How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards: Notes25 min read

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“There is virtually no other skill that can make you as much money as copywriting.”

“You must distil your ‘big idea,’ or Copy Thesis, down to a single, clear sentence.”

“The more accurately you can describe your reader’s problem in terms they relate to, the more they instinctively feel that you must have an answer to that problem.”

The Five Big Ideas

“Make the reader aware of the cost of indecision.”

“Make certain that you focus 80% of your copy should focus on the transformation itself.”

Copy that converts at a high rate usually has a lot of bullets.

“As much as 30 percent of your sales may come in the week after your big launch day.”

“Stories are the process by which we learn, live, and believe anything.”

How to Write Copy That Sells Summary

“Advertising, and by extension copywriting (which is the writing of ads) is simply salesmanship in print.”

“There is virtually no other skill that can make you as much money as copywriting.”

Ask yourself, “What are you selling, and how does it benefit the customer?”

You must distil your ‘big idea,’ or Copy Thesis, down to a single, clear sentence.


The P.A.S.T.O.R. Copywriting Framework

Person, Problem, and Pain

Amplify and Aspiration

Story, Solution, and System

Transformation and Testimony



“You must begin by identifying the person you are trying to reach with your message, understanding the problem that you are solving for them, and the pain that problem causes.”

“The simplest, most effective way to do this is to describe the problem in great detail.”

“The more accurately you can describe your reader’s problem in terms they relate to, the more they instinctively feel that you must have an answer to that problem.”

“Use the reader’s own language, the very words, and phrases they use to describe the problem they want to solve.”

“You have to join the conversation that is already taking place in the reader’s mind.”—Robert Collier

“You must first empathize with your reader, and have the feelings they have. Then you must develop the feelings of excitement that come from knowing the problem can be solved.”

“Amplify the consequences of not solving the problem, and the aspirations the reader holds for the future.”

“Get the reader to fully experience the consequence of not solving the problem.”

“You need to place a dollar cost on this failure to solve the problem when at all possible.”

“Make the reader aware of the cost of indecision.”

“Help your prospect see the real long-term consequences of ignoring their problem.”

“Whatever you’re selling, whether it’s a home study program, a book, a seminar, your consulting services — anything at all — what people are buying is not the ‘stuff,’ it’s the transformation.”

“Offer testimonials, real-life stories of people who have successfully made the transformation that you are providing.”

There are three questions people are asking when you sell them coaching, consulting or instruction about anything:

Has this person been able to do what they are describing for themselves?

Has this person been able to teach other people to achieve the results they are describing?

Will this person be able to teach me how to achieve these results?

“Provide the prospect with proof that the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding “Yes!”

“Make certain that you focus 80% of your copy on the transformation itself.”

The response request is one of the areas where copy tends to often be the weakest.

Tell the customer exactly what to do in order to get your program, your consulting, your book, etc. and remind them why it’s important to do so.


“You’re at the point of decision. You can either continue down the path of least resistance, the path you have already been traveling, or you can choose the road less traveled. The path of least resistance will probably result in you getting the same outcomes you’ve always received. But if you want something different to happen, if you want to change the direction of your health (or your relationships, or your finances, etc.) you’re going to have to do something different. Make a new choice, and pursue your new outcome. Click the button below, fill out the order form, and we will immediately ship your entire package to you. It will contain everything you need to get started.”

The 15 Building Blocks of a Sales Letter

Pre-head (also known as the “eyebrow”)


Deck Copy





Bullet Points



Value Justification

Risk Reversal


Call to Action or “Explicit Offer.”


The headline is the “ad for the rest of the ad”.

All your headline has to do is make the reader want to keep on reading—specifically, to get him or her to read the next sentence.

“Studies show that you have about two seconds to grab the attention of people who are reading your copy for the first time.”

The deck copy is the block of type that is usually in black bold type and set apart from the rest of the text. It comes between the headline and the beginning of the letter.

“The job of the Deck Copy is to reinforce the impact and expand on the idea proposed in the headline. It can also be used to arouse more curiosity.”

The lead is the very beginning of the body of the sales letter.

The body is the bulk of your text; most of your sales letter.

The subheads are smaller headlines that separate the major sections of your sales letter.

“Prospects never read anything at first; they never believe anything at first, and they never buy anything at first.”

Rapport is relationship building.

“People like three kinds of people: one, those who are like themselves; two, those they would like to be; and three, those who like them back.”

“Rapport demonstrates that you know the reader’s pain, that you understand his or her problems, and that you have some common experiences that you can share that proves you understand his or her pain.”

“A bullet point is a brief statement that identifies a single benefit offered by your product or service.”

