(The following is a copy of the review I wrote for this book at Amazon. I posted the review after having read through and copy-edited the review copy sent to me, but that review never showed up on the platform. I just posted it again, noticing that though several people were probably invited to read then review this eBook, there were no reviews listed. Kind of curious.)
Swipe This, by Murray Lunn, is another of a host of books spawned by the necessity of trying to make sense of how things work nowadays and how to make those things work to your advantage. In this case, we’re talking about Internet content writing and how to become an active player in the wide field of working with words on the WWW.
I got an invitation to read this book in exchange for a review. Now, first I had been pitched the book on a blog I appreciate. On reading over the general description, I decided to pass, I’m not one to pay for material that I can find out for myself. When offered a review copy with the recompense on my part being evaluating the book, well, why not, it might have a few shortcuts that I can take advantage of.
Who’s it for / What’s it about
The introduction clearly states that this book is for everyone. With a generalization like “Copywriting is for everyone.”, Lunn sets the reader up for a handbook that should appeal to a broad audience, from those who actually want to work in copywriting to those who might simply need the skills as an adjunct to their other professional activities.
In general, the ebook is well-structured (despite a small mix-up in the order of the seed metaphor, which thankfully is not central to the overall work), taking the reader through different aspects of the main message, presented in the title, which is how to find, organize and “swipe” ideas, maybe even texts, from other copywriters to build a kind of database of material for future commercial use.
The content / style
The actual content of the book reads a bit like a text a professor would require you to buy in a course like “Copywriting for Internet” and then teach from in class, explaining the actual putting-it-to-use through homework activities. Swipe This seems to assume that readers will be familiar with many of the tools (and at least six of them pay-for tools!) suggested, without clearly explaining that any of those tools will involve its own learning curve on top of the curve implied in the book.
The writing itself is, in general, pretty easy to follow, despite an overuse of “and” and “so” throughout. There were some points where I simply didn’t know what he was referring to (pronouns without clear antecedents) or didn’t understand (“do due diligence regarding” or “you’re not exactly flush.”). Several sentences had to be read a couple of times to interpret their meaning and a couple of times large sections of the writing seemed to slip off-theme from the chapter title. The review copy I received had around a dozen copy errors that a better copy editor ought to have caught and which the publisher has promised to correct before final presentation.
Not to get too deeply into ethics, some of the suggestions border on industrial espionage. Lunn even points this out clearly, titling one of the chapters just that: “Espionage”. In the introduction, he makes an effort to ease the minds of potential users of his plan: “Some of you may be apprehensive when it comes to executing some of the strategies contained in this work because you may feel it too aggressive….you don’t have to feel that it’s unethical because you’re using your competitors’ information against them.” This mixture of empathy for an ethical attitude with an aggressive “against them” suggestion recurs in other sections.
Same old, same….
There’s actually little new or fresh in this ebook. Any person who considers him/herself professional will be quite familiar with the need to observe the work of those who are successful in their field. While attempting to outline a process for such observation or study for copywriters, Lunn stays safely on the surface, without entering into details.
This becomes patent with his last chapter, “Data Crunch” (where that troublesome “seed” metaphor slips in anew) – while advising the reader to do some general reduction of data and data analysis, he has overlooked giving some clear advice at the outset of just what might be the best way to use any of the mentioned tools correctly to later make that data crunching agile.
Anyone who has improvised an Excel sheet without careful planning of how they will introduce the data and name the columns and rows will know that when the objective is to extrapolate conclusions or even simple lists, the structure has to be clearly established from the outset. I didn’t get the feeling that that structure was as clearly explained as it could have been.
It might not be for you
This book is not for seasoned professionals. There is little material that any experienced copywriter wouldn’t have already done on their own, in their own fashion. On the other hand, for the new copywriter, though the overall concept is useful, the lack of in-depth explanation of several of the concepts and how to go about doing them might leave less organized readers thinking that the entire process is just too complex to carry out.
Not included in the Amazon review
Much of what I’ve written up to now I’ve lifted for the actual review I wrote for the book. On the other hand, what I comment below has no place in a book review.
This book is kind of a sign of the times. It seems that self-named gurus (and I hope not to be one of them!) are scrambling to write, edit and “publish” their super secrets for getting things done in the ever-changing virtual world. I get invitations to seminars, podcasts, free training sessions, online tutorials, workshops, nearly every day. Each of them want to let me know just how to get more people onto my email list, how to make the perfect video course, how to write a blog post that will simply go viral. They seem to share one thing in common – get to it now! Only three days left! You’re missing out on a great deal!
The danger I see, though, is not the “only three days” marketing technique that’s been around since before the cows came home, rather how those “only three days” imposes itself upon the actual product being offered. I’ll drift away from the ebook reviewed above to talk about a video course I sat through, ironically enough, a course about how to make video courses (or how to get started doing so).
Oh darn, this post is really long, will go on about that in the next post.