Poets and Writers Magazine: A comparison in copy

It’s funny how people will treat you differently, once they perceive you as a “real” writer. For an entertaining example, let’s compare and contrast a couple of mailings I recently received from Poets & Writers Magazine. Consider it a copywriting critique, as there are some important differences between these two representative samples.

Figure A contains the note P&W originally sent me, just as my “regular schmuck” subscription was about to expire:

Please note their vaguely threatening wording: “If you don’t renew your subscription promptly […] you’ll have to forge ahead with your writing career without it.” Good god, no! Don’t go it alone—you’ll never survive!!

The price listed on the renewal form is $19.95 for one year (6 issues), compared to a newsstand (cover) price of $35.70.

Figure B is the letter I received once they discovered I was a real, actual, published writer. One whom they had in their “published author” database. You know, someone who might say critical things about their previous letter in, say, this blog:

Now they know my name and take the time to use mail-merge to address me by it (rather than “Dear Writer”), while also taking a far more ingratiating tone: “You take your writing seriously and you want your work to be taken seriously by others […]” and “We are here to help.”

Please also note that “Because you are active in the literary community,” my price has now dropped to $9.95 for a year’s subscription.

Okay, so here’s the thing: I’m not saying that P&W isn’t a cool magazine with good advice for writers, both professional and dilettante. I obviously subscribed, despite not originally having a super-sweet discount to seal the deal, and I’ve enjoyed reading their articles. But I also know that a lot of the stuff they print in the back of the mag (i.e. all the markets, contests, grants, etc.), which is the angle they’re mainly pushing as a reason for keeping up my subscription, can be perused for free on their website (it’s under “Tools For Writers“).

So, what will the savvy, pro writer do?

Probably not renew his or her subscription. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, as they say?

Plus, it probably doesn’t help that your Circulation Director is writing such tone-deaf notes to clients (i.e. Figure A), not-so-subtly suggesting that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the mag is destined for failure. Just sayin’.

I’m not suggesting a boycott here, just a little forethought in terms of marketing materials. View this as a helpful copywriting critique, if you will. In the end, you don’t have to give all subscribers the You’re A Real Writer Discount, but you should at least treat them all with the same respect they deserve. Writers are easy targets for unscrupulous folks that want to prey on people’s hopes and dreams; it’s definitely wise to avoid any such associations—accidental though they may be—when writing to valued subscribers.