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Excerpts from

  The Robert Collier Letter Book
by Robert Collier
(+ bonus eBook by Claude C. Hopkins)




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Description
A book for the businessman who already knows the theory of letter writing but is looking for more effective ways of putting it into practice. It shows successful ways of selling all manner of products through proper advertising. Selling by mail can be the easiest and least expensive method of selling your services or commodities. It can also be the most difficult and expensive -- it all depends on the method you use in presenting your offering to your prospects. To produce a message that explains concisely yet completely, and in an action-compelling manner, what you have to offer, is a job that demands the services of a selling expert; one with many years of successful mail order experience at his command. If you were to ask any of the top copy writing pros who they've learned from, one name is sure to be repeated over and over again: Robert Collier.

One of Collier's most successful letters was his "will you do me a favor?" letter. It was based on a story he read about how a manager of a company asked a competing business for a favor, which started a relationship that blossomed into the two companies joining together.

Collier thought this same idea might work in print -- and he found it wildly profitable. He had many years of success in the field of selling by mail, selling every commodity from trench machinery to fertilizers, books and raincoats, stocks and bonds and services.

Collier placed hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of the clients for whom he wrote his masterful sales letters. His letter openings were used over and over again because they work -- and they're still working just as well today.

"Robert Collier is one of the absolute greatest copywriters of all time. This book is simply a tremendous bargain since it hasn't been re-published in many years. I have 2 copies of the original 5th edition on my bookshelf because I never wanted to lose one. If you study Collier's work you can crank out winning sales letters that bring in the cash anytime you like.I still personally use many of his sales letters ideas in my own Internet business day in and day out." (Yanik Silver - "Internet Entrepreneur")

This special eBook edition contains the full text of the original 1931 400+ page Letter Book together with all the illlustrations, plus an additional chapter entitled "How to Raise Money by Mail" that was not included in the original Letter Book. As an added bonus, purchasers of this eBook edition will also receive a copy of Claude C. Hopkins' classic "Scientific Advertising" in eBook format.

About the Author
The author of over a dozen books, Robert Collier was decades ahead of his time in writing down ways for man to improve his lot in life. He wrote "Secret of the Ages " during an active and successful life developed upon basic ideas which opened up new vistas of living for countless multitudes of people. Brought up to be a priest, he worked as a mining engineer, an advertising executive and a prolific writer and publisher.

Book Contents

Chapter 1 - WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES SOME LETTERS PAY

Chapter 2 -  HOW TO AROUSE THAT ACQUISITIVE FEELING

Chapter 3 -  GETTING NEWS INTEREST INTO YOUR LETTER

Chapter 4 -  WORD PICTURES THAT MAKE PEOPLE WANT YOUR PRODUCT

Chapter 5 -  MOTIVES THAT MAKE PEOPLE BUY

Chapter 6 -  THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING

Chapter 7 -  SUPPLYING THAT IMPULSE

Chapter 8 -  HOW TO PUT A HOOK INTO YOUR LETTERS

Chapter 9 -  THE SIX ESSENTIALS

Chapter 10 - HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Chapter 11 - THE FIRST OLIVE

Chapter 12 - SELLING $2,000,000 WORTH OF O. HENRY STORIES

Chapter 13 - A WAR HISTORY THAT SOLD

Chapter 14 - BOOKS THAT MANY PEOPLE KNOW

Chapter 15 - HOW WELLS' "OUTLINE" WAS SOLD

Chapter 16 - HOW THE BOOK BUYERS SAVED A CAMPAIGN

Chapter 17 - A GIANT OF THE MAILS

Chapter 18 - THE THIRD FIFTY THOUSAND

Chapter 19 - WHY YOU ACCEPT THIS LITTLE GIFT?

Chapter 20 - ONE MILLION DOLLARS' WORTH OF
ORDERS IN THE FIRST SIX MONTHS

Chapter 21 - HOW CLOSELY CAN YOU FOLLOW UP LEADS?

