Improve Your Copywriting Skills …
Fake Cocaine and Other Secrets of the World’s Greatest Bullet Writers

Bullets are like mini headlines that grab your prospect’s attention and force him to keep reading. They can:

  • provoke deep-seated emotional benefits
  • build curiosity
  • tease the reader into wanting to know more
  • build urgency in your prospect’s mind to make him want to buy right away

As Pat Friesen said above, most prospects scan copy to see if anything catches their eye. That’s why bullets are so critical. They can stop a prospect dead in his tracks and bring him into the copy.

Bullets are powerful. How powerful?

Copywriting legend Gary Halbert used to tell a story about being hired to write a sales letter in the late ‘70s. His job was to sell a special report put out by Entrepreneur Magazine. As it turns out, one bullet he wrote for that report – buried deep in the copy – really hit home with prospects.

Here’s the bullet that kept the phones ringing … months – even a year – after the letter mailed:

• “FAKE COCAINE: a legal substitute that fools almost everyone!”

That bullet was so enticing that people called specifically asking about it. If one bullet had so much power … just think what a series of well-written bullets could do for your sales letter. Your response rates would soar through the roof!

What Makes a Great Bullet?

So what makes a great bullet?

First off, your bullets have to grab your prospect’s attention. They have to appeal to his emotions and intensify his desire.

There are three kinds of bullets:

  • Complete Secret Bullets – Those that tease the reader into wanting more by withholding the entire secret. No part of the secret is exposed and the reader has no idea how it works.
  • Semi-Secret Bullets – Those that tease the reader into wanting more by giving away only part of the secret. Now that the reader knows part of what the secret is, he desperately wants to know the rest of it.
  • Total Revelation Bullets – These bullets give your prospect a direct benefit. They don’t hide anything, and their purpose is to transform any feature into a benefit your prospect wants.

How Complete Secret Bullets Create an Irresistible Buying Urge

What makes the first kind of bullet – the complete secret bullet – work is the secret of “Wanting the How.” Every complete secret bullet should make your prospect desperately want to know what the secret is and how he can get the promised benefit.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of complete secret bullets that use the secret of “Wanting the How.”

Here’s one by bullet master John Carlton …

“How to swing with a third less effort and increase the power in your drive by 25%. (Sound impossible? This is the one tip that keeps pros coming back to Milt in droves … and it’s the secret that will have you strutting off the tee box with pride towards your ball that’s 50 yards ahead of everyone else in your group. I know one guy personally who paid Milt over $2,000.00 to learn this secret alone.)”

Notice how John packs in the benefits and is ultra-specific about them. Yet … he doesn’t reveal the how.

Here another one by John …

“The ‘Pre-Coital Secret’ (only recently made public by a famous female sex therapist that breaks the code on giving any woman an explosive orgasm … every time you make love! Page 114”

Once again, he teases with specific benefits, but leaves out the crucial “how” part. The reader has to buy the book to find out.

Here’s one by the late master copywriter Mel Martin …

“Why copying the great golfers may be ruining your game (page 168). How to develop a good swing that is natural for your own physique (and why only a strong pro can get away with imitating the way Nicklaus does it. (Page 176).”

Mel builds the prospect’s curiosity … but only by buying the book will his curiosity be satisfied.

And, finally, two great examples by the late Gene Schwartz …

“How $3, and this simple twist, can put you in the import business – right up to the point where you’re selling franchises to others.

“How to get your cut on the biggest (and completely legal) lottery in the world. You risk $10. You get an oil or gas lease in return. (One man has already made a million dollars for exactly this same kind of investment.)”

Notice how, in addition to teasing the prospect, every single one of the above bullets packs in two or more benefits, in such a way that the prospect can “see” himself enjoying them.

And notice how John and Mel added credibility to their bullets by including the specific page numbers where the prospect can find the “how.” Knowing he can get the answer instantly by flipping to the specified page only intensifies the prospect’s desire. (Gene’s famous for this too, although he didn’t do it in the examples above.)

Drive Your Prospect Into a White-Hot Frenzy With Semi-Secret Bullets

The semi-secret bullet gives your reader a small “taste” of how the secret works. The secret at work here is “Crucial Deletion,” where you purposely leave out one important piece of information.

Here’s an example …

“Why taking lutein and bilberry will improve your vision (Warning: Take too much and you’ll actually damage your eyesight!)”

The reader is given a practical bit of information that’s a piece of the secret (taking lutein and bilberry can improve your vision) – but the crucial part (how much to take) is left out.

Another example …

“Make your plants grow bigger with music (twice as big with the right music!)”

Once again, the reader is given some a part of the secret (music will help a plant grow), but now he wants to know what kind of music – and he’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Here are two more examples of bullets that use the secret of Crucial Deletion, written by Mel Martin …

“Asparagus spears should be cut under water. (Why? See page 180.)”

“If you have trouble skimming all the fat off a pot of soup, try ice cubes. Ice Cubes? See page 34.”

Answer Your Prospect’s Most Important Questions With Total Revelation Bullets

Finally, there are total revelation bullets. The secret to writing these bullets is to transform product features into benefits that your prospect really cares about. Tell them everything they want to know and hold nothing back.

Here’s an example:

Your children will develop stronger reading skills—When kids view reading as a fun, enjoyable activity, their reading skills improve naturally. This captivating volume guides your children on an incredible journey through outer space that leaves them eager to venture deeper into the exciting world of science!”

Notice how there are no secrets, and the reader is told everything he wants to know.

Another example taken from a promo for the 2005 edition of Physicians’ Desk Reference …

“Contraindications Index instantly alerts you to any conflicts between the patient’s condition and a proposed course of drug therapy”

Here are two more examples, written by Copywriter Hall of Famer Bob Bly …

“Generate and compile programs (using Clipper or FoxBASE) in a single step—with overlays”

“A sturdy ring binder that makes it easy to add supplements and new materials as they become available. Lies flat on a desk for easy reading”

You never know what bullet will drive your prospect to the “tipping point” of whipping out his credit card and placing the order. That’s why it’s important you do your best and treat each one as a mini-headline.

Once you master the secrets behind these three types of bullets, you’ll stop scanners dead in their tracks, and keep them engaged in your promotion … significantly increasing your chances of writing a blockbuster package.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: February 18, 2008

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)