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Writing an Effective Cover Letter

While preparing a letter for a direct-mail program, I came across a seven-step formula for writing cover letters. I thought I would pass this along in case you are interested:

Step One: Lead with the most prominent benefit your book offers to this particular target market. Obviously, your lead will change with each different market. One headline I used which was particularly effective in a mailing to librarians was "This book is two years overdue."

Step Two: Expanding upon the benefit. Since the first paragraph should be short, the second should make it more clear why this benefit is important and perhaps add another benefit.

Step Three: Tell the readers specifically what they will get. This is a summary statement of your major benefit. It reminds me of a quote I once heard stressing brevity and and impact in cover letters: "Tell me quick and tell me true, or else my friend, the heck with you."

Step Four: Prove the value the readers will receive, perhaps adding a testimonial or very brief example of someone else who used the information in your book successfully.

Step Five: Tell the readers what they will lose if they don't act now. The objective here is to motivate the readers to respond quickly. Once they put your letter down they are less likely to respond.

Step Six: Summarize your entire offer. Repeat the benefit: why the reader will be better off buying your book.

Step Seven: Close. Tell the reader exactly what to do to buy your book now. Send in the enclosed reply card? Call immediately? Fill in the order blank? What specific step should be taken?

This sequence is a little longer that the traditional Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) formula most advertising copywriters use. But if your proposal is truly beneficial, this seven-step formula can make it irresistible. I hope this helps.

Brian Jud

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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