Chapter 22 - WE HELP TO START A STORE

Chapter 23 - HOW TO REACH THE LEADERS

Chapter 24 - COLLECTING WITH A SMILE

Chapter 25 - THE IDEAL SALES LETTER

Chapter 26 - HOW TO RAISE MONEY BY MAIL


PREFACE


This is not a textbook, calculated to show the beginner how to take his pen or typewriter in hand and indite a masterly epistle to some fancied customer.

It is for the business man who already knows the theory of letter writing but is looking for more effective ways of putting it into practice.

It covers all the necessary rules, of course, but it does this informally. Primarily, it is the log book of a long and varied experience.

It shows successful ways of selling all manner of products, from coal and coke right on down to socks and dresses. 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.

Study your reader first—your product second. If you understand his reactions, and present those phases of your product that relate to his needs, then you cannot help but write a good letter.

It may be said of this book that it does not give enough examples of unsuccessful letters. But most of us can find plenty of these in our own files. And isn't it true that we are far less concerned with why a letter failed than in finding out what it is that makes a letter successful?

The first book on business letter writing I ever read was the "Business Correspondence Library" published by System a good many years ago. To it, and to "Applied Business Correspondence" and other books by Herbert Watson, I owe most of my theoretical knowledge of letter writing. Those familiar with Watson's writings will recognize many of his theories in the early chapters of this book. I gladly give acknowledgment to him as the one on whose writings the groundwork of my own education in direct mail was laid.

To John Blair, President of the New Process Company of Warren, Pennsylvania, I am indebted for numberless opportunities to test my pet ideas in the only crucible that gives dependable results—actual letters sent to prospective buyers—and for the perfect records that enabled me to see which theories were workable, which better forgotten.

For many of the short paragraphs used as examples of good starters, graphic descriptions, or proper closers, I am indebted to writers like Ad-Man Davison and Ben Sweetland and to such magazines as Printers' Ink and System.

To all of these I give acknowledgment and express sincere appreciation.

THE AUTHOR

NEW YORK, N. Y.  May, 1931.


FOREWORD


When I agreed to write a foreword to this practical book about selling, which does much to de-bunk the subject, I did not know that the author had used me so frequently as Exhibit A. Naturally I feel somewhat embarrassed at endorsing his studies, since we traveled the road of mail order experience so much of the way as "buddies." I can't help but think it would have been a better book if he had called me Mr. Sears Roebuck, or Mr. Montgomery Ward, or some other well-known name that stands for big profits and big success. However, if he wishes to take the chance of marring an otherwise useful book, that is his affair.

To anyone immersed in the great game of business, there never ceases to be a thrill in landing an order. Multiply that thrill 100 or 1,000 times, and you have a picture of what a big day means to one who depends upon the incoming mail for success in business. I suppose there must be plenty of excitement in turning over to the "big boss" an order for $50,000 worth of something from one customer, but I doubt whether it can be compared with the feeling that you have influenced through your own eloquence a thousand minds to do something you wanted them to do, so that they all responded with signatures, in one day, backed by healthy pocketbooks.

Of all the forms of selling, direct mail is the most intriguing. Certainly it appeals strongly to the student mind. I have known men to be devoted to it, and very successful at it, who probably would have starved if they had been forced to take a sample case and show their wares to their customers face to face. Of all forms of selling, it gets the quickest results because the mails travel faster than salesmen, the mails don't get sick or temperamental, nor do they have to wait for an interview. The direct mail appeal gets there and back while another salesman is packing his grip. It offers great opportunity for showmanship with striking illustrations and color printing. It makes certain that all the best selling points are covered, whereas a sales representative may often miss a few and is quite likely to focus on a weak one he likes best, even sometimes inventing some doubtful ones of his own. In direct mail the management can check all extravagant claims. Direct mail shows a low selling cost too—if it works at all—and has the advantage of showing you quickly whether your merchandise is marketable, so that you can plan and get your campaign under way while the season is on. I say, "If it works!" Of course, it will work if one has the patience to find the right approach. Sometimes you hit it by accident, but usually you hit it by hard study, backed by experience. Mr. Collier has generously poured his experience into this book to save the reader the pitfalls yawning for old-fashioned business men, who are so apt to spend their postage money on good literature with sophisticated dictionary words and involved appeals, instead of headlines with punch, backed by simple homely argument.

