Why You Need These 4 Essential Headline Writing TipsWhen you’re running short of time, you instinctively scan instead of read an article. What do you scan? Significant pictures and keywords that capture your attention. Where are the keywords usually located? In the headline, of course. If the headline interests you, you will naturally feed your curiosity by reading the article further, and then it seems like you have some time to afford after all.

It has been said that the headline constitutes 80% of the first impression of a piece of content, therefore it is a critical element of written communication. Some marketers have a mistaken idea that headlines are restricted to advertising copy. No, headlines pervade everywhere including landing pages, social media posts and blog posts. In fact, the following 3 reasons are why we must adopt a “headline first” mentality in everything we write:

1) Readers are always short of time (I believe this is not a baseless presumption).
2) Readers must get interested before they read further.
3) Writers must not lose sight of what readers are looking out for.

Famous copywriters are known to earn millions out of writing words, or as business guru Rich Schefren said, “selling electrons.” But marketing through written communication (like copywriting) is an age-old skill that will always be in demand. For marketers who want to reach out to a wider audience, learning to write compelling, attention-grabbing headlines is a good starting point.

Today, you have 4 tips to writing a powerful headline.

1. Use Trigger Words (e.g. what, why, how, when)

Trigger words promise the reader that he or she should learn something after reading your article. Rather than your headline simply making a statement, trigger words make it sound more persuasive.

2. Use Numbers

It is no secret that the most successful headlines use numbers in order to sound specific, like “7 Tips To Lose Body Fat Fast!”

Numbers are a copywriter’s best friend, and they work like a charm.

3. Use Interesting Adjectives

Here are some examples:


Adjectives are what I call “sentence enhancers”. They add flavours to the written word so readers can feel good or have positive visualization of what is being said to them in their mind.

4. Create A Curiosity Gap

Peter Koechley, the co-founder of Upworthy, one of the most visited editorials on the Internet, says, “Tell people enough to get them interested but not so much they don’t need to click. Our goal is to create an itch you need to scratch.”

While you shouldn’t reveal too much in your headline, you have to include enough information that intrigues the reader to begin with, so find that balance.

Here’s a simple headline-writing formula:

Number + Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword(s)

For instance, if you were to write an article on “eating bananas”, you could phrase it as “Why You Should Eat Bananas”, or take it a step further and make it: “14 Unbelievable Reasons Why You Should Eat Bananas”.

Apply the formula and you get: Why You Need These X Essential Headline Writing Tips.

We practice what we preach.

So overpromise your readers with your powerful headlines, just remember to deliver too.

Nelson Tan is an Inbound Marketing consultant at iSmart Communications, an integrated marketing communications agency serving the Asia-Pacific region.

MM, a famous and wealthy entrepreneur, once surprised me in a speech to a group of copywriters by saying, “I think everyone should have kids.”

Here’s why I think MM said that…

As a copywriter, you have to write copy that sells products and services to people in a wide variety of situations.

These may include parents of newborns, parents of teens, parents struggling to pay their kids’ college tuition, and first-time grandparents.

If you don’t have kids, you haven’t experienced these situations and the emotions they entail first-hand.

And please don’t tell me you have nieces and nephews or friends with kids. It’s not even close.

Therefore it follows that the more experience you have, the more powerful and genuine your copy will be because you know more. This is why older copywriters have an advantage over younger: we have simply experienced more.

You will write better copy about dealing with a parent who has Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s if your mother or father is in that unfortunate situation, which is far less likely if you are 22 than 62.

DP, a young entrepreneur who has made a lot of money selling information products on how to deal with bipolar disorder, can write such great copy for his business because he grew up with a bipolar mother.

Kurt Vonnegut said of the young students in the college writing classes he taught: “They are damned if they will tell a story simply and directly, and I have discovered the reason for this: they have no stories to tell.”

Yes, everybody young and old has a storehouse of unique experiences that can be raw material for their writing. But if you are 70, you likely have more experience in more areas in your storehouse than when you were 20.