Copy that converts at a high rate usually has a lot of bullets.

“You must build credibility with your prospects in order for them to lower the resistance they’re naturally feeling.”

“Establishing credibility will answer the top question that they have once they’ve started reading your letter and that is, ‘Why should I listen to what this person has to say?’”

“Testimonials are third-party verification that your solution does what it claims to do.”

“You want to make your testimonials as believable as possible. Usually that means getting a video testimonial.”

“The next best thing is to get a photograph of the person, not a studio shot, but a candid shot, and include his or her full name and website address or, even better, his or her phone number.”

If you’re just starting out, you could use quotes from famous people, as long as it’s clear you’re not implying that the famous person is personally endorsing your product.

Value justification is where you start to talk about how valuable your product, service, or solution actually is to the user.

“You highlight the value to your offer and do it in a way that contrasts it favorably to the price.”

“My goal when writing copy is to demonstrate the value to the buyer is at least 10 times the price.”

“The simplest form of risk reversal is simply to say you have a 100 percent money back guarantee.”

“Your job is to find a way to express the guarantee or the risk reversal in such a way that you’re taking all the risk off their shoulders and putting it onto yours, so that they feel they’re taking no risk at all.”

“Your bonus is a related but unexpected gift that enhances the value of your offer.”

“The mistake I see people making in their online sales letters is offering bonuses that are not related to the product that they’re selling and that don’t enhance the value of their product.”

“The explicit offer is simply the place in the copy where we ask for the order and tell the reader what to do.”

“The research that I’ve seen shows that either one or three PS’s seem to work best.”

PS is important because readers skim, scroll, and scan. They start at the top and scroll all the way to the bottom because they want to know, “What is this person selling and how much is it?” and that’s usually near the bottom of the page. If you put a good, properly formatted PS at the bottom, you can restate your entire proposition in one sentence.

How to Write Compelling Headlines

To do its job, a headline must accomplish three tasks:

Stop the reader in their tracks. They must stop scanning through the copy on the page, and consider the headline.

Make a promise (either explicitly or implicitly) that interests the reader.

Evoke enough curiously to compel them to keep reading the ad.

Here are five essential qualities of a compelling headline:

Grabs Attention. Your headline’s number-one job is to grab the reader’s attention. To accomplish this, your headline must either: make a claim or promise, evoke an emotional response, or stir up curiosity.

Screens and Qualifies Readers. Choose specific words that segment out the exact “tribe” you want to reach. Headlines that apply to everyone can just as easily apply to no one.

Draws Readers into the Body Copy. Remember you’re not selling your concept or proposition in the headline. You’re making one sale only: the idea of reading the rest of the post.

Communicates the “Big Idea.” What is the one true benefit of your post, and how can you communicate that to your readers in a way that is meaningful to them? Put that in your headline.

Establishes Credibility. Authority is one of the most powerful ways of gaining attention. If you have an “authority card” to play, play it in the headline if possible.

Headlines Formulas

The “How-To” Headline

The “Transactional” Headline

The “Reason-Why” Headline

The “Probing Question” Headline

The “If-Then” Headline

“The key to making the “How-To” headline work is that you need to tie it to a benefit your reader cares about (related to your content, of course).”

“The “Transactional” headline is all about the promise. When you truly have ‘Wow!’ level content, this headline will grab attention.”

Cialdini’s research showed that simply adding the word “because” to a request makes it more likely you’ll get what you’re asking for.

“With the ‘Probing Question’ headline, you ask a question that creates an intense desire to know the answer. The kind of question you want to ask is one that really evokes strong curiosity or taps into a problem you know your reader has.”

“With the ‘If-Then’ headline, you contrast something that’s easy for your reader to do with the major benefit of your post.”

The ultimate secret to writing really good headlines is to write a lot of really bad ones.

Write lots of possible headlines for your sales copy, subject lines for your emails, and titles for your blog posts before you finally settle on one.

“Email is still the number one way to get things sold on the Internet.”

“Bullet points are a great place to start writing when you’re in that ‘stuck place,’ when that resistance-to-writing feeling sneaks up on you.”

“A blind bullet is a bullet that tantalizes your reader with a curiosity-inducing statement, yet does not reveal the actual secret behind it, in effect setting up an ‘open loop’ that the mind longs to complete.”

Bullets that are not blind are called “naked” bullets.