A well-known copywriter and direct mail expert used to say, if you can sell books and service through advertising, you can sell anything. This probably explains why Mr. Collier shows you so many examples of successful book selling, making his point with the more difficult demonstration material. It must not be inferred, however, that the methods which he describes apply only to publishers' problems, because it is undoubtedly true that the same technique can be applied to sell anything from peanuts to real estate, and is being applied every day. If you have an article with merit, and there are enough human beings who want it or who can be made to want it, direct mail will find them quickly and at a low cost, in good times and in periods of depression. Moreover, it can be used in connection with other forms of selling without conflict. Your high-salaried road-men to the contrary notwithstanding, you can use direct mail methods not only to help them sell your product, but to sell them as well—and make them like it.

The publishers are pleased to call this a "book" but I should call it a "course of study," because it covers the subject so completely and unfolds food for thought in easy steps with logical sequence just as a good teacher would do the job. I believe many will join me if I nominate Robert Collier to the chair of Direct Mail Engineering at some progressive institution of learning. If this suggestion is adopted, we shall see in a few years a new attitude on the part of the weary public on receipt of circular letters. The bright, refreshing, circular literature of those days will be opened and read because it will be newsy and interesting, instead of dull and drab, as so much of it is today—but how about our pocketbooks after these compelling letters make us sign up for everything which Mr. Collier's disciples want to sell us under this new order of things?

—Fred Stone

 

Chapter 1

WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES SOME LETTERS PAY?

WHAT is there about some letters that makes them so much more effective than others?

A letter may have perfect diction, a finished style; it may bristle with attention-getters and interest-arousers; it may follow every known rule; yet when it reaches the Hall of Judgment where the reader sits and decides its fate, it may find itself cast into the hell of wastebasketdom, while some screed lacking any pretense of polish or the finer arts of correspondence, blandly picks up the bacon and walks home with it. Why?

Because getting the results you set out to accomplish with a letter is no more a matter of rule of thumb than is landing a fish with a rod and hook. You know how often you have seen some ragged urchin pull in fish after fish with the crudest of lines, when a "sportsman" near by, though armed with every piscatorial lure known to man, could not raise even a bite!

It's a matter of bait, that's all. The youngster knew what the fish would bite on, and he gave it to them. Result? A mess of fine fish for dinner. The "sportsman" offered them what he had been led to believe fish ought to have—and they turned up their fishy noses at it.

Hundreds of books have doubtless been written about the fine art of fishing, but the whole idea is contained in that one sentence: "What bait will they bite on?" Thousands of articles have been written about the way to use letters to bring you what you want, but the meat of them all can be compressed into two sentences: "What is the bait that will tempt your reader? How can you tie up the thing you have to offer with that bait?"

For the ultimate purpose of every business letter simmers down to this:

The reader of this letter wants certain things. The desire for them is, consciously or unconsciously, the dominant idea in his mind all the time.

You want him to do a certain definite thing for you. How can you tie this up to the thing he wants, in such a way that the doing of it will bring him a step nearer to his goal?

It matters not whether you are trying to sell him a rain-coat, making him a proposal of marriage, or asking him to pay a bill. In each case, you want him to do something for you. Why should he? Only because of the hope that the doing of it will bring him nearer his heart's desire, or the fear that his failure to do it will remove that heart's desire farther from him.

Put yourself in his place. If you were deep in discussion with a friend over some matter that meant a great deal to both of you, and a stranger came up, slapped you on the back and said: "See here, Mister, I have a fine coat I want to sell you!" What would you do? Examine the coat with interest, and thank him for the privilege, or kick him and the coat down the nearest stairs, and blister both with a few choice adjectives in the process?

