My New Copywriting Blog

One of the things I’ve decided to do as a result of feedback from the web copywriting instructor at Mediabistro is focus on building the professional side of my web presence.

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going away. And neither is any of the content. I’m just making a formal announcement so that those of you interested in my copywriting and freelance writing content know where to find it.

Read the blog here.

Subscribe to the feed here.

Or subscribe by email.

In Review Part 2: MediaBistro’s Copywriting for the Web Online Course

ad copywriting certificateThis week I got feedback on Assignment #1. So, let’s discuss.

My assignment was to write about myself and my online identity. I put together a one-page narrative with links to my website, blog, social media accounts, and the sites where I contribute content. A few days later, the instructor returned the assignment with commentary. I’ve excerpted some of that feedback (mainly the critique) to help you get a feel for what goes onside inside the virtual classroom.

The Short Version

For any of you who don’t care to pick through the details, here are my thoughts on this week in a nutshell:

  • If these courses pay for themselves in any way, it’s in instructor feedback. They spend a lot of time writing thoughtful commentary.
  • I don’t think many people take Mediabistro’s Copywriting courses to learn; I think they take them to learn to make money. I find this a little off-putting, but I realize that I am the weird one here with the social organizing background and the liberal arts education. The vast majority of students I’ve encountered so far are marketers and advertisers through and through.

About My Website

emily suess copywriter“Think about the proportion of that top banner compared to the portfolio samples and the elements beneath it on the home page. It’s great to see you and to have that hero shot of the city that places you in IN, but perhaps if the other elements were bigger you could explain more the business challenges along with the samples in one shot rather than the ‘…’ to the subpages.”

The instructor had more to say about improving my website, most great suggestions except for one thing: I’m working off a template. Changes to the writing? That I can do. Changes to design? Imma need a bigger budget for that. For now the size of site elements and the “…” cutoffs are beyond my control.

So I got some useful feedback, but I’ll have to bookmark it for later.

UPDATE 4/13: Thanks to some helpful people on the internet, I’m able to make some of the suggested changes to my website. Hooray!

About My Social Media Accounts

“I think your LI is looking fine for the most part, but your Twitter seems kind of all over the place, and while most people use this channel as a microblog, if you are selling social strategy remember those that want to hire you are probably holding your feed to a higher standard …. Your Facebook seems more focused on the author challenges, and while I am sympathetic, I would suggest keeping the publishing content about the pitfalls of the business separate from the marketing writing one. Suess’s Pieces also got kind of lost at the bottom of many of your web site pages.”

My Tweets are all over the place, but my God are they ever representative of the things that matter to me. I started the @EmilySuess account in 2010, and most of my followers would wonder what the hell happened to me if I limited myself to updates designed to impress potential clients or employers.

For me Twitter truly is social. I chat with people I like. I stay in touch with real-life friends. And I think this has worked for me so far for two reasons: 1) I’m a part-time freelancer and 2) I am my own brand right now. If a potential client doesn’t like that I’m vocal about women’s rights or they think retweeting my friend’s giveaway is off-topic, I’d probably find working for them a soul-crushing experience. They’re choosy. I’m choosy. It works out in the end.

But! I do realize where the instructor’s coming from. I’m not sure a separate business account is the way to go, but I’m giving it some serious thought. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of client accounts to share during the application/proposal process for new gigs.

My excuse for Facebook is that I post what engages people. Ninety-nine percent of my Facebook followers are fellow writers, not clients. When I attempted posting client-focused content, it just bombed. That’s life on the internet.

small business bonfireAbout Writing for Small Business Bonfire

“[The Small Business Bonfire] seems like a colorful, energetic site, but unless they are paying you … why not just write about similar topics on your other blog or sites instead?”

Of course they pay me. People think this a lot—that I write for Bonfire for free—I can’t figure out why. It worries me, though, for reasons I don’t care to get into at the moment.

About Writing Self-Publishing Content

“Well, you obviously know a lot about this topic and just from glancing at some of your publishing posts, I share many of your concerns …. My question here too is whether it is worth your time to offer this advice for free rather than teaching a class about it down the road or being on a panel where you get some sort of compensation?  I believe writers should really strive to get paid or compensated on practically everything that they do, and I see that you are really busy with your job and already have so many outlets, so I guess consolidation is what I am pushing as a thing to consider.”

Back to the money thing. I get it—that’s why most people are taking this course.

I would never suggest a writer write for free or for the promise of “exposure” ever. I believe in making money for what I do. But, dude, money isn’t everything. Writing about self-publishing and teaching authors how to not get scammed by dubious assholes? That’s a labor of love. I will never charge a penny to share what I’ve learned about the industry. Ever.

In fact, the The Self-Publishing Services Directory is making other people money. I’m okay with that.

More next week!

Want to read past posts? Browse the Ad Copywriting Certificate Review Archive

Emily paid the full price for enrollment in’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

In Review Part 1: MediaBistro's Copywriting for the Web Online Course

ad copywriting certificateLife got kind of busy there for a while, and I took a break from MediaBistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate Program. But I’m back now, and ready to share what’s going on in the next course: Copywriting for the Web.

