8 Ways to Write Scannable Marketing Copy

by Brian


eye scanningEach year the average person sends about 40,000 words by email. For reference, that’s nearly equivalent to the word count of The Great Gatsby. Are your words effective in persuading people to buy your books? If not, keep reading.

Do you think people actually read all the information in your email, in your press releases, or on your website? Think again. Most people do not read marketing copy word for word, but quickly scan the page looking for information that is helpful and important to them.

People look at promotional copy with an expectation of some possible benefit for continuing to read. They rarely study text word-for-word. Instead, they scan the page, looking for words that are pertinent to their needs. A recent study found that 79 percent of test users scanned any new page they came across on websites; only 16 percent read word-for-word.

Therefore, you are more likely to communicate with readers if you write copy that is scannable. It should quickly communicate a reason why they should purchase your book. In most cases, readers dislike copy that is too promotional, without substance, benefits, or validity. People are busy, and they want to quickly get facts that are important to them.

Some techniques you could use to increase the readership of your marketing copy include:

  1. Highlight keywords that are important to the readers. You might use colors, boldface type, italics or even hypertext links to serve as highlighting techniques.
  2. Break up copy with functional (rather than “cutesy”) subheads that communicate a benefit to the readers, rather than entertain them.
  3. Number or bullet your lists to set them apart from the text.Make sure your copy is complete, yet concise and clear.
  4. Get the readers’ attention quickly, giving them a reason to continue reading. Apply the AIDA formula for writing promotional copy: Attention – Interest – Desire – Action.
  5. Follow the adage, “Tell me quick, and tell me true, or else, my friend, the heck with you.”
  6. Less is more. Keep it straightforward and simple (KISS), using short, rather than long text to draw the readers in.
  7. Use graphics that are professionally produced.
  8. Use testimonials and endorsements from well-known people to build your credibility.

These points recognize that people do not want to sift through “hype” to find out if the offer will benefit them in some way. They also demonstrate that marketing copy must be customized for the intended readers, offering them specific benefits. For example, an email directed to the buyer at a retail store might show that your sales history and promotional efforts could increase store traffic and inventory turns. However, this copy would be of no interest to librarians looking to provide useful information to their patrons.

Stop selling your books. Instead, concisely communicate – with clear, scannable and objective copy and layout – ways in which the people who buy your books will benefit. In Catch-22 fashion, you may sell more books as a result.

Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales and author of How to Make real money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore.