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Archive for March, 2014

Why I won’t coach you

March 26th, 2014 by Bob Bly

I am frequently asked by my subscribers whether they can buy
coaching or mentoring from me.

And the answer is always the same – no – because I do not offer
coaching or mentoring services to individuals (all my clients
are companies that use direct response or Internet marketing to
sell products and services).

My refusal to offer a coaching or mentoring service to readers
who want it really ticks some people off.

But I think it shouldn’t, and that I am in the right, and here’s

First, I’m not telling you or anyone else how to earn YOUR

So what gives you or anyone the right to tell me how I should
spend my time?

Why shouldn’t I have the same freedom you do to select what I
want, offer services I want to provide, and work with the kinds
of clients I choose?

Isn’t that a fair and reasonable request? Isn’t a big reason to
become self-employed to be your own boss and choose your own

Second, I don’t like working with individuals. I prefer to work
with companies, which are usually either direct response or B2B

In my area, copywriting, individuals don’t know what they are
doing, don’t understand how to work with a professional, and
need a lot of hand holding – all of which I dislike.

I want to write copy for clients who know what a shopping cart
is, know how to arrange web site hosting, know how to research
keywords, and know how to drive traffic to the landing page I
write for them.

I only want to write the copy: I have no interest in explaining
over and over again the rudiments of digital marketing to
newbies who don’t know it.

In other words, I want to be a copywriter, not a marketing
consultant or coach.

My friend DH, a specialist in writing direct mail, put it this
way: “I want to work with clients who know where the indicia

The other problem with coaching is this: When I am hired to
write copy for a client, I do the work, and therefore am
accountable for the results.

When you coach someone, you do NOT do the work. They do. You
only encourage and motivate them and perhaps guide them.

And more often than not – they don’t take your advice and
execute the tasks necessary to achieve their goals.

So what happens is the coaching client does not succeed – either
because he is lazy, inept, untalented, unfocused, picked the
wrong niche, or any combination of these reasons.

And the coach gets the blame. Even though the client, not the
coach, did the work – or not. Who needs that?

Also, if you are a copywriter or an Internet marketer, you can
use Google to find many coaches out there eager and willing to
help you. So it’s not like I’m your only hope.

One other thing: when I became a full-time freelance copywriter
in 1982, there were no paid mentoring or coaching programs … no
courses … no online groups … even no books on how to succeed in
the copywriting business.

That I am here is proof that you do NOT need coaching to make
it. Although if you think it will help you, by all means seek it
out. Just not with me. Fair enough?


Category: General | 122 Comments »

The awful truth about publishing a Kindle e-book

March 19th, 2014 by Bob Bly

Marketing consultant BM recently wrote me:

“Bob, I am so proud! I just published my first Kindle e-book!”
It was a business title.

Of course, I congratulated him.

But being the negative nelly I am, I felt compelled to tell him
what in my opinion is the awful truth about writing and
publishing a Kindle e-book. I wrote:

“I think with rare exception there is almost no money to be
made and very little prestige to be gained in producing Kindle
e-books, precisely because everyone can do it and seemingly is.”

Kindle e-books have greatly devalued the status of being an

It reminds me of a line uttered by Buddy, the bad guy in the
movie The Incredibles.

Buddy is jealous of superheroes. Being an inventor, he designs
an outfit that gives him the ability to fly and shoot paralyzing

He intends to sell the suit design to the highest bidder,
gleefully noting: “When everyone is super, then no one is.”

It’s the same with Kindle: when everyone is an author, then
being an author isn’t special.

BM replied:

“Well, I agree, but having the Kindle e-book makes for good
marketing and it elevates my image in the eyes of some

Again, I am an argumentative cuss, so I countered: “I am not
sure how it helps with marketing. The best way to use the book
would be to offer it online as a free download, not sell it for
ten bucks on Amazon, who will not share the customer’s name with

“And I do not think being a Kindle e-book author does anything
to elevate image. A REAL book does that.”

BM agreed: “I have a real book, so I agree with you entirely,
even though it was self-published. I sold about 500 and gave
away about 300, and that book landed me huge projects.”

I have booked hundreds of thousands of dollars in copywriting
and consulting projects, and speaking gigs, because of my
physical books, all published by major publishing houses.

One of the problems with Kindle e-books is that, while they are
cheap and easy to publish, the end result is simply having an
e-book that people can buy on Amazon.

Amazon doesn’t market or promote these Kindle e-books in any

Therefore, once posted online, the majority sit there, and many
sell a pitifully small number of copies.

One author, DY, told me proudly that after heavy promotion over
the course of a couple of years, he sold 540 copies of his
self-published book. He then admitted he barely broke even on
the venture.

Yes, I know there are Kindle e-book authors that have sold books
by the truckload and made small fortunes. But these are a
miniscule minority.

The vast majority of Kindle e-book authors toil in obscurity and
barely make enough on their book to take the family to a nice
dinner at Outback.

Most Kindle e-books, including my two — a collection of my
science fiction stories and a collection of these e-mail essays,
“Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy” — are vanity

The author produces them for his own ego and from a desire to
make his writing available to the wider world.

But in most cases, including mine, the wider world has little or
no interest.


Category: General | 69 Comments »

Why does everyone think writers shouldn’t be paid?

March 12th, 2014 by Bob Bly

The other day, I got a letter from the town librarian welcoming
me as a new resident (we just moved here a few months ago).

