“I write because I cannot NOT write.” (Charlotte Bronte)
I want to cover three important things today.
Important Thing #1: Very exciting news this morning: My first Kindle ebook (“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”) elbowed its way into best-seller territory on Amazon in less than half a day. It’s #4 on the “entrepreneur” books-for-sale chart, with a bullet, and surging on the “business” charts (in the top 35).
This is like watching your latest album climb the Billboard rankings. I labored over the book (with superb editing help from our pal David “Flashman” Raybould) for many months, whipping it into shape and waiting for the right moment to dive into the wonderful new world of self-publishing that has just hit the Big Turning Point.
Now, it’s up to the reading public to decide if it’s worthwhile or not. A little scary, a little thrilling, a lot of fun for a writer who has craved being in control of publishing my own stuff, in my own damn way, for most of my life.
And, as satisfying as it is to read the great buzz-comments on the Amazon page (and in social media) for this new tome… it’s even more energizing to have finally busted my cherry in digital publishing. This first book took a while to finish and get launched. The next one will follow blazingly quick, and there are even more in the hopper.
If you are so inclined, you can check out a free preview of the book (or even, gasp, buy it) here.
Leave a comment, too. And hit the “share” button on the page. The tome is getting rave reviews, which makes sense since it’s a lovingly-revised compilation of my best Rant newsletters (which I mailed to subscribers for 6 amazing years). This is time-tested stuff, the best “here’s what Carlton’s been teaching all these years” resource possible.
Hope you enjoy it, if you buy it. Hope you stay awake all night thinking about it if you don’t buy it, and feel compelled to buy it first thing in the morning. Cuz it’s damn cheap as a digital book, and you really SHOULD own it. (And yes, we’ll be offering a paperback version down the road, but this digital version is what you need right now.)
Important Thing #2: I now know much about self-publishing ebooks that was a mystery to me before.
For example… Read more…
“Don’t let me be misunderstood.” (The Animals, #15 on Billboard, 1965)
I’ve resurrected another gem from the archives… just because it’s so freakin’ good. Many of the lessons I try to deliver in this blog need to be delivered over and over (the only guaranteed way to finally learn anything in life), and once I nail it, there’s no sense rewriting it.
The clarity I try to achieve below is a solid step toward leading a more examined life… which all great marketers strive to do. There are stages to this if you’ve hit adulthood and continue to labor under false assumptions and bad belief systems. The worst is thinking that what you believe must be true, because you’ve believed it for so long.
This kind of circular cognitive dissonance can hold you up for decades (or even forever)… because our very human minds are hard-wired to listen to our intuition, no matter how often it’s proven wrong or screws up our lives.
We’re stubborn beasts. As a civilian, you just go enjoy your bad self with your silly notions and absurd assumptions. I’d prefer that you not vote, but it’s a free country.
However, as a marketer who desires wealth and recognition and lasting success… you cannot rely on the flawed default settings in your brain. If you haven’t been constantly giving yourself vicious Reality Checks over your career, you’re risking being stuck in a non-productive zone where competitors will fly past you, and customers flee.
I, personally, am very hard on myself. Very, very hard.
My transformation into a real professional meant climbing out of a slacker lifestyle where I got away with laziness, unreliability, and a self-destructive refusal to change… Read more…
“Mongo just pawn in game of life.” (Blazing Saddles.)
Recently, I published a series of posts on Facebook under the theme “How To Win An Argument”. Over the week it ran, there was a vast and animated flurry of comment and interaction — the posts hit a nerve.
Fortunately, because that series got so much traction in Facebook, I decided to gather them and post the series here in the blog, so they’ll go into the archives (and thus can be easily accessed by anyone interested). I say “fortunately”, because apparently Zuckerberg and his evil Facebook henchmen decided that all my January posts before the 20th (which included the argument series) needed to vanish from the face of the earth (and the virtual earth that is social media). Poof. They’re gone. No explanation, no way to get them back (though I’ve been searching for tips and asking for help from colleagues — there are a lot of videos out there pretending to have the secret of restoring “lost” posts, but they don’t work).
