Copying Copy, has it helped you?

27 replies
I'll admit it, I suck at creating copy but I will get better... I think


I have had a set of ads Gary Halbert recommended in one of his old letters, and decided it's time to start copying them by hand. But, some of the wording seems old, out of date.


I'm curious, how many of you copywriters hand wrote swipe files when you first started your journey in copywriting? and if you think it had helped you
#copy #copying #helped
  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    You may find this useful:

    http://copyhour.com/secret

    PS: I've said this before. I write out a piece by hand every day. Been doing it for years.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason_V
      Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

      You may find this useful:

      http://copyhour.com/secret

      PS: I've said this before. I write out a piece by hand every day. Been doing it for years.
      This is horrible news for people like me. My handwriting is terrible! (Yes even my printing.)

      Despite not being so legible after writing the copy by hand, I wonder if my brain would still benefit from writing the letters out by hand?
      Signature
      "When you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something."
      -Andy Warhol
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      • Profile picture of the author Daedalus15
        I have been learning copywriting since January. I have learned from experience that when trying to learn a new skill, the most efficient way to improve is to find out who the very best is, study how they became the very best, and then copy their approach. There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel.

        I found Gary Halbert's guide to learning how to write copy and decided to follow his advice exactly as he instructed.

        After reading all of his recommended books, I copied by hand all 9 of his recommended ads. It was not a fun experience. Some of those ads are brutally long, but it was extremely beneficial. As I copied them by hand I began to understand a lot of the techniques that I had read about. You will never become a great copywriter by just studying it. You need to practice implementing successful techniques in sales letters.

        I understand what you mean about the wording sounding funny. I thought the same thing as I copied most of these letters by hand. The wording is not really important. The structure of the letters is what really makes them successful. As I copied them down I would think about how I would say the same thing today if I had to write a sales letter for the same product.

        I then expanded on Gary's advice and began copying some newer sales letters that have been successful. I strongly recommend Ross Browning's Stripped Naked Sales Letters. In addition to copying down successful sales letters, you also get expert advice from Ross breaking down his thought process behind the letter.

        Another expert copywriter, Dan Kennedy said the following:

        "When I was teaching myself to be an advertising copywriter, for example, I studied no less than an hour everyday, listened to recorded material on the subject constantly, sought out and got to know the top people in the field, and when one told me to take great direct-response ads and write them out longhand 21 times each, to teach my subconscious the rhythm of such writing I did that with 100 ads. I collected over 200 books on the subject and immersed myself in them."

        My only problem when it comes to hand copying letters is how time consuming it is. I would love to hear how long it takes Rick to copy a sales letter since he does one a day. It usually takes me several hours, and it is difficult for me to find that kind of time every day.
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      • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
        Originally Posted by Jason_V View Post

        This is horrible news for people like me. My handwriting is terrible! (Yes even my printing.)

        Despite not being so legible after writing the copy by hand, I wonder if my brain would still benefit from writing the letters out by hand?
        Don't worry. It's not about neatness. It's about expanding the copywriting grooves in your brain.
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  • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
    I've written the one legged golfer ad out by hand a bunch of times because I wanted to study it in small bits. The structure of that ad is burned into my brain more than any other ad I've studied, so I think it helps.
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  • Profile picture of the author MIB Mastermind
    Where could I get a large swipe file of up to date ads? for writing out by hand!

    I have access to many of the older ads Gary Halbert recommends you copy.

    I also have John Carltons 3 volume swipe file, is this a good place to start? or should I go for more up to date ads?
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    • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
      Originally Posted by MIB Mastermind View Post

      Where could I get a large swipe file of up to date ads? for writing out by hand!

      I have access to many of the older ads Gary Halbert recommends you copy.

      I also have John Carltons 3 volume swipe file, is this a good place to start? or should I go for more up to date ads?
      You could always get some VSLs you like transcribed.
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        In my experience, modeling a successful sales letter when writing copy has been very helpful. It forced me to thoroughly analyze the successful sales letter.

        But you have to be at a certain knowledge level first. It's pretty tough to figure out what the top guys are doing if you're new.

        Of course that's not the same thing as actually writing one out by hand.

        Alex
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        • Profile picture of the author serryjw
          Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

          In my experience, modeling a successful sales letter when writing copy has been very helpful. It forced me to thoroughly analyze the successful sales letter.

          But you have to be at a certain knowledge level first. It's pretty tough to figure out what the top guys are doing if you're new.

          Of course that's not the same thing as actually writing one out by hand.

