A swipe file is a collection of proven attention grabbers. Strictly speaking, they are advertising and sales letters, but you don’t need to stop there. You can have swipe files for any kind of writing you want to imitate.
You can buy swipe files, but the quality varies greatly and tends to be poor. Make your own and you will know how good they are.
The purpose of swipe files is not copy and paste. That would be copyright infringement. Even if it wasn’t, it would make you look like an amateur. You want to work out what makes the examples so effective and use the same techniques yourself.
Where can you find material for your swipe files? Everything written is a candidate. Let’s look at the most popular targets.
Headlines are where it all starts. When the headline doesn’t attract readers, what follows can be gold and it will be ignored. How do you pick out great headlines?
Look for headlines that make you want to click the link when you do a search. The first few non-sponsored article headlines in a Google search are articles that have grabbed lots of other searchers’ attention. Do they grab yours?
Which blog or article directory headlines make you want to read the article?
What does a website list as it’s most popular articles?
When someone writes about their amazing success selling a product and you respond, what were the headlines and link text they used?
Which magazine and newspaper articles do you read because of the headlines?
Compelling introductions are worth imitating. In everything you read, take the time to consider whether the introductory paragraph makes you want to read the rest. If so, it goes in the swipe file.
This is a little more complex. You’re looking for convincing arguments that are presented clearly, formatting that makes you keep reading, anything that gives you the impression you’ve found great writing.
These can be as important as opening paragraphs. How many times have you come to the end of a great article and it just died? You don’t want that to be your copy. Notice great finishes and swipe them so you can learn their methods.
Sales Offers, Promos and Guarantees
These are worth collecting too. Notice which ads, promotional emails, snail mail flyers and guarantees catch your interest.
This is obviously not going to be a file. In this case, you should keep the most successful books you can find on any subject. When you lose interest in a subject, don’t get rid of all the books. Keep the ones you think of as the best.
Storing Swipe Files
Storing your swipe files on a PC has the advantage of not taking up much space and being easily searchable for key words. But it’s time consuming to scan paper copy into your computer. You would probably need to settle for both paper and virtual swap files.
Real world files have their advantages. You can flip through them quickly. You can compare a bunch of items spread out on a table. You can make your swipe files 100% hard copy by printing out anything you find on the net.
Swipe Files Can Be A Waste of Time
There is an argument that swipe files are just more clutter. They could become a collection that keeps growing beyond reason. If this worries you, there are ways around it.
Build your own templates based on the great examples you find and throw away the examples. Then, when you find new copy that works, compare it to your templates. Of course, then you’ll be building a template collection.
Another option is to imitate and discard. Build a swipe file collection and get rid of items after you’ve imitated the style, technique or pattern. Nothing is being lost when you learn a new writing technique and add it to your skillset. As long as you are actively looking for more copy to swipe, there’s no danger your swipe files will become empty.
Many swear that a swipe file can never be too large. Others take the minimalist approach, use new swipes immediately and throw them away. With a bit of trial and error, you will find what works for you.
Article by Ivan Izo.