I’m kinda stunned… but glad I’d already copied and pasted those initial posts here. I’m doing the same with other FB posts from the past — just getting them copied into a Word doc, in case Zuck goes berzerk again. Jeez Louise, you probably need to take the same precautions if you have valuable posts you don’t want to lose.
So, Lesson #1: Do not trust Facebook to archive anything. The joint is crawling with post-devouring demons or something.
I’m not saying that everything I post there needs to be carved in stone. But I do write some cool shit on my wall, occasionally. It’d be nice if it remained there.
Anyway, below is a mildly-edited collection of that series on winning an argument. I didn’t save the dozens and dozens of comments, and that’s a shame — it was a great thread, full of other lessons. For example: The easiest way to get a whole bunch of folks frothing is to talk about (a) sex, or (b) their belief systems. They go nuts. As you’ll see below, I just laid out my views on how to handle people who want to argue and how to define “winning” for yourself… and that just pissed off some folks. Even discussing arguing inflamed their knee-jerk need to argue. Humorous, ironic, and illustrative of how whacko human beings can be. Also, as a marketer, informative — especially if you want or need to introduce some form of argument or alternative view into your advertising.
And, yes, this entire series is very much aimed at marketers. Great ads seldom argue, though they may be pushing buttons right and left. The psychology is subtle, but awesome.
So, without further ado, here’s that series. Love to hear your comments… which will all go safely into the blog archives, where Zuckerberg can’t touch them:
How To Win An Argument, Step 1: The primary rule is simple — never Read more…
Special Note If You’ve Just Come Here From My Facebook Rant On Winning Arguments: If you’re looking for a fast, thoroughly fun way to quickly learn high-end salesmanship skills… for a screaming bargain, no less… grab a copy of my must-read book “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” here.
Okay, on to the current blog post:
“Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)
I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.
What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…
… but this tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…
… and why they care about getting there.
So, even if you’ve read this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2013, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.
This is a critical step for entering any new period of your life. To keep your life moving ahead, you need to set some goals, dude. And most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless. Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).
This tactic I’m sharing with you (again) is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades…Read more…
“To the moon, Alice!” (Ralph Kramden)
I’m recycling a post from a little while back, because it’s on a subject that can never be discussed too many times…
… especially when it’s important that you establish a real, visceral connection with people to make your business work.
In fact, what I’m bring up here is much more critical to creating effective advertising than many of the obvious things people tend to focus on (like “long copy versus shot copy”, or how to test offers).
Listen: If you understand how to use the powerful tool explained below…
… you can screw up almost every other part of creating your ad (or video, or website, or email, or whatever you’re using to get your story across)… and still crush it with results.
So ignore the details in this dusty post (like references to “Six Feet Under”, that great HBO series now long-gone)…
… and know that the insight revealed here will forever be one of the most influential you’ll ever use in marketing.
In fact, it’s just becoming more and MORE important as social media and info-overwhelm continues to nudge everyone toward ADHD-Land, where attention spans are pathetic and fundamental human emotions like empathy wither.
Here’s the post (with a few edits and some added stuff):
Jeez Louise. Did you catch Sunday’s episode of “Six Feet Under” on HBO, with the jarring funeral scenes?
It was… shattering.
I was jarred back to every funeral I’d ever attended, and had emotions wrung out of me I’d long forgotten about.
Screw reality TV. The truly well-written fictional shows (most of them on HBO) can still rattle your cage like classic literature.
That episode was quality emotional-wringing.
Got me thinking, too. About empathy. And writing.
I’ve known people who seem to have shut down their empathy gears… and it becomes evident when they lose the ability to get outside of themselves and see the world from other people’s viewpoint. Movies require you to emotionally connect with the characters…
… and I recall uncles who fell asleep during the pea-soup-spewing scenes in “The Exorcist”…
… friends who laughed all through “Jaws”…
… and (in a real-world example) even an acquaintance who wondered what the big deal was when a colleague freaked out over a cherished cat’s sudden demise.
