From The Golden Thread Mailbag …
“The Categorical Imperative”

Last week, I answered a question, from Kathy E. about grant writing for a local charity. My answer failed to include an important piece of information. Thanks to Claudia D. for writing in to bring it to my attention!

Hi Pat,

I wanted to comment on your response to Kathy E. regarding how to price grant-writing services. I think your reply should have included the information that many grantors specifically disallow, or at least greatly discourage, any kind of percentage-of-grant payments for a professional grant writer.

Charities are or should be aware of these limitations and therefore steer clear of paying grant writers based on the grants they help procure. Further, I think it’s realistic to say that most grant requests are unsuccessful, so agreeing to pay-per-results can mean working for free!

I would say that a flat fee should be negotiated ahead of time, based on the charity’s budget for such services. Thanks, Claudia D.


Dear Pat,

I want to start by saying that I’m really enjoying the Six-Figure Copywriting Program, The Golden Thread, Monthly Copywriting Genius, and several other AWAI products. I’ve been very pleased and impressed with the quality of your materials and support. I just need some clarification on a point made in the Six-Figure Program.

In Section 30, there is warning from Don Mahoney that “any time you use an outline, you must be careful that you don’t let your letter become too linear in terms of logic and structure. If you do that, you stand the risk of having a boring and predictable package.” Could you please explain a bit more about what Don meant by that, and perhaps give some specific tips or examples on how to keep one’s letter from becoming “too linear?”

Thanks, John C.

Hello John,

I’m glad you’re enjoying and, more importantly, getting so much from all your AWAI programs.

What Don is talking about in that section is the tendency of your readers to try to figure out where your sales letter is headed. This is also what copywriting legend Bill Bonner calls “The Categorical Imperative.” If your prospect can see where your letter’s going or already know the outcome of the story you are using, they won’t feel compelled to keep reading. If they stop reading, you lose sales.

There will also be a tendency for you – when following an outline – to write something that reads like a term paper. You’ll add a few facts here and there, finish off the paragraph, and move on … abandoning the conversational tone and the transitional phrases that make your copy flow. You might also forget to include those important little golden nuggets of benefit. And your package will fall flat.

Dear Pat,

Do you think the Accelerated Program’s restaurant assignment, my practice copies, and a few letters that I prepared for a former realtor employer are sufficient to present to prospects who request samples of my work?


Hello Edith,

It sounds like you are already starting to go out and look for clients. Good for you! That’s a good indication that you’ll succeed as a copywriter.

I don’t know if you can ever have enough samples. You always want to be expanding the amount of work you can show to a client. Sometimes, it takes just the right sample to show a client that you can do what they are looking for. If you don’t have it, they might pass.

However, what you have is good enough to start. Being honest about it is your best bet … so don’t try to pass off a program assignment as paid work. Just say that it is an example of what you can do. By the way, you should finish up the “live vitamin assignment” as soon as possible and put it in your portfolio as well. That will be a better example of your skills than the restaurant letter.

Good luck – and thanks to one and all. Keep those emails coming!


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Published: May 22, 2006

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