A Conversation With
Million-Dollar Copywriter

In this special interview issue …

  • How to get a mature, skeptical market to buy your products like crazy …
  • The critical elements every winning direct mail package MUST have …
  • Conquer the curse of the blank page with Carline’s powerful twist on swipe files …
  • The simple secret to smashing creative blocks that helps you create million dollar ideas …
  • The critical mindset that will help you create more controls than you ever thought possible …
  • The smartest thing Carline ever did to increase her copywriting income …
  • And much, MUCH MORE!

Dear Business-Builder!

Words can fail even the most experienced writers at the worst possible times. Like when you’re trying to describe the indescribable: The perfect beauty of a fiery sunrise or a fine diamond, for example … or like right now – as I’m attempting to find words that adequately describe Carline Anglade-Cole.

Some folks, you just fall in love with the instant you lay eyes on them. Carline Anglade-Cole is at the top of that list for me. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Sure Clayton adores her. He’s a guy and Carline is drop-dead gorgeous. What’s not to love? And yeah … I’ve got to admit – it’s hard not to admire someone as stunning as Carline. No photo could possibly do her justice.

But beauty, as they say, is only skin deep; Carline has a unique beauty that radiates from deep inside each one of the 20 trillion cells in her cute little frame.

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at the people who are closest to them. Carline’s husband Mick is a certified hero – a firefighter who has received commendations for saving strangers’ lives at the risk of his own and suffering serious personal injury in the process. He is quite possibly the strongest, most confident, most dignified and bravest man I know, and has a mind like a steel trap. If I ever found myself in a foxhole, fighting for my life, Mick would be my #1 choice to watch my back.

Mick and Carline have blessed us all with four of the finest kids the world will ever see. Each of their three daughters, Milan, Tiara and Jael – and their not-so-little-anymore guy Chadam – is an absolute gem: A living, breathing testimonial to the amazing balance of love and discipline, as well as the twinkly-eyed fun and serious work ethic that their parents have instilled in them.

Carline herself is, as I have said so many times, a force of nature. She exudes more energy than Three-Mile Island and has the metabolism of a marathoner. As “The Redhead” says, “Carline burns 10,000 calories a day just being Carline!” (Oh – and a helpful hint: If you are ever so fortunate as to share a meal with Carline, guard your plate carefully; because as far as she’s concerned, “share” is the operative word. Once her food’s gone, yours is fair game!)

When you meet her, you’re going to love her, too: For her raucous, often, ribald sense of humor, her astonishing creativity, and the blinding brilliance that rocketed her to America’s top rank of “A” copywriters in a fraction of the time it took me. In her very first year as a freelancer, Carline raked in well over six-figures in royalties – and she has never looked back.

Today, Carline makes millions in royalties creating huge multi-year controls for Healthy Directions, Sun Chlorella, Cawood & Associates, Boardroom and all the other top health publishers and supplement purveyors in the country.

Finally, you should know that Carline is, in a very real sense THE TOTAL PACKAGE: In fact, this whole thing was her idea. She talked me into creating an e-zine to share my thoughts about direct response marketing and copywriting with you. So if any of what I’ve said to you has helped, you have Carline to thank.

Carline was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone sharing the secrets of her stellar success. As you’ll see, I rarely had the opportunity to get a word in edgewise …


I want to start with a little bit about your background. Tell me about your life growing up, your family.

CARLINE: Well, I was born a poor black child – oh, no, that’s Steve Martin’s line – no, I’m sorry; okay. You’re going to edit this stuff, right?
CLAYTON: I’m not taking that out.

No?! Okay. All right. Let’s see – I’m the offspring of a Caribbean mother and a European father. I never got to know my biological father. My mom and my stepfather are Haitian, and they came to the United States when I was six. We grew up in the D.C. area. Our family wasn’t wealthy. My mother worked as a maid while she was trying to learn English, and then she got a job as a cashier at a cafeteria, where she worked most of her career. My stepfather drove a cab. We weren’t dirt poor – we were just a lower, middle-class family.

Probably the best thing my mom did for me when I was growing up was to instill in me the importance of taking advantage of what America had to offer. Her attitude was, “We didn’t scrape up our money to get you out of a third-world country for you to waste this opportunity.” That was the mantra growing up. And I had this first-generation, immigrant mentality that this is a country of opportunity, and I’d be stupid to screw it up. School-wise, I got a partial scholarship to the University of Southern California. The rest was paid by huge student loans.

I transferred to the American University in my junior year and piled up even more student loans. I thought when I got out of school, people were just going to knock at my door offering $100,000-a-year jobs to a 22 year old. So I kept signing my life away on these loans. I graduated in 1983 with a degree in Communications and Broadcast Journalism from the American University.

After graduation, instead of making a boatload of money to pay off those mega student loans, I got married to Mick. And my high school sweetheart husband – also known as “the payer of my student loans” – and I spent the ’80s and early ’90s having babies; three girls, Milan, Tiara and Jael, and one man cub, Chadam.

Money was really tight when we were first married. But staying home with the kids was important to both of us. So I got a part-time job that was flexible enough to work around Mick’s schedule as a firefighter. I stumbled into a customer service job at this young, thriving company named Phillips Publishing.

I was getting paid about $8.00 an hour – nowhere near the $100,000 I’d planned on making. But it helped pay the bills. But little did I know that this customer service job was going to be the best career move for me at the time. It’s where I learned about this crazy business called direct mail. Phillips was a great place to work. The people had an entrepreneurial spirit, the business was taking off, and the owner, Tom Phillips and Vice President Bob King had a clear cut vision of success.

After 6 months of working the phones in customer service, I got a raise when I switched over to the accounting department as an accounting assistant. I think I got a whole dollar raise. Moving to the accounting department is when I discovered that the company was building a team to launch a new health division, and they had openings for marketing assistants.

Now, one of my duties as an accounting assistant was to deliver a green sheet to all the corporate heads every Friday evening. That green sheet would let Tom Phillips, Bob King and all the other execs know how much money the company made for the week. So they looked forward to seeing me. I had to stay at work on Friday, no matter how long it took for all the money to be reconciled. I had to be there to plug in the last numbers and deliver that green sheet to the bosses.

Anyway, I tried to apply for a marketing assistant position the traditional way, but that got me nowhere, so I resorted to a little bit of an unorthodox approach.

One Friday, I went to Bob King’s office and I held the green sheet up for ransom. I told him he couldn’t have it until he gave me an interview for the job. And I’m telling you, I could have got my butt fired instantly for that little escapade. Instead, Bob was impressed with my guts or my craziness or whatever, and he pulled out his DayTimer right then and there, and gave me a date and time for the interview.

And that was the beginning of my marketing career. I worked under Marshall Hamilton and the two of us were the core marketing team for the health group at Phillips. As we started to grow, Bob added a feisty redhead to our team as Marketing Director. I think you know her. Her name is now Wendy Makepeace!

Phillips was my entire education in direct mail. I moved up in the ranks, and then after seven years, I became a Marketing Director for the hugely successful health group.

