With Anne McAuley Lopez
Before we get started, we have two critically important questions to ask you:
Coffee or Tea?
AML: Coffee in the morning, sometimes tea later in the day
J & A: Dog or cat?
AML: Dogs. Highly allergic to cats.
J & A: OK, now that we have that settled, we know that you’re a sought-after content writer. So, what exactly does a content writer do? Inquiring minds want to know.
AML: Thanks for asking! There are all different types of content writers. Some are technical writers that create process and procedure manuals or resumes. Others are creative writers who write fiction books. Others are researchers who write non-fiction books such as biographies or historical content. I am a business writer meaning I create content for business websites. This can be content for the pages of their website or it may be writing articles for their blog, or articles for magazines and other websites.
There are quite a few variations of content writers, even among business marketing writers like me. I know creators who focus on women-owned businesses or start-ups. I prefer to work with established businesses (2+ years) and digital marketing agencies.
J & A: Come on, isn’t all writing the same?
AML: I thought so until I tried writing a fiction book. I had a chapter reviewed, more like torn apart, because of how I was using point of view. As a blogger, I am the voice of the client but writing a novel, I had to pivot from one character to another. I’d say it is possible for me to write that novel but my comfort zone, at least for now, is writing marketing content.
J & A: Is it true that content writing affects Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - or is this an urban myth created by someone at Google?
AML: It’s an interesting question that is up for a bit of debate. The reason is that there are a few schools of thought on SEO. The short answer is that yes, with a strategy, your website can be search engine optimized and found higher in search engine rankings. It is not a one-and-done action; SEO is ongoing.
● Technical SEO is the backend SEO that a website designer or developer does to add metatags and keywords to the main pages of the site - home, about, and product or service pages.
● Fixing broken links and optimizing the back end of the website will gain some traffic.
● Pay per click ads will ads traffic and make sense for industries that are high traffic on the internet like pest control, pool service, or personal injury attorneys.
● Reviews on Google will also increase SEO as well as adding posts to your Google My Business page.
● Blogging, writing articles on your website will increase SEO organically when combined with keyword research and ongoing review on website analytics.
● Backlinking from other websites will get Google to notice you as a sort of authority on a topic. There are companies selling backlink services which are effective.
● Organic backlinking is when you write for someone else’s website and link back to your own.
● Hire a PR consultant to get you on websites and news sites.
● Get quoted in articles of other people. If anyone is asking you to write about you on their website, always ask for a backlink. It will help SEO
If I am being honest, I think any and all of these strategies make sense for businesses. It really depends on strategy, budget, and industry. I recommend working with one company or have all the contractors work together on strategy and implementation so that messaging is cohesive.
J & A: Interesting. I believe you often work with agencies. Don’t most agencies have staff to do this?
AML: Not always. I spoke to an agency recently who specializes in website development, social media graphics and content, but not copywriting or blogging. They have clients ask for content creation but, until we were introduced, didn’t have a professional writer to serve their clients in this way. I told him to sell the writing packages and send the work to me! We can make his clients happy and make him look like a rock star!
Agencies like that one are common and make great partners for me. I also refer back to them, so it is a win-win for me and my clients too.
J & A: You must write for all types of businesses. Do you have a story to share about an unusual type of company or service that you’ve written about?
AML: I have written for a lot of different industries over the years. The weirdest meeting was a marketing meeting for an erectile dysfunction clinic. They wanted to use social media to promote their clinics. I learned more than I wanted that day, but they never turned into a client.
Another was a gentleman who had an idea for a company in one industry that would use its earnings to foster education in the community and business development of other companies. It is such a revolutionary idea, but I cannot say any more about it. In today’s world, it would be a refreshing change and focus to positivity and supporting others. I wrote their executive summary and updated a business plan for him.
J & A: Hmm - ED? That is different! So, you’ve been a professional writer for 10 years. That’s quite an accomplishment these days. What has been your No. 1 challenge along the way?
AML: Thank you! I’d say the biggest challenge has been what every freelance professional faces which is the abundance of work followed by a period of less work, the ebb and flow of business. I take those down times as an opportunity to create content for my own projects and focus on my business which can get neglected while serving others. I also might take a day for self-care or watching movies. Writing is a lot of brain work so rest is important.
J & A: You have been extremely successful. Why do you think your writing resonates with so many people?
Thank you. That means a lot!
I think my writing resonates because it is real and speaks to the audience. I wrote personal essays and a friend commented, “I love your writing because it tells a story. It’s real and raw.” I think that hit the nail on the head.