And that’s the edge older copywriters have today over the younger ones.

Einstein: “The only source of knowledge is experience.”

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about companies developing software that can write copy.

Naturally copywriters are both a bit skeptical and a bit nervous that, if the software works, it will put them out of a job.

The copywriting software company getting the most PR is Persado. A recent Wall Street Journal headline boldly proclaimed: “Persado Raises $21 Million to Replace Human Copywriters with Computers.”

But as it turns out, the media misinterprets what Persado’s software is really doing. So let me set the record straight, based on a recent interview I conducted with Persado CMO David Atlas.

First, the software does not write copy in the sense that you or I might write a sales letter, ad, landing page, or brochure. It cannot do what we copywriters do…yet.

David explained to me that the Persado algorithm is limited to creating persuasive sentences with a maximum length of 600 characters. So far it is used mostly to write e-mail subject lines and text messaging for mobile marketing.

It is not true artificial intelligence in that it cannot think like a human copywriter or feel emotion.

What happens is the software sends e-mails with thousands of different subject lines to a marketer’s e-list. A lot of Persado customers are large online retailers. They include Neiman Marcus, Overstock.com, and American Express.

Within these many versions and permutations of a subject line or mobile message, the software is able to measure response and test short phrases and even single words.

Then the algorithm composes new subject lines incorporating the winning words and phrases.

Armed with this tested database of results, the Persado software can indeed compose or “write” subject lines and other persuasive sentences, such as calls-to-action, that beat copy written by humans.

Rather than competing with human copywriters, which Persado does not do, it is a tool that we copywriters could actually use to our advantage—if we could afford it, which we can’t.

Just as Taguchi and multivariate testing helped us learn which words are most persuasive and increase response, Persado can too. It’s like Taguchi testing on steroids!

However, David did stress that Persado is not a testing platform. It is truly machine-generated messaging: the software actually composes persuasive sentences. Just nothing more than 600 characters. Yet.

The WSJ article notes that Persado’s sales force wins deals from big companies by offering to match its software against human writers.

I do think that either already or if not then very soon, software will equal or better the performance of human writers in both simple content and short copy.

Computers may someday beat human direct response copywriters in long form copy, just as Big Blue beat Kasparov in chess…and Watson clobbered Ken Kennings in Jeopardy…but I believe I will be long dead by the time that happens, if ever.

Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong before. Many times.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

When it comes to making six figures as an independent copywriter, there are two options you can choose from.

Option A, which is my primary activity and produces a six-figure annual income, is that of being a traditional freelance copywriter.

This entails writing copy, usually on a project basis, for many different clients selling a variety of products and services.

Option B, which I also make six figures from, is to write copy for your own products.

Some copywriters do one or the other, while other writers do both.

Ted Nicholas, for instance, has had huge success writing copy to sell his own products but also has written winning promotions for many clients.

Both options have their pros and cons. So which option do I recommend for beginning copywriters? Option A.

The reason is simple: Getting clients aside, there are two primary copywriting skills. One is the ability to write persuasive copy; the other is the ability to quickly learn and understand a variety of markets and products.

When you are a pure “Option B” copywriter, you may be a great persuasive writer. But, you are writing only about products you created and are therefore familiar with.

Therefore, you do not gain experience in writing for products and markets other than your own. And you do not learn how to quickly study and understand different products and communicate their benefits to unfamiliar audiences.

As a result, as an “Option B” practitioner, you are in a sense an incomplete copywriter. You only possess half the skills needed to succeed as a traditional freelance copywriter, should you ever want or need to do so.

As an “Option A” or traditional copywriter, I am constantly asked to write about new products and to new markets—everything from medical services and dietary supplements, to mutual funds and golf, to software and jets—which has honed my research skills and made me a quick study.

This gives me an added skill and an advantage in the marketplace that copywriters who only sell their own products cannot match.