I also first saw “Saving Private Ryan” with a friend who was still a little shaky over his years in Vietnam during the war. He’d asked me to see it with him for moral support… and while he didn’t seem to have a tough time watching the movie, I kept an eye on him anyway, not sure what sort of poison might be brewing back up.
Those three films — and my experience with pets and people dying and careers ending and relationships imploding — were all emotionally jarring on various levels. And they were executed by master craftsmen, using scripts written by writers who knew where the tender spots were in most audiences.
I always feel a little estranged from people who either are — or claim to be — removed from emotional reactions.
In real life, we mostly experience things from inside our heads or along the contours of our immediate senses. It’s a claustrophobic point-of-view even the best Hollywood-quality cameras can’t yet mimic. In real life, everything happens just outside (or just within) our personal space, moment by moment, with no editing and no replay button.
When you personally feel emotional trauma, it’s a shock-inducing trial by fire that consumes you.
However, watching a TV show or a movie is a removed experience — pure voyeurism. You’re not there. It’s not happening to you. It shouldn’t have the same power as real life.
And yet… sometimes all the emotion of the real experience IS there, bubbling up from deep inside.
All the good writers I know are drenched with emotional self-knowledge and empathy for the emotional experiences of others. We aren’t walking around sobbing hysterically… but we are easily overcome with the feeling of a situation.
Sometimes Read more…
“When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all…” (Paul Simon, “Kodachrome”)
As I was writing a new article to post here, I used a term I invented: “Critical Think”. It’s not all that original, as ground-breaking terms go… but the idea behind it is very important for anyone seeking to move up a level or two in their career (or in their quest for ultimate happiness).
So, I’ve dug up the post where I first explained Critical Think, and I’m dragging it back onto the dance floor.
Really, this is timeless stuff. Enjoy:
Someone recently asked me to offer a clue on how to nurture critical thinking.
It’s a fair question. And while I’m no neuro-scientist, I talk about critical thinking a lot, because it’s the foundation of great writing, killer salesmanship, and engaging the world with your throttle wide open.
However, it’s not an easy subject to grasp if you’ve seldom taken your brain out for a spin around the Deep Thought Track (as most folks have not).
So let’s explore it a little bit here…
Critical Think Point #1: Yes, I know the headline on this article is a grammatical car wreck. It should be “how to think critically”, or at least “how to critically think”.
But this botched phrasing is actually part of the lesson I’m sharing here.
Consider: The vast majority of people sleep-walk through their lives and careers, never going beneath the surface of anything. They process, at most, a small fraction of the information they see, hear or read about.
It’s pretty much GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out.
So the first job of any good marketer is todeliver some level of brain-rattling wake-up call for the prospect. To literally jolt them out of their semi-permanent reverie, and initiate a more conscious state of awareness.
Cuz you can’t expect a somnambulant zombie to be proactive about following through with your request for buying something. Or opting in. Or even just continuing to read.
Thus: Good ad writers make full use of the incongruous juxtaposition of compelling sales elements — or, for short, the “hook”.
Ideally, you want the induced “WTF?” reaction strong enough to unleash a splash of adrenaline, or even physically make ’em bolt up and take notice. (As in, “That can’t be right! This violates my entire sense of what’s real!”)
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless you’ve got a black hole handy.”
Nice, short post here today. In keeping with the theme “KISS.”
Veteran entrepreneurs recognize this, of course, as an acronym of “Keep It Simple, Stupid“… easily some of the best biz advice I ever received in my long career. I carefully printed this slogan out, by hand, on a big notecard and had it taped above my desk for years (though, my sign was even more direct and vicious: Keep It Simple, Shithead. I wanted to get my own attention.)
