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It Took Me 39 Years to
Learn These Secrets
of Direct-Mail

But You Can Download
Them — FREE! — in Less Than
39 Seconds!

If this isn’t the best darn copy-
writer’s sample book you’ve ever
seen in your life, you can have it free!

Oh, hell, you can have it free anyway!

Just click the FREE SAMPLE BOOK
button below, and you can download
this 118-page e-book with no charge,
no catch, and nothing to buy.

Why bother reading this long and
self-aggrandizing letter?

Download your free e-book now!

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Dear Friend,

A copywriter’s sample book by email? Yes! And thank God we can do it that way nowadays…

Because I had a prospective client drop my sample book in the bathtub once, and it’s never been quite the same since.

She handed me my irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind samples – all waterlogged and marked with Head & Shoulders stains – and sheepishly said:

“It just slipped out of my hands while I was taking a bath.”

To add insult to injury, she didn’t even hire me!

But I’m not looking for pity. After all, just about every copywriter I know has a story like that to tell. Clients who misplace their sample books. Clients who wait months, sometimes years, before returning them. Clients who stain them with shampoo -- or worse.

Hence this e-book. And all you have to do to receive it is click the button below…

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Fortunately, we have the technology nowadays to put an end to lugging our big leather portfolios around town, grimacing when a client says, “Can you leave it with me for a few days?”

Because nowadays we can do it electronically!

It’s not a perfect trade-off, of course. The one-page PDF scans of my samples in this e-book aren’t quite the same as having an actual direct-mail package in your hands.

You can’t feel them, unfold them, or even read them quite as well as you could if you were holding the actual letter.

On the other hand, you can keep them for as long as you like! And when you’re finished reading them, you can just press the delete button.

But you may want to hang on to it for a little while…

“Richard Armstrong’s prose rises to the level of poetry!”
Eugene Schwartz
Legendary Copywriter, author of
Breakthrough Advertising

Because I’ve packed this book with just about all the secrets, strategies, tricks, and techniques I’ve learned in my nearly 40 years of writing direct-mail copy.

You see, it’s not just the samples I’ve included in this book. I’ve also written essays with each sample to explain why I think the package won … or why it failed.


That’s right, I’ve included my failures, too! (I told you this was different from any sample book you’ve ever seen before!) For two reasons:

  1. If I only included my successes, it would be a much shorter book! Just kidding. (Sorta)
  2. You don’t learn as much from your successes as you do from your failures.

Believe me, I’ve made every possible mistake in this business. And in the process I’ve not only picked up a few battle scars, I’ve also picked up a few hard-won secrets that can boost the results you’re getting from your current control package or web site.

For example, my friend…

  • WORKING FOR RUSH LIMBAUGH taught me one failsafe strategy for creating a package that can’t possibly lose … and it helped skyrocket The Limbaugh Letter from zero subscribers to the most widely-circulated newsletter in the world. Page 42
  • WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR. went mano-a-mano against me in the mail. He won the first round, and I won the second. Then he came back and whipped my butt again. Here’s what I learned from this bloody battle with one of the finest writers of our time: Page 41
  • MY FIRST FREELANCE JOB WAS WRITING A LETTER FOR BOB HOPE … and it taught me a lesson about freelancing that has stood me in good stead over these many years: Page 14
  • I TOLD REASON MAGAZINE’S READERS THEY WERE CERTIFIABLY INSANE, and they responded by subscribing in droves. That’s when I learned that there’s nothing like a good insult to drive up response rates. Page 41
  • THE JUNK-MAIL LETTER THAT GOT FAN MAIL! Every time the American Spectator mailed my letter, it generated dozens of letters gushing about my copywriting. So why did the package lose? (See the shocking answer on Page 40)
NRCover Buckley
“Terrific job, Mr. Armstrong!”
William F. Buckley, Jr.
Editor and Founder
National Review
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In 38 years, I’ve worked for nearly every client, selling nearly every kind of product, in nearly every medium for copywriting. For example…

  • READ THE MAGALOG THAT MADE ME CRY! This routine assignment from Rodale Press was so frustrating, I burst into tears and went running to my mother. So why did it turn out to be such a big success? Page 68
  • THE PRESS RELEASE THAT NEARLY WON AN OSCAR! You’ll have to read this story to believe it. Let’s just say it involves me writing a press release, an Academy Award acceptance speech, and – very nearly -- a suicide note. See page 33
  • WHY ADVERTISING AGE FOUND ME TOO BORING! They sent a reporter to profile me, and she nearly walked out of the interview because she found me too dull. She begged me to throw a chair out the window, but here’s why I refused! Page 26
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In the direct mail business, everyone knows the only award that counts is results.

But the dirty little secret about awards is that they can be good for business. And over the years, they’ve certainly been good for mine.

I won my first Caples Award in 1982 and my most recent Echo Award in 2005, which doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a good copywriter … but it does mean I’ve lasted long enough to become an old one.