An especially limiting trend today is so many copywriters restricting their work to just their own information products, training, membership sites, or social media groups. For instance, one copywriter told me he makes virtually all his money running a group of copywriters and marketers on Facebook, and selling his training to them.

The reason this insular approach to copywriting is so limiting is that about 90% of these copywriters teach Internet marketing and copywriting only, and so marketing is all they know.

“Some of these Internet guys have put together a small community who seem to like their writing, and if they can make a living doing this, more power to them,” says superstar copywriter Richard Armstrong.

“But if they aspire to be a freelance copywriter working for the nation’s biggest and best direct response marketing clients, I can tell you for a fact these guys wouldn’t survive 5 minutes there.”

By comparison, if you are a health writer, you know two things: marketing and health. If you are a precious metals writer, you know marketing and geology.

That’s why I tell young people who want to be copywriters not to major in communications or marketing in college.

Much better to major in a topic you can write about. For instance, a geology or engineering degree will position you well to write about the oil and gas industry. My own chemical engineering degree has gotten me dozens of clients who might otherwise not have hired me, as has my certification as an IT professional.

If you’ve already graduated from college, consider taking a staff job with a top marketer in a field that interests you, whether investment letters or real estate.

Working with a top company in an in-demand copywriting niche can be worth much more than a college degree. You learn on the job, and instead of you paying tuition, your employer pays you. Sweet deal!

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

There is no marketing axiom that says long copy is best in every situation.

But there are many situations in which long copy can boost response, but doesn’t get to do so, because someone involved with the project objects to it, precisely because they feel it is too lengthy.

In a recent test, an investment advisory firm hired me to rewrite a 2-page flier they use to invite potential clients to a free investment and retirement planning workshop.

When I handed in my copy and their graphic designer laid it out, it was 4 pages, not 2 pages.

The headlines for the control and test were the same. The difference was that my longer promotion was double the length of what they were using, information packed, and with a lot more proof.

Note: both their 2-pager and my 4-pager offer a book on retirement planning as a free bonus gift, and the book is mailed to those who sign up in advance of the workshop date.

My client showed my copy to a marketing consultant in the financial area, who declared that people are too busy and would never read such long copy, and therefore it would not work. “It is way too long,” he said. “People are in a hurry today.”

My client decided to test my 4-page mailer. The result: it pulled more than double the response of the shorter mailer, getting twice as many prospects to attend the workshop.

“This incident, though admittedly just a single test, is very significant for me, because it shows long copy can beat short,” my client says, adding, “But the long copy must be compelling.”

About the consultant who proclaimed that the 4-pager would bomb, my client replied, “When your prospects are deciding what to do with $1 million, they will find time to read good long copy.”

In addition, my client believes the long copy invitation will get a better quality of prospect closer to what he wants.

“If they are willing to read the long copy, they are more likely to read the book I mail them and will be that much more likely to do business with me.”

Two takeaways:

1. For many offers long copy out-pulls short copy substantially, which makes it worth testing. If you use a 1-page letter, test against a 2-page letter.

2. Not only does long copy increase response, but it can also produce a more qualified lead, since those who will read long copy are serious buyers.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

We are taught to stress benefits in our copy, but Terry Dean suggests going one step above ordinary benefits and stressing the results your buyer will get using your product.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re offering a product or a service, you have to deliver the results,” says Dean. “Your customers buy because of the end results and how those results make them feel.”

Dean advises marketers to make the biggest, boldest promise they can legally and ethically deliver.

“What kind of difference will these results make in your client’s life?” he asks. “How much are the results worth? Is there any way you can improve the results you’re delivering with an even more valuable offer?”

Source: Terry Dean newsletter, 2/3/15

Online, there’s no limit to the space you have for copy, but in print, you are limited by the room on the paper. Here are approximate average word counts for common print promotions:

Tabloids: 400-600 words per page.

Magalogs: 500 words per page.

Digests: 250 words per page.

Non-fiction trade books: 400 words per page.

PDF e-books: 300 words per page.

Long-copy full-page mail order ads: 500-750 words.

