October 13, 2018

Being a movie buff, whenever someone refers to the story about Moses receiving The Ten Commandments, I picture Charlton Heston delivering some pretty good rules of thumb to live by.

But wait…there’s more.

Having just completed the final editing of the manuscript of my new book,Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, I will begin today keeping my promise of sending you sneak previews from the book (which I guess might lead to you not buying it when it comes out).

No wonder my pal Joe Polish calls me “The Director of Sales Prevention.”

I’ll hold back a little of the “good stuff” but I am excited to share some of the best material in advance of the launch.

One of the stories/lessons in the book (from the chapter on “Creative & Copy”), is a portion of a blog post I am most proud of since it profiles and memorializes the “mad scientist” of all copywriters, Jim Rutz (who was also a great friend and marketing partner).

The piece was titled “The copywriter closest to God”—and I am not being sacrilegious when I say that…I really believe it when it came to Jim.

You might want to read the most recent version of it here before reading what I have for you today—which is truly another “Ten Commandments” called “Rutz’s Rules for Writing.”

Violating any of these won’t have the same repercussions as breaking one of the original Ten Commandments…but if you want to be a great copywriter or marketer, ignore them at your peril.

I found these in Jim’s archives and they will be included in a new product I will launch next year around the same time as my book:

Read This Or Die: The Lost Files of the Craziest (and Most Brilliant) Copywriter Who Has Ever Lived 

That’s a working subtitle…“Read This Or Die” will definitely be the main title since it refers to the headline of one of his most famous and successful promotions.

In the subtitle, I wanted to call Rutz the “Ballsiest” copywriter who has ever lived but that’s not a word.

Then again, “Overdeliver” is not a word either…so I might go with that after all.

I need some help from you (if you want to play):

If you send me a subtitle suggestion for the product, I will send you a copy of the “Read This or Die” promotion as an advance look at this amazing swipe file we are putting together. 


Rutz’s “Ten Commandments” for writing are below–and I have made some notes of my own (preceded by “BK” and in italics)—Jim taught me so much and as I read through Jim’s rules,  I realized how much he lives on in all that is taught today by the best living copywriters and trainers and teachers of copy.

He left a huge imprint on me, that’s for sure.


Rutz’s Rules for Writing


1) The #1 sin in ad mail is being boring, and over half of it richly deserves its quick death by wastebasket. 

What is always boring? The predictable. You must surprise the reader at the outset and at every turn of the copy. This takes time and toil.

BK: I’ll add a corollary regarding length and boredom…no sales letter can be too long or too short…just too boring. 


2) Never write to a crowd. 

Crowds don’t write checks, or even read. Individuals do. Write to your brother, sister, or best friend, never to a targeted prospect.

BK: I think Jim would have loved to toil in the world of online marketing…being able to slice and dice his copy to more sub-segments economically and efficiently than he ever could in direct mail.

That he was able to “write to individuals” even when direct mail made it more difficult to do that was part of Rutz’s genius. The swipes in the “Read This Or Die” product will prove this time and again.


3) Don’t be a jerk. 

The GOLDEN RULE as applied to ad mail: It’s more important to do the reader good than to get his money. Yes, getting his money is what you do for a living. But when his money becomes more important than his welfare, you’ve turned into a hollow shell and declared war on the human race.

BK: Once again, Jim would have had a field day online, giving away lots of stuff and doing “…the reader good…” while being patient for the money. 

One of my other mentors, Gordon Grossman, used to lament that with direct mail being so expensive, anything you did in physical mail had to “sell something.” 

But living in our world today, we just need to make sure everything we send, in every medium, “achieves something.” 

 Jim understood that as well as any copywriter in history, even pre-Internet. 


4) Spend half your writing time on concept, teaser, offer, headline, and first paragraph. 

Up to 90% of your rejections will be caused by those elements, not the many pages that follow.

BK:  All of the great copywriters I have ever worked with knew how to write “teasers” (what we called “fascinations”) well before they learned to write full blown sales letters.Read this if you want to learn more about this technique. It’s a profile of someone else I call a “mad scientist” of copywriting in a different way than Jim. 

And then there’s what David Ogilvy said about headlines: “On the 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” 

And finally, Bill Jayme cut right to the chase when he said that the outer envelope (i.e. headline) was like the “…hot pants on the hooker…” –and I am sure he would say the same today about subject lines. 


