter. So I’ve decided to focus my blog on tips and observances from both publishing and marketing. Watch for new updates, and I’ll identify the angle of each post with these handy graphics:

PenandInk copy{writer} fiction & publishing

Target {copy}writer advertising & marketing

So, off we go!




New client meeting this morning—meaning I closed my novel manuscript and picked up my iPhone. I’m sitting in a Brooklyn apartment, where I’m cat-sitting, working and trying to get a new novel off the ground. They’re forecasting snow this evening, and it feels a bit freakish to have left sunny St. Augustine for these northern temps, but the change is good for me.

I’ve been a freelance marketing copywriter for almost twenty years now, helping to sell everything from pianos and pavers to burgers and bar-b-q. From heartworm meds to hot sauce. From loans to logistics. You get the idea. It’s a funny job. I learn things—all kinds of crazy details that sometimes even make their way into my fiction writing. In Heart of Palm, for example, Dean is a boiler tech in a paper plant. He descends on pulleys into a hot, thirty-foot boiler for hours at a time to spray sealants on the interior. It’s a hellish job. How do I know? Because I once wrote copy for a client who manufactured those sealants, and I once donned steel-toed boots and a hardhat to tour the paper plant, peer into the boilers, see for myself. So yeah—I learn things.

One of things I love most about freelance copywriting is the flexibility it affords in both place and scheduling. I can write copy from pretty much anywhere: from my home office, mostly, but also from libraries, airports, coffee shops, bookstores, even parking lots, should the need arise (and it has). I write copy at all hours, depending on deadlines, workloads, other commitments. But I’m always able to direct the order and the focus of my days. It’s a great gift, one I’m very fortunate to have been able to develop.

Of course, it’s well-documented that fiction-writing is not a craft from which you can expect to earn a living wage. Even a novel sale—a good one—can’t float the boat forever. Many authors I know are creative writing professors, a vocation which offers the benefits of constant exposure to the craft and an opportunity to learn about your own work through discussing the work of others. But I lack the MFA required for a full-time teaching position. Plus, I’ve found that teaching can be emotionally demanding and, as part-time work goes, pretty low in the ROI department. Freelance copywriting works well for me; it keeps me grounded in a business-oriented “real world” requiring sharp thinking, competitive focus and a measured temperment that allows me to save the emotional summits for my fictional characters, which is where I want them.

So check it out: if you’re smart, deadline-oriented, self-directed and just a tiny bit bold, you, too, can be a freelance advertising copywriter. Here’s the best book I’ve ever read on the craft. The basics are spot-on and the attitude is priceless. If nothing else, you’ll get a good laugh (buy from an independent bookseller!):LukeSullivan

Advertising is just plain fun. I love it. Watch this trailer, then watch this film, OK? You’ll see.

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