Sales letters: 300 words per page.

Standard-size postcards: 100-150 words.

These are the maximum words counts, and using them results in a page fairly dense with copy, which is a common practice in direct response. In brand advertising and B2B, advertisers use far fewer words because they like white space, not understanding that white space is wasted and does not sell.

As for tabloids, word count is variable. If you filled the page solid with text like a newspaper, you could fit a thousand words. But most tabloids are designed with plenty of graphics, so word count is variable.

The Value Of Some Things Old by Bob Bly

Posted February 20th, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

In an online post, KN, a young copywriter, writes: “Can anyone recommend some up-to-date books on copywriting?

“The books by Joe Sugarman and Bob Bly are woefully out of date. I’d prefer to find a good copywriting reference that doesn’t use anecdotes from 30 years ago.”

I wonder if Joe Sugarman saw that. If so, it probably gave him a good laugh.

But I didn’t laugh. I was fuming, which is always my response to ignorance and idiocy.

One of the dumbest things I see in the marketing world today is people like KN who think marketing books published years or even decades ago have no value because digital technology has completely changed advertising.

What they do not understand is that while the channels have expanded—we now have blogs, pay-per-click ads, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and more—human psychology has remained unchanged for centuries.

Therefore the best marketing education you can get is to read books by Ogilvy, Caples, Hopkins, Schwab, Stone, Schwartz, Sugarman, Nicholas, Hatch, Kennedy, and other acknowledged masters of marketing.

If anything, their work is even more valuable today in an era where so many practitioners lack an understanding of the fundamentals of persuasion.

As my subscriber DL recently wrote: “I learned from the great Clyde Bedell and many others. I’m currently reading Robert Collier’s Letter Book. Long overdue. Believe it or not, the strategies he talked about for letters, all those many years ago, work in retail ads, letters, postcards, flyers, etc. of today as well.

“Whodda thunk it; virtually all prospective clients I talk with say the methods Bedell and Collier taught will never work today. But as Clyde used to say, products change, attitudes change, situations change, media changes, but principles are abiding.”

When I was starting out as a freelance copywriter in the early 1980s, all serious practitioners read the same books, which were considered absolutely essential to learning the craft of copywriting.

Now these are, in my opinion, 10 of the greatest marketing books ever written—still totally relevant today and must-reads for any serious marketer.

If your marketing is not getting the results you want…and you have not read these books…then, in the words of the late, great mail order marketer Jerry Buchanan, “You are starving to death with a loaf of bread under each arm.”

Interestingly, many of those books were out of print, even back then, and you had to search the used bookstores in the hopes of finding them (no Amazon in those days).

I remember being in the famed Strand bookstore in Manhattan and stumbling upon an original 1920 hardcover edition of Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. I bought it for a few bucks, hurried back to my apartment, and read it that day in one sitting. I felt like I had won the lottery!

I get pretty good reviews at my talks, but after my last webinar, one viewer complained: “More up to date examples would make the viewers feel more confident about these techniques and lessons.”

More the fool him: The best examples to study are the ones that have produced the best results, not the ones that are most recent. If you want to learn car advertising, read Ogilvy’s Rolls Royce ad rather than watch the Lincoln commercial with Matthew McConaughey.

“I would like to see more recent examples instead of so many things from Bob’s history file,” another attendee kvetched. Only a few of the many slides were from my work, and I use them because I know the response rates to the second decimal point.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Another copy cliché to avoid

Posted February 16th, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

I urge you not to use the phrase “crushed it” in your e-mails, social media posts, blog, newsletter, and other copy. Although relatively new, “crush it” has already worn out its welcome from overuse. In addition, it is braggy, egotistical, and arrogant, if you are applying it to yourself or your product.

Banish “crushed it” from your vocabulary. It is, however, OK to tell your reader that you hope THEY crush it. But not that you did.

Long copy vs. short copy update

Posted February 15th, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

A financial adviser was mailing a 2-page flier to invite people to his free investment workshops, which he uses to find prospects, a percentage of which become his clients after follow-up.