Well, much the same thing happens when you approach a man by mail. He is deep in a discussion with himself over ways and means of getting certain things that mean a great deal to him. You butt in (that is the only term that describes it) and blandly tell him to forget those things that so deeply concern him and consider your proposition instead. Is it any wonder he promptly tells you where to head in, and lacking the ability to reach you, takes it out on your letter instead?

Then what is the right way to approach him? How would you do it if you were approaching him in person? If he were talking to someone, you'd listen for a while, wouldn't you, and get the trend of the conversation? Then when you chimed in, it would be with a remark on some related subject, and from that you would bring the talk around logically to the point you wanted to discuss. It should not be much more difficult in a letter. There are certain prime human emotions with which the thoughts of all of us are occupied a goodly part of the time. Tune in on them, and you have your reader's attention. Tie it up to the thing you have to offer, and you are sure of his interest.

You see, your reader glancing over his mail is much like a man in a speeding train. Something catches his eye and he turns for a better look. You have his attention. But attention alone gets you nowhere. The something must stand closer inspection, it must win his interest, otherwise his attention is lost—and once lost, it is twice as hard to win the second time. Again it's a matter of bait—you may attract a fish's attention with a gaudily painted bauble, but if he once nibbles it and finds it made of tin, you will have a hard time reaching him again with anything else of the same kind.

Every mail brings your reader letters urging him to buy this or that, to pay a bill, to get behind some movement or to try a new device. Time was when the mere fact that an envelope looked like a personal letter addressed to him would have intrigued his interest. But that time has long since passed. Letters as letters are no longer objects of intense interest. They are bait neither more nor less—and to tempt him, they must look a bit different from bait he has nibbled at and been fooled by before. They must have something about them that stands out from the mass—that catches his eye and arouses his interest—or away they go into the wastebasket.

Your problem, then, is to find a point of contact with his interests, his desires, some feature that will flag his attention and make your letter stand out from all others the moment he reads the first line.

But it won't do to yell "Fire!" That will get you attention, yes of a kind but as far as your prospects of doing business are concerned, it will be of the kind a drunken miner got in the days when the West wore guns and used them on the slightest provocation. He stuck his head in the window of a crowded saloon and yelled "Fire!"—and everybody did!

Study your reader. Find out what interests him. Then study your proposition to see how it can be made to tie in with that interest. Take as an instance, the mother of a month-old baby. What is most in her thoughts? Imagine, then, how a letter starting like this would appeal to her:

After baby's food and baby's clothes, the most important thing you have to decide upon is the little cart baby is going to ride in—is going to be seen in is going to be admired in. Never a child came into the world but was worthy as good a cart, etc.

Or if you were the father of a six or eight-year-old boy, wouldn't this get under your skin?

Your boy is a little shaver now. He thinks you are the most wonderful man in the world. You can fix his boat, mend his velocipede, tell him wonderful stories.

But it will be only ten or twelve years until he goes to College. The fathers of the other boys—his chums—will go to see them. There will be a Railroad President, perhaps; a great Banker; a Governor.

And you will go; and your boy will say, "This is my father, boys."

How will he feel when he says it? Will he be proud of you?

Or take any one of the following starts. Can't you just see your reader nodding in interested agreement, can't you picture the way they would carry him along into a description of the thing offered, how they would make him want it, how they would lead him on to the final action?

To a Druggist


After you have run up front half a dozen times to sell a couple of stogies, a package of court plaster and a postage stamp; to change a five dollar bill for the barber, to answer the phone and inform Mrs. Smith that Castoria is 250 a bottle, and assure Mrs. Jones that you will have the doctor call her up as soon as he comes in, then take a minute for yourself and look over this proposition. It's worthwhile.

To a Householder


Doesn't it beat the Dutch the way thieves, pick-pockets, hold-up men and burglars are getting away with it these days?

