When you buy a new book, do you do what everyone else does?
Recently I was in the airport waiting for my flight. I had about 45mins to kill so I thought I would wander over to the newsagent and have a look over the book stands. I meandered around looking at covers, picking up books and reading the overviews.
It has always fascinated me the way the story gets condensed into a few succinct paragraphs on the back cover, in such a way that your appetite is whet and a sense of urgency occupies your mind, wanting to know the outcome.
This is a classic form of emotional direct response copy. You read the overview and you’re motivated to buy the book.
You are instinctively (and probably unwillingly) suffering from “openloop-itis”!
You have no option but to push towards closing the open loop and satisfying the knowledge which you crave the answer for.
Copywriters the world over know that you cannot leave a loop open. Your mind simply won’t let you. You pursue the answer at all costs or else it niggles away at you. After all, it’s human nature to need closure.In fact, even copywriters fall for this and they know what is happening!
As a kid in the school yard I used to have a harmless insult I would throw around from time to time just for a bit of fun.
It went like this: Q. How do you keep a fool in suspense? A. I’ll tell you tomorrow!
Some of the kids were so dumb that they would come to me the next day and ask for the answer!
I would respond by saying, “Despite what everyone else says about you, I think you’re OK”. Man did that pique their paranoia! (Had to let that one out carefully)
Anyway, there were many iterations of this saying but essentially they were all based on a Q&A type open loop. They wanted the answer to close the question in their mind. They could have made up their own answer but they would still wonder what the correct answer was. Ha, always made me laugh (I’m even smiling about it now!)
So, what does everyone do when they buy a new book?
They read a few chapters in and then get impatient and read the ending to see how it turns out. Maybe this is not completely universal but a high percentage of people do and I for one have been guilty of this many times. I assume this is a shared experience?
OK, so let’s look at the anatomy of a sales letter.
Generally a sales letter is laid out to a specific formula. This has evolved over the years through trial and error. Copywriters of the past have constantly tried to beat their own control copy and therefore improve their responses. This tweak and edit process has created the current format.
My copywriting mentor Pete Godfrey suggests the following 10 points however there are variations and all steps should really point to the end game which is to build relationships and sell stuff!
- The headline.
- The opening.
- State the guarantee.
- More bullets.
- Make your offer.
- Ordering instructions.
- The close.
- The P.S.
The flow of these points should weave into a highly readable document, kind of like a story only more strategic. However if you are anything like me you will read 3 or 4 points in and then skip to the end to find out what happens.
And what is at the end? The Postscript of course!
Which brings me back to answer the question in the headline!
Not including the headline which of course is paramount to gaining readership, there is an element of a sales letter that is read more than any other part and knowing this can bring you great advantage.
That element is the P.S. That is why sometimes you see multiple P.S.’s in sales letters and emails. The important points are re-iterated here to ensure the message gets through.
Wikipedia reports “A postscript, abbreviated P.S., is writing added after the main body of a letter (or other body of writing). The term comes from the Latin post scriptum, an expression meaning “written after” (which may be interpreted in the sense of “that which comes after the writing”).”
A well written P.S. can cause a fleeting reader to wonder what the content is all about and make them return to the body and read it thoroughly.
It’s a good place to re-state your offer and also a good place to mention your guarantee again as well.
I cannot overstate this point. A “P.S.” can be the difference between failure and success so don’t ignore this space.
And if your readers have my undeniable urge to read the ending before reading the whole story, you could catch those who would have slipped through the cracks!
P.S. I guess I should include a P.S. given that this article is all about them, but there is another tactic (copy click) I used here which is pretty damned obvious and massively useful in getting your reader to continue to read. Can you see what it is? I look forward to your comments.