He hired a freelance copywriter to write a new mailer. But when the copy was put into a layout, it was 4 pages instead of 2.

When the financial adviser showed the 4-page mailer to a marketing expert in the investment niche, the guru told him it would not work because it was too long and people are in a hurry today.

The adviser mailed the copy anyway. Result: the 4-pager generated twice as many enrollments in the workshop as the 2-pager.

His conclusion: “When you are deciding what to do with the million dollars you plan to invest, you will find the time to read good long copy.”

So we know long works well in sales copy. But can it also work in content, where the prevailing belief has long been that no one reads long content and shorter is better? Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, writes: “Long-form content is back. In some organizations’ blogs, we are seeing blog posts eclipse the 2,000-word mark on a frequent basis.”

Features vs. benefits in marketing to engineers

Posted February 11th, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

The notion that only benefits should be in your copy and features are boring and no one cares about them is nowhere less true than in industrial marketing.

“The first thing an engineer wants to know is do your products, parts, and components meet his or her design specifications and standards?” writes industrial marketing consultant Achinta Mitra. For example, simply state ‘Manufactured to ASME Code standards, designed to handle up to 300 psig and 415o F.’ Don’t try to embellish features with wordy benefits.”

Well, yes and no. I agree that the facts and specs are what engineers look for first. But I know from long experience that great industrial copy gives both the feature as well as the benefit it delivers.

Source: Industrial Marketing Playbook

Given the number of content marketing pundits who say traditional copywriting is dead, the result of a survey by Eccolo Media of B2B tech buyers, ranging from engineers to C-level executives, may surprise them—and you.

The key finding: while more than 30% said whitepapers (content) are influential in their purchasing decisions, nearly 40% said product brochures and data sheets (sales copy) have greater influence on their purchase decisions. Conclusion: B2B prospects may tell you they love your free content, but your sales copy is more effective at getting them to buy.

Source: Today@TargetMarketing, 1/9/15

Video Sales Script Formula

You can have the best product in the world. You can have the strongest, most profitable funnel in the world, but without a great sales copy your campaign is doomed.

You can have an average product, and an average sales funnel, but if it has got a great sales copy, it will earn you cash.

You also know that to produce great copy on your own can be a nightmare; you can spend not weeks but months of writing and rewriting draft after draft and still getting poor results. And if you hire a true professional, expect to spend thousands of dollars, that only few marketers can afford.

You may even feel that it’s the ONE thing keeping you from getting your project off the ground and achieving your own personal success online. Moreover, according to latest online sources like Digiday, very few who read long sales letters, and even fewer who get inspired by them.

Robert Adziashvili is going to help you finally turn the tables on your sales page problems. You’ll get your first ever look at the Video Sales Script Formula that can simplify the process of sales copy creation.

Using his formula by following his step-by-step training, you will create a sales page practically overnight and combined with video, you can have the most potent tool in succeeding online

A great sales page is the door to your success. It all starts today and it all starts here. Don’t miss out.

Tips for writing book ads that sell

Posted January 5th, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

1970s book marketing whiz Steve West said that you should never show a picture of the book in an ad selling the book, and if you do, sales drop off 50%. He also said to avoid using the word “book” in the copy. Instead say material, guide, manual, program, or course. He reported that editorial style ads, today known as native ads, get 5 or 6 times the response of ads that look like advertisements.

Source: Towers Club USA Newsletter

Does Hype In Copy Work? by Bob Bly

Posted January 2nd, 2015 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

“I know that as copywriters we are taught to hype the product, but I don’t want to go overboard. I feel there must be a middle ground somewhere, but I’m struggling to find it.”

This is an extremely difficult question to answer, and I hesitate to tackle it. But let me try…

First, there is no such thing as hype-free copy. Copy, unlike a magazine or newspaper article, is not objective. You are selling a product. Therefore, your copy is not even-handed; you are always hyping the advantages of your product, making it look better than competing products even if they are in fact pretty much the same.

