You are currently viewing The New Rules of Copywriting

The New Rules of Copywriting

“A lot of writers know the

rules about writing…

…but they don’t know how to write.”

–Sean Connery as William Forrester in the movie Finding Forrester

Last week I had the joy of watching the movie Finding Forrester for the second time.  It’s truly a great film that every copywriter who is seeking a mentor should watch.

The movie details the bond that develops between a reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, William Forrester, and a 16-year-old kid from the Bronx who desires to be a great writer.

If it shows on HBO again, I highly suggest that you take an afternoon to watch it.  I’m convinced that you’ll find it to be not only an inspirational movie, but also one that can help you learn to find your voice in writing.

That’s what my message today is really all about, the newest rule of copywriting success: 

Finding your voice as a copywriter. 

In my opinion, finding your voice is the master key to your success as a copywriter.

As I see it, you’re a unique individual with your own God-given talents.  So why would you follow somebody’s else’s cookie-cutter formula?

Fact is, the copywriting world is filled with hundreds of cookie-cutter writers.  They all can recite and mimic the rules–yet few can break out from the pack with something truly creative and original.

Just the other day I was speaking with a client who continually tells me that he can’t find any good copywriters.  Frankly, he’s not the only one.  Why on Earth do you think that A-list clients stick with only a few top writers and that breaking into the ball game is so tough?

It’s because 99% of the copywriters that A-list clients run across have gone to the mimic-the-greats school of copywriting instead of digging deep inside to bring out their own greatness.

Be an original!

Fact is, few copywriters really dig deep within themselves to bring out their best, opting to borrow a headline here and a piece from another copywriter’s packages there and then ultimately follow some “formula” they saw somewhere on the Internet.

That, my friend, is not the path to the top of the A-list.

If you’re serious about rising up to the next level–and setting yourself apart from all the also-rans in the industry–here’s what you must do:

You’ve got to find your own voice.  This is really the key, my friend.  There is no one in the whole world like you.  This is your  strength–tap into it and I guarantee the rewards will be priceless.

You must develop your own selling style.  People buy from people they like and trust.  They don’t buy from phonies.  Don’t be a phony–be you.  Celebrate and tap into your personal selling style and I guarantee you’ll stop forcing copy–it will come easily and naturally to you.

How to Find Your Own Voice

Over the years, I’m proud  to say that I found my own voice as a copywriter.  This didn’t happen overnight but over time.  It happened by my continually striving to get deeper into the mind of my prospect and to connect with my readers in my own unique way.

I’m proud to say that I was never a cookie-cutter guy when I started out.  To be sure, like most beginning copywriters, I would study the masters.

However, instead of just knocking off one of a master’s promotions, I would go deep inside the writer’s thinking.  Then I would try to create my own approach based on the great thinking, not the words.

By doing this, my writing would automatically retain the power of the master’s thinking and yet be 100% totally original. 

To simply recast somebody’s words would telegraph to an A-list client that I was simply a surface seller–incapable of going deep for the big breakthroughs.

And everybody who has ever knocked off the famous Wall Street Journal letter should seriously rethink his or her approach before ever sending that sample to an A-list client.

The lesson here isn’t about what happens to these two men in the sales letter, it’s about the two paths–one that leads to success and the one that doesn’t.

This is the key point:

Trust me when I tell you this:  it is understanding the application of persuasive thinking in that famous direct mail letter that will help you find your voice–and not just knocking off the words.

The better you are at understanding these deeper thoughts, the more original your writing will become, and nobody will ever see you as a cookie-cutter guy again.This Is Why I Started the A-list

Since I started the A-list in the beginning of 2007, my whole goal has been to bring you the copywriting ideas that you simply aren’t getting elsewhere–and no BS.  And sometimes, like today, I’ve got to be blunt about it.

What the wannabes can never teach you

Fact is, there are a zillion guys out there peddling courses and rehashes of courses, guys who have never had an original thought in their lives.

As Sean Connery said so eloquently in Finding Forrester, they can only teach you the rules, because that is all they know.  They can’t apply them–opting to knock off the greats rather than learn from them.

Tough talk, to be sure.  But 100% honest and true. Frankly, I have what the young guys would call the “street cred” to say it and without any apology whatsoever.

That’s why I have wanted the A-list to be different from every other ezine you read.  To bring you the NO BS and real copywriting knowledge that will take you to the next level.

Finding your voice will set you apart from the the rest

Trust me when I tell you this:  finding your voice will take you further than any trick of the trade you ever purchased or ever will. That’s why, starting this year,

I’m going to expand the A-list in three ways to help you find your voice, beginning with…  my new coaching program that will expand on the ideas I’ll be sharing with you in my A-list messages.

Uploading my swipe file to my website, for you to get a better idea of my approach to writing copy. 

I don’t offer you these materials to rip off–but only for you to learn from.  I want you to be able to read my philosophy and then see how I execute it. 

Together, I think that’s the most powerful “one-two”combination of insight that I can offer you.

That’s why I created my own Finding Forrester mentor program. 

Better yet, I should call it Finding Jamal, since I’ll be looking to find two or three special writers each year to come under my wing who are truly serious about finding their own special voice and want to break away from cookie-cutter pack once and for all. 

I call it The Million-Dollar Copywriting Formula coaching program. Superstar copywriter Kevin Dawson thinks my guidance is the best thing that’s happened for him.

“Doug’s secrets will revolutionize your copy skills. They will make your confidence and income soar while you shatter the 6-figure barrier, and take your place within the small group of the A-list copywriters.”

That’s because my goal is to have you not just write more persuasively but in your own voice–so that you can bring that special something that only you possess to your next project.

You can learn more about it here.

Another Lesson from The Masters on Finding Your Voice

A-list direct mail designer and friend William Fridrich sent me an old copywriting book as a gift.  The book is called “How to Collect Money by Mail–327 Tested Plans, Letters, and Schemes That Make the Mail Bring Money Due.”  The book is about how to write collection letters to people who owe money.

Published by the A.W. Shaw Company in 1913, the book does not cite an author.  Yet you’ll find another master’s lesson in the opening page, and I’d like to share it with you here:

Personality Letters That Settle Most Accounts

Make Your Letter Talk

Men neglect at long range–they cheat in the crowd.  It’s the stranger that is sent off with scant consideration.

When a man dodges payment, he dodges creditors.  Neighbors are easiest remembered–close-at-home debts are first repaid.

Get close to your man.  Keep your debtor in sight.  In your letter, “talk it over” with him personally.

Most accounts are lost because the debtor feels sheltered by the mass–because your letter comes as one of hundreds put out to delinquents you follow in droves.

Make the man who owes you money feel your presence.  Stand him out alone.  Get to him with your reminder on the day.

Talk to him man to man.  Make his debt a matter between neighbors.  Keep a shrewd but kindly eye upon him.  Let your letter show precisely–and undeniably–why it is an advantage to him personally to pay you in particular. 

Go to him with your letter as you would in person.  Let him feel that you know and read him.

Make your letter talk.– – – – – – – – –

This letter, my friend, contains another master’s lesson in finding your voice. 

Please read it, study it, and feel it.  Make its knowledge a part of your knowledge.  Get to know your man and make your letter talk.

All good wishes,

PS  My research tells me that this year, like last year, the copywriting courses will graduate hundreds of more cookie cutter guys. 

That’s why it’s so crucial that you find your own voice in your copy–and tap into your own God-given talents.  Do this and I guarantee you’ll be well on your way up the A-list. 

Two Testimonials!

I received these two testimonials for my How to Write Long Copy That Makes Money DVD and wanted to share them with you! 

Dear Doug,
I’ve been going through your DVD and the “Betrayal” ad (which is really fun to read now that I understand some the psychology behind it) that came with it and I’m really enjoying this.

I especially like the part about giving away lots of valuable information in the promotion… but leaving out that last piece of the puzzle (which I see you doing over an over again as I’m reading your Betrayal package).

I also liked the part about how you read that Gary Bencivenga ad 1,000 times.  That speaks volumes as to what it really takes to get great at this, considering the level you write at now as a result of working that hard.

Anyway, great stuff and thanks for turning me on to this product in one of your emails. Ben ——— 

Hi Doug,

Just received your DVD package here in the UK, thank you.

Big take away for me is your advice about writing in a very
personal one-to-one, guiding hand approach that resonates
with the reader and goes from problem to solution with much
of the selling done between the lines.

And your advice about headlines–invaluable.

Glad I kept my old Reader’s Digest now! They have a great
headline on this Novembers, “The Deadly Secret Hospitals
Won’t Tell You” – just great.

Really looking forward to when you release more of your
promotions to buy on your website, especially some of your
health promotions.

Happy thanksgiving.

Best regards,


Here’s the link to the DVD.

Doug D'Anna

As a seasoned direct response copywriter, Doug D'Anna has created more than 100 widely-mailed control packages for the world's largest specialized information publishers—generating over $100 million in direct sales.