Monday, January 10, 2011

The Importance of Calls to Action for Writers

Calls to action are usually associated with commercials, sales, marketing and advertising. For instance, a television or radio commercial may cover the benefits of a product and service and finish off with a message of "call in the next five minutes to get 20% off." Or a product (such as a bottle of Mountain Dew or box of Cheez-Its) may advise customers to type a promotional code into a website to see if they win a prize. But there are many other ways writers can employ a call to action.

Why use a call to action?
It's natural to question why employing a call to action should matter for writers. After all, isn't a call to action just some slimy method salespeople use to trick consumers into spending money and giving away their e-mail addresses? Well, I don't feel that way.

People use calls to action in music, movies and literature to change minds. It's used in journalism and documentaries to change hearts. And, of course, it's also used to sell products, get votes, and create change (for better or worse).

When used with a conscience, calls to action are a service to your readers, because a call to action gives directions on what to do next, whether that's giving them a way to learn more information about a topic or making it easy for them to check out a product or service mentioned. After all, there's nothing wrong with making money off a call to action if you're straightforward about what you're doing.

How can writers use calls to action?
Any writer who wants to communicate with others will likely benefit from employing calls to action. Here are a few places writers can use them:
  • Queries
  • Proposals
  • Newsletters
  • Articles
  • Choose-Your-Adventure Novels
  • Blog Posts
But the possibilities are nearly endless. In fact, some fiction and poetry even includes a call to action.

Calls to action are most effective when...
  • They're simple. This means it's easy to do. Like click a link or respond to an e-mail.
  • They're focused. This means that the call to action makes only one request. The more options you give, the less focused the reader becomes, and the chances of complete inaction increase.
  • They're clear. This means there is the call to action is not ambiguous in what should be done next. Don't insinuate that a person could find more information on your site; give them the links to make it happen.
Whatever you do, make sure you don't write a call to action that leaves readers wondering, "Now what?" If they're not sure what to do, then the call to action was not effective.

Remember: Calls to action are not just for marketers, and they're not sleazy if you're using them to give your readers meaningful direction. When used appropriately, a call to action is a win-win for both writers and the people who read them.


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Here are a few other posts of interest to writers:

If you're interested in learning more about calls to action, here are a couple good resources:


Maggie Butler at The Celtic Muse said...

Would love it if you would give a couple of concrete examples of just how a writer might use a call to action. For instance, you mention queries and proposals. Would you give a couple of examples, please? thanks so much.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Hey, Maggie. I promise I'll make a post that uses examples for different situations sometime before the end of the month.