I left Phillips and I went to Georgetown Publishing House as Executive Vice President. I was there for two years, and we did the whole post-it-note mailings that made a ton of money for my boss at the time. Then I got tired of the commute.

I went back to Phillips two years later as Group Publisher in the financial group and helped launch the company’s investment cruise seminar business. And then in January of 1999, I left the corporate world and started Cole Marketing Solutions.

CLAYTON: Now, were you Vice President when you were a Group Publisher?

Nope. I wouldn’t agree to a non-compete, and, at the time, all the Vice Presidents had to sign a non-compete. A non-compete says whether you’re fired or you quit, you cannot go to work for a company that’s in competition with Phillips. I thought, “Hey, if I sign this non-compete, and I get fired or I quit, I can’t use all this awesome knowledge I’ve gained over the past 12 years.” I didn’t want to cut myself off at the knees.

I remember telling Bob I would sign if he would guarantee my salary so I wouldn’t work for a competitor. Bob told me, point blank, “You’re not going to be vice president without signing a non-compete.” And I said, “You know what? I’ll take my chances,” and I’m so glad I did – because later on, when I became a freelancer, I didn’t have a noose around my neck – and I could take on any client who wanted to hire me.

CLAYTON: You called me up yesterday, yelling and screaming into the phone, and I could barely understand what you were saying. You sounded absolutely hysterical. What was that about?
CARLINE: Well, I was just leaving the car dealership. I just got my E-500 Mercedes, and I was thrilled. I always call you when I do these kinds of things because you are such a big part of my success. This was really cool because not only did I get this awesome car, but my mom inherited my E-320. In fact, after I drove off the lot with the car, I drove right to the school where she’s working – she still works in the cafeteria for the school – and I said, “Mom, I got MY car – so you know what that means?.” She just turned around and looked at everybody in the cafeteria and yelled, “Hey, everybody, I got my Mercedes with the navigation system!”
CLAYTON: Okay, how else is copywriting changing your life?

Oh, my goodness! Okay, just looking on the financial side of it, there’s just no comparison! A bad year as a copywriter is still 150 percent better than my best year working at Phillips – and remember, when I left Phillips, I was already making six figures.

So I’ve been able to experience what I consider to be financial freedom at an early stage in my life when I can still enjoy it. I don’t have to wait until I’m 65 to retire and live off a pension. I gave my mom an E-320. I bought her a house last year – she flew down with me to Georgia and she picked out her brand spanking new house. That was a REALLY cool experience. To be able to do that for your mom; there’s just no better high than that.

Also, my family and I have been able to travel throughout the United States and even to exotic countries like Sri Lanka. And to thank my husband for making all those school-loan payments, I bought him a Corvette. And, for our 20th anniversary, I bought him a pickup truck. I’m just making it harder for the next wife – if there’s ever going to be one!

My family has spent many summers splashing around in this huge, custom swimming pool I paid for with the royalties from just one kick-butt control. And now, because I’m tired of taking my son to evening basketball games with his friends, we’re putting a court in the back yard of our new house. So, on the financial side, that’s how copywriting has changed my life. But that is really all just material stuff. And while I’m thankful for it, I know it’s just stuff that can quickly disappear. Even better is what copywriting has done to enhance my life emotionally and spiritually.

When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was able to go to the doctor visits with her. I was with her through the whole surgery and recuperation period. I just plopped in the hospital chair and slept in her room. That way she could wake up and see my face at 3:00 in the morning instead of a stranger’s. And when she got cancer a second time, I didn’t have to ask my boss for any time off or check to see if I had any sick leave left. I just made a few changes to my work schedule and I was there for her.

And despite all that time off, I still had a blockbuster year. I just worked at night or early in the mornings and kept my days free for her. She’s a single mom, and it was a very, very difficult time for our family. But it’s so great to be able to say, “Hey, I’m here. Don’t worry about it. No problem.”

My husband was totally supportive of that. He picked up all the slack with the kids, so I was able to be there for my sister, and that made us much closer than we ever were growing up. And it’s something that I never would have been able to do if I was tied down to a nine-to-five job.

It’s also nice that now, when my 94-year-old grandmother calls and says she wants to see me, I can jump at it. How much longer am I going to be blessed to have her around? So, if she wants to go shopping at Wal-Mart, we go to Wal-Mart!

Another nice thing is that I get to work with people who I generally like. If I don’t like them, I fire them. In reality, I don’t actually fire people. I just raise my prices so they can’t afford me. I’m at a point now where I have total respect for the people I work with and they respect me. And we get the job done. So it’s really not work. It’s just creating great work and helping people solve a problem in their lives. I love it.

We just moved to the metropolitan Atlanta area. Not because I had to live somewhere close to my job – just because we liked the small town. I go to my kids’ school functions, even if they’re in the middle of the day. I can go on vacation whenever I want to; however often I want to, and several times, I’ve been able to volunteer up to 50 hours in one month to help with church-related activities. I was never able to do that working for a company. The freedom copywriting gives me helps me to grow into the kind of person I want to be. And I get to enjoy life now. I don’t have to put it off until a later time that may never come.

I have never had a job in my entire life that I thought, “Okay, I can do this for the rest of my working life.”

CLAYTON: That’s wonderful. Tell me about the copywriting successes that you’re proudest of.

Okay. Well, the successes I’m proudest of don’t necessarily equal the most successful packages I’ve done. I’m proud of a couple of packages that I thought were just awesome, but when they mailed, didn’t work. That was kind of a bummer because I was really in love with the ideas.

For example, you know about my “Extreme Cures” package. My lead was about urine therapy, and then I got into bee sting therapy and maggot-therapy. I thought this would kick butt because the market was finally ready for this stuff. The creative team that I worked with was fantastic. I loved the concept. The design was awesome. I thought it was killer copy. Everybody loved the package – except our target audience. I lost to an Alzheimer’s lead!

As for the stuff that I’m proud of AND was successful for my clients, one was the Soundview launch for Dr. Balch’s Prescriptions for Healthy Living. When Weiss sold that product to Soundview, Garret Wood called me up and asked me if I could launch it. And my promo pulled 4% in the first mailing. That’s unheard of in a newsletter launch nowadays.

CLAYTON: How long did that mail?

It’s still mailing. It’s been two and a half years now – and it’s fatiguing. I know ’cause the royalty checks are definitely smaller.

CLAYTON: Great. How much do you think you’ve earned writing that one package?

’bout $100,000.

I’ve also got a Sun Chlorella package I’m very proud of. That’s earned me a couple of hundred thousand dollars of royalties, and it’s been mailing since 2002.

CLAYTON: How long did it take you to write it?

It took me about six weeks.

CLAYTON: Six weeks, $200,000?

Yep – crazy business we’re in, huh? It’s funny because I had to convince them to mail my package. After I wrote it, they said, “We’re a little afraid of this package.” They said they hadn’t done anything like it before. I had to fight to get them to mail the two headlines that I wanted. Finally, they agreed to it, and they both pulled well.

Another great success is with the folks at Frank Cawood & Associates. I went to visit them once and Frank said to me, “I don’t understand it. We’ve had other copywriters working for us, and they’ve all been able to give us a control, and the next time we used them, their copy didn’t work. You’re the only copywriter who has consistently given us controls.” He did the numbers, and said I had an 80% success rate writing packages for his company.”