          Alex
          I'm curious your opinion on copywriting ads years ago and today. No one is talking about motivation and how psychographics have changed. An example is the 'rags to riches' story. It worked for years. I personally am so turned off to them, I click off immediately
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          • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
            Originally Posted by serryjw View Post

            I'm curious your opinion on copywriting ads years ago and today. No one is talking about motivation and how psychographics have changed. An example is the 'rags to riches' story. It worked for years. I personally am so turned off to them, I click off immediately
            Yeah, the markets have matured, that's for sure. Eugene Schwartz talks about market maturity in his book Breakthrough Advertising. These days, in many if not most markets, the "mechanism" is what's most important.

            There was a time when "How To Get Rich" was a good headline. Now days, it would barely get a sniff.

            For me, the value of the older ads (I especially like space ads) is to see which persuasion triggers the masters applied and how they did so.

            As an example, look at Joe Karbo's famous ad. It's instructive to see how he handled objection resolution.

            Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author MadHattie123
    Originally Posted by Rbtmarshall View Post

    I'm curious, how many of you copywriters hand wrote swipe files when you first started your journey in copywriting? and if you think it had helped you
    Copying out sales letters by hand can be more beneficial IF you have already learned the basics of structure (so that you actually understand what you are looking at).

    Big name copywriters who have been around for 30+ years may reiterate the role “copying out by hand” played in developing their skills but I think that needs to be understood in the proper context: How many training resources were available when they began their careers? A few books, but nowhere near what is available today.

    I’m just saying that copying out by hand has its place in skill development but doesn’t need to be relied on as much as you may have been led to believe. (and I’ve had my own share of sore wrists from the copying routine)

    Certainly, regular close analysis of successful sales letters is indispensible. But, when engaging in this intense scrutiny (and copying by hand) it’s helpful to bear in mind the distinctions between offline and online sales letters. The medium does make a difference even though the core principles of copywriting and persuasion remain the same.

    Bottom line… first understand the mechanics/structure and then routinely engage in the scrutiny and copying of GOOD sales letters.

    Jeff Sexton has provided a most helpful free resource for understanding/acquiring skills: As he wrote: “You’ll get better faster if you understand what stage you’re in and what resources will help you the most for any given stage.”

    --- quote ---
    Copywriting skill usually progresses along 3 stages:
    Stage 1: Understanding the Mechanics
    Stage 2: Learning the Psychology of “Salesmanship in Print”
    Stage 3: Becoming a Serious Student of Advertising Artistry
    --- end quote ---

    Take a look at his 85+ Copywriting Resources
    http://www.jeffsextonwrites.com/2012...ing-resources/

    His link to Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg’s book Persuasive Online Copywriting is no longer available but you can snag a copy here:
    bryaneisenberg.com/seslondon/poc.pdf
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  • Profile picture of the author maximus242
    I think there is a very big danger to copying out salesletters by hand. Its this:

    Copying salesletters by hand can lead newbies to focus on HOW THEY SAY IT instead of on WHAT THEY SAY.

    Most salesletters are successful for one reason:

    They match what the prospect wants, will believe, and will respond to - with what their product and offer are.

    The brilliance of most ads lies not in their structure but in their understanding of the people they are selling to and merging that with their product/offer.

    The mistake most new copywriters make is paying more attention to how they are saying something - than to what they are saying. This leads to copy which is completely out of touch with their market and thus... fails miserably.

    Copying salesletters by hand is a fantastic way to get good at copywriting structures but also has a danger of causing a person to think the magic cure to sales is in "how they say something" rather than on a deep understanding of their customer and offer.

    What you say, is so much more important than how you say it.

    I can say "I am a billionaire and want to cut you a check for a million dollars today"

    Or I could say "BILLIONAIRE WANTS TO GIVE YOU A MILLION DOLLAR CHECK BECAUSE HE IS SO RICH"

    Or I could say "Incredible news! Billionaire entreprenuer announces hes giving YOU a million dollar cheque today!"

    Whatever way I say it, you want to know how to get the million bucks. Thats it.

    I can also say

    "Tadpoles are great pets"

    "Enjoy the fun and playfulness of the beautiful tadpole"

    "They laughed when we bought tadpoles as pets... but not when we needed to feed our cat!"

    Whatever way you say it, tadpoles are much less interesting than a million dollars. Copywriting should be concerned with what you say, not how you say it.

    While both are important, one is more important than the other.

    Copywriting is salesmanship in print, which is ultimately about psychology - not about writing.
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  • Profile picture of the author TheSalesBooster
    Writing out a sales letter won't help you accomplish anything other than remembering a particular sales letter.

    What you should be doing is studying the sales letter and understanding why it worked.

    Understand the reasoning behind the words.
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    • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
      I know a lot of great writers who've written ads out by hand...

      And I know a lot of great writers who never did it.

      I think it comes down to how you learn and what works for YOU.

      There's no "magic" to getting good... you just work your ass off and figure out what works for you.

      I'm more a fan of just analyzing the copy without doing any writing, but again, everyone's different.

