The vast majority of this newsletter is going to be about
Most of you who read this newsletter do so
because you are interested in improving your copywriting
abilities... or... you are interested in starting or enlarging
a direct response business. What I'm going to write in
this letter is something you need to think seriously about if you want
to make an enormous amount of money in direct response.
If this newsletter turns out to be a bit
sloppy, please cut me a little slack as Theresa and I are... once again... working under hurricane conditions
courtesy of a bitch named "Rita".
Before I get going on "Operation Moneysuck",
I want to thank all of you who responded to my last few newsletters concerning the
caused by Hurricane Katrina. When I recommended the Jehovah's
Witnesses as the best organization
to help those victims, I expected to get a lot of
flack from my readers. To my surprise, I did not. What I got instead
lot of people praising my courage to recommend such a
controversial, non-mainstream organization.
I believe I got exactly two e-mails bitching
about my recommending Jehovah's
Witnesses. Both of those e-mails were from
individuals who peppered their messages with quotes from the
Bible and maintained the Jehovah's Witnesses were nothing
more than a cult and didn't believe in
mainstream religious dogma.
Just in case any of you are confused, I would like to assure you, I, myself am
NOT a Jehovah's Witness.
And quite frankly, to be blunt, I don't give
a rat's ass about their religious beliefs. In fact, I don't
even know what they do believe... and for my money... it makes no
difference whatsoever. I'm going to tell you a little
story which will illustrate why I feel this way.
Once, a long time ago, I was with my father
in a rather un-seaworthy boat attempting to navigate a
particularly dangerous part of the ocean. I was very scared.
The boat was in serious danger of
capsizing. Then I remembered something my father taught
me years earlier. He taught me if you are in a boat traveling
across dangerous waters, give the controls of
that boat to the person onboard who is the most skilled at
operating a boat under dangerous conditions. That means you
should NOT necessarily give the controls to the owner of the
boat... or... to the person who has the highest "rank" on
board... or... to the person who has been operating
boats for the longest period of time. You should give the
controls to the person who is BEST at navigating
that boat through dangerous water.
To state the obvious, it
shouldn't matter if the person is Black or White, Catholic
or Protestant, a midget or 7 feet tall, Republican or
Democrat, or what the person believes or thinks about
anything. It shouldn't matter if you love or hate the
person. And it shouldn't even if the person is in favor of an idea that disgusts you.
All that should matter is, you give the
controls of the boat to the person onboard who is
the most likely person to get you back to port safely.
So, rather than let my pride go
before a fall...
I Gave The Controls Of That Boat
In Those Dangerous Waters
To My Father!
What if you knew of a copywriter who almost
always wrote hugely successful direct mail pieces, space ads
and/or websites for his clients? Would you care if that
copywriter was Black or White, Catholic or Protestant, a
midget or 7 feet tall, Republican or Democrat? Or what his
or her religious beliefs were?
I think you wouldn't care about any of that.
I think you would hire the person who was most likely to
write a piece of copy for you which would make you the most money.
I think the same thing is true with about anything else of
importance which needs to get done. If you were suffering
from a potentially deadly disease, would you care about the
skin color or religious beliefs of the doctor who was
treating you? I think not. I think if you are sane, you
would want the doctor who is most likely to make you well
I could go on and on with illustrations such as
these but, if you haven't gotten the point already, you are
As far as Jehovah's Witnesses are concerned,
they have an impeccable record for helping people who've
been affected by man made and/or natural disasters superior to any other organization of which I have
knowledge. Personally, I think they are obsessed,
theologically-misguided individuals who unnecessarily complicate their
lives and journey out into the world on Saturday mornings
and irritate people who are trying to recover from
But, by God, when it comes to stabilizing
and repairing after a disaster, THEY are the
people who get the job done without stealing any of the
money contributed for that purpose.
I think what I'm going to write now will
probably surprise you. I think nobody in this country should
donate another dime to help the victims of Hurricane
Katrina. Not even to the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'll tell you
As of now, the total amount of money
already been donated or pledged to help those victims is
in the untold billions of dollars. Let me tell
you something about hundreds of billions of dollars. That amount of
money, at least in my opinion, does not exist anywhere on
earth in the control of people who are not outright stealing
a lot of it... or... who are spending it stupidly. At the very
least, if they are not stealing it or spending it stupidly...
if there is a gazillion dollars available... the kindest thing
you can say (again this is my opinion) is, much of that
money will be spent in a very ineffective manner.
