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Why A 93 Year Old Book Is Still Considered A Copywriting Classic

Learn how to sell anything by writing sales letters

Learn how to sell anything by writing sales letters

Dear Reader:

Who knew letter writing could so lucrative?

I certainly had no idea until I read the Robert Collier Letter Book. It came to my attention from a list of recommended books by Gary Halbert in his newsletter.

The title doesn’t contain any hints of the incredible mind expanding ideas and lessons that you will learn when trying to sell by mail.

It was like the mind fog vanished and the sun appeared, warm and soothing. And all from a book first published in 1931!

But is it still relevant today?

Yes absolutely! Direct mail is still used today but nowadays the same techniques are used online as emails, sales pages and e-commerce. Only the medium and speed has changed.

Consider this quote from the preface:

But through all the differences in products and appeals, runs this one connecting thread—that while products and reasons for buying may vary, human nature remains much the same; that familiarity with the thing you are selling is an advantage, but the one essential without which success is impossible in selling, by mail or selling in person, is a thorough understanding of human reactions.

You see, human psychology has not changed much since, even going back to the days of Ceasar. During the Ancient Roman Empire, merchants sold products and services, only slower and closer to home.

Now we can sell the same commodities to millions around the world at the speed of light.

So how can this book help you?

If you have something to sell, you must first crystallize your sales message. And there is no better and more immediate way to do it than a sales letter.

What makes The Robert Collier Letter Book a classic is the timeless wisdom and practical advice. The lessons you will learn can be applied immediately and for as long as you have something to sell and there are interested buyers.

To sit down and write a sales letter is to get to the very essence of your sales appeal. Direct response copywriting is the most scientific form of advertising because of the emphasis on testing.

Results are known fairly quickly and definitively. Once you find the appeal that resonates with your audience, you can reuse the same letter for years or even decades!

By reading this book you will learn:

  • How to find the right appeal that will bring in the orders
  • The 6 basic motives that drive people to buy (page )
  • The psychology behind why people buy and how to generate the acquisitive feeling
  • How to put a hook into your letters in the opening paragraphs to keep the reader interested
  • How to sell books (”if you can sell books my mail, you can sell anything” page xii)
  • How to write word pictures and forecast what the product will do for the reader
  • How to collect money form debtors who are skimping on payments by writing a sequence that build up urgency

And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Reading the letters, in 2024, I saw how they can adapted for todays market with an abundance of choice but also massive competition.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, increase sales exponentially, or find more effective ways of persuasion, this is a course of study that will increase your bank balance.

Eugene Schwartz, the man who wrote Breakthrough Advertising had this to say:

“The Robert Collier Letter Book–is one of the great classics of copywriting know-how…It’s a gold mine.“

Or Jay Abraham, a marketing genius, praised the book when he wrote:

“I remember reading The Robert Collier Letter Book years ago when I first got into direct mail. It was a revelation for me. It showed me exactly what ‘salesmanship in print’ is all about and moreover, I learned how to actually write the kinds of sales letters that produce astonishing results for my clients…Even now I’m writing two sales letters for a client of mine and I’ll get paid $50,000.00 when I’m finished. Not bad for a week’s work!”

It is not a book you read once and tuck it away to collect dust.

It is the type of book you will turn to again and again. The language may may seem dated to some, but to me that was not a barrier.

In fact some letters can be used today with slight modifications because the basic psychology remains the same.

To give you an idea of how effective his letters were, this passage from a letter selling a magazine subscription in chapter 23, “How To Reach The Leaders” encapsulates it perfectly:

Robert Collier is the man who started the sale by mail of Dr. Eliot’s famous Five-Foot Shelf of Books. Who followed that by selling a couple of millions dollars’ worth of O’Henry stories in two years, and then some three million dollars worth of Wells’ “Outline of History.”

I don’t know about you but selling two million units of anything is a great achievement, and especially using sales letters!

I would highly recommend buying a physical copy which you can find here. Find a hardcover or the fifth edition by Martino books if you can. There is a scanned version of the sixth edition here if you want to read it on a computer.

And if you are serious about becoming a better copywriter, the most important task is to read the letters themselves.

Read them once, copy them by hand or type them out. Really think about what makes the letters effective and you will generate ideas of your own to help you sell anything.

Yours till next time, Jay Khan Logo Jay Khan

P.S. Grab the LettersDB, a free database of sales letters and direct response copy. You will find 18 sales letters by Robert Collier which have sold millions of dollars worth of merchandise. If you have a Notion account, you can duplicate it for FREE and start writing your own.

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