I just love working with them. It’s fun. When I write for them it’s like writing to my mom. It takes me longer to read their books than it does to write the copy. I can knock out a Cawood package in about a week if I’m really focused.




The other thing that’s been fun is the packages that you and I worked on together. We made some serious money working on the sex package. That was a fun project. Remember that one? The headline was “Forbidden Secrets of Sex and Healing: How Passion and Pleasure Can Help Heal Your Body.”

I remember we were having a conference call with Martin Weiss, and he said, “Oh, I read this package. The copy is wonderful. I could really see how having a male and a female copywriter working on this makes all the difference.” He said he could see where the sensitivity came in, and he started quoting from copy saying things like, “That’s really a great feminine touch.” But I had to tell him, “That was Clayton.” And then he read something else and said, “That was totally masculine; that was great.” And I told him, “No, that was me.” He was wrong all the way through, and I just thought that was so funny. That’s the package that got my pool in the back yard. So before I would dive in, I would quietly say, “Thanks, Clayton.” So, those were successes that I can think of.

CLAYTON: Okay, well, anyone who’s reading this interview knows that I kind of helped out a little bit with your getting started.

Are you kidding me? You’re being way too modest. Hold on. Let me get this cleared up. You did not help out. You were my inspiration to get started. When I became a marketing assistant at Phillips, I started learning about copywriters. They were kings, they were gods in the eyes of direct mailers. I was hearing the names of copy giants like Gary Bencivenga and Jim Rutz, and as a marketing manager, I got to meet a few of them and sit in meetings and hear what was going on.

But this one particular megastar copywriter kept creating monster successes for the health group, and I would see these huge checks being made out to Clayton Makepeace for copy you wrote months or years ago. But you were still getting your royalty checks. Then I got to meet you and you were this wonderful guy who was willing to share what he knew with a peon like me. I studied your copy for years.

My first shot at writing renewal copy at Phillips, I swiped one of your headlines. I was writing a gift renewal for the anniversary of The Retirement Letter. I saw something you had written before and your headline was, “It’s my birthday, but you get the presents!” And I thought, “I’m taking that,” and I swiped that sucker and I used it in the headline, and it worked. I think it made like a 3 percent response on the renewals. It was great, but that was all yours. And then when we got to know each other; I’m reading your copy; I’m writing your copy; I’m getting to know you; just talking with you, and your encouragement and your confidence in me led me to take the plunge.

I remember talking to people saying, “You know, I don’t like my job anymore. I’m really feeling this pressure from the corporate world. I’m not spending as much time with my family as I want to. I’m getting pressures from my husband. If I’m at home, I’m getting pressure from my boss.” I was just feeling really squeezed in the middle, and you said, “Carline, you could do freelancing. You could be a good copywriter.” I said, “You’re just being nice.” But you said, “No, no.” That was very instrumental to helping me to take that plunge.

Once I called you, and you said to me, “Well, I can’t encourage you to go off on your own because Phillips is a valued client of mine, and I don’t want to be accused of taking one of their employees.” Then you said, “When you make that decision, and it’s a good decision to make, call me, because I’ve got some things going on that I could probably get you involved in.” If you remember, that was about October, November of 1998 in the beginning of the whole Y2K stuff, and the newsletter we did with Martin Weiss. I called and told you, “Okay, as of January 1st, I’m starting my own business.” And you were the one who helped me get my first client, Martin Weiss.

You called me and said, “Hey, come on over here. We need some help with some lists.” I didn’t want to do lists, but hey, I needed some money, and I got to meet Martin Weiss, who is a phenomenal person himself. I got to work with him, and we got to do the whole Y2K newsletter, and that was just a fantastic start to my career. And I made more money that year than I ever did in my entire life!

So don’t be modest when you say, “I helped her a little bit.” That is not true. I give credit to two human beings on this planet for helping me. One is my husband who always had confidence in me and supported my decision to start my own business. And the other person is you. You always had that vision for me and really encouraged me. While Mick was telling me I could do it; you showed me how to do it.

CLAYTON: That’s sweet.
CARLINE: That’s not sweet; that is the truth.
CLAYTON: Well, what was it like being copy-chiefed on those first jobs? Handling criticisms of your copy and learning the ropes and all of that.

You know, I’m the kind of person that if I’m around people who I think are talented, and those people are going to take their time to give me critiques to make me better, I’d be a fool to have any kind of an attitude or some kind of an ego. I’ve really looked at it as a privilege. I got a chance to write copy, and then that copy was taken, and it was massaged into something that was making money for the client.

But I remember cracking up a couple of times because I would write some copy, and I would give you a first draft, and I’m thinking, “This is pretty darn good.” I’m all excited about it, and then you e-mailed me back or called me and said, “You know what? This is really good. This is really good.” And then you would say, “Just let me massage it a little bit.”

Then, when I’d get the copy back, and I’d be searching for one sentence or one paragraph that was the original copy – and that made me think, “Wow, I guess it wasn’t that good.” So I have no problem with crits, even to this day. I have no problem in somebody saying, “Awe, this sucks – you missed the ball here” – because if it’s somebody I respect and that person has taken the time to tell me this, it’s only going to make me a better person, a better copywriter. So it wasn’t a matter of any kind of ego; it was I got this opportunity to work with the best copywriter in the world, and he’s telling me to do this; I’d better do it. So that was never an issue for me.

CLAYTON: It was always fun working with you too. I think that every project we worked on benefited from the fact that both of us were doing it. I think there was synergy there that really paid off.
CARLINE: Yeah, because we started off on each other. You’d say, “How about this?” or I’m talking and running my mouth, and you’d say, “You gave me an idea.” And I’d ask, “What’d I say? What’d I say?” So, I agree. I think that is important, and I don’t always get that with everybody I work with. I’ve been copy-chiefed before, and there’s nothing more frustrating than your copy being critiqued, and they come back and there’s no crits. And I’m thinking, “I don’t need you. I can do it myself and save the money.” So I want to know, “What are you bringing to this that will enhance the copy?” So, yeah, I think we make a great team.
CLAYTON: Tell me about handling failure.

I don’t have to tell you…

CLAYTON: Okey doke; don’t tell me; tell them.

All right. And it still happens to this day, so it’s not like it’s a past tense thing. I’m an ENFP personality. The Myers-Briggs ENFP, which means “all or nothing.” I get absorbed in something, and then boom, I’m bored with it. And so I get into writing copy, and it’s like this product is the most important thing in my life for the next four to six weeks, and I’m all absorbed in it. I’m writing this sucker, and I’m thinking, “This is good. This is good.” And then I turn it in and go through the whole process and you get that thing mailed, and the client comes back and tells me that I didn’t beat the control, and, oh my goodness, I’m just devastated. I’ve even called you several times and said, “I suck. I suck. I can’t believe it. I suck. I’m going to quit my job and go work at Wal-Mart.”