I don't think more money needs to be
contributed to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. What I
think is really needed, is more people with at least half a
brain working on the problems created by the disaster. I
believe $100 in the hands of a capable, intelligent person
will provide more relief for those victims than $10,000 in
the hands of a corrupt or ineffective organization.
But, there is a lot of goodness in the
hearts of the people of the world. A lot of us have a
genuine feeling of an overwhelming need to do something to
help those who have suffered from such a disaster. And, I have an idea I would like to throw out to
all of my readers (if for no other reason) than to give you
something to think about.
Very recently, I was flying back from a short trip to
Costa Rica on American Airlines Flight 972 and I was sitting
in seat 11D. Sitting next to me in seat 10D was a woman named
Bernadette Lewis. Her husband died of cancer at a very early
age. I learned from talking with her a few interesting
First, her father-in-law was Sinclair Lewis
(now deceased of course), the first American writer to win
the Pulitzer Prize. Bernadette is 77 years old. She
had just recently moved from France to New Orleans. After she got
herself set up in an apartment, she decided to take a trip
to Costa Rica to visit her relatives there.
Her return flight from Costa Rica to New
Orleans was scheduled for the day Katrina hit New Orleans.
Naturally, Bernadette was stuck in Costa Rica and she had
to wait quite some time before she could get another return
flight. But when she made those new return flight
arrangements, it only included her
flying to Miami and then to Tampa. She didn't know how (or
if) she could return to New Orleans. And, of course, American
Airlines charged her extra because of the change in her
Bernadette didn't know if her apartment had survived the
hurricane. She was hopeful because it was on the second
floor of her building. She had a son in New Orleans who had
tried to board up his house but was unable to finish the job
and forced to evacuate the area by the New Orleans Police.
If I remember correctly, her son's house was close to her
Bernadette told me she had just auctioned off most of her
possessions before she ever left New Orleans. She asked me,
"They'll have to pay me won't
they? After all, my possessions were auctioned off before
the hurricane." Apparently, when you work with an
auction house, you don't get paid until 30 days after your
items have been
sold. But again, she was asking me, "They'll have to pay me, won't
they? I mean, after all, my stuff was auctioned off before
I didn't have the heart to point out to her
there was a great possibility the auction company
no longer existed. That it may very well have been destroyed
by Hurricane Katrina.
She told me she didn't mind if
people looted her apartment. She said there was nothing
to take but furniture and paintings. She didn't think the
looters were very much interested in furniture. And she was
hopeful they didn't understand the value of her
In any case, here she was, having survived
the horrors of World War II and now (at 77 years of age)
trying to survive the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.
attempting to return to her home (if it still existed) with
very little money and no possessions except what she took
with her on her trip to Costa Rica.
I don't know what has happened to Bernadette
Lewis but, if anybody can find her and she needs some
help, I would be more than welcome to help her personally
to the best of my ability.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, my
youngest son Bond read in the "Los Angeles Times" some of
the evacuees had made it to Los Angeles and were being
sheltered there by the Red Cross. So you know what he did?
He went directly to the shelter, talked to the people,
and found out exactly what they needed. They were most
concerned with immediate needs to get them through the next
48 or 72-hours. So Bond made a list and went to
store after store buying items like deodorant, diapers,
toothbrushes, toothpaste, and lots of other stuff people use
on a day-to-day basis.
One curious thing the evacuees asked for was
decks of playing cards. This puzzled me at first. Then I got
to thinking about it. I guess playing poker or other card
games for matchsticks is a better way to get through the day
during the aftermath of a disaster... than just staring into
space hour after hour and worrying about your future.
Anyway, after he bought all these items, he
put them in his truck and drove back to the Red Cross shelter.
He gave everything directly to the people who needed it.
I'm enormously proud of my son. He has
more wisdom than his father will ever possess.
The message I've tried to illustrate here
If You Want To Help The Victims
Of This Disaster, I Think You Should
Give That Help To The Victims Directly!
I've become jaded. I think the
worst organization in this country we can donate money to
help people is the United States Government. And, I am very
suspect of other major organizations such as the Red Cross,
the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and all the others. I
think each of these charities have many good people... but...
I suspect also each of the charities have some bad
apples who would embezzle the money
entrusted to them without a pang of conscience.