This week was week one, so it was mostly introductions and settling in to the program. It’s a six-week course with a challenging, jam-packed syllabus. The class looks to be more promising than the last for a few reasons:

  • This is not the instructor’s first time teaching the course.
  • I’m more comfortable turning assignments from this course into portfolio pieces. (I can’t design an ad to save my life. But respectable looking website templates are pretty easy to come by.)
  • While an obsession with Mad Men made me think I wanted to do more print, TV and billboard advertising, the truth is I don’t. Web and interactive copythat’s my thing.
  • It’s not the holiday season anymore, and I feel like I’ve gathered my wits some.

I’m working on Assignment 2 for this week, which includes picking from a couple of instructor-provided options to create web copy. I’ll be writing a home/landing page, an about/mission page, a banner ad, and identifying audience segments and writing relevant social media content for three social media platforms. (I’m going with the obvious here—Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.)

It might not sound like a lot of work, but it’s a sizable commitment for someone like me who has a day job and a freelance writing business and still tries to find time for life’s little frivolities. You know, things like eating, sleeping and laundry. There’s plenty of reading involved in a course like this if you’re like me and want to scarf down all the supplemental links too.

The first discussion for the course was held Thursday night, but I didn’t make it. So more on that aspect of the course in a future post. If you have specific questions about the program, toss ’em in the comments. I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. If you’d like to contact me privately, that’s cool too. Just use the contact form to send me a message.


Read other review posts:

In Review Week 1: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 2: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 3: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

Better Book Blurb Copywriting for Fiction

book blurbHaving trouble selling your novel? Could your blurb be the problem?

Book blurbs are difficult to write. And when they’re done wrong, they tend to be done horribly wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that someone like me might remember them more than a year after reading them and include them in a post about book blurb copywriting as examples of what not to do. I submit to you:

Just another joyous erotic romp in the strange journey that actress, Tasha Felding calls life. And perhaps, the most important. For nearly four years, Tasha and her roommates were the undisputed goddesses of their liberal arts college in Topanga Canyon, CA. With distinct talents, beauty, and accomplishments, each goddess appeared pre-destined to be forever traveling on that path called the Charmed Life. But, in a tragic twist, just before graduation and with the in advertent help of Tasha, one of the journeys takes a drastic detour. For the next two decades, Tasha enjoys success as an actress, wife and mother, but keeps her eyes open for that elusive path that will help her undo the earlier damage. And it is Ojai, a few months before her 20th college reunion that Tasha decides the elements are ripe for exonerating one former roommate, rekindling the lost passions in the other two, and while she is at, seducing that gorgeous stranger on the motorcycle. Divine intervention was never so much fun.

Just Another Elysian Sidetrip


When a wildly eccentric family living in Greenwich Village circa 70s and 80s adopt a paranoid dog, all hell breaks loose in the neighborhood.

A cute, mischievous winning animal? Yes, but this wire-haired terrier could, at times, become completely unhinged, affecting the lives of those around him.

Mom-participating in various art forms, but always distracted by the madness around her. The Big G.-father,complex, wounded opera singer, fierce personality. The kids-having many different interests between them, but absolutely fascinated by Pip’s singular talents.

Paranoid Pip and family are beset by evil-doers, creeps, thugs and drugs.

As told by mom, the story of Pip will take you on a journey through the ever-fascinating world of artists, writers, louts and lovers in the still-vital pub culture of beloved Greenwich Village, New York City.

Paranoid Pip

But looking at bad examples is only so helpful. If you’re going to write one yourself, you’ll need some guidance and lots of practice, so…

Lead off with a hook.

Book blurbs are sales copy. They should hold a reader’s attention better than Velcro, and the way to do that is with a solid hook. Assuming your entire book doesn’t already suck, this can be done effectively by getting the reader interested in your character or setting.

“A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution….”

The Handmaid’s Tale

“Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.”

Water for Elephants

Keep the teaser spoiler-free.

You know how Marilyn Monroe said, “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady”? Well, it’s kind of like that with your blurb copy. It has to reveal just the right amount of plot; shoot for a sentence or two. Notice in the following blurb we aren’t told what Katie’s dark secret is.

“Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport.”

Safe Haven

Highlight the conflict.

You’re going to need a clincher at the end that leaves readers hankerin’ for more, and you do that by making them wonder how in the world that mess is going to turn out. So, set up the conflict or obstacle. Give this your all, because ultimately it’s the reader’s need to know the resolution that’s going to make the sale for you.

“John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.”

Old Man’s War

Add review quotes if you’ve got them.

Let me begin this section by saying that no one cares what your mother thinks about your book.  Quotes of praise should really only be included if the person or organization being quoted holds some clout—it’s a famous author, critic or media outlet for example. If you don’t have anything, don’t sweat it. Outside praise isn’t essential, it just helps.

“A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts.” – New York Times Book Review

The Hobbit

Keep it short.

Great blurbs are concise. Some of the best, most professional ones I’ve read hover in the 130- to 170-word range, not including quotes. If you’re over 200 words, you’re pushing it. If you’re over 250, you’ve failed. Try again.


Just kidding. But there is a certain art or rhythm to blurb writing that you can learn to mimic through repetition. Pull a dozen books off your shelf and type or write the blurbs out verbatim. It’s old school, but it works.

Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write. Get Scrivener for Mac and Windows.