Inspiration for Headlines. Direct Response Copywriter Email Archive May 2017 4

May 2017 4

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

(More) Bookstore Lessons

In the last email, I talked about my visit to Strand Book Store in Manhattan. In this email, I’m going to discuss two more lessons from Strand that apply to direct response copywriting … one from the fiction section and another from the non-fiction section.

I’m contemplating writing another novel and I spent about an hour in Strand looking at how various novelists opened their novels. After all, in theory, the first few paragraphs and pages of a novel had better draw the reader in. Right?

But … with a couple of notable exceptions, the openings of even famous novels by famous authors were poor. The first few paragraphs of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway are superb, even beguiling. But that’s an exception.

The first few paragraphs of direct response copy, also known as the lead, MUST draw the reader in, and keep the reader reading. Each sentence of copy must propel the reader to read the next sentence … and so on. Direct response copywriters get this … I’m not sure that our brothers and sisters in the fiction business are always brilliant at this.

Let’s head over to the non-fiction section. The writers and editors are often superb when it comes to writing titles. Let’s see some examples. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Blast the Sugar Out!: Lower Blood Sugar, Lose Weight, Live Better I Will Teach You to Be Rich The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age What are we really seeing here?


Stuck for a great headline? Look at non-fiction books.

There’s some irony here. Yes … publishers create some great headlines/title but they are generally awful at marketing. Trust me on this based on my personal experience with my book about Caddyshack.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter

Lessons from a Manhattan Bookstore. Direct Response Copywriting Email Archive May 2017 3.

May 2017 3

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

Bookstore Lessons

I just spent a few days in Manhattan. One of my favorite activities there is a visit to Strand Bookstore. If you haven’t been there, it’s a haven for readers: three floors of new and used books with bookshelves so high even LeBron James would need help reaching those top tomes.

It’s usually extremely crowded with book lovers and store associates jostling for position. The associates are almost universally rude. Rude isn’t exactly the correct word. They have this “detached ennui” and usually treat me, at least, like a complete muppet. Maybe I deserve this.

“Where’s the fiction section,” I asked. “Just over there, where it says ‘fiction starts here.’” comes the reply. “Thank you.”

There’s a fairly extensive business section in the basement and within that section, you’ll find a deep selection of advertising and marketing books … well over 400 books.

Let’s remember that it’s a used section … these are the books that people sold or donated. But the selection got me thinking …

Only about 2% of the books were about direct marketing. About 15% of the books were about general advertising, including the excellent Ogilvy on Advertising. The remainder were books by authors, gurus, and “marketing experts” claiming to have something new and amazing that will “reinvent” marketing and “change it forever." I understand the latter: the same-old/same-old doesn’t sound sexy. But I wonder if any of these marketing experts, many of whom speak for whopping fees or teach at business schools, have ever actually sold anything. Have they been face to face with a potential buyer, working hard to overcome objections and getting smacked around a little? Probably not. How did that “new” stuff work out? Probably disastrous.

In among the gurus was a double treat: Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins. It’s a must read for every direct marketer and if you’re a direct response copywriter then you’re a direct marketer.

I try to read something about direct marketing every day, even it’s only for a five minutes. I also listen to podcasts when I’m on the bus or I watch YouTube videos featuring copywriters. Reading/listening/watching will improve your knowledge and also get you fired up about our wonderful business.

And one more thing … on my way to the fiction section, I saw a table of books about writing. I’ve read a lot of books about direct marketing but only a few about writing. We can learn a ton from the top fiction and non-fiction writers. My first book will be Stephen King On Writing by, you guessed it, Stephen King. Think I’ll learn a thing or two about keeping readers reading? You know the answer.

In the next email, I’m going to talk about something I discovered when I was in the fiction section that applies to direct response copywriting. And then I’m going to talk about the most important lesson we can learn from the book industry and visits to magnificent places like Strand.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter