The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert and Bond Halbert
Here are my thoughts on "The Boron Letters" by legendary copywriter, Gary Halbert. They still provide value after more than 40 years.
The Boron Letters is a series of 25 letters written by Gary Halbert, a legend in the field of copywriting and marketing, to his son Bond from the Boron Federal Prison Camp. These letters are now considered to be one of the definitive guides on how to write persuasive copy.
The letters cover a wide range of topics, starting with advice on health and relationships, but the majority of the content focuses on teaching practical direct marketing and copywriting techniques. Halbert’s most famous letter, known as "The Coat of Arms," was mailed over 600,000,000 times and had raked in $40 million in sales at the time of writing these letters in the 1980s.
The letters are broken down into three phases:
Before You Write A Word Of Copy: This section includes advice on books to read, how to create a swipe file, and the importance of finding a starving market before creating a product.
During – Key Success Formulas: This section covers the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), the importance of value-based interest, and how to write for dollars, not applause.
After The Draft: This section discusses how to make long copy engaging, how to smoothly transition between ideas, and the secret to getting 500% more readership.
Halbert’s letters emphasize the importance of perseverance, avoiding negativity, and the idea that “You Don’t Have To Get It Right… You Just Have To Get It MOVING!”. Despite his circumstances, Halbert used his time in prison to share his wisdom and experience, leaving a lasting legacy for his son.
One thing to keep in mind is that Halbert wrote the letters before the Internet era, so many of the specific marketing tactics he explains are outdated. That said, there are still plenty of home truths that can be repurposed for the social media landscape of 2024.
Another thing that might not resonate with some readers is Halbert's conversational style. Personally, I found its directness quite refreshing. I found myself imagining him writing from prison, and you definitely get a sense of urgency from father to son. But if you're after a more structured and formal approach to learning, Halbert's style might not be for you.
I think The Boron Letters is still a useful book if you're serious about writing copy - aka writing text that sells things. It's useful for marketers and entrepreneurs, but also for anyone looking to grab attention in a world full of noise. Halbert's wit, wisdom, and personal anecdotes make the book an enjoyable read. It's definitely one for your bookshelves.
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