More about Jayme in the P.S. 

Rutz would agree on all of the above. 


5) Your reader is not stupid. He or she is as smart as you are. 

…they are just not paying attention!

So make sure you get that first, then talk to them like adults.

BK: Ogilvy waxes poetic about this too: “The consumer isn’t a moron, she is your wife.” 


6) Competence will make you a living. Creativity will make you a fortune. 

Why? Because few other writers are willing to sweat any more than is absolutely necessary. Truly creative perspiration is rare.

BK: Gary Halbert could chime in on this one with a technique to sweat profusely (i.e. produce “creative perspiration”): “Get yourself a collection of good ads and DM pieces and read them aloud and copy them in your own handwriting.” 

It’s a start to get to what Jim is talking about. He always preferred pen to paper to fingers on a keyboard–and in the words of his sister Ginger (who is the reason we will be able to bring you all of Jim’s work since she saved it all): “Picture Jim, sitting on the floor, his back against the sofa and feet under the coffee table, with a legal pad and a green pen, to later on in his career, peering into a CRT. He fought it all the way–he struggled.” 


7) Light humor and wit are terrific salesmen. 

Without them, some products are sunk. With them, you will soon be sitting in your very own beachside condo in Belize.

BK: In a video that will come with the “Read This Or Die” product, copywriting legends who were also mentored by Jim Rutz, John Carlton, David Deutsch, talk at length why Rutz is so hard to emulate…and how he got away with “light humor and wit”—what we labeled as his “whimsy”—and he used it more successfully than any copywriter we have ever studied. 

You often hear that there is no place for humor in direct response copy…Jim broke that rule more than any other writer.  Dissecting how he got away with it is worth our time—that’s a big reason why I want to get all of his archives in one place and then make them available to you. 

Here’s a whimsical headline Jim wrote when writing an ad looking for a bride: 

“Knight in Shining Armor Seeks Damsel…Distress Optional” 


8) Any hack can make a product look desirable. If you aspire to greatness, make it look irresistible. 

Of course, that means you have to pick and choose your clients. Some products are sow’s ears. But given a decent product, you must-prior to writing-answer the question: “What could make this thing look irresistible?”

BK: All of the great copywriters, including Jim, talk about the clients they “refused to work for” like it’s a badge of honor. Jim also taught all of his copy cubs to assess opportunity cost with every assignment and never check your ethics at the door. If it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s probably not right. 


9) Learn to stand up to your clients. 

Even the most sophisticated clients in the world may be too close to their product to understand it.

You will frequently find it misnamed, wrongly positioned, poorly offered, incorrectly priced, or intrinsically flawed and needing revision. Tell ’em. The truly great clients will agree—and love you for it!

BK: Jim’s view here is similar to what Dan Kennedy teaches—that is, don’t just “write copy for food”…be a trusted advisor in addition to writing kick ass copy. 


10)  God will not let you starve because you refused to promote a product that is unethical, harmful, or at odds with the greater good of society. 

BK: Never compromise your ethics since you didn’t leave them at the door (see #8 above). 


I hope these insights from the world’s “ballsiest” (still not a word) copywriter will whet your appetite to read and study everything Jim Rutz wrote (and admired).

In the product we will not only have packages and promotions he wrote himself but also the packages and promotions he admired most and used as “furniture” in his house (you’ll have to read “The Copywriter Closest To God” to appreciate that comment).

Remember, if you want to send me ideas for the subtitle for the Rutz product, I’ve got that ethical bribe waiting for you (the “Read This Or Die” swipe).

And even if you don’t have an idea for the subtitle, please send me an email anyway with “I want Rutz” in the subject line so I can get a sense of how many copies of this product I will need to print up initially.

In addition, if you email me, you will be the first to know about it when it’s available (early 2019)–and I will add you to a special list so you will receive a first mover discount too.

And now an 11th commandment:

11) Be bold, take chances and stay crazy (and brilliant and “ballsy”) like my good friend and mentor Jim Rutz.






P.S. This Jim Rutz product—swipe files, interviews, critiques—will be a must for your library, much like “The Bill Jayme Collection”

Those of you who don’t know who Bill Jayme was, read “Deeply and Irrevocably Personal” and you will see why I want to keep this genius alive for a next generation of copywriters and marketers, much like I will do with Jim Rutz.

After Bill Jayme passed away, his partner (and expert