For clients, whether direct or through agency clients, I keep the process simple. We talk about their business or the client’s business, nail down the scope of the project, quote it and sign an agreement, and get researching, interviewing, and writing. My writing includes one round of edits in the initial pricing, but I can count on my hand the number of times we’ve gone to two or more edits. That’s because I don’t write until I have a solid idea of the deliverable and client expectations.
J & A: In closing, describe the perfect day in the life of a writer.
AML: I love this question! I am *this* close to the perfect day. I just need the beach house!
A perfect day in the life of a writer includes coffee, opening the blinds to get sunshine in the office, music, and the office dog. Once I get through emails, checking the news, and social media, the music goes from folk or rock style to classical piano. 99% of what I create was written to the sound of classical piano. There will be a dance or yoga break mid-day followed by lunch filled with protein to power through the afternoon. Some days include afternoon coffee while others include chai or other tea.
In today’s world, I do miss writing from a coffee shop, but I am hopeful that will happen again!
Anne McAuley Lopez is the founder of McAuley Freelance Writing, LLC and markets under the brands Blogging Badass and Agency Content Writer. She became a professional writer in 2010. Growing up she always preferred essays to multiple-choice and loves that she can write for others. Anne is a lover of words, family, friends, and dogs. When she isn’t writing for her clients, you can find her sipping wine, walking her dog, and spending time with loved ones.
By the award-winning author of the Enigma Series, Rox Burkey
Today’s world requires you to catch consumer attention in under 8 seconds. What can you do in that short window to wow someone enough to stop and read the back cover or even thumb through your labor of love? This gives you the top spot in the buy category.
Things to Consider
We’ve all heard the adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I have purchased several books simply because the cover grabbed my attention. Some element of the cover struck a chord in my emotional structure, and I was captivated enough to buy it. Identifying the element that connects is illusive, at least for me. It varies by genre, knowledge of the author, and the placement in the store, physical or virtual.
Readers gravitate to authors they know and enjoy because of consistency. For the romance reader it could be the sexy guy with the slow smile of mischief, or an attractive couple wrapped in a kiss with a promise of passion. Each genre has things that work, but beware they are not static. What worked for your mother or father and their emotional connection will likely not work today. When a reader follows a specific author, they usually made the leap to connect to how the author writes, causing them to possibly ignore the cover. With voracious readers the next book by their favorite may be months away. For newer authors the attraction to a cover and subsequent purchase is the goal for building raving fans.
When working the cover design for the first book in our series, The Enigma Factor, we had all these grandiose ideas of putting characters, a picture of the enigma machine, WWII symbols, computers, and technology symbols on the cover of the book. On reflection it would have been a hodgepodge of elements represented inside the story. Would the various elements we imagined capture enough heartstrings of those who saw it to draw them to buy? A resounding no as it wasn’t focused.
Who can help?
Some authors know illustrators, others have friends and family that lend a hand or way too many suggestions. Something was not working in our process. Thankfully, we spoke to some graphic designers focused on books, as well as seriously looked at books with leading sales in related genres. The guidance, which we validated by looking at our competition, was to simplify and focus on a single main element.
During a recent conversation with an author who had his book published by a minor publishing house, we heard the frustration. He was angry about the graphic and several other elements but had no control over redoing the cover or contributing to the content. The middle ground of working with a professional graphic designer and adding your input works well for many. Get a professional engaged to help you navigate, but don’t forget to do your own research.
When looking at covers, you will undoubtedly notice, the more well know the author the larger their name. The graphic and title are a center focal point and when you turn the book over, the photo of the author may again capture a purchase on the cover. You basically have scant seconds to capture a potential buyer with the cover but in the next 6 seconds the sale will be secured if the tag lines and summary is compelling.
The rights to pictures and graphics are a main consideration. As an author you expect your intellectual property rights to be honored, so do graphic artists, photographers, and even musicians. In case you are not aware, there are many free or minimum cost graphics available and readily searchable on the Internet. Finally, once you have a couple of covers under consideration, leverage your fans to vote on the designs. Readers are buying your stories, not you and likely not your family.
Author to Author
You as the author have to be delighted with the wrapper on the product you worked so hard to create. It needs to provide a window to the interior through the pictures or symbols on the outside. There is also the bit of marketing words on the back as the ultimate avenue to snag the reader. That may take some help as well in getting the buzz words of your genre and with the current search engines employed on line. Of course, the right key words in your tagline and synopsis become search engine magnets for buyers. Craft your metadata carefully, but the cover comes first.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, but for an unknown author, it can make the difference in earning raving readers.
You can find more opinions reviews and other neat stuff at RoxBurkey.com