Make Your Writing Sell – Lessons from the Tabloids

writing sell

Photo Credit: swanksalot Flickr via Compfight cc

This weekend I went to Walmart.

When you get to the checkout, you’re presented with an array of magazines with headlines that grab you – and won’t let go. I thought, “Why do these publications sell year after year, decade after decade, and they’re still printed on paper?”

I wanted to know more. I picked up a copy of the National Enquirer and read an article as I waited for the checkout lane to inch forward for what seemed like a century.

Why Your Writing Doesn’t Sell

I know what you’re saying.

“I’m not resorting to the same tactics those smutty papers use. I’ll sell my writing by being myself.”

How’s that working for you?

Like Elmer Wheeler said nearly a century ago,

“You sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

What happens when you shop for a car?

  • You take it for a drive.
  • You smell the crisp Corinthian leather.
  • You feel how smoothly it handles the curves.
  • You marvel at the onboard computer that can balance your checkbook as you drive.

Tom Hopkins calls this technique “getting the buyer to think ownership thoughts.” When you see yourself using the car, you’ve already bought it, haven’t you?

Say yes.

Now let’s see what the tabloids do to sell the sizzle.

The key to selling your writing is to sell the sizzle, not the steak. Click To Tweet


7 Things We’re All Susceptible To

Have you heard of the 7 deadly sins?

If you haven’t, here’s the list:

  • Pride
  • Wrath
  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Sloth
  • Envy
  • Greed

Why are these deadly?

They’re deadly because every one of us is susceptible to every one of them.

Has your pride ever gotten the better of you?

Have you ever been so mad you wanted to kill someone (but didn’t, of course)?

Have you ever thought a little too long about someone you had feelings for?

How you ever overindulged when your plate was full and your stomach was empty?

Have you come home from work, your energy spent, just to collapse on the couch in front of the TV?

I could go on, but you get the point.

These 7 sins are so powerful we can’t deny being influenced by them from time to time.

Now let’s take advantage of those things that take advantage of us.

Your writing will be more appealing when you understand human behavior. Click To Tweet


How to Make Your Writing Sell Without Being Sleazy

1) Pride

Your son or daughter graduates from high school. You get married. You buy a new house.

When that happens, you want to celebrate, don’t you?


Because you’re proud. And you should be. In fact, you tell all your friends about it (maybe a little too much).

But it’s okay. They’re happy for you because they love you.

You appeal to someone’s pride with praise. You make others feel good when you celebrate with them. Do that in your writing and your readers will love you back!


2) Wrath

Sometimes something happens that makes you hopping mad.

  • Your best friend forgets you invited her to dinner.
  • The promotion you wanted just went to someone who isn’t as qualified as you.
  • You were two minutes late and the meter maid gave you a ticket.

Stuff like this can just ruin your day, can’t it?

When we see injustice, we get mad. When we suffer because of an injustice, we want to balance the scales.

Write about what makes people mad. Take a stand on an issue. You may offend some, but your writing will resonate with the rest.

Take a stand in your writing. You'll offend some and resonate with the rest. Click To Tweet


3) Lust

Today we see images of sex everywhere.

Lust isn’t confined to that. Sure, that’s the obvious thing. Anything you crave with an insatiable desire is something you lust after.

  • Having a good time.
  • The relationship you’ve always wanted.
  • The joy of life itself.

Your readers have these desires, too. Eugene Schwartz, the great copywriter, said you can’t create desire with your writing. All you can do is channel the desires they already feel.

What does your reader want more than anything? Help him get it, and you’ll have a friend for life!


4) Gluttony

You’re sitting in front of a table filled with every one of your favorite foods.

You get to fill your plate as many times as you want.

What will you do?

You’ll eat until your stomach hurts. You tell yourself, “It will be okay this one time.” So you heap the food on your plate, and dig in because it feels so good.

Give your reader a heaping helping of what she loves most. She’ll feel like a kid in a candy store!

Give your reader what she loves most and she'll love you back. Click To Tweet


5) Sloth

Years and years ago, McDonald’s ran an ad campaign that you could sum up in a single sentence.

You deserve a break today.

You work hard. All you want to do when you get home is plop in a chair, turn on the TV, and drift off to sleep.

In fact, you’re so tired, you could sleep for a week.

Ever feel like that?

I have. I’m so busy, sometimes I wish I could just tune out, turn off, and drop out.

But my personality won’t let me.

Your reader has a lazy streak inside. She gets tired of life, her responsibilities, and her struggles. Give her a mental break with your writing, and you’ll make her day.


6) Envy

If you’ve ever tried to keep up with the Joneses, you’ve experienced envy.

  • Your neighbor, coworker, or brother buys a new car, so you buy a new car.
  • Your friends have new iPhones, so you get one, too.
  • All your friends run to the edge of a cliff and jump off, so you do, too.

Okay. Maybe not the last one.

We get jealous because we want to fit in. When we don’t have something that identifies us with our peer group, we begin to feel like we don’t belong. So we do things to rectify that.

Envy is behind it all. It’s why we join groups, go to concerts, and buy Apple products (or Samsung or anything else). Appeal to envy and you’ll boost your sales – guaranteed!


7) Greed

My friend had a shed full of beer cans from around the world.


Because we all collect something.

It was pretty cool to look at all those differently labeled cans. Was it practical? Probably not. But when you want something. and you’ll go to great length to arrange it, protect it, and display it, you’re probably operating on greed.

Here’s how greed is sold:

  • Collect all six!
  • See the whole series on Netflix.
  • Here’s something else you might like…

My family moved recently. Over the years, we collected hundreds of books. Do we need them all? Nope. Most of the books we read now are digital. It just felt good to have them, so we kept them.

Now the Friends of the Library has our collection.

If you have a series of items to sell, use greed in your appeal.


Do This Now

You’ve learned 7 powerful motivators. How can you use them in your writing to add color, interest, and connection?

  • Write your next post using one of the seven sins. Even a subtle appeal can spark interest.
  • Share this article with someone you know who struggles to get readers, sell their products, or feels blocked.
  • Subscribe and get every post delivered straight to your inbox (did you catch the sin I used there?)
  • Join the Tribe Builder’s Network and share your fascinating blog post with more people!


Posted in Writer Marketing, writing, writing success and tagged , , .

I'm a Writing Coach, a Promotion Strategist, and an Entrepreneur. I help writers engage readers, sell their ideas, and build their tribes. I design non-sleazy promotion plans for artists, writers, and other creatives. When I'm not writing, I love coffee and conversation.


      • Yes, I find it exhilarating when I learn about human behavior. I also find it interesting that I only accept the behaviors I think are admirable. The others I don’t see. Hmmm. How convenient.

        • Anne, I know exactly what you mean. It’s a bit disturbing to learn the truth about human behavior. Blair Warren say we ignore these truths to our own peril. If the end we have in mind is good, I think we can find an ethical way to use this.

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