I really take it personally because I feel like I did a good job. And that’s kind of an important segue because I’m talking about ownership of copy. When I have ownership of my copy, if it’s successful, then I’m successful. If it sucks, then I suck, for the moment at least. But when I don’t have ownership, meaning when everybody’s gotten their hands into my copy, they’ve changed it around, and so forth, then you know what? That’s not my package anymore, so I don’t experience those highs and lows.


How do you get through the lows?


Well, I usually call you up, and then I cry. You tell me, “Stop being a baby,” or “Go outside; go shopping,” or do whatever. But I have a set pattern. Before I start any package, this little thing goes off in my head, saying, “This is the package where they’re going to realize that you’re totally a fake, and you’ve just been fronting all along. This is probably going to show them that you just don’t know what you’re doing.” It never fails. That comes to my mind immediately.

I’ve learned to kind of accept that and say, “Fine, I’m going to go through this phase. Now, let me just start reading this stuff. Let me just start getting into it.” As I start getting into it, I’m feeling a little more comfortable with the package. I’m understanding what I’m doing. I’m understanding who the doctor is or whatever. And then those feelings get pushed back without me having to do anything about it.

But you asked the question about how I handle the lows. I gotta realize they’re going to come, and when they come, I just say, “You know what? I’m not working today. I’m going out.” I just do things that make me feel good.

I’ll go see my grandmother; I’ll call my mom; talk to my husband; I’ll take my sister or a friend out to lunch; I’ll do something that fills me back up and remind myself, “It’s just a job, Carline. Don’t worry. This is not the end of the world.” And then I just get my butt right back up the next morning. I break the project up into little chunks so I don’t get overwhelmed. If I’m feeling like “I can’t do this– it’s too much.” Then I say, “Carline, just write a sidebar today. Just get the order form done.” And as I start doing that, then, of course, an idea pops up in my head and I go to it. So I’ve learned to accept the cycle that I go through and not to be afraid of it. I almost embrace it now and worry when I DON’T go through it.

One time, I remember – and this happened all in one day – I got a call from a client who said, “Your package lost,” and I’m thinking “oh man,” and I’m crying. I’m saying, “Clayton, I suck.” And you said, “Get out of the house and go buy yourself something.”

So I did. And when I came back home, I got an e-mail message from another client saying, “Carline, this is the best package we’ve ever mailed.” Now I’m thinking, “I’m awesome, I’m awesome,” and then I’m mad I didn’t buy even more stuff when I was shopping. So this whole business is so crazy because you can write excellent copy, but if it’s not hitting the market when it needs to be there, it’s not going to work. But you can write mediocre copy, and if it’s a hot subject, you’ll be successful. So it’s really finding a theme that you believe in, focusing on your market, executing it the best you possibly can, and then seeing what happens.


Can we talk a little more about the mental processes you go through when you’re first beginning to work on a new project?


Well, the very first thing is a fear. I’m always thinking, “Oh, my goodness. Why did I do this? Why did I tell this client I could do this? I should have just stopped while I was ahead.” That kind of kicks in, but then I just say, “Okay, let it go; let it ride,” and then I just take about a week to two weeks of just doing nothing but research. All I’m going to do is read about this. If it’s a book, if it’s 500 pages, I’ll just divide that up and say, “Okay, I need to read 100 pages a day to get this done in five days.” And so all I’m doing is I’m reading; all I’m doing is trying to understand what this product has to offer; why somebody would want to buy it; what’s so great about this doctor. I just keep asking the question, “So what?” And I just read to try to figure out what’s going on and then usually within that time period, some ideas will come up, and I just jot them down. I don’t let myself get too caught up in the writing process. I just absorb what I’m working on, and then usually by the end of the two-week period, I’ve sort of built up a couple of ideas.

You always told me, “Look for the ‘aha’ moments.” Whenever you’re reading a book – and you’re reading something and you think, ‘Hey, I didn’t know that.’ Put a sticky note right there. It’s an ‘aha’ moment.” And then if an idea pops up in my head, I’ll just jot it right in the book. If it’s a bullet, I’ll just put that right in there and just put sticky notes all over the publication. So by the end of two weeks, I’ve got tons of sticky notes I’m looking at. And then by the next week, I’m now focusing only on my sticky notes, and I go right to the computer, and start to jot down what I liked and the ideas that have come through, and then from there, sometimes a theme can resonate. It comes whenever it wants to; I never know when it’s gonna happen, and then I’ll pick something that I’m interested in, an idea that came up in the book or the newsletter, and I say, “I should write a sidebar about this,” and just start playing around a little bit, and then I start trying to formulate the copy.

Ed Elliott is always trying to get me to give him an outline, and I say “Ed, I’m the kind of kid in high school that would write the term paper first, and then to do the outline afterwards.” So I don’t work that well with outlines, but I sort of work with big chunks of ideas. I think, “That’s a good idea,” and I’ll kind of put it on one corner of the page and say, “Develop that one; develop that one,” and then, usually from those ideas, something kind of rises to the top. And either it’s got a headline kicking in there or I got a nice theme to work with, and then from that point on, I’m into the writing process. And I’m just digging in there and trying to write some copy that makes sense to my market and trying to hit some nerves.


Most writers I talk to either start by saying, “Okay, what are the benefits that this product offers?” Or they ask themselves, “What are the hottest hot buttons that my prospects already have about this subject?” So, they either start with the product or they start with the market.


I think I start with, “So what?” I have a big piece of paper I keep on my screen too that says, “So what?” You know, you’re reading about this – so what? Who cares? Why do I want this? So it’s kind of a blend of the two because I think the health market has gotten so saturated. Everybody and their mother has a product out there. As a consumer, I know I get tons of stuff in the mail. People are trying to get my attention to buy it, so I just ask, “So what? What’s so great about it? What’s so hot about this guy, this doctor, this product? Why do I want this stuff?” I really kind of come in with an attitude of tell me, “So what?” And so I guess, in that case, it would be more the product; what are the benefits this product can bring to the table?”


What you’re doing is you’re speaking for the consumer. Your “so what?” is the question that’s really in the consumer’s mind.


Yeah, the consumer’s thinking, “I’m busy, so what do you have to tell me. Make it to the point, and give me something that’s worth my time because I’m not going to read you if I don’t get that.” So I think I’m the blend of those two schools of thought.

Frank Cawood’s projects have really taught me the truth of something you’ve always told me. You’d always say, “Carline, just write to one person.” And that is so important because when I have a clear-cut vision of who I’m writing to, I get controls. I can write in the right language for Frank Cawood’s people. I can identify with what they’re thinking right now. I grew up with those people, so I can relate.

And so when I throw something out there, it’s answering their “so what?” “Why would I want to spend my hard-earned money on this book when I could go to the library and check a book out on health? Why would I do that?” And so, I think definitely, being in the mindset of the prospect, the consumer, is critical


Yes. One of the packages you wrote that I feel was breakthrough was for Healthy Directions. Its headline is “Why Bilberry and Lutein Don’t Work.” That is a “so what?” headline if I ever heard one. By being a “so what?” writer, you automatically can act with the skepticism in the marketplace.