"I'm exasperated with Richard. He's one of the best copywriters on the planet, with a steamer trunk full of brilliant control packages for several of the industry's most demanding clients. Yet despite this, and my periodic urging that he raise his rates, he still charges as if he's an up-and-comer. His ratio of sales-generated-per-dollar-charged has to make him one of the best copywriting values in our industry."
Gary Bencivenga, Editor,
Marketing Bullets

Here are a few of my packages that brought home the hardware:

  • HOW A SEA TURTLE SEALED MY CAREER! My package for the Sea Turtle Rescue Fund was probably the most award-winning letter in history. But I can hardly take any credit. The letter literally wrote itself, and you can use the same trick. Here’s how: Page 21
  • SPEECHWRITER’S NEWSLETTER SAID MINE WAS THE BEST SPEECH OF THE YEAR … and aw shucks, I was only writin’ speeches as a sideline! Page 34
  • BEST LIFE WON AN ECHO AWARD FOR RODALE, which was nice, but I remember it as one of the best designed pieces I ever worked on. Look at page 72 and see if you agree.
  • MY VERY FIRST PIECE OF COMMERCIAL COPY WON A CAPLES AWARD! But unfortunately, it was selling a product I still can’t afford to own – the Maserati Quattroporte!
  • COPYWRITER OF THE YEAR! And in 2012, the American Writers and Artists Institute named me Copywriter of the Year, joining such previous winners as Bob Bly, Clayton Makepeace, Dan Kennedy, and Ted Nicholas. Mom always warned me I'd get in trouble if I hung around with such a fast crowd! Just for giggles, you can watch the video of my acceptance speech here. (Note the surprise guest introducing me!)
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Over the years, I’ve rubbed shoulders with some of our industry’s greats and near-greats. Maybe not household names in the usual sense … but they sure are famous if you make your living writing Lift Letters and Johnson boxes. (Yes, I even knew Johnson!)

  • DICK BENSON: The uber-consultant in subscription promotion. Now that he’s gone to that great mailbox in the sky, I can let you in on a little secret he told me which I never could’ve revealed while he was still alive. Page 55
  • BILL JAYME: I was his second favorite copywriter. (See the sidebar on this website.) But turn to page 102 if you want to know the unvarnished truth about the most glamorous copywriter who ever lived!
  • PAUL MICHAEL, the man who invented the lift letter. (Yes, invented it.) He told me how he made so much money selling lucky charms by mail-order that his hobby was collecting antique Rolls Royces! His secret? It’s something you can buy on Amazon today! Page 94
  • EUGENE SCHWARTZ: Read the funny story on page 94 that explains why I have one of Gene’s own copies of Breakthrough Advertising on my bookshelf -- personally inscribed by the author with a message that’ll make you laugh.
  • ED MCLEAN: One of the nicest copywriters ever to pick up a pen. For Newsweek, he wrote, “Dear Friend, If the list on which I found your name is any indication, this is not the first – nor will it be the last – subscription letter you receive.” I’m proud to call him one of my mentors.
  • MILT PIERCE: Speaking of mentors, I took Milt Pierce’s groundbreaking seminar on direct-mail copywriting at NYU in the early 1980s – the first of its kind in the country at a major university. Sitting next to me was a student by the name of …
  • BOB BLY! Whatever happened to that guy, do you suppose?
  • TOM COLLINS, the creative mastermind behind one of the world’s greatest direct-mail agencies, Rapp & Collins, personally taught me a secret I’ll never forget. Page 9
  • GARY BENCIVENGA: I was one of the 100 top copywriters and other direct marketing maestros who attended the legendary Bencivenga 100 Seminar in New York. But in a roomful of the world’s greatest copywriters, I was one of only a few whose work was discussed by Gary from the podium. (And he said nice things about it, too!)
  • DAVID OGILVY: Yes, the great one himself. When he read a copy of the speech I gave to the DMAW (see the sidebar on this page), he wrote to me from his castle in France!
"There are only a handful of copywriters in America who Boardroom considers best-in-class...we wish there were many more available...and thank goodness we found Richard Armstrong. He finds angles on products we never thought existed and he has a unique writing style which he can adapt for a wide variety of products. He is one of those best-in-class writers — always delivers quality copy and he's on time, every time."
Brian Kurtz
Boardoom, Inc.

Speaking of Newsweek, I’ve worked for them. Kiplinger? Them, too. Rodale? For more than twenty years. Boardroom? One of my faves!

But I’ve worked for many companies and non-profit organizations that are less well known, too. Some of them gave me my biggest wins. For example:

  • THE HIGHEST RESPONSE RATE I EVER GOT (OR EVEN HEARD OF!) came from this package for John Lyons’s Perfect Horse, magazine. My secret? I stole the idea from an 80-year-old space ad written by Maxwell Sackheim! Page 58
  • THE MIRACLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN. What’s the miracle? That this package mailed in the millions for more than a decade under a constant barrage of testing. But here’s the kicker: It begins with a lot of cuss words! Page 84
  • Rodale Womens Health2
  • BUT THE SWEETEST PACKAGE I ever wrote was for a company that is well-known – Rodale. My package for The Sugar Solution was one of the biggest hits their book division ever had. Check it out on page 79.
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But enough about me. Let’s talk about you! How did you like my last direct-mail package? (Just kidding.)

