And The Winner Is…

Monday, 8:23pm
Reno, NV
“May I have the envelope, please…”


A very big “Thank You” to everyone who sent in a response to last week’s query.

The rather large number of well-thought-out, specific answers in the comment section was augmented by another pile of responses sent to my private inbox.

I’m truly humbled, guys.

That was a deluge of good stuff.

The question I’d asked last Thursday was (more or less): What’s keeping you (or kept you, if you did finally succeed) from learning to write copy… the one obviously essential skill mastered by all the top marketers?

I knew I’d get a good crop of answers.

A blog like this — which is followed worldwide — is just a treasure-chest of good information and insight.

So, again… thanks for writing.

You see, I had my own ideas of what the problem is among the biz owners and entrepreneurs who stubbornly resist my charm and offers of personal mentoring.

I mean, this is what I do — figure out the motivations and hidden psychology of target markets.

However, even a veteran adman (and I’ve got over 25 years in the front-line trenches) never wants to rely ONLY on his gut instincts.

Not when the stakes are so high.

I’ll give you a breakdown on the answers that came in. They were ALL good.

However… I’d originally offered a reward for the best post (“best” meaning the one that gave voice to the most insightful reasons for dilly-dallying on getting good at writing).

And that reward idea went out the window the first day.

Too many good posts.


… I’ve decided to annoint FIVE winners. All will recieve a brand spankin’ new copy of the updated “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”. (My assistant, Diane, will email you directly this week, and arrange delivery.)

And yet, we’re all winners here.

Because the sheer insight to the marketing wisdom inherent in any specific (though decidedly unscientific) research like this… is worth a FORTUNE to anyone smart enough to pay attention.

Before I announce the winners…

… let’s see how the answers broke down into categories:

The top most common responses as to why people resist learning how to write:

1. They see copywriting as “too hard” or they’re just scared to even try.

2. They just don’t know what to do. (Almost tied for number one.)

3. Time — no perceived time to learn it, plus info-overload (too much info, which causes brain freeze).

4. Close behind (and this is something I’ve been hearing for years): Anger at the “hype” of salesmanship that seems inherent in long copy ads… and a shyness about trying to sell at all. (Some folks get really pissed off at the persuasive tactics required to cause money to exchange hands.)

5. Lastly: A total disconnect and denial that it’s something they need, combined with general ADD about running a biz.

Just two people mentioned cost. Four wanted more blueprints, or templates.

Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery interesting.

My instant analysis (and I’ll be ruminating on these responses for a while): This range of answers…

… sort of jibes with my original gut feelings on the subject.

Yet, the depth of the resistance is something I dearly needed to be alerted to.

I totally understand the sense of not knowing what to do, or where to turn. That “drifting” state is where I lived my entire life… right up to the epiphany I had that led me to jump into freelancing.

As a hippie, in my weird youth, I abhored capitalism… and so I also feel a distant empathy with folks who find selling creepy and distasteful.

And that feeling of being overwhelmed by info — too much from too many guru’s, and no way to easily choose which to follow… well, that’s a chronic state for even many veteran (and successful) biz owners.

At nearly every marketing seminar I’ve been to in the last couple of years… time management and avoiding being overwhelmed is the number one topic.

There’s a strong sense that the “right” path, or “right” set of skills (with the right teacher) is out there… but it’s exhausting trying to find it… and even more draining trying to absorb it once/if you find what you’re looking for.

The big one — the most oft-cited response — was the perception that learning to write is “hard”.

This is VERY understandable, especially in this country. By the time most Americans are seniors in high school, they’ve had any affection for the written word beaten out of them.

And this is a shame that reverberates throughout the biz world.

Teachers who force students to crank out bullshit essays on bullshit subjects should be fired.

Writing is something most humans can (and should) take to easily. Ask a bored, distracted sophomore to write out the reason he should win four tickets to the upcoming AD/DC reunion tour (or pick your own must-see event… Green Day? Madonna? Clarkson? Steely Dan? Larry The Cable Guy?)…

… and he’ll fill fourteen pages in a breathless rush, stopping only when his pen runs out of ink.

Same with love letters home from overseas, heated threads on Web chat boards, even extended texting. (I’ve seen Twit posts from some of the guys I follow approach novel-length, all in bursts of multiple 140-character tweets…)

It’s not the actual writing that’s hard.


It’s the brain-numbing process required to fuel what you write with meaning and persuasion.

That’s what mucks up the enthusiasm.

This is easy to understand…

… and SOLVING this dilemna has obsessed me for decades.

For a certain percentage of people Ive taught, the mastering of the process is as easy as kicking open a stuck door. BAM! And you’re in.

For others, however, it takes some focused, hands-on mentoring.

It’s still not “hard”, though, in my experience.

It’s just… a slightly uneven path that requires a little guidance.

And the friendly hand of a mentor, who’s invested in your progress.

I used to offer that, in the now-gone “Insider’s Club” I created when I first became a guru.

You paid a small amount each year, and we became email buddies. I watched over you, critiquing your efforts and smacking you (virtually, of course) upside the head when you blundered.

The number of people I pumped through that original “Insider’s Club” include many of the most famous, filthy-rich marketers out there today. (As well as a whole mob of newly-minted guru’s in their field.)

People beg me to bring that “Insider’s Club” back… but it was just too much work on my part.

There’s only so much of me to go around, you know.

So… no. I simply cannot do something like that again.

Maybe there’s some other way I can offer the mentoring so many people seem to crave and need.

Right now, though… sorry.