What happened with that package was they had a control that was doing pretty well for a while. But it was starting to fatigue. The problem when you’re doing a product is there’s only so much you can say about the product itself. So anybody who’s buying a vision supplement knows what lutein and bilberry are.

My son is 14 years old. He knows that bilberry is for your eyes, and so there’s nothing new about bilberry. You’ve heard the whole thing: “Bilberry’s good for you. It helps you see at nighttime, and all this kind of stuff.” The two packages they had before mine were much more of a “here’s how to have healthy eyes” approach – and they were very positive. But I just kept thinking, “You know what? These people are hearing this junk over and over again.” Every vision supplement is going to tell me, “Here’s how to get healthy eyes,” but the fact is, not all of them work. Even the best products are not going to work for everybody. So there’s a huge chunk of our marketplace who have tried these things and did not experience relief.

So I decided to make sure we mentioned bilberry and lutein in the headline – because they’re common enough – then put a twist to it. “Hey, they don’t work.” You could tell people, “I took that stuff. It just didn’t work for me.” I could hear that in my head. I’ve said it many times, and so we went with it.

I was up at Healthy Directions to talk to Ed Elliott about it. Ed was working on that one, along with Sandy Haynes. I said, “This is where I want to go with it,” and they were hesitant at first. They weren’t sure about it. I told them, “Well, this is the one thing that’s going to work because it’s going to make people stop and say, ‘I knew those products didn’t work, but I didn’t know why.’” So at least it would get them, the skeptics, to read more.

I’ve used that headline on other products too, and it still works. My thinking is that any marketplace that has been saturated with a product, whether it’s glucosamine for arthritis or CoQ10 for your heart or whatever; any time that people are going crazy about one nutrient, I say, “try a headline that talks about why it doesn’t work.” And the reason bilberry and lutein didn’t work was they weren’t taking enough of them. So it’s an easy solution to the problem. And I think it got the reader at least interested enough to think, “I knew it. I knew it wasn’t going to work, and let me find out why.”

CLAYTON: I think that was a breakthrough in the health industry, and I think it wasn’t too long after you wrote that headline and it began mailing that Arthur Johnson made a big splash with his great package for Dr. Douglass. The headline was “Had Enough?” He was asking the question, “Have you had enough of health advice that doesn’t work?”

Well, I’m not sure who was first, but it was definitely a good time for the market.

I remember back in the days of Health & Healing, when people were thrilled to hear about vitamin C. “Wow! Take Vitamin C and you can cure all kinds of things.” And so, we had a brand new market that was just taking all of these miraculous solutions we were giving them, and they were eating them all up. Well, that market has matured now, and they are very skeptical.

I remember at the Gary Bencivenga conference I attended; Gary said that a lot of his successes came from just going directly on a very niche area of your market and talk about it in the headline. So using the exact name of a product, such as “Why phosphatylserine doesn’t help you with your brain” will pull way better than “Remarkable brain nutrients that do XYZ.” You need that kind of laser precision in your headlines. I think that’s where we are with our marketplace.


I think that’s an excellent point. The overall point that I get from looking at your package and Arthur’s packages with the skeptical headlines is that they’re just absolutely perfect for this skeptical market right now. But the other point that you make is also good, which is that even if the market was younger, you would have a component of people on your file, who are motivated to try this kind of product, but who’ve been disappointed before.


I agree because most likely, even if they haven’t been a purchaser of your product, they may have tried somebody else’s. And there are a lot of people out there with inferior products.

CLAYTON: If it was another kind of product, it might not have been used correctly or they might not have been consistent with it or whatever.

Right. It’s not a drug, so you’re not going to see instant results. It takes time, and most people are very impatient. They won’t take it for the 30 days, 60 or 90 days you need for it to get into your system to work. In turn, they give up on it, but they still have the problem, so when you can come up with something to justify them trying it again, you have a chance. And we know what the lists are – and because those lists are mailed over and over again, our market knows what’s going on. We’re still getting some new people, but most of them are very much aware, so I think at least for the next couple of years, it’s important to address the skepticism as much as possible, and I think we’ll have more successes that way.

CLAYTON: That’s really good. When you’re working through a package, give me a couple of the issues that come up time and time again that really help you get winners.
CARLINE: When I’m dealing with my client or when dealing with copy?

When you’re actually writing the copy. I’m talking about really tactical, small issues.


Okay. Well, I think probably the biggest thing or biggest “aha” moment I had with the process of copywriting was when I realized that copywriting was more than just being creative. I used to think, “Wow, let’s come up with something great and wonderful,” and I didn’t start becoming successful, in my own eyes, until I said, “No, my clients are not hiring me to be creative; they’re hiring me to deliver a control.” That’s a really important mindset because I think I’m a creative person. I’m always making stuff. But when it comes to copywriting, creativity isn’t enough. I have to tell myself, “You’re going to sit here and you’re going to write a package that’s going to give them a control.” The creativity will kind of sneak in there on its own.

So the process starts with getting your facts straight. I have a hard time with that because I’m much more emotional of a writer. You used to get on me all the time, saying, “Yeah, yeah, research says. Who the heck said it? What’s the resource? Where is it?” That’s why it’s really important that you don’t try to start writing copy until, first of all, you know what you want to say or at least have an idea of what you want to say, and having some concrete facts that you can use to build a story around.

Just one great study could be the theme of a whole article. But doing due diligence and researching as much as possible I find out what it’s all about; and then I just try to keep it short in many ways, meaning there’s a big theme here – but just break it down a little bit into an idea that somebody can kind of grab on and just read for two or three minutes.

That’s where the sidebars start coming in. The research goes on, and on, and on, but here’s one great thing that research says. “Oh, it helps you fight cancer.” Now, just pull that little part of it into a little story.

So I stopped trying to be a creative person. I said, “Okay, my package is going to have to have certain elements every single time. I’m going to have to have an order form; I have to have a guarantee; got to have a letter; got to have some sidebars, all that kind of stuff.”

I know those are set things, so then I just learn to say, “You know what? Find some really good order forms.” I have an inventory I can tap into and say, “I like this order form. Let’s kind of piece it together a little bit.” And then on the guarantee, I draw from guarantees I’ve used before and pop that into the copy. Then, as I’m writing the copy, I’m going to massage those order forms and those guarantees. So what I have done is just taken little bits and pieces from different people who I think are awesome and just started dropping them into the document.

What that has done for me immediately is it’s gotten rid of that blank page. And I think, “Whew! I’ve already got five pages, and I haven’t written anything.” Then, I just sit there and start formulating the ideas and saying, “What do I want to talk about? What is so great about this? So what? So what? So what?” It’s not a step by step process. The goal is to get a control, not to be creative. And you have to really make sure you’re doing the proof elements in your package; make sure you put your testimonials in there; make sure you’ve got a story that makes sense to people, even though it’s a story that’s been said over and over again; how are you going to say it differently to catch my attention?

So, it’s not a formulaic approach, but that’s kind of how I sort of meander it into being copy for me.

CLAYTON: That’s good stuff. Do you often find yourself blocked at the beginning of a project if you find yourself staring at a blank page?

Yeah, blank pages scare me. I’ll just put some copy that doesn’t even belong in there just so I’m not staring at a blank page.