Then the coup de grace: she knew I was an author and suggested
how nice it would be for me to donate some of the books I had
written to the library.

I felt like writing her back and saying: “So I should spend my
days writing stuff, and then give it away for free? What a great
business model! Why didn’t I think of it first?”

I also wanted to ask her whether she would donate some of her
time to the town library by foregoing her paycheck for a week or

(I have no problem being sarcastic.)

In her letter, she pointed out that as a published author and
new resident, donating my books would be a nice way for me to
support my local library.

I felt like reminding her that I already support my local
library with a donation every 3 months. It’s called “property

What would have been even nicer than me donating my books would
have been for her to offer to BUY one of my books from the
publisher for the library – heaven forbid.

If she bought one of my books for $10 and I got my usual 8%
royalty, I would in a few months get an 80 cent check from the
publisher and be able to retire.

Look, if you are a regular reader of these e-mails, you know by
now that I am a cranky old curmudgeon.

And a sore point with me is people assuming that writers –
unlike nearly every other profession – should not be paid for
the fruits of their labor.

I am sure when my next-door neighbor the car dealer moved here
many years ago, the mayor did not ask him to donate a new Buick
to the town for city officials to use.

But why should a writer be paid for work it took him months to
complete? Give it away for free? Sure! That’s the American way!

I tore the librarian’s letter up, threw it in my waste basket,
and kept my books on the shelves.

They are still there, waiting for her to pick them up. All she
has to bring is ten dollars apiece.

Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed….


Category: General | 80 Comments »

Best financial advice ever given to freelancers

March 10th, 2014 by Bob Bly

McDonald’s came under fire again a few months back for giving
its minimum-wage employees financial advice on how to live more

The company’s McResource Line advised Mickey D workers:
“Consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not
seem as appealing as they did.”

McDonald’s management suggests that their poorly paid wage
slaves “sell some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or
Craigslist to bring in some quick cash.”

MD’s underpaid workers are also advised by management to break
food into pieces, because that often results in eating less and
still feeling full.

Now, this story gives me mixed feelings. And here’s why:

On the one hand, while I am sympathetic to the near
impossibility of getting by when you earn minimum wage, I am not
sure that – as a free market capitalist – I am really in favor
of forcing employers to raise the minimum wage they pay.

My favorite essayist, Barbara Ehrenreich, wrote a moving book
about working for minimum wage, “Nickel and Dimed.”

The liberal media portrays the workers as the victims and the
heroes, and the bosses and business owners as greedy thieves.

But here’s an opposing view: through our risk-taking and hard
work, we entrepreneurs build businesses that provide our
employees and vendors with jobs they need and would otherwise
not have.

If you are being paid too little, rather than picket for a
raise, why not focus on building your skill set to the point
where you add more value to your employer or customer?

If your services then begin to contribute more to the bottom
line, they’ll happily pay you to make them more money. To quote
Sylvester Stallone talking to his son in Rocky Balboa: “Go out
and get what you’re worth.” If you’re not worth that much,
acquire the knowledge and skills that will make you worth what
you want to be paid.

On the other hand, I applaud McDonald’s for the practical advice
they are providing employees to help them manage their household
budgets more effectively.

I wholeheartedly agree that consumers at all income levels buy
too much crap they don’t need. And when you spend more than you
make, as do so many poor and rich people alike, you set yourself
up for financial woes. To quote Robocop: “There will be …

I grew up in the very poor city of Paterson, NJ. When I was 8,
my dad would drive me around town in his 1962 Chevrolet Belair,
a collector’s model of which I display on a shelf in my office
to remind me of him. Even though he is gone now for 17 years, I
still miss him terribly.

When we drove to the poorest sections, packed with unemployed
people lounging on the stoops of decaying multi-family houses in
which they rented dingy apartments, dad told me, “Look at what
you see.” And in front of every poor, run-down house was the
same car: a big, brand-new Cadillac, polished to a fine gleam.

The best piece of financial advice I ever heard is from Florida
freelance writer David Kohn, who on a panel at a writer’s
conference, advised the attendees: “Live below your means.”

When you live below your means, you reduce the pressure to make
a lot of money, and can live comfortably on what you bring home.
You can still own a nice car – in dad’s case, a Chevy instead of
a Caddy – and sleep a lot better at night.

I know several very wealthy men. Two that come to mind are Sy
Sperling, founder of The Hair Club for Men, and former
heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney.

Both men have plenty of money, and both could afford to drive a
Rolls Royce, as Sy pointed out to me. (Cooney was paid $8
million for the Holmes fight alone.)

But Sy drives a Lexus, and Gerry drives an Infinity, albeit a
larger model to accommodate his 6’7″ frame. And they both seem
content and happy with their cars.

I find the trend today of Internet marketers toward ostentatious
displays of wealth with the purchase of Rolls Royces and other
mega-expensive luxury cars to be unfortunate and a bad lesson
for their followers.

Look, these wealthy entrepreneurs are entitled to spend their
wealth the way they want to. But you should not follow their

I am not as rich as a lot of these guys, but I am a
multi-millionaire … and I drive a 2008 Prius, which I love.

I like the simple advice in the book “The Wealthy Barber,” which
says that when you get money, sock away 10% of it. Then you can
use whatever is left to pay bills, pay for the kids’s tuition,
vacation, own toys, whatever.


Category: General | 80 Comments »