21 Winning Bullet Point Templates

The “Wrong” Bullet

The “Themed Sequence” Bullet

The Two-Step Bullet

The Giveaway Bullet

The Reverse Hook Bullet

The Naked Benefit Bullet

The Transactional Bullet

The If-Then Bullet

The “Truth About” Bullet

The “Single Most” Bullet

The “How-To” Bullet

The Number Bullet

The Sneaky Bullet

The “Better Than” Bullet

The “Simple Fact” Bullet

The “What” Bullet

The “What NEVER” Bullet

The “Do You?” Bullet

The “Reason Why” Bullet

The “Secrets Of” Bullet

The Probing Question Bullet

“The wrong bullet is simply a case where you can contradict a common assumption.”

An example of the “Wrong” bullet: “Eating lots of salt in your diet is bad for your blood pressure, right? Wrong! We’ll explain why when you order our special report.”

With the “Themed Sequence” bullet, you are going to spell out, for instance, the “seven deadly diet sins,” or the “three humiliating secrets men don’t want women to know.”

“A two-step bullet offers a parenthetical elaboration on the main benefit statement.”

Example: “What to never do with your business card, and why. (If you get this wrong, people will walk away and you’ll never hear from them again.)”

Every now and then in your bullets, you should give something away.

“If you can give people a tip or trick that’s stunningly good, they are more likely to think, ‘If that’s what they’re giving away in their sales promotion, what are they hiding behind the scenes? If the free stuff is this good, what kind of information do I get when I pay it?’”

The Reverse Hook Bullet is a bullet that presents, first, an interesting fact, and then presents an unexpected benefit that arises from that interesting fact.

Example: “37.1% of the keywords in your Google AdWords account are not getting enough traffic to give you reliable test data.” Now, this is the parenthetical statement, “Here’s a simple trick you can use to eliminate these keywords from your ad campaigns forever and save yourself loads of money.”

“The Naked Benefit Bullet makes a direct benefit claim, but it has got to be supported by some additional facts, or what I call ‘intrigues’ that deepen your reader’s interest.”

Example: “How to effortlessly generate dramatically different ideas and know instantly if they are worth pursuing.”

“The Transactional Bullet is simply a proposition that says, ‘Give me (X), and I’ll give you (Y).’”

Example: “Give me one hour, and I’ll teach you how to write effective headlines.”

“Whenever you’re using a transactional bullet, it’s often best if you can use it in a case where what you’re asking from your readers seems of small consequence in contrast to the benefit you’re offering to them.”

“With the “If-Then” bullet, you’re giving the prospect something easy for him or her to do or comply with, and you’re associating it to a more valuable benefit.”

Example: “If you can spare 10 minutes a day, you can lose five pounds a month.”

“Find an issue where the controversy is well-known in your market.”

Example: “The truth about carbohydrates – and chances are, it’s not what you think it is.”

“Use the “Single Most” type of bullet when you have a superior benefit that you can prove.”

Example: “The single fastest, easiest, and best way of lowering your blood pressure documented and approved by the American Medical Association.”

“You want a bullet that uses specificity to dimensionalize the benefit you’re claiming.”

“Any time you use the how-to bullet, make sure you’re using a few more specifics and make it more real, more tangible to the reader.”

Use the Number Bullet when you have a specific number of techniques or multiple ways of doing a certain thing, multiple reasons why, or multiple reasons why not.

“You want to use the Sneaky Bulley when you can imply some kind of element of conspiracy.”

Example: “The sneaky methods drug companies use to keep you hooked on their products.”

“This is most effective when you can confirm a suspicion that your reader already has.”

“You want to find something good that you can make better.”

“When you can’t use a blind bullet, use simple facts—but make them interesting.”

Example: “Healthy people are dying of sudden cardiac arrest,” quote the study, then follow up with a comma and say something to this effect: “There are steps you can take to prevent this from happening.”

“The ‘what’ bullet simply answers the question ‘What?’”

Example: “What inoculations you need to travel abroad.”

The “What Never” bullet is the negative form of the “what” bullet.

Example: “What never to eat on an airplane (unless you want to die).”

Use the “Do You?” bullet when you believe your readers are doing something that is a mistake. Something that your product, service, or information will help them avoid.”

Example: “Do you make these mistakes when filling out your business tax returns?”

The “Reason Why” Bullet is a simple version of “reason why” copy.

“It’s just explaining the reasons why they should buy your product or service.”

Example: “The reason why you should always use the lowest octane fuel available at the gas pump, not the highest.”

“If you have an unusual solution, device, tactic, or method, then you can use this bullet to build curiosity.”

“Ask a question you are reasonably certain you know the answer to.”

Example: “Do you know the seven kinds of deductions the IRS looks for to flag your return for an audit?”

“The triad of selling—the offer, the close, and the risk reversal segment.”