Anyway, I really don't want to receive any
more emails about Hurricane Katrina. Most of the emails I did receive were
intelligent and well-reasoned and had very good ideas in
them. But, I don't even want to read those kinds of emails
On a lighter note, one very misguided reader wrote that since so many people read my newsletter and trust me, I should form "The Gary Halbert Hurricane Relief Fund"
and raise money and administer the funds myself.
Is That Insane Or What?
Get it out of your head. I hereby promise
if anyone ever contributes money to "The Gary
Halbert Hurricane Relief Fund", I will spend that money on
booze, drugs, hookers, online gambling and making illogical bets on
Actually Shitweasel, I wouldn't do any of
that. But I would screw up the administration of the funds
in some uniquely creative way. I am not who many of you seem
to think I am. I'm somebody who's trying to make it from one
day to the next and whose game plan is "Trudge And Muddle".
One last thing on this subject: Recently, we
had a truly "banner" day for news. More bodies were being uncovered
in New Orleans. The problems caused all along the Gulf
Coast states were being covered in minute detail. Hurricane
Ophelia was pounding North Carolina with a vengeance. A very
large tropical disturbance was brewing in the Caribbean, and it looked like it was going to morph into a strong hurricane, and
head straight for Florida (it's almost here now), and
eventually make other landfalls along the
coastline of the United States. (Not much mystery about this
hurricane. It, like the others, is going to tear the ass out
of us once again.) Plus, other headline news that day were there were more casualties in Iraq
than any day since the war began. Also, two major
airlines filed for bankruptcy. I can guarantee you, there
whole lot more horrible shit happened of which I am
It doesn't seem to be getting better. So, you know what? I'm going to do my best
to put these tragedies out of my mind (at least until "Rita"
blows me off my balcony) and get back to doing what I do
best... which is... teaching people how to be more
Let's say you are a copywriter and you want
to make a lot of money from the words you write. One way to
do this is to simply be a freelance copywriter and sell your
work to one or more clients. You can write for a set fee... or...
you can write and get paid a percentage of gross or net
sales... or... you can do a combination and charge a certain
amount up front plus X percentage of gross or net sales.
There are a lot of good clients out there who will pay you a
good amount of money in return for you creating good advertising
copy for them.
But, there are also a lot of bad clients who will screw you one way or another out of the
financial rewards of your hard-earned work. How shalt thy be
There are two main ways:
#1: "Simple Theft"
You do the work, give it to
the client and he simply doesn't pay you. Or maybe he will
pay you your up-front fee but not the percentage from the sales
you are supposed to get (which can amount to an awful lot of
money). Almost every copywriter I know has been screwed in
this fashion. But the truth is, "Simple Theft" is the least significant
way you get screwed.
The preponderance of how you get
screwed out of money from clients is...
#2: "Under-Exploitation Of Your Work"
mean by this is, you write something with a high ROI
(Return On Investment) but your client proceeds with almost
criminal caution. If it's a direct mail piece, maybe he'll
mail 5,000 letters and get $5 for every dollar he spends. But then he won't want to mail any other letters until he
tests a blue reply envelope against the white reply envelope
used in the test.
Or, maybe he will fear getting an
abnormal amount of refunds and he'll wait forever to make a
second mailing until he feels safe he's not going to
get a 70 or 80% refund rate.
maybe he has a merchant account with an absurd limit of only $10,000...
you have given him a mailing piece, newspaper ad or website
that will gross much more in half a day.
Or, maybe he
will be stupid about customer service and making refunds and
get closed down by an alphabet agency before he really gets
the project going.
Most likely, however, your client will
suffer from a built-in mental barrier which makes him very
uncomfortable if he happens to be taking in large amounts of
Of all the times you get screwed by clients from
simple theft... you will get screwed 50 times as often... by
people who don't have the brains, the balls or the skills to
properly exploit the money-making possibilities of the
advertising you have given them.
Think about this: Years ago, Ray Kroc walked into a restaurant
called "McDonald's" in a small city in California. He was
impressed with the cleanliness of the restaurant and the
efficiency of how it was run. The guys who owned it (I think
they were two brothers named McDonald) were happy to sell
him the rights to franchise their restaurant operation. Of course, the rest is history. There are now McDonald's
restaurants in every civilized corner of the world and they
sell billions of burgers every day.
Often the client to whom you are giving your
precious advertising copy is going to be more like one of
those McDonald brothers... than... he or she is going to be more
like Ray Kroc.