Seriously, after you’ve had a chance to see my sample book, I would indeed like to hear about you, your product, and your need for effective copywriting.

Fortunately, I’ve reached the stage in my career where I can take on only the projects that interest me. (Unfortunately, I haven’t quite reached the stage where I can take on nothing at all!)

Rodale SugarA2
“Richard’s promotion for The Sugar Solution is one of the biggest hits our book division has ever had. And it’s just one of many winners in the 20 years he’s written direct-mail copy for Rodale. To top it off, he’s a pleasure to work with, too!”
Sindy Berner
Rodale Press

Here are three types of projects that almost always interest me:

  1. Projects that pay the copywriter an outrageous amount of money.
  2. Projects that are different than anything I’ve seen before. (But not so different that I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about!)
  3. Projects that mail in the millions … but are saddled with a fatiguing control that’s begging to be beat!

Here are three things that generally do NOT interest me too much:

  1. Rush jobs of any kind. It’s not unusual for me to be booked up six months to a year in advance. (Unexpected cancellations do occur from time to time, so there's no harm in trying.)
  2. Clients who have never tried direct mail before or “tried it once and it didn’t work.” I prefer to work with clients who know at least as much about direct marketing as I do. (In other words, I’d rather you suffered your initial failures with other copywriters.)
  3. Long telephone conversations where it gradually becomes apparent the caller is trying to get some free consultation.

But aside from that, if you have a project in mind you think I might be right for, feel free to send me an email at info@freesamplebook.com.

One way or the other, I’d like to hear what you’re up to, and if it’s a good fit … maybe we can make some money together.

"Richard Armstrong's 'Crazy Rich Aunt' letter for Kiplinger Personal Finance is one of the longest-lasting controls we've ever had in this company, mailing in one form or another for 12 years!"
Sandy Hunt
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Meanwhile, download that free sample book, won’t you?

But first, let me give you an important warning:

If you read this book in the bathtub, keep a firm grip on your laptop computer. I like to think my copywriting samples are shockingly good …

But I wouldn’t want you to be electrocuted by reading them!


Sig Richard

Richard Armstrong

P.S. Thanks for reading this ridiculously long and thoroughly self-aggrandizing letter. Now download my sample book and then tell me something about YOU!

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WILL YOU WORK FOR LESS THAN YOUR USUAL FEE? Not unless you’ll accept less than your usual response rate.

Belvoir RoadshowA2
“Whether the assignment is to launch a new title or beat an old control, Richard has a remarkable track record with Belvoir. He writes with ease on all topics — dogs and cats; planes and boats; arthritis and allergies to name a few. (And two of his packages for our horse titles had jaw-dropping response rates!!)”
Greg King
Belvoir Media Group, LLC
Belvoir PerfectHorseA2

HOW DO YOU HANDLE REVISIONS? The same way my friend and colleague John Nicksic handles them: “On the first draft, I give the client the copy he needs. On the second draft, I give the client the copy he wants. On the third draft, I give the client the copy he deserves.”

IF YOU’RE SO GOOD, HOW COME I’VE NEVER HEARD OF YOU BEFORE? You’re not in the loop. Just kidding! It could mean I’ve been too busy writing copy for my clients to write blogs and ezines promoting myself as a guru. You know the old commercial where the actor says, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” Well, there are lot of guys out there who are not copywriters … but they play one on the internet.

DO YOU WRITE WEBSITE COPY? Yes, as long as it looks exactly like a direct-mail letter and you pay me a comparable fee. If you like this website, for example, you’ll probably like the one I write for you. If you don’t, you won’t.

WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG TO PUT UP YOUR OWN WEBSITE? I waited to see what was working first. Which is what I usually do!

DO YOU SUBCONTRACT? Absolutely not. I tried it once but decided it wasn’t a good idea. If you hire me to write copy for you, you can rest assured every word will be written by me – for better or worse!

DO YOU HAVE AN E-ZINE? I’m so busy deleting the ones I subscribe to, I don’t have the time to write one of my own!

“Richard Armstrong is one of the top membership and affinity marketing copywriters out there. His longstanding control for the Good Sam Club mailed in the many millions of pieces for more than a decade. What’s more, he’s a delight to work with – no stress or drama!”
Elizabeth Eversen
Affinity Group, Inc.

DO YOU WORK WITH AN ARTIST? I work with the best direct-mail artists in the world, but it’s not a package deal. After you hire me, I’ll give you some recommen- dations on the right artist for your job and you can come to terms with him or her on your own.

DO YOU OFFER AN ONLINE COURSE ON COPYWRITING? Hells-bells, even if I knew something worth teaching, do you think I’d share it with you? I gotta feed my family, after all!

CAN I GET ON YOUR SCHEDULE? If you’re willing to pay half upfront and you don’t mind waiting a while before we get started, yes, by all means.

HOW CAN I GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU? Easy. You can email me at info@freesamplebook.com … or telephone at (202) 333-0646. Be advised I don’t always answer the phone if I don’t know you, but I’m pretty good about replying to emails.

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