CLAYTON: Yeah, I’ll put in the line that says, “Big friggin’ headline here.”

It’s so nice to think, “Oh, I’m on Page 2″ because it’s not the first page. When you think blank pages, I like what the writer Gene Fowler once said: “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

So, that’s how I learned to kind of get over that. I just say, “Okay, you know you’ve got to have an order form.” So I drop an order form in the package right now. “You know you need a guarantee.” So I drop a guarantee.” I can always change it later.

And that’s the other thing I have to be careful about. I kept trying to edit myself too soon. I have to say to myself, “No, don’t edit yet. Just get your ideas together. What’s your idea? We’ll take care of the editing later.” I will constantly try to edit while I’m writing, and I’ll spend two hours on one paragraph, and it’s just not that important.

When I need some facts, I’ll put a little bracket that says “Need a study here” or “need something substantiated here.” But I don’t let that stop me from continuing.

Another thing that has been very, very helpful – and again, it’s something you taught me – is to take frequent breaks. When I’m writing, I’ll say okay, I’m writing for 40 minutes, and I’m going to stop and I’m going to go upstairs, and I’m going to help my daughter with her math homework. I do something that’s totally different from the writing process, something that uses the other side of my brain.

It’s funny because I sometimes get stuck on a point, and I say, “I’m going to stop here, and I’m going to go upstairs, and I’m going to help my daughter cook. We’re going to bake a new recipe.” And right in the middle of the cooking, while we’re sitting there, saying, “We need two-thirds of a cup here,” an idea pops out of nowhere. And I realize, “That’s it. That’s the idea I’ve been looking for.” You don’t know how many cakes and other things we’ve burnt. I’d say, “I’ll be right back,” and I’d go downstairs and start writing. And then the stuff burned and we’d go out to dinner instead, but at least I got over that block.


That’s a great principle. Thomas Edison used that. When he was stuck for a solution, he’d take a nap.


Yup! That’s the other one. A nap is awesome. Say to yourself, “Okay, I need an idea here. I need to know how I’m going to solve this problem.” Be very specific and go take a nap. 15-minute naps are awesome. That’s one part of my job requirements, by the way. I have to have a nap every day. I’m not kidding. It is amazing how many times, while I’m sleeping, an idea will just pop up in my head, and I say, “That’s it. That’s what I want to do.” And I just get up and go back to the computer. So naps work.

Writer’s block just means you better give that part of your brain a break. You’re overusing it. Go do something else that doesn’t even come close to relating to what you’re doing and free up that brain. Give yourself permission. Say, “It’s okay, Carline, you’re not going to be brilliant today. That’s fine. You’ll come up with an idea later.” And then go do something else, and all of the sudden I say, “I’ll be darned; here it is. That’s my idea.” I’ve gotten headlines that way. I remember that I was working on a Sun Chlorella package. I had no headline, and I’m wondering, “What the heck am I going to do?”

And then I said, “I’m going to stop here and deal with a problem with my teenagers.” I don’t know which kid it was, but one of them was getting on my nerves that day or something, and I remember saying “I am so sick and tired…” – and right in the middle of my tantrum – I stopped myself and said, “Oh my goodness, that’s my headline.” I ran downstairs to my office, and wrote, “If you are sick and tired of popping pills and not getting better” – and I just went on from there, writing bullet after bullet. And it became a kick butt control. If I had said to myself, “Oh, I’m going to write a headline today,” it wouldn’t have happened. But I just let it go. I said I need to come up with an idea, but I can’t deal with it right now, and I just went off somewhere else. So I had to thank my kid. It was great. Those are the tricks.


I play that kind of trick on myself all the time where I’ll get up in the morning, and I just won’t feel like working, and it’ll be a pretty day outside, and I hear my Harley calling to me, and I’ll say, “You know what? I’m going to take the day off as soon as I get this one little section of copy done, and I bet I can have it done by 10:00 a.m. I’m giving myself permission to take the rest of the day off.”


Oh, and it ended up being hours.


Most of the time, I’m still working at 9:00pm.


It’s true. It’s the perfect word. You gave yourself “permission.” You said, “I don’t need to be brilliant today. I don’t need to have the package done today. I just want to get this one sidebar done – that’s all.”

That’s why I require six weeks to do a package. I don’t need six weeks, but I know in that six week period, I’m going to have days where I just don’t feel like doing anything. I’m not excited about it; I don’t want to do it. So I build in some extra time because I don’t want to be up against a deadline, where I’m saying, “Okay, I gotta get this copy done because they have to have it tomorrow.” I hate working under the gun. I like it better where I’m thinking, “You know what? I got the time; let’s get this thing done,” and then I’ll keep going at it, but it takes away the pressure a lot more. So I need six weeks, but I really factor in about two weeks of those six weeks as total goof-off time to kind of let my brain do its thing and just give the copy a chance to sort of incubate and create something for me.


Yup! I think the key is that when you’re a copywriter, your brain’s chewing on it all the time; it’s chewing on it when you’re taking a nap; when you’re sleeping at night; when you’re out with the kids…


That’s it. You’re right.

None of my friends can believe what I do for a living or that people pay me to do this stuff. I laugh about it because whenever they come around, I’m here. I’m always around. I can help somebody out with an emergency situation; no problem. But the truth is copywriting is hard. You really have to be able to sell in print; that’s what we’re talking about. So there’s an art to it. There is some work that has to be done to it. The benefits are phenomenal, but you still have to get the job done.

For example, when I was working on my last job that I just turned in for you, I was in a cocoon. I had my door closed. The note on the door said, “Don’t even think about coming in unless somebody is dying.” I’m saying to myself, “Okay, Carline, you gotta focus here because something’s not right. What is it?” And I spent a few days. I wouldn’t even answer my e-mail because I’ll let e-mails distract me. I’m not answering e-mails. I’m not answering the phone. I just want to do this, because I was motivated to do it; I just didn’t want distractions to happen. So while you’re in the middle of that stuff, you’re earning your money. It doesn’t matter if it takes you a day or six weeks or whatever to do it – when you get it done and you’ve done a good job, you’ve earned your money. Now you can go play and goof off and go buy a Mercedes E-500 the next day.


On a Thursday, right.


Of all days!


Everyone should know that the day before you went out and bought that Mercedes, you delivered a launch package for a new health newsletter.


Yes, and I said to you, “Here it is. I’m tired. I’m wiped out from this package. I need a break.” And that was true. You also told me that whenever somebody tells you, “You’ve gotta control,” go out and treat yourself with something. Go buy yourself a present, and if it’s a small client, buy a small present, and if it’s a big client, buy a big present. Reward yourself to say, “Hey, you did good.” And I think that’s very important because you’re going to have times when you did bad, and so when the good comes, I say, “Shoot, I’m going out – this is great. I’m having a ball.”

So, whenever I turn in a solid first job to a client, the next day, I gotta just kind of empty my head and just let it go. When I get a royalty check in the mail, it’s almost an automatic day off for me. When I was in Maryland, the mail didn’t come until 3:00, and so I could work all day until the mail came. I love walking to my mailbox to get the mail. If there’s a check in the mail, I’m finished working for the day. Well, now the mail lady comes at 10:30, so I’ll be taking off much earlier if there’s a check in that mail. So find little ways to reward yourself. And reward the people around you who are putting up with your craziness too.

