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August 18, 1985|MARTY LIEBERMAN

THE COPYWRITER'S HANDBOOK: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO WRITING COPY THAT SELLS by Robert W. Bly (Dodd, Mead: $17.95). This book succeeds on two levels. For beginners, it offers a clear, comprehensive guide to the business of and techniques used in advertising copy writing. And for professionals behind a typewriter, the book is a valuable back-to-basics tool that should be given a prominent slot on the bookshelf. Bly concentrates on his speciality, print advertising, while giving only lip service to television and radio. But that really doesn't matter here, since the principles he covers can easily be applied to broadcast. Two of his dominant themes are preparation and writing to sell. He recommends that copywriters first list the features of the product or service and then restate them as reader benefits when actually writing the ad. He's also quite critical of writing, especially headline writing, that is clever and cute but fails to offer a benefit or motivate the reader to get "into" the ad. Bly applies his tips to a number of print mediums, including ads, direct mail, sales letters, brochures and press releases. The last quarter of the book offers advice on how to become a successful free-lancer, ad agency or client-side copywriter. At times Bly comes off a bit too self-serving. But that's to be expected from an author still active in the free-lance business.

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