      -Daniel
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      Always looking for badass direct-response copywriters. PM me if we don't know each other and you're looking for work.

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      • Profile picture of the author Jeremey
        I'm lazy and I don't have a whole lot of time on my hands. I wanted to write out some ads in longhand because I've heard that it can be beneficial, but my hands get tired easily and my handwriting stinks.

        What I did was get a copy of the Sunday paper, and I wrote out tiny classified ads, just a few, every day for about 2 years. I skipped the "legal notices" sections, and mostly focused on Pets for Sale and Homes for Rent.

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  • Profile picture of the author Rbtmarshall
    Thanks for all the reply's so far. It's interesting to see that some still copy copy by hand past the "beginner" stages.


    And yes, I'm sure that most do realize that writing these out by hand isn't the only lesson to creating better copy. It does show you how to turn 1 word into 20, and how others build their story instead of a cold sales pitch


    It's like reading a book on how to play any sport, yeah, you'll know the fundamental theories, but you will not be any good without practice, practice, practice, before playing your first game. Copying copy would be the practice to get you ready for the game of your live advertisement/sales page, etc..

    That's what it seems like to me at least...
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  • Profile picture of the author Jonwebb
    my first, exposure to copy writing was the six figure copywriting course by Micheal Masterson. There was a lot of rewriting sales letters in that course.

    It is very helpful to write out sales copy. My favorite is the wall street journal " two young men"

    Coping copying is a great tool but not the only tool, one also needs to engage the conscious mind as well.

    writing succefull copy engages the sub-conscious

    Naming each paragraph ( picture painting, pain generating, building intimacy, etc) engages your conscious mind.

    In successful copy each paragraph has a purpose, what are they trying to achieve? Learn to by diagraming each and every copy you write out.


    - Jonathan
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  • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
    It did help me enormously but more when I isolated different parts
    of copy (like headlines, opening lines, bullets, calls to action etc)
    and sought out and copied 20 or 30 of the best of each I could
    find.

    That helped me to improve each area of my sales letters.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

    P.S. For the record you can find a ton of Gary Halbert ads
    free at hardtofindads.com

    And you can find many of John Carlton's sales letters here...
    OHP Direct - Golf Instructional - Golf School - Golf Training - Golf Teachers - Golf Tips - Lower Scores -
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  • Profile picture of the author verial
    Perhaps mimicking others' copy will help you get an idea of the structure of good copy, but if you're trying to fit your ideas into someone else's letter, you'll eventually find yourself constricted. The end result will be a rigid letter that doesn't express exactly what you want it to.

    Why do you think Bruce Lee was such a good fighter? He broke out of the form that was forced upon him by the masters of the past.

    Yeah, you can learn Wing Chun and be a good fighter, but you won't be a Bruce Lee if you're just copying how others write.
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    • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
      Originally Posted by verial View Post

      Why do you think Bruce Lee was such a good fighter? He broke out of the form that was forced upon him by the masters of the past.

      Yeah, you can learn Wing Chun and be a good fighter, but you won't be a Bruce Lee if you're just copying how others write.

      That's true but not studying the masters who've come before
      you will get your butt kicked in a major way.

      Mastery usually comes from doing both...studying the best and
      letting your own style come out naturally.

      Kindest regards,
      Andrew Cavanagh
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason_V
      Originally Posted by verial View Post


      Why do you think Bruce Lee was such a good fighter? He broke out of the form that was forced upon him by the masters of the past.
      .
      Bruce Lee had to study enough about all the styles so he could take the best of what worked out of each discipline and disregard the rest.

      Point is, he had to not just "know" the different styles he had to UNDERSTAND them in a practical way in order to know what works and what doesn't.
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      • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
        Originally Posted by Jason_V View Post

        Bruce Lee had to study enough about all the styles so he could take the best of what worked out of each discipline and disregard the rest.

        Point is, he had to not just "know" the different styles he had to UNDERSTAND them in a practical way in order to know what works and what doesn't.
        Bruce Lee also said... "I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10000 times."
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  • Profile picture of the author drewfioravanti
    I copy them. Then I read them, record it and create MP3s. Then I load them onto my iPod. Then I listen back at my leisure.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
    I think it helped me a bit when I started out. Bencivenga was a favorite of mine... with a little Halbert mixed in.

    But I have an old basketball hand injury that plays up when I write longhand. And I'm only man enough to suck up the pain for so long...

    --- Ross
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  • Profile picture of the author a1pena
    I will always copy good copy if it converts. If it does not apply to what i am writing for then i just replace a few words and make it work!
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  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    Yes, it'll help more than anything else. I still do it for an hour every morning
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  • Profile picture of the author kenetix
    writing has always been a challenge for me. Somehow speaking all comes naturally but I need to crack my head when writing, especially sales letters. Having references always helps
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