Let's say you decide not to write
for clients and only write for yourself. There are a few
people like Joe Sugarman, Ben Suarez, Ted Thomas and a
handful of others
who have done this very successfully. But, they are very
much the exception. Here's the way it most often
(99.999% of the time) it happens: You write a killer piece
which is very profitable and has a very high ROI. You want to keep all the money generated by this piece
for yourself. So, you decide to start and operate your own
business to exploit your own copywriting ability. My friend,
you have no idea what lies in store for you. If you haven't
tried to do this already...
You Don't Have A Clue
Of The Obstacles You Are
Going To Have To Overcome!
First of all, you're not going to have time
to write any more copy for any more projects. Nope.
Someone's going to have to man the phones to take the
orders. Your time will be spent either taking those orders
yourself or supervising your employees or keeping a close on
the telephone answering service you might hire.
And the same thing will happen with the mail
orders. Either you have to pick up the mail yourself or have
an employee do it and someone has to deposit all those
And someone has to fill all those orders.
Again, it's either you, your employees you're having to
supervise, or some fulfillment agency you're watching.
Of course, you'll also have to have a merchant
account to process your credit card orders. And that, my
friend, is when
you will find how delicate that particular link in your
chain of success is. There's a very good possibility your
merchant account (even if you've had it for 20-years) will be canceled... without any warning
whatsoever. This might result simply because you did
something that caused a legitimate but abrupt increase in
your income flow. Or it might be canceled because a few nut cases
have called the bank operating your merchant account
with irrational complaints about your company.
Or, your merchant account might be canceled, believe it or not, for no
rational reason whatsoever. Maybe
some underpaid clerk at the bank was having a bad hair day
and resented the idea you were taking in
a lot of money.
Most of you think if you run your
business in an ethical and upright manner you'll never have
to worry about customer complaints. You couldn't be more
wrong. Customers (and even non-customers) will complain about
anything imaginable. Once, I mailed one of my semi-famous
dollar bill letters to a lot of people and the first line of
the letter read:
As you can see, I've attached a nice, crisp
$1 bill to the top of this letter.
And you know what? One
guy sent me a very hostile complaint letter because the $1
bill I sent him was a little wrinkled and not crisp and
neat. This is a true story. Can you imagine that? Here's a
guy who receives absolutely free money in
the mail and bitches about the fact the dollar he
received was not in 100% mint condition.
Most likely, if you decide to run a business
for yourself, what you really will have done is... have created
a JOB for yourself. And, not only that, you will be driven
crazy and end up...
Having A Madman For A Boss!
Well, what should you do?
I've given this an
enormous amount of thought.
I was blessed when I had my
first direct marketing success by hooking up with a partner,
Dennis Haslinger (now deceased), who ran the business with
the precision of a Swiss watch... and... cheerfully paid me my half of the profits. It was a
dream situation come true. All I had to do (basically) was write the
sales letters, give them to Dennis, and then sit back and
cash checks written to me every month.
Dennis died in the 1990's and I
have been looking for someone I could hook up with
like him ever since. But a guy like Dennis is borderline
impossible to find. Let me tell you some of the
characteristics that type of person needs to possess:
First, he or she needs to be honest and
ethical. The most important aspect of that honesty and
ethicalness is the person will pay YOU the share of the
money you personally deserve.
person must possess the ability to intelligently run very
rapidly with a good idea. He or she needs to be a person
that, when presented with a winning idea, will proceed
with it like a Ray Kroc and not like one of the McDonald
Third, the person needs to be savvy. He or
she needs to know the things you must avoid doing to incur
the wrath of alphabet agencies, an unnecessarily high refund
rate, and the toxic venom of people in general towards
financially successful people.
Fourth, the person must have
one or more extremely solid merchant accounts to process credit card orders. It's been my experience most people who have an existing merchant account have no
idea whatsoever how fast it is likely to
disappear once they become involved in a direct marketing
Fifth, the person must have a lot of money. If you really want to go balls-to-the-wall
as far as making money is concerned, you must hook up with
somebody who is financially solid enough to exploit your
marketing endeavors with the speed of light... and... do so without financial fear.
Sixth, the last characteristic I'm going to
talk about is, the person has to be likable. And, by
"likable" I mean compatible with you. What does it matter
how much money you make if you have to interact every day
with some anal uptight shitweasel you can barely tolerate?