CLAYTON: One of the things that I do is there’s always something that I want to buy. Now, Wendy and I, last night, saw something on the Learning Channel about million dollar houseboats. These are three and four-story houseboats that are 4,000 square feet.

Oh, my goodness!


They’re designed inside like a Gulfstream jet. They have the finest custom cabinetry. They’ve got home theaters. They’ve got bars on every floor, which is a big plus for me. They’ve got gourmet kitchens – kitchens that you can hire caterers to come in, and they can take care of your party in the kitchen. They’ve got hot tubs on two or three decks. The master suites are just as big as the ones in most houses.

And we’re sitting there, looking at this thing and saying, “We want one of those.” So, right now, on my desktop, to remind me of why I’m doing this, I now have a photograph that I downloaded from the Internet of a $2 million houseboat. And within the next year or so, I’m going to buy this boat with the money I’m making on the packages I’m writing now. And we’re going to put it on a lake that’s about two hours from here, down by you, and we’re going to have that thing available to us anytime we want. That gives me a reason to keep going.


My goal used to be to pay the mortgage this month. When that’s not a big issue anymore, you’ve gotta have some kind of goal to strive for – to say, “Okay, this is why I’m doing this right now.” And you set the goal bigger and bigger as you’re more successful.

I think most people who are copywriters are competitive to some degree anyway, and we are very goal-oriented. They like to have a goal out there. They say, “I can get that. How do I do this?” And then, go ahead and go for it.

I get scared when there’s nothing I want. Well, I’ll just stay in bed all day if that’s the case. And those goals could be like the houseboat – material stuff – or it could be something else that’s more important to you. Just say, “You know what? I’m doing this, and when this package becomes a control, I’m taking off a month, and I’m taking my family on a vacation because I can.” So, whatever makes you happy; whatever you aspire to or whatever dreams you’ve always had, put it out there and let copywriting pay for it.

CLAYTON: Yup! Beautiful.
CARLINE: Now, you know what? The one thing we didn’t talk about – something that’s a pet peeve with me – and that is about working with clients.

Well that’s the next question.


[Laughter] Never mind.


You’re such a woman. You always want to take control.


Well, I have to.


If I come over and have dinner, will you cut my meat for me?


It’ll already be cut. [Laughter]

CLAYTON: Yeah, well, I think that’s a major issue with all copywriters. We don’t work in a vacuum; we have clients we have to work with, and we love them, but sometimes, they drive us nuts, and sometimes they don’t give us what we need, and sometimes some clients can actually block great copy or destroy it after it’s written. So talk to me about the biggest mistakes that you think the clients make in working with us and what they do to slow you down or weaken your copy and what they could do to help you.

Well, I think you hit it right on the head, but this is what blows me away. You hire a copywriter, and you’re shelling out $25,000 to hire Clayton Makepeace to write a package for you.


Or Carline.


Or Carline, yes. And then you want to try to micromanage them or you get in their way. The biggest thing a client can do for me is to get out of my way. I absolutely hate writing copy by committee. I have never gotten a control that way.

When I turn in copy, and then I gotta hear from four different marketing managers and their take on it, and then the actual editor comes in with his take on it, and the editor’s marketing staff comes in with their take on it, and then, of course, it goes to legal, and it goes through cycles, and everybody wants to put their two cents in the copy and change it, it becomes a zebra.

I have not had a single success that way, and when I see that happening, I back off. I’ll say, “Either let me do this myself, or let’s kill this package right now because I’m losing ownership.” And what I hate is when I turn in copy, and then everybody gets a piece of it. I’m talking about changing my headlines, changing the back cover, changing the lead story, and then coming back to me and saying, “Oh, your copy didn’t work.” “No, that’s not my copy. My copy is lying on the cutting-room floor. That’s your copy that sucked.”

But if they let me do what I’m trying to do and they come back and say, “Your copy didn’t work,” then I take ownership. I’m like, “Oh, crap; that sucks; okay. What did I do wrong here? Let’s try to fix this or whatever.”

So that’s a huge thing with me. I feel the best clients supply you with the background material you need. They share all pertinent information with you, including list analysis. It’s amazing how clients think, “Oh, we’re not going to tell the copywriter what list we’re mailing this package to.” That’s ridiculous. I have a marketing background. That’s what I did for 10 years at Phillips. I knew all the lists and their little nuances.

So if somebody tells me the Hunza Health Products list – which I’m not even sure if the list is around anymore – is working, I know I’ve got people who are a little bit wacky. The Hunza people are 120 year old people living on this island, and there was a book written about them. And so if I know my prospect bought that book, it tells me a little bit about who they are, and that little bit could be the difference between a success and a failure.

So I’m always saying, “Well, what lists are working for you? Tell me.” And it’s amazing; you have to pull teeth to get this information. They seem to be saying, “Oh you’re just a copywriter. You don’t know about marketing.” Well, I find that most copywriters know a lot about marketing.

And so the more a client is willing to share pertinent information with me, the better. And they can answer my questions as they come up. I’ll just shoot them an e-mail. It’s not like you have to stop and have conversations with them. It’s best if they give me access to the doctor or the guru, and then just leave me the heck alone. It may take me a couple weeks, but then I’ll send an e-mail or something and say, “Okay, here are a couple of ideas that I’ve got here that I like. You could give me some feedback at this point if you want to.” Then, from there, that’s the one idea I’m going to go with. Then when I deliver the first draft, that’s the point where they can bring in any comments they want to put in there.

But when a client interferes with me, I want to say, “If you have so much to offer to this package, then you write it. Save $25,000 and write it yourself, and then see how it does.” So that just blows me away – how clients hurt themselves by constantly feeling they have to micromanage the copywriter.

The copywriter knows that she has to get the job done because her income is based on successes. So trust me – there’s no game here. I’m going to give you a package that I think is going to work for the market and make me a lot of money.

So, copy by committee, I think, is lethal and blocks the copywriter from doing the job. That’s kinda my biggest pet peeve.

There are people I will never work with again because they have literally destroyed my copy. I found out that a client changed my headline and the back page copy when I saw the printed sample. They never told me they were changing my copy. I’m accessible. I have a phone, a cell phone, I have e-mail, I have a fax; somebody could have said to me, “Hey, we have some problems here,” but they caved in to the editor; he didn’t want to use the headline at the last minute, and they changed the headline at the printer and never told me. Then they came back and said the copy didn’t work. That’s insane. That’s like throwing money down the drain.




So, if that’s the case, hire a copywriter who’s willing to write the whole package for $500 and plan to have the whole company spend time working with that copywriter.


Or write it yourself.




So, what’s the smartest thing you ever did to increase your income as a copywriter?


I think it was learning that the purpose of copy is to sell and create controls for my client – not to be creative. It’s that copywriting is more marketing and sales than it is a creative job. If I want to be creative, I’ll write a romance novel – which I’m still trying to do by the way. I think that was it. I think going to some seminars also helped.