Still, this insight to the mind-set of entrepreneurs and biz owners who know they need serious help with writing… and yet cannot get past the obstacles blocking and freezing them up…

… should start some gears spinning in people’s heads.

For all the info out there… for all the courses, and the books, and the webinars… there remains NO technology as effective at breakthroughs in learning…

… as personal mentoring.

It’s how I got good. And it’s how most of the wizards now dominating the online/offline scene got good, too.

We’ll have to explore this more…


Here are the winners of the little contest:

1. Margaret Gedde, for so eloquently describing the terror of selling that can gum up your brain (no matter how much you realize it’s something you “should” be doing). Nice work, Margaret.

2. Jay Cross, on being frozen by a fear of failing. This certainly held me back for a very long time, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Thanks for sharing a quasi-traumatic obstacle that more people share than dare admit, Jay.

3. Reed, on the disconnect biz owners feel between the “uncommon wisdom” of good advertising skills, and the more common “false wisdom” of the way most biz operate (and eventually die, starved for results).

4. Bill, for recognizing the prevalent opinion (common among entrepreneurs who hated school) (for good reasons) that all writing is inherently hellish and to be avoided at any cost. I’m surprised this one didn’t come up more often, actually… though it was one of the more repeated answers.

5. And finally, our old buddy Yoav… who best explained the minority position of yearning for actioniable information, rather than the theory-heavy stuff currently dominating the virtual bookshelves out there.

Great answers, guys (and gal).

Again — I am thrilled that so many people took the time to think this through, and send in a response.

No one “lost”. This laser-focused input isn’t science… but it’s still the best research you can gain access to, when your responding audience is as savvy as readers of this blog are.

So thanks. Again.

Hope you were able to take something good away from this exercise. It’s an example of how a little effort can yield amazing results.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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  • Darwin says:

    Congratulations to one and all.

  • Roy Furr says:

    “And yet, we’re all winners here. Because the sheer insight to the marketing wisdom inherent in any specific (though decidedly unscientific) research like this… is worth a FORTUNE to anyone smart enough to pay attention.”


    You gave me an idea. If anyone were to… say… be writing an ad for a copywriting course, they could take these last two “contest” posts including the 78 comments on the first post and print them out. And study them.

    They’d have an “in their own words” description of all the hesitations, objections, excitements, and drivers of their prospects.

    Which they could analyze, organize, and repeat back almost word for word in their sales letter.

    That’s a reliable way to hit some hot buttons.

    I didn’t win a copy of Kickass Copywriting Secrets… but I’m still a winner… 🙂


    Roy Furr

  • Yoav says:

    Yay 🙂

  • Kristine says:

    Thanks John,

    If was fun to read all of the different responses and to put in my two cents as well.

    Congrats to all of the winners!


  • Karen says:

    If mentoring is the best way to kick start a writing career, perhaps you could call on all of your “Insiders Club” marketers to rally together to offer a new and expanded “Insiders Club”? It would be a great way for them to give a back (while making a little cash-o-la) and for us newbies to get the best start to our new careers.

  • Roy Furr says:

    P.S. — There are 42 pages of insights here… whew!

  • Ken C says:

    I find it interesting to see how others respond… my take on the topic in general, is that becoming successful at writing copy is, like anything worth achieving, simply a lot of hard work and practice.

    Getting mentoring from a genuine, authentic pro like John (I still remember all the terrific email critiques from being in the “Insiders’ Club”, and printed them, and still refer to them.. thanks!)… is indeed the fastest and best way to learn. Genuine and authentic are key words here… there’s only a few people really worth learning from.

    The great news is that most people are lazy, so to the hard-working go the spoils, measured by sales and market share, that results from hard, focused work. For example, I spent nearly 4 hours Sunday morning reworking a seminar event headline, and quickly made over $4K in new sales within hours of sending out an email with the new headline, and it’ll almost certainly pull an extra 50K over the next 5 weeks for me.

    But how many people would take 4 hours to work on a headline (it’s nearly 40 words long)? Those who want to succeed, I guess…

    Best wishes to all, and remember it’s a lot of work, but worth it!

    to profits,


  • peter murphy says:

    Well done to all the winners!

    I like these posts that stimulate so much interaction and shared insight. Thanks John.

  • Jay says:

    Woo-hoo, I was one of the winners! I’m so excited, a new project just cropped up that I can instantly apply “Kick Ass Secrets” to. Can’t wait to get it and dive in!

  • Great, congratulations to everyone.
    And thanks to John for completely overdelivering – I guess that’s another lesson to learn here. Successful people do more than what they have to do. John could have pinched out one of his Kickass Copywriting Secrets, but he shelled out five and made everyone a winner.

    John, you wrote it’s an example how a little effort can yield amazing results – but I think it was little effort because you put in the hard work years ago. You built up so much goodwill, helped out so many people, that once you say: “Hey, I need your help” the floodgates open and everybody rushes in. What goes around comes around.

    And Ken C., thanks for sharing this insight into how big a part hard work is in the formula of success.

  • John

    The prize winner notes you have made are the biggest prize for me.

    Now I know it’s OK to feel some fear of this or that. I’m not alone. So thank you John from the bottom of my heart

    May I summarize the hidden fears and blocks?

    1. “Too hard” or scared to even try.
    2. Don’t know what to do.
    3. No time… have info-overload causing brain freeze.
    4. Shyness about trying to sell at all. (Selling is ‘lies’)
    5. Denial we need it and ADD about running biz.

    The truth rules here.

    Best wishes as always

    Jonathan Gunson

  • Margaret says:

    Hey thanks John! I appreciate the encouragement. I’ll go look for Diane’s email … woohoo!

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