I made good use of slogans during the early days. “Business before pleasure” was also huge for me, since I’d squandered my youth as a party-hardy slacker… and simply re-directing my energy first to biz (and having evil fun afterward, if I still had any juice left) instantly changed my entire existence. I made a vow to myself — my first real vow that I took deadly seriously — to follow that self-administered advice without hesitation or complaint… and to never apologize for basing my career on a hackneyed phrase that few people ever thought twice about. And that’s when things started popping for me, success-wise.
That was a key realization: All those dog-eared rickety slogans, as mocked as they are, have earned their way into the culture…
… because they Read more…
“He was a one-eyed, one horn, flying purple people eater…” (Sheb Wooley)
In the spirit of screwing off as much as possible this fine July, I’m replenishing the blog with another oldie-but-goodie post from the archives.
So you’ve got something good to chew on, while I wander off to the beach to get pounded by merciless surf and fried by an uncaring sun. You know: Good times.
Anyway, I love meandering through the archives here… especially when I find a post that still packs some mojo.
Here’s a nice short one from ’07, on the non-scientific process of finding great hooks for your headlines. At the time, I was bummed that a favorite newsstand shock-rag was ending its run… however, the good news is that WWN is still alive and kicking (just like Elvis) online. (Today’s headline: “Saturn Ready To Explode!” Um… okay.)
The ability to find a way to hook readers (and drag them into your story) is what separates the Big Dog writers from the wannabe’s.
And creating hooks (especially from otherwise boring raw material) is an art form that needs to be developed. It’s not a skill that comes with your standard brain equipment.
Here’s some insight to how the best veteran copywriters do it, slightly edited, via the Archive Time Machine, from July ’07:Read more...
“Use all your well-learned politics, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.” (Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil”)
Today, I’m gonna share with you one of the nastiest, yet most valuable lessons you’ll ever get in your career.
It’s all about the firestorm of conflicting personality types you’ll encounter in the Big Game O’ Biz. It took me ages to figure all this out (and get it into a simple concept that’s easily explained)… and many, many times it has saved my butt from disaster.
This is the mostly hidden part of being in business. The other fundamentals… honing your skills, dealing with technology, managing moolah… all seem to be fairly straightforward.
If only we didn’t have to deal with human beings to get through the day, everything would be just dandy.
However, sizzling underneath every interaction with another Shaved Ape lies a volcanic pit of emotional, physiological/biological, intellectual and metaphysical goo. Experienced professionals intuitively learn to negotiate this roiling obstacle, eventually… but usually can’t explain what they’re doing. They rely on a code of ethics, first, that eliminates or salvages biz relationships with the most common kinds of crooks and monsters out there.
However, waiting for the other guy to violate your code before jettisoning him from your life means you’re a punching bag while the truth about the human capacity for evil slowly dawns on you. (And most folks never really understand any of this. Which is why the neighbors of the freshly-caught serial killer always express disbelief — “He seemed like a nice guy. Always mowed his lawn. Sure, there were screams from the basement sometimes, but…”)
I studied this stuff — and figured it out — only because I was completely on my own in the early part of my career as a freelance copywriter (where I constantly dealt with new people, and needed all the insight to make quick-yet-correct decisions I could muster). I had a smidgeon of a hint, through an otherwise-worthless psychology degree I snagged in my youth…
… but the real breakthrough came because my quest to become an expert in salesmanship forced me to go deep with how people actually react to a sales pitch. This was my introduction to “street level psychology”… Read more…
“But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash“)
It’s time for another orgy of graduation rites across the land…
… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting my now globally-notorious big damn rant on the subject. This was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.
So, without further ado… here’s the third redux of that post:
Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.
That’s probably a good thing. I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.
See, I have a university “education”. A BA in psychology. (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.) I earned it several decades ago…
… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…
… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world. Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.
I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Great Depression (offering us Nixon’s wage-freeze, record unemployment, an oil embargo, and near-total economic turmoil)…
… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?Read more…