21 Steps to Writing Irresistible Offers, Rock-Solid Risk Reversal Copy, and Powerful Closes

Make your offer stand alone

Apply the P.A.S.T.O.R. Framework™ to your offer.

Enclose your order area copy in a differentiating text box

Use the prospect’s positive voice in the offer

Use aspirational language

Use credit card logos and secure site symbols

Use both an order button and a text link (such as “click to order”)

Do not sleepwalk through the guarantee

Put your risk reversal inside a certificate

Keep selling, especially in the risk reversal section

Use “100 percent money back”” language, but don’t rely on that to convey the message of your guarantee

Add video to your risk reversal section

Use your signature in the risk reversal section

Use a handwritten guarantee

The “close” is you asking for the order

Use all the tools that are available to you at the close

Tell your reader what to do to close the deal

You want to reassure and praise your readers

Explain what’s going to happen

Maintain the look and feel of your website

Test your order form

“Construct your offer so it’s like a miniature sales letter. It needs a headline, a little deck copy, a string of benefit-rich bullets that describe what the product is about, and exactly what your prospects are going to get when they buy. Then give them a call to action, where they can click and actually order your product or service.”

“Give your prospects the words to say inside their own minds.”

“You are thinking thoughts for the reader.”

“The reason this is so powerful when related to offers is that when you write in the prospect’s positive voice (‘Yes, Ray, I want to take advantage of your Copywriting Academy Coaching Program. I want to possess the power of turning words into wealth.’), you’re telling him or her what to think.”

“Invoke your reader’s desire. Focus on the outcome your reader desires and use language that aspires to that outcome, to gain the emotional state or the sense of being that this outcome will give them.”

Credit card symbols are important because we’ve been trained to accept as trustworthy, reliable, and stable. By including them, you are reassuring your prospect that your site shares the same qualities.

“Give them every opportunity to succeed at giving you money.”

“It’s always best to assume that your user or reader doesn’t really know with 100 percent certainty what to do next.”

“The guarantee is also known as the ‘risk reversal’ section of your copy.”

“You want to reassure them—as much as possible—that the decision they’re making is the right decision and that they cannot make a mistake.”

“Putting something in certificate form lends it credibility.”

“This is a perfect place to restate the benefits of your offer.”

“Describe the benefits in your guarantee or risk reversal language.”

Example: “Order my e-book, read every page. If you’re not delighted with the results, if in fact you don’t lose at least 30 pounds in 30 days, find it easy to eat the right foods without feeling hungry or deprived, know in an instant what you’re supposed to eat without ever having to refer to a calorie chart or point system, then I refuse to keep your money.”

“Use active language to dimensionalize your guarantee.”

“Use it, but don’t make that the only guarantee you offer; be more descriptive.”

“Make your risk reversal or guarantee personal, persuasive, and passionate. One of the best ways you can do that is by using the human voice and face, especially if your personality is part of your marketing. A video of you personally delivering the guarantee is more powerful than text alone.”

This increases conversions because if it’s signed, we feel like it’s a deal; it’s official; it’s a contract.

“If a signature works, a handwritten guarantee often works even better.”

“If you’re going to use a handwritten guarantee, make sure that it’s short, powerful, and most important, legible.”

“That means you want a headline on the order page just as I described: one that’s affirmative, congratulatory, and lets them know they’ve made the right decision.”

“You want to use urgency, scarcity, and reward.”

“If you can introduce some urgency into the selling process ethically and honestly, then you should do it.”

“Make sure you’re offering a limited number or a limited time on your bonus items, and make certain it’s all honest and ethical.”

“Make your promotions real, honest, and ethical.”

“This is where you need to be as specific as possible.”

You’re going to use language like this: “Okay, now’s the time to type in your name and your address, double-check that the information is correct, then type in your credit card number and click on the ‘Buy now’ button.”

“You want to be just that specific in your instructions.”

“If you can give these instructions in audio or video, that’s even better.”

“Reassure and praise your reader for the good decision he or she made.”

“Tell them exactly what’s going to happen when they press the ‘Submit’ or ‘Buy now’ button. This is a question your reader is wondering about.”

“The best way to reassure them is to tell them what’s going to happen or even show them if you can make a screen capture video that shows exactly what’s going to happen.”

“Your order form should look exactly like your website.”

“Order your own product. If it’s an expensive product and you want to minimize your processing expense, set it to zero dollars or one dollar and make multiple orders.”

10-Part Guarantee That is Powerful Beyond Belief

Start with the words “100% unconditional money back guarantee”

Sell your benefits and transformation in the guarantee itself

Integrate your USP (unique selling proposition) into the language of the guarantee itself

Personalize the guarantee

Give the longest guarantee possible

Demonstrate that returns are easy and hassle-free

Assure them that this is a no-strings attached, unconditional guarantee

Emphasize the speed of refunds

Amaze them with what I call the “I’ll-take-the-risk twist.”

