top of page
  • Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: The Copywriters Handbook by Robert W Bly

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

The Copywriters Handbook

⭐ Toby's Rating: 8/10 - Recommended For: Entrepreneurs

3 Big Ideas 💡

The big ideas from The Copywriters Handbook

  • Writing to sell is different from writing to communicate. Writing to sell is a specific skill that can be developed.

  • Your headline is the important part of your copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80% of your client’s money.

  • Write about benefits and not about features. Write about how the customer will benefit from your product. Appeal to their self-interest.

2 Quotes from The Copywriters Handbook 💬

“We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge.”

Rutherford D. Rogers

Testing shows that, at least in consumer direct marketing, small promises don’t work. To get attention and generate interest, you have to make a large, powerful promise.

Tobys Top Takeaway

Writing to sell is different from writing to communicate.

I hadn't fully considered this prior to reading The Copywriters Handbook. I'm now clearer on the difference between them. Writing to sell directly appeals to a person self-interest. In fact, the psychological aspects of this writing are very interesting. The book shares 22 examples of how you can do this.

I've already started to implement these ideas into my writing and social media posts. I'm already seeing more engagement and interest from improving the headlines.


The Copywriters Handbook

Here are the big ideas expanded from The Copywriters Handbook

You can also learn to write with this MasterClass by Malcom Gladwell. When you register I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Headline and Subject Line

For copy to convince the consumer to buy the product, it must do four things:

  • Grab attention.

  • Communicate.

  • Persuade.

  • Ask for a response.

The headline is the most important element in most advertisements. It decides whether the reader will read the copy. On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.

When readers browse ad headlines, they want to know: “What’s in it for me?”

The best headlines appeal to people’s self-interest or give news.

Each of these headlines offers a benefit to the consumer, a reward for reading the copy. And each promises to give you specific, helpful information in return for the time you invest in reading the ad and the money you spend to buy the product.

Your headline can perform four different tasks:

  • Get attention.

  • Select the audience.

  • Deliver a complete message.

  • Draw the reader into the body copy.

Headlines that give news often use words such as new, discover, introducing, announcing, now, it’s here, at last, and just arrived.

Good Headline Examples shared in The Copywriters Handbook

  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People,”

  • “How to Eat Well for Nickels and Dimes."

  • “Know the Secret to Moister, Richer Cake?”

  • “Geico can save you 15% on your auto insurance in 15 minutes”

  • “Dollar Shave Club: Shaving and Grooming Made Simple”

  • “Become a Property Locator Today—and Make $100,000 a Year in the Greatest Real Estate Career That Only a Few Insiders Know About.”

Free is one of the most powerful words in the copywriter’s vocabulary. Everybody wants to get something for free. Other powerful attention-getting words include how to, why, you,

sale, quick, easy, bargain, last chance, guarantee, results, proven, and save.

Writing to Sell

Selling is... “placing 100 percent emphasis on how the reader will come out ahead by doing business with you”

Luther Brock

Important: Write about benefits and not about features.

  • A feature is a descriptive fact about a product or service; it’s what the product is or has.

  • A benefit is what the product does; it’s what the user of the product or service gains as a result of the feature.

Novices tend to write about features: the facts, figures, and statistics at hand. Experienced copywriters turn those features into customer benefits: reasons why the reader should buy the product.

Now that you have a list of customer benefits, you must decide which sales point is the most important, the one you will feature in your headline as the “theme” of the ad.

Use a motivating sequence

The Copywriters Handbook shares a five-step formula for writing copy that sells.

  • Get Attention

  • Show a Need

  • Satisfy the Need and Position Your Product as a Solution to the Problem

  • Prove Your Product Can Do What You Say It Can Do

  • Ask for Action


A promotion selling a stock market newsletter to consumers compares the $99 subscription price to the $2,000 the editor would charge if he were managing your money for you, based on a 2 percent fee and a minimum investment of $100,000.

There is an ongoing debate over whether people buy for emotional or for logical reasons, but most successful marketers know that the former is more dominant as a buying motive than the latter. It is commonly said, “People buy based on emotion, then rationalize the purchase decision with logic.”

Unique Selling Proposition

Three requirements for a USP:

  1. Must make a proposition to the consumer. Each must say, “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.” Your headline must contain a benefit—a promise to the reader.

  2. Must be one that the competition either cannot or does not, offer. Here’s where the unique in Unique Selling Proposition comes in. It is not enough merely to offer a benefit. You must differentiate your product from other, similar products. The USP for M&M’s is that the chocolate is surrounded by a hard candy shell so it won’t melt in your hand.

  3. Must be so strong that it can move the mass millions (i.e., pull over new customers to your product). The differentiation cannot be trivial. It must be a difference that matters to the reader.

One popular method is to differentiate your product or service from the competition based on a feature that your product or service has and they don’t.

The common error here is building the USP around a feature that, while different, is unimportant to the prospects, and therefore unlikely to move them to try your product or service.

The easiest situation in which to create a strong USP is when your product has a unique feature—one that competitors lack—that delivers a strong benefit. This must be an advantage the customer really cares about. Not one that, though a difference, is trivial.

Testing shows that, at least in consumer direct marketing, small promises don’t work. To get attention and generate interest, you have to make a large, powerful promise.

Know your Customer


A special invitation to the hero of American business Dear Entrepreneur: You’re it! You’re the kind of person free enterprise is built on. The ambition, vision, and guts of small business people like yourself have always been the driving force behind the American economy. Unfortunately, that’s a fact which the general business press seems to have forgotten. In their emphasis on everything big, like conglomerates, multinationals, and oil companies the size of countries, most business publications pay very little attention to the little guy.

The letter is effective because it speaks directly to the pride entrepreneurs feel in being “self-made.” The letter writer has done a good job of empathizing with the reader and understanding how an entrepreneur thinks of himself.

BDF formula:

  • Beliefs. What does your audience believe? What is their attitude toward your product and the problems or issues it addresses?

  • Desires. What do they want? What are their goals? What change do they want in their lives that your product can help them achieve?

  • Feelings. How do they feel? Are they confident and brash? Nervous and fearful? What do they feel about the major issues in their lives, businesses, or industries?

22 reasons why people might buy your product:

  1. To be liked

  2. To be appreciated

  3. To be right

  4. To feel important

  5. To make money

  6. To save money

  7. To save time

  8. To make work easier

  9. To be secure

  10. To be attractive

  11. To be sexy

  12. To be comfortable

  13. To be distinctive

  14. To be happy

  15. To have fun

  16. To gain knowledge

  17. To be healthy

  18. To gratify curiosity

  19. For convenience

  20. Out of fear

  21. Out of greed

  22. Out of guilt

Writing a customer case study

  • Who is the customer?

  • What was the problem?

  • How was it hurting the customer’s business?

  • What solutions did they look at and ultimately reject, and why?

  • Why did they choose our product as the solution?

  • Describe the implementation of the product, including any problems and how they were solved.

  • How and where does the customer use the product?

  • What are the results and benefits they are getting?

  • Would they recommend it to others and why?


bottom of page