Tell me the seminars that were really helpful?


Well, actually, I went to a Dan Kennedy seminar. And Dan Kennedy was probably the one who really helped me to realize the importance of cutting and pasting copy. I learned to take some good guarantees and order forms and headlines, and create a swipe file. It helps to have that stuff at your disposal that you can just drop it in place in your copy. After attending his seminar, I started doing that a lot more, and that was very beneficial. That got me off the blank-page fear.

Gary Bencivenga’s seminar was just phenomenal. That was the seminar of all seminars as far as I’m concerned. You’re right there with him, and he dominated the whole seminar. It wasn’t like he spoke for two hours, and then turned it over to other people. He was there 90% of the time, in your face, talking with you, before, during and after, and he really revealed his secrets.

And then I went to some other smaller seminars. Those, to me, were kind of a waste of my time and money. They weren’t worth it. If you’re going to invest money in a seminar, don’t be afraid of the price. Gary’s seminar was $5,000 just to get into the door. That didn’t include the stay at the St. Regis Hotel or your airline or anything else, but I tell you, I’d rather go to a $5,000 seminar that I know I can increase my revenue 20 times instantly than to spend $500 on a seminar that’s a waste of my time.


You’re a great networker. You ran into a lot of people at that seminar that either already have or are going to be producing additional income for you in the future.


Yeah, definitely. Because most copywriters live in a little cocoon. You’re in your basement office or whatever by yourself. But it is important to get out there and meet face to face with people. One year, I had a phenomenal year. I decided that once every other month, I was going to purposely go and spend a day with one of my top clients.

And it started in January, so I went to California because it was crazy to go to New York in January. I took my oldest daughter Milan with me. She was working with me as an assistant. I said to my clients, “I just wanted to come by and say hi to you guys. I’ve never met you in person. This is just a let’s go out to lunch; I won’t get in your way, but if I can have half a day of your time, that would be great.” They jumped on it. It was great. We spent the whole day together, and they were pumping me for information the whole time.

But after we left and went to lunch, I said, “At lunchtime, let’s not talk about business at all. I just want to get to know you guys.” That’s all it was, and so we ended up talking about business anyway, but it took the pressure off of them to think, “Oh, we gotta be careful what we say” and all this kind of stuff. Oh my goodness, by the time we finished lunch, and we were walking out of there, I knew I had already pretty much signed up for two packages.


That’s great.


You know; $50,000 in advances just for having lunch. And I said, “Milan, did you see what happened here?” She said, “What?” I said, “Did you notice that we just agreed on a package for April and October?” She said, “Yeah, but that was normal. “I said, “No, I had nothing lined up with them for the whole year.” But it was just, “Carline, we have a new project we’re trying to work on. Are you available in October?” “I think so.”

But I wouldn’t have known that just being on the phone with them because they weren’t even sure what they were trying to do yet. That was a $50,000 lunch. I was even going to buy lunch, but they picked up the tab! And I did that for the whole year. I went and I just met clients. I went into my database, and asked, “Who are the client’s who have made me a significant amount of money? Do I know them?” And I just called them up and said, “I want to come down and meet with you all for the day.” And everybody was thrilled with it, and every time I walked out of there, I had another assignment.

So the networking is awesome. It keeps you in touch with the people you are working with. And it makes it easier to pick up the phone when you have a problem and talk to someone you know and say, “Hey, I haven’t gotten my check yet. What’s up with that?” And they can say, “Oh, I’ll find out for you.”

I love talking with people anyway. That’s the one downfall I think I have with copywriting is that I need people around me. I’ve had to learn to be by myself and write copy on a day to day basis. So I had to actually factor in time to go out and have lunch with people throughout the week because I was feeling too claustrophobic. But I worked around that; that’s not a problem any more. But definitely get out there and meet people who can generate revenue for you.

Remember the young lady, Tricia Geib, that I told you about?


Yeah. I hired her.

CARLINE: Yes, exactly. Tricia had gone to an Agora American Writers and Artists Institute seminar Don Mahoney put together. I was there, too, and I thought the seminar was very good. I met Tricia there. She says, “I’m just starting. I’m just a little copywriter, trying to get in there.” I told her, “You are doing the best thing you could possibly do because now, you are in the thick of things. You’re with people who want to be copywriters; you’re talking to copywriters, and you’re looking at potential business from Agora right here.” She’s a struggling, young copywriter, but the next thing I know, I see Tricia at the Gary Bencivenga seminar. All of the sudden I’m thinking, “I’m impressed.”
CLAYTON: So, she spends $5,000 to go see Gary.

At least $5,000 to be there. I said, “You are a smart woman,” and I got her name and number, and I told her, I said, “You know what? This is great. If I can help you out, let me know.” And she’s still trying to get it together, but she saw the wisdom in doing that. And then what happened? You tell me, “Hey, Carline, I need a couple of young copywriters for an ongoing project.” I said, “I know the person.” And I went ahead and introduced you to Tricia, and now she got the job working with you. You won’t get that in a book. You won’t get that sitting behind your desk, and you won’t get that wishing for it. You get it by getting your butt where you need to be, which is where other people are, and doing it. So I think that was an awesome move for her. That $5,000 was well invested in her copywriter career.


That’s great. We’re just about done. Is there anything else that you want to mention before we cut this off?


I just want to say I’m so glad that you are doing this. It’s awesome that you’re at a point where you’re willing to share and give to us copywriters and copywriter wannabees. I don’t think anybody could get a better lesson or training in copywriting than listening and following your lead. This happened with me. I’m proof that you can make this successful if you’re willing to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Even if you try copywriting and you don’t make a six-figure income immediately, it’s okay. Even if you make half your income, but you got your freedom to do whatever you want, isn’t it worth it just to be able to do that? And anybody who’s going to this level of trying to study copywriting has got a little bit of something there, and all they need to do is focus and follow what you’re saying, and they’re going to be successful. And we need copywriters. This market is just unbelievably lacking quality copywriters, so I am just very thankful that you’re taking the time to do this and letting me be part of it because it’s awesome.


Thank you, Carline.

CARLINE: Nope, Clayton, THANK YOU. You’re awesome. Smooches.


See you next time!

Yours for Bigger Winners, More Often,
Clayton Makepeace Signature
Clayton Makepeace
Publisher & Editor

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3 Responses to A Conversation With
Million-Dollar Copywriter

  1. Mike says:

    This was great, wish I could have heard the interview. Thank you so much for publishing it, lots and lots of good pointers – I took notes…ml

  2. ken ca|houn says:

    Great story, it’s neat to hear how all this developed; sounds like a lot of motivation, hard work, learning from the best and taking action — a winning combination. Thanks for sharing, this was fun to read. And inspirational!


  3. What an amazing story. I love stories where determined people
    sacrificed for their children’s sake and the kids and now grand kids are doing well.

    It renewed my interest in copywriting, my first love, after trying my hand at affiliate marketing, which was a disaster, probably because my heart wasn’t in it.

    So, Thanks Clayton and Carline for a boot in the butt when I needed it most.

    Sincerely, Sid

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