Give your guarantee a name

5 Closing Templates That Get The Job Done

“You Will Certainly Arrive” Close

The “Different Results” Close

The “Crossroads” Close

The “Decision Time” Close

The “Handholding” Close

Example: “Here’s what you and I both know, one year from today you will certainly arrive. The question is where? That is your decision to make right now.”

Example: “Here’s the tough truth you probably already know. If you want different results you need to do something different. Make a definitive decision right now to get different results.”

Example: “You’re standing at the crossroads. To the left is the same rough, rocky road you’ve been traveling. To the right is the road fewer people will choose. This road is not harder it’s different. Choosing the right road makes all the difference. I’m hoping you’ll choose the right road and join us today.”

Example: “It’s been said that in your moments of decision your destiny is shaped. What will you decide to do right now? The same thing you’ve been doing so you get the same old results or will you decide to change your results for the better by joining the Champion Circle…”

Example: “And you won’t be alone, I’m going to hold your hand every step of the way and walk you through this process.”

The Offer is the core of your sales copy. It consists of:

The benefit of what you’re selling (the transformation)

The vehicle or mechanism that delivers the transformation

The price & payment terms

The O.P.E.N. Framework

Oblivious. These are the people who do not know there is a problem. They don’t know they have a problem, and they don’t know that you exist with a solution. These are the hardest people to sell to.

Pondering. The pondering person is considering a solution to their problem.

Engaged. The engages person is actively looking for something to solve their problem

Need. This is the person who’s in “agony”. You don’t have to sell or pitch a solution to them. These are the easiest people to sell to.

“The secret is to address each of these levels of awareness with a different kind of offer; the Oblivious with something like a Soft Offer, while the person in Need probably only requires a simple Hard Offer.”

Power Moves for More Compelling Offers

Power move #1: Make sure you’re selling them what they want. “You sell them what they want and you also give them what they need.”

Power move #2: Make your copy crystal clear. “If you can read a paragraph and not be sure of what it said, or if you read it to someone and they aren’t sure what it says either, that’s ‘voodoo copy.’”

Power move #3: Use tipping point bonuses. “You need to pay special attention to the bonuses you offer.”

“Spend as much time on your bonuses as you do on any other part of your product creation, and as much time on the copy for the bonus as you do on any other copy that you write.”

“The bonus needs to be as good as or better than what you’re selling.”

“Product launches work because they employ all the psychological triggers of influence.”

11 Launch Copy Components

List-building copy

Survey copy


JV Recruitment copy

Prelaunch copy

The “Big PDF”

Unpredictable plot complication copy

Countdown copy

The sales letter

Post-launch-week copy

The missing piece

“As your list and traffic grow, you want to start asking your market what bugs them. Find out what their pain is.”

“There are two ways to go about this when you’re thinking about how you’re going to create and market your product. You can focus on relieving a certain pain in the life of the prospect or you can focus on moving the prospect towards some type of pleasurable outcome.”

“People will respond more readily and will do more to get out of pain than to get into pleasure.”

“I recommend focusing on finding their pain and ways to relieve it.”

“You want to think of your product itself as copy because it’s making a continual sale to your buyer.”

“You need to think in terms of how you structure the product, how it is written in language that reaffirms the decision the prospect made when he or she decided to invest in it.”

“Think of the product as an extension of your copy.”

“When you’re performing a launch, you don’t just want to rely on just your own list.”

“Here is where you begin building anticipation, scarcity, and social proof.”

“This is where you’re going to write a white paper, a position paper or special report that spells out your platform or USP (unique selling proposition).”

“Unpredictable plot complications” means things will occur you didn’t plan for.

Example: “Wow! We had so much traffic from people who wanted to get a copy of our big PDF that our server went down.”

“This is where we start playing on the anticipation and scarcity.”

“Even if a buyer never sees your actual sales letter—they are still sold by it.”

“As much as 30 percent of your sales may come in the week after your big launch day.”

“I see this component left out all the time: following up with your buyers and prospects to make your launch become a profitable business.”

“Stories are the process by which we learn, live, and believe anything.”

The best and most successful movie trailers do three things without fail:

Give you the Dominant Story Idea (DSI)

Offer a sample of the feelings you’ll get from the movie itself

Provide proof that the movie ‘works’

Recommended Reading

If you like How to Write Copy That Sells, you may also enjoy the following books:

The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch by Dan Norris by Dan Norris

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly

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