A newspaper reporter, by comparison, has no vested interest in proving a point either way. His role is to be objective. As copywriters, we are not objective; we are advocates for our product, just as a lawyer is an advocate for his client. Both lawyers and copywriters want their clients to win!

Second, the degree of hype depends on the product category. Some products have to be sold and sold hard. Three that come to mind are nutritional supplements, stock market newsletters, and educational programs in small business and entrepreneurship, e.g., how to get rich on eBay. There is a ton of competition in all three fields. They do not sell themselves; they have to be sold.

Third, there are must-have products and nice-to-have products. For me, size EEE shoes are must-have, because regular size doesn’t fit. A Lexus is a nice-to-have product; a Prius will get you there just as quickly and reliably.

Fourth, the market. Business opportunity seekers, for instance, are used to hype and in fact expect, even relish it: they like positive promises that motivate them to succeed. Engineers (I am one) respond negatively to hype and want copy that is accurate, clear, and highly technical, though the product benefits must stand out.

Can you overdo hype? Yes, as in this site.

However, when in doubt, err on the side of a little too much hype rather than being too dull, laid back, and conservative, or as TP describes it, writing “in a boring, drab manner”. David Ogilvy famously said, “You cannot bore the consumer into buying your product.”

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Gordon Graham, who has written over 200 whitepapers for clients, advises copywriters to follow their chosen part of the copywriting field.

“I study at least one or two whitepapers every day,” says Gordon. “That means I look at 500 examples of the documents I specialize in every year. Doing any less would be foolish.”

In the pre-Internet days I told direct response copywriters to open, read, and study every piece of direct mail they received. Doing so was better than getting an MBA in direct marketing. I still do it today.

The Reviews Say It All…

Posted December 4th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

If you haven’t grabbed Reed Floren’s “How to Write Sales Letters That Sell” yet, then be sure to read these reviews…

“If you are looking for a shortcut to writing high converting sales copy you need to pickup How To Write Salesletters That Sell today.” – Mark Lareau

“Regardless of the niche, online or offline, the information included is truly priceless and a ‘must have’ for internet marketers!” – “Wacky Gal” Kathe Lucas

“This is information that any serious marketer must have in his or her arsenal of copywriting tools and information.” – Bob Bates

“Overall, this is an awesome product that I highly recommend to anyone that would like to write a killer sales letter. I have bought several of Reed’s products and they are all outstanding.” – Niles Miller

“I would say to anyone reading this and thinking of buying ‘How To Write Sales Letters That SELL’. BUY IT NOW you will be impressed.” – bigfunkydave

“I love the fact that it contains two proven sales letter templates that you can fill in and be confident they will convert. It’s a real time-saver to not have to take tedious notes. Reed generously includes video, transcripts, a mind map, checklists, slides, a webinar and offers a 15-minute one-on-one consultation.” – Wanda W

“Reed Floren, One of the Most Dedicated and Honest Internet Marketers I Know of, has Done it AGAIN!

In this One Hour Plus long in-depth presentation Reed Reveals one Golden Nugget After Another and as if that wasn’t enough he even hands you not one, but TWO, Top-Grade Fill-in-the-Blanks Sales Letters that you can use to Boost Your Conversions through the Roof…” – Martin Sand

“Not only does he go over everything in detail but he provides a cheat sheet and templates to help you get started. To anyone that struggles with writing sales copy this course is a must have and a no-brainer considering the value your receive.” – Rick Roberts (aka RedHat39), InternetSuccessZone.com

“Reed is the man that’ll teach you how to do this effectively with his years of training at your call…a proven professional that’ll teach you the tactics, skills, tricks and tips that years of ‘trial-and-error’ has developed him into a real sales copy pro!” – Nile Vincent

“Having had a bit of copywriting experience, I really liked the way that Reed laid this out and most importantly, is illustrating the course with his own experience, with a sales letter that made him a lot of money. A lot of guys out there may talk copywriting, and they use textbook examples, but here Reed is using real-world examples of his own to teach the course. That is very valuable and inspiring. You want to learn from a guy that walks the walk and talks the talk.” – Jeff Gilbert

