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Interview—Tait Ischia, author of Copywrong to Copywriter
Written by Max Olijnyk — 23rd June 2016
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Tait!

We’re all about writing, here at The Good Copy. We write stories for magazines and online publications, and we write social media posts and website copy for clients. Hell, we even teach the mechanics of writing in our Stop. Grammar Time. classes.

But when it comes down to it, we’re just as bewildered by and terrified of writing as everyone else. ‘Aaarrghh! Why did I start a writing agency when I don’t even like writing?’ shrieked Penny only a few minutes ago, before sticking on her headphones and tapping out what I can only imagine to be heavenly prose. The point is: writing is hard at the best of times, and copywriting, which is essentially writing to a brief, can be even trickier.

Enter Tait Ischia. This friendly chap is a copywriter and a friend of ours. On top of his impressive and varied work as part of Studio Thick, he’s about to release his own instructional book on copywriting, and it even has a pun title! Copywrong to Copywriter looks and sounds amazing, but because it doesn’t exist yet, and because we always like to go to the source, we asked Tait a few questions about it. Behold:

Copywriter_mock_book_profileFor the purposes of this interview, can you pretend you don’t know me at all and explain who you are and what you do for a crust?
Sure thing. Hi, Max. I’m Tait Ischia and I’m a copywriter. I’ve been writing things for businesses and organisations for almost 10 years now. It’s been fun. Now, like the self-involved idiot I am, I think I know enough to write about it and tell others how to do it.

I’ve been hearing a lot about this book, Copywrong to Copywriter. How did it come about? Was there a moment in which you decided to do it?
You can blame my friend Jess. I used to sit next to her in a studio with a bunch of freelancers about four years ago. At the time, she was working as a producer with lots of her own clients. She would manage the designers and developers on small website projects and make sure the budgets didn’t blow out and everyone was happy. The budgets were tiny, but, for the small businesses she was working with, it was a huge investment—two thousand bucks is a big deal when you’re small.

Since these small businesses were already spending thousands on a designer and a developer, paying a copywriter was out of the question. It wasn’t even part of the plan. Writing words for the website was just this random thing they had to do at the end of the project, before the website went live.

It made me realise there were probably a lot of people in small businesses who had the ability to write their own copy, but lacked the basic foundational knowledge to get started. That is when I had ‘the moment’.

How did you approach writing the book? Was it all you worked on for that period of time? When did you know it was finished?
It’s been a slow construction. I started with a one-pager in the beginning. I’d been working on a presentation about copywriting that I wanted to give to others, so I had some good raw material to work with. I guess I’d been slowly developing a set of principles for copywriting that I felt set the foundations for all the work I was doing.

The one-pager slowly grew over the years until I got it to the point where I had about 6,000 words. Then I gave it to an editor, Mel Campbell, to read and critique. She’s brilliant.

Mel’s feedback was a really crucial moment in gauging how far I’d come and how far I still had to go. With her comments, I added another 4,000 words. At that point I thought, This feels about right. And that’s when I knew it was finished.

Did you have a particular reader in mind when you were writing the book?
I started writing for the ‘small business owner’ that I assumed Jess was working with: expert in their area, but lacking confidence as a writer.

The first draft focused heavily on their feelings of anxiety—the way people feel when they don’t feel confident writing for an audience. There was a lot of that stuff in it. It was all about building confidence.

But Mel suggested I think of them not as anxious and worried people, but as confident people with a knowledge gap who are looking for practical advice. It’s obvious now that I think about it, but I really needed that outside perspective to fix my perception. Imagining a helpless, anxious reader wasn’t doing anyone any favours—me or the reader.

Writing for an audience is weird like that; even with a really clear idea of who you’re writing for, there’s still plenty of room for nuance. It just goes to show you can’t really know your audience unless you take the time to sit down with them and talk about how they think and feel.

But get this: since I’ve launched the pre-sales campaign and started talking to people about the book, the most interested audience by far is people who want to become professional copywriters. There’s a lot of information floating around about copywriting, but not a lot of it is very useful. At least I don’t think so, anyway.

So now I’ve made the book relevant to people who are starting out as copywriters, as well.

Copywriter_mock_book_spreadThe book looks cool. Can you tell me about the guy who did the illustrations, and the guy who designed it?
Jacob Zinman-Jeanes is the illustrator. We work together at Thick. Everything he does turns to gold. He’s got a great sense of humour and it really shows in his work.

The book was designed by Tristan Main. He works as a book designer at one of Australia’s premier publishing companies. His attention to detail is just terrific. The final printed thing will look and feel amazing and it’s all because of Tristan.

As an early adopter, I pre-ordered my copy as soon as I heard about it, and then you hit the target you were aiming for quite quickly. But now the Pozible campaign has changed and you want to raise even more money. What’s going on over there?
Thanks for being an early adopter Max! You don’t wanna be no laggard.

So yeah, I hit the target in the first two days. It was a complete surprise. It meant I had enough money to print the book. But I still need to make $6,000 to cover the total cost of the project.

If I can raise more than $6,000, I’m going to make everyone a super-cool poster, illustrated by Jacob. Everyone who has bought a book already will get one. It’s the least I can do for all the support I’ve received so far.

What happens after the campaign winds up and the book launches? Will you hit the promotional trail?
Yep, the books get printed and the launch happens in August. I’ll have a party and everyone will be invited. I haven’t really thought too far into the future—though there will be some sort of promotional trail. It will probably involve me lugging a box of books around Collingwood and throwing them at people on bikes.

But yeah, in terms of promotion, I’m really looking forward to publishing the book and seeing what the reaction is. Anytime I try and make plans they shift pretty quickly, so I’m just going to set up a few things after the launch and see what happens. You know, go with the flow, but in a really deliberate and focused way, not in a lay-on-the-couch-and-drink-tea kinda way. Although, I’ll do a bit of that, too.

Order your copy from the Copywrong to Copywriter Pozible page.