There were over 1500 house burglaries last month in our dear old city; 92 business burglaries; 122 street hold-ups; 11 offices held up; 309 automobiles stolen, and the Lord only knows how many watches and purses taken on the streets. A good insurance policy against burglary and theft is a pretty cheap investment these days. Call me on the phone now, and I can have your valuables covered by noon.

To a Farmer


Any man who owns a cow loses a calf once in a while. If you own a herd of a dozen or more, you are probably losing one or two calves a year. We know of breeders who were losing every calf—some sixteen—some over thirty a year.
 
And these breeders stopped their losses short—just like that—through the information given by us.

To a Merchant


"She didn't buy anything."

How often is this little tragedy repeated in your store?

Your time is valuable your overhead expense runs on—and it costs you real money when a prospective customer walks out of your store without making a purchase.

To a Mother


About that boy of yours—

He is arriving at the age when his spirit of manliness asserts itself. You find him imitating his father's manners—he is using your embroidery scissors to shave with—he is no longer ambitious to be a policeman, but has his eye on the Presidency. Among the serious problems with him today is this: He is beginning to want manly, square-cut, "growing-up" clothes. He is no longer satisfied with ordinary boys' clothes, He wants something "like father's."

To a Motorist

If you have ever driven your car in a rainstorm, you know how annoying it is—dangerous, too—to have your wind shield clouded with water. How many times have you narrowly avoided accidents under these conditions? With the—Cleaner attached to your car, all you need to do is turn a button in front of you, and instantly every drop of water in your field of vision is swept from your wind shield. The glass is left clear and clean.

To a Doctor


What a clutter of books a doctor can get around him, and what a fearful outlay of money they will come to represent if he doesn't use great discrimination in their purchase. I don't suppose there is any class of people—and I have customers among every class you can think of—who appreciate more than my medical friends the marvelous savings I am able to make them on all standard sets, reference books, etc.

To a Housewife


After you have your breakfast dishes washed, your floors swept, and your beds made up, I should like to have a moment of your time. You are an excellent judge of what is good to eat, and know when you are getting what you should from your grocer to be saving and yet to set your table with healthful and dainty dishes for your family...

To Any Man

 
Are you like Mr. Fuller in that you dislike to shave with cold or lukewarm water?

Mr. Fuller always grumbled when the water was cold. Usually it was cold. You know how the ordinary hot water system works early in the morning.

But the Fullers found a way out of their troubles. Now—nowadays, no matter how early they may arise, there's always steaming hot water the instant a faucet is turned.

To Insurance Agents


Did you ever, as a kid, sneak up alongside an old mill pond and heave what Penrod might call a "good old rock" far out into the middle of its placid surface—just for the fun of seeing all the mud turtles on all their sunny legs drop off into the water with one loud, individual PLUNK?

If the humble mud turtle formed no part of the backyard fauna of your youth, I reckon there was something mighty similar to engage your budding talents. Just as you find now, in your grown-up days, that the pursuit of your business aims often involve the same emotions that lent interest to your activities in the eyes of your early neighbors. For example: We want to point out to you a few of the prospects that are basking along the banks of the . . .

Bait—all of them. Find the thing your prospect is interested in and make it your point of contact, rather than rush in and try to tell him something about your proposition, your goods, your interests.



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Claude Hopkins was one of the greatest advertising pioneers who ever lived. He believed that "Advertising is salesmanship" and as such, it should be measurable and justify the results that it produced.

Claude was a strong believer in "Reason why copy" and the principles that he discovered and documented are as true to day, as then. It does not matter what type of advertising medium you use, from print advertising to the Internet, the fundamental taught by Claude are universal and timeless.


He believed, that a good product was often it's own best salesperson and as such he was a great believer in sampling. To help trace his results he would often uses coupons. Coupons gave him the ability to not only measure results, but feedback on how to improve results. He could now test one headline against another, or one proposition against another. This one simple strategy may not sound like rocket science stuff, but when you consider that one headline has the potential to out-pull another headline by 5, 10 or perhaps 15 times, one quickly understands the huge effect that this could have on ones bottom line profit.


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