Anyone know what 0470637927 is? (Reminds me of, “I am human being number 1005963297.”) If you guessed that it’s our book’s ISBN #, you are absolutely right, and there’a a case of Rice-a-Roni here with your name on it!

Last week, I took a little detour from writing profiles to do the first piece of what will likely be loads of promotional writing on behalf of Letters From Home. Our editor needed to submit web copy to her online team late last week, so it was either use what her marketing team drafted or come up with our own. (And anyone who knows me even remotely well knows which option I will pick every time.) Web copy is the brief book description that will wind up on our book page on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The marketing team had taken a crack at it based on our original book proposal, but it didn’t exactly capture the essence of the book as it has evolved. I was requested to keep any edits or revisions to roughly the same length, which was 222 words. And so it took me a full day-and-a-half to craft – and I literally mean craft – a new description that wound up totaling 212 words (Hey! “212” – I wonder if that’s why I can’t get “Empire State of Mind” out of my head today!)

You see, my name is Andrea, and I am a “correct-wordaholic.” My addiction to choosing precisely the right word in my writing started years ago when I was in college and a professor nominated me for a merit scholarship from the Publicity Club of Boston. In a limited number of words – I don’t recall if it was 250 or 500 – I had to explain why writing was so important to me. I remember writing draft after draft, painstakingly counting the words, and editing and editing and editing until I had sculpted the piece down to the word limit. This was back in the Dark Ages when you actually had to write by hand and type up the final draft on the old Smith Corona. That single piece of work was one of the greatest, most rewarding exercises in economical writing I have ever done, and it remains my inspiration to this day. (And I was ultimately honored to receive the Pub Club award as well!)

As a numbers guy, David thought I was completely insane while I was developing the web copy. I wrote an initial draft and read it aloud to him, and while I was reading, I could already hear word choices and phrasing that I wanted to change. I got to the last word, and he hastily said it was great and I should just email it to our editor and go back to writing the book. I laughed and headed back to the computer to make my preliminary changes. I read it over again and discovered a couple more words I wanted to change. Then I re-read it and found a more pleasing way to phrase something. Then I had epiphanies with a few other words. Then I flipped some sentences around. It was always almost there but I perpetually sensed it was not quite right. Hours went by. David started to panic that we wouldn’t finish by deadline and couldn’t imagine what more I could change. But with limited words comes the exquisite challenge of tweaking it until it sings perfectly. I was exhilarated by the exercise. David was downright exhausted by my sheer persistence. On my final run through, there were four places where I had a few options for word choice (favorably? auspiciously? advantageously?) and I invited David in to “help” me zero in on exactly the right word. He was astonished at how far the short piece of writing had come, and was thrilled with the finished copy. It was worlds away from the first draft I had shown him and I was pretty proud and satisfied. It reminded me of when I pick paint colors and I’m nutty enough to spend the time honing in on just the right tone, value and hue (c2 “Vapour” at 50% please) or else the color on the wall will wind up throwing me off. It doesn’t take me all that long in the grand scheme of things, but it’s definitely worth the extra work in the long run.

Anyhoo…without further delay, I present to you our web copy:

It’s asked everyday – “How do they do it?” How is it that some people appear to consistently make all the right decisions where money is concerned, while others, who diligently follow strategic advice from financial experts never seem to be able to dig themselves out of debt and build sustainable wealth? After examining the diverse clientele David Reiser has cultivated over the past 25 years as a professional wealth manager, the authors distilled 10 organic characteristics that separated highly successful individuals and families from those who have continually fared less favorably. These 10 timeless virtues, traditionally taught and modeled by parents and other accessible mentors, have become fundamentally extinct in America. The current generation is increasingly being seduced by pervasive media messages that promote entitlement, instant gratification, and an expectation of fame and wealth regardless of achievement – all of which contribute to a palpable sense of moral and social emptiness in our country. In heartwarming letters to their teenage sons, the authors discuss the importance of each of the 10 virtues, and include profiles of compelling role models from within their own lives who personify each of these characteristics. Interweaving life lessons on work, money, attitude and philosophy with real-life success stories, Letters from Home is a decidedly unconventional personal finance book.

My next derailing task (“derailification?”) was to come up with keywords – you know, the words you might type into an Amazon search box to find a book on a particular topic and have Letters From Home pop up. I combed the book proposal and the writing I’ve done so far to think of anything I could, since our editor told us there was no limit, and obviously, the more keywords, the better. I think I came up with almost 200 search terms (yeah, right – the word “the”), and we’ll be able to add more later on as we keep writing.

Finally, I managed to end the week by writing another profile. I’m finding the hardest part is to shift gears every time I write for a new chapter. Because each profile is tailored to the specific topic in that chapter, I have to make a huge mental shift about how I want to tell a story for a new chapter. Right now I have two interview transcripts on my desk, one of which I keep avoiding because I know it’s going to be an especially challenging and powerful profile to write. I’m hoping to get the other done by Wednesday, when we do our next interview, so I’d better get back to work!

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