There's more, but that's all I can think of
off the cuff right now. And, believe me, those
characteristics are enough to eliminate 99.999% of all
people you might want to team up with.
Okay, now let's get down to business: Over
the last few years (since I first began putting my
newsletters online) my readership has expanded in an almost
scary fashion. I'm not sure of the exact number but, I think
my newsletters are now read by English speaking people in
approximately 90 countries besides the United States. I
think it's fair to say almost every copywriter and
everybody else of significance in the direct marketing world
is reading my newsletters with insanely rapt attention. They
not only read them, they print all of them out. They bind
them in books. They send me thousands of
emails of praise. And, many of them, it seems, are hesitant
to make a marketing decision without first finding out...
This is all great for the ego, but
it's also insanity. Mostly, when people are wondering "What
would Gary think?"... all I am really thinking about is
the overwhelming difficult problems (at least difficult
for me) of how to get my laundry done and one of my shirts
But, the larger point is, somehow I have
become possibly the most "connected" person in the direct
marketing universe. And, more importantly, I have found a
very tiny handful of people who have all (and sometimes
more) of the characteristics I described earlier above.
about a vision: Let's envision you have written a great
sales letter, newspaper ad or some other type of advertising
copy, and you send it to me.
And, let's suppose I read it and make a
judgment that, if tested, there's a good chance what
you have written will become a success.
let's suppose I deliver your precious piece of work to one
of the tiny handful of people I believe to be the
Dennis Haslingers of the New Millennium. Your piece will
then be tested and tested rapidly. If the test works
(meaning it makes a profit), the person who conducted the test will put
up all the money needed to run with your promotion faster
than Lance Armstrong can pedal a bike on a downhill slope.
And let's suppose that person will also take care of all product fulfillment,
process credit card orders,
accept all the mail orders, handle all the complaints, deal with any alphabet agency
problems, provide both you and me with an accurate
accounting of everything that's transpired... and... pay us a more
than fair share of the profits generated from
the exploitation of your genius copywriting ability.
I say pay "us" because I'm not going to do
this for you or for our modern day "Ray Kroc" just out of
the goodness of my heart. I will do it ONLY because, acting
as the middleman, I get a slice of the pie.
Think a moment about the advantages of
an arrangement such as this: First of all, it reduces
the things you have to do to make money down to the bare
minimum. In fact, if my vision works as I expect it will, the
only thing you will have to do to make more money is write
another successful piece of advertising copy. Then after that, write
another and another and another.
Otherwise, if you decide to run a business on your own,
what's probably going to happen is, you are going to
find the time to do the most profitable thing (writing copy)
will diminish down to approximately 20-minutes out of an
80-hour work week. You see, what's happened to the rest of
your time will be filled
up with the demands imposed on you by LMS (Lesser Mortal
Shit). You'll be so busy getting mailings out, finding the
money to finance those mailings, shipping orders, handling
refunds, processing credit card orders, talking with
alphabet agencies, replying to Better Business Bureau
complaints, and smoothing the feathers of irate customers
(and non-customers), your time for creating world-class
copy will be diminished to less than the time you spend
brushing your teeth every day.
Think I'm exaggerating? Trust me, I'm not. I
know whereof I speak. And, it's only getting worse. The
problems of owning and operating a business in the United
exponentially increasing on a daily basis.
Here's what I think you should do (or at
least, here's something I think you should consider): I think
you should send your next or current marketing promotion to
me along with your contact details. If I think it's something worth testing, I will
contact you and we'll discuss it. If you and I can come to
an arrangement, then I will give your piece to one of my tiny handfuls of
"Ray Krocs" to exploit and run with.
something else you should think about: I think if you
have already written a successful piece which is making you money, you might consider letting me have a look
at that promotion also. Because, the chances are excellent
that successful piece could be much
more profitable if it were being handled by someone
the likes of which I have just described. Also, there's
a VERY good chance I can "tweak" your already
profitable promotion in such a way, it will become
exponentially more profitable.
I'm just putting all this out for your
consideration. You can do with your business and your life
whatever you choose. All I'm doing here is offering you an
alternative. (Actually that's a great understatement. What
I'm really offering you is...
A Vast Improvement
In The Quality
Of Your Life!
If you're interested, please email me your
sales copy with
all of your contact details. Needless to say, don't send
me anything that involves multi-level marketing or anything
dishonest or unethical or scammy in any way. I prefer to deal
only with marketing promotions that under-promise and
Gary C. Halbert