“Reed starts off with a bang in this video, right out of the gate he goes into what I will call, “the anatomy of a great sales letter.” – Willie Robertson

“For anyone that would like to get an inside look at the simple tricks to creating great copy that sells then I highly recommend picking up Reeds product while it’s here.” – JohnZ

The other day a client, JM, suggested that, instead of my usual flat fee for copywriting, he would compensate me based on performance. Specifically, I would get a royalty based on sales.

He explained, “If you are paid based on results, wouldn’t you be incentivized to work harder and do a better job?”

I told JM the fallacy in his thinking: It implies that, for clients not paying a performance-based bonus, I do sub-par work.

“And that’s ridiculous,” I told him. The truth is: I write the absolute best piece of copy I can on every job I get, whether the fee is flat or royalty-based, high or low.

Why do I pull out all stops on every copywriting assignment I get, regardless of method or amount of compensation? For 3 reasons.

First, to do otherwise would be irresponsible, unethical, and, in my opinion, cheating the client.

Second, the better the copy I write, the more repeat business and referrals I get. And it helps build my reputation.

Third, when my copy performs well in the marketplace, clients give me great testimonials and speak well of me to their colleagues, many of whom also need copy written.

Yes, I know a few writers who say they are only happy if they are getting a royalty based on sales or another performance metric.

The flat fees I charge are not outrageously high, but they are not cheap either. So I feel well compensated working for the fees I earn. I may not be getting rich, but I earn a comfortable living.

Here is the primary situation in which I think a royalty makes sense: the client will be testing and tweaking the promotion on an ongoing basis, and they want me available to help with this.

That tweaking and ongoing testing is not covered in the flat fee I charged to write the copy.

So the client would have to pay more money for additional copywriting they require.

Except, if the promotion is paying me a royalty, I have an incentive to tinker and tweak—split testing headlines, leads, offers, visuals, form placement, etc.—for no fee, since the royalty compensates me for doing the extra work.

But in most instances, a flat fee is the best deal for the client and fair to both of us.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

I have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties over the years on books I have authored for publishers and copy I have written for clients.

Yet I advise you to be wary of most copywriting clients who offer to pay you a percentage of sales instead of a flat fee.

Here’s why…

To begin with, you never heard of 99% of the clients who offer you such a royalty arrangement. So you have no way of knowing whether they will keep their promise.

If they don’t, what can you do? They won’t open their books or shopping carts to you. And it’s easy enough for them to cook those books and tell you no royalty is due.

The clients I DO write for on a royalty basis are mostly large direct marketers that routinely pay royalties to their copywriters. Some of the top copywriters in the country write for them.

Because paying royalties is a regular thing for these companies, they have the systems in place to accurately track both sales and royalty payments. And they have reputations in the field that warrant your trust in them.

Often a small company I never heard of will say to me, “We would rather not pay you a fee up front, but we’ll pay you a percentage of the sales your copy generates.”

When I turn them down, they become belligerent: “What, don’t you believe that your copy works?” they ask arrogantly.

I have several answers for them. The major one: “I already have more than enough clients lined up happy to pay my regular fees. What’s my incentive to work for you for no money?”

I also explain that for me to work for no fee up front would make me in essence an investor in their company, until I am paid in royalties—and I am a freelance copywriter, not an investor.

One small direct marketer offered me a cash bonus if the direct mail package I wrote for him became his new control. Sure enough, my package beat the control by 50%.

But when I asked him where the bonus check was, he replied: “Oh, I won’t make your package the new control until it beats mine in a few more tests”, not understanding that beating the control automatically makes the test mailing the new control. And so I didn’t get my bonus for months.

A mistake small clients make in trying to hire a copywriter is to offer a royalty instead of an up-front fee, not understanding that the large direct marketers—the serious players—offer an up-front fee PLUS a royalty.

