From The Golden Thread Mailbag …
The Length of a Sales Letter

Hi Pat,

I have been looking on the AWAI forum and at other websites to see what people have written, for ideas and to add to my swipe file. It seems like there are a lot of long copy packages … pages and pages. Do letters have to be long? Or can they be short, sweet, and to the point?

The reason I ask is because I recently received a “sales letter” which did catch my attention and make me want to eat at a certain restaurant. It really wasn’t a letter at all, but two pictures pinned to a menu and a “handwritten” note stating “Your table is waiting.” The menu was filled with pictures of the food and included prices. The pictures were of the dining facilities inside and one outside. Just looking at the pictures and menu made me drool. Is this a different type of sales letter that’s more suited to a restaurant. Or is a long letter still better?

Thanks for your help.

Linda L.

Hey Linda,

Excellent question.

The length of your copy is determined by a few things.

Since the direct-response industry started, copy has only gotten longer. At first, it was thought that no one would read a letter that was longer than one page. Then that no one would read a letter that was longer than two pages … and so on … until today, when you can find copy that’s 30 pages or more.

A good rule of thumb is this: The more expensive the product is, the longer the copy needs to be. Also, the more complicated the product is, the more copy it takes.

For example, it takes much more copy (and salesmanship) to sell our copywriting program than to sell a magazine subscription or a reservation at a restaurant. When selling our program, we have to convince the prospect to admit that he’s ready to change his life. That’s a mighty big step to take, so we have to provide the answers to a lot of possible questions he may have about doing it. Meanwhile, selling a magazine subscription is simply selling the prospect on something connected to a subject he’s probably already interested in. The same goes for getting people to come to a restaurant. It doesn’t take as much copy to do that.

On a side note: If you’re interested in finding great material for your swipe file, you might want to subscribe to our Monthly Copywriting Genius service. Each month, we pull a groundbreaking promotion directly out of the mail and critique the entire thing. By the time we’re done, you’ll know exactly how it’s working … and why.

That’s it for this week. Thanks to one and all – and keep those emails coming!


The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: September 11, 2006

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