And the big players do not reduce the up-front fee with the lure of a royalty. They pay my regular fee along with the royalty.

You may ask why a company would pay a writer’s normal fee and then offer them a royalty on top of that.

Some do it because they think it gives the writer an incentive to do an extra good job. But I always do the best job I can on every project I take on, no matter what the fee.

The real reason for a marketer to pay a royalty on top of the writer’s regular flat fee is, as my client RJ told me, to “buy a share of the writer’s mind”.

When a copywriter gets a royalty, he has a financial incentive to make sure his promotion continues to run, which it will only do if it continues to outperform other promotions for that product the client is testing.

If response starts to fade, the writer getting an ongoing royalty is motivated to offer tweaks and recommendations to the client at no extra cost as a way of ensuring that those royalty checks keep coming.

Without that bonus incentive, the copywriter has no motivation to think about how to prolong the effectiveness of his winning promotion, and so doesn’t.

When you get a royalty check and statement every 3 to 6 months, you know how well your copy is performing. When you do not, you are in the dark, and often have no idea whether your promotion is a winner.

I recently got an e-mail from an old client telling me he is still using the ad I wrote for him 10 years ago. If he had not e-mailed to tell me, I would have no idea. Another told me he built a successful business based on the strength of one letter I wrote for them. Again, I had no idea, because it was a flat fee he had paid me years ago.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Gary Halbert

A saying goes that he who projects a tough exterior usually has a soft, cuddly interior. Perhaps it goes to show there are people who know the master copywriter well enough to create this cute caricature :)

I’m taking a little time out to write about a legend I hardly know. As far as this small-fry marketer living halfway round the world is concerned, my initial impression is that Gary seems to be a pioneer of “offensive copywriting”. I’m not sure what his usual choice of 4-letter words are but from what I’ve heard, he writes in a “I got nothing to lose. Show me all your bets” tone, and true enough, he endorsed The Rich Jerk’s copywriting because he identified with it. In fact, there’s something about Jo Han Mok’s copywriting that makes me suspect they contain shades of Gary’s style. On the few occasion I met Jo ‘live’ I should have asked if he learned directly from Gary. Maybe next time…

Gary died in his sleep on Easter Sunday. The tributes are pouring in:

“I have been learning from Gary since I was 15 years old and was blessed to call him MY FRIEND. Gary was one of the greatest marketers in the history of mankind. And that is not an understatement.”

John Reese

“You know Eric, Gary had the best copywriting skills I’ve ever seen. ;) Wish I could do one tenth of what he could do in his writing.”


“That man provided me with some of the best material I have ever seen for copy. He was a legend and will truly be missed. Marketers, if you have any sense of desire for improvement in what you do, you’ll make the effort to see what this man accomplished in his lifetime. And what the legacy he left behind can do for you.”

Omar Khafagy

“Even before anyone had dial-up, Gary was a highly praised direct response marketer. I will honor his memory by reading a marketing manual I had purchased from him long before the phrase Internet Marketing was conceived.”


“Sad news…had the pleasure of meeting him and getting a copywriting critique…the man was flat out brilliant. His swipe file is one of my prized possessions. A true legend in marketing.”

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming

…Just a few taken from this Warrior thread.

You MUST study The Gary Halbert Letter. Gary is so generous with his content for his newsletter archive. You will understand more than his ‘offence’ trademark, it is his business experience, humor and personal confidence that pervades his language. Just read “Canine Testicles” and laugh out loud. It’s one episode in a series concerning a “water filter” ad so please make it a point to cover what it’s all about.

Susanna Hutcheson uploaded one of Gary’s famous ads, a weight loss ad.

Although I hardly know the man, I have seen him quoted in other sales pages and his testimonies for other products. If you have learned directly from Gary, please feel free to put down some great lessons and insights you have gained, or simply pay tribute to him. I like to find out for myself how I can be a little more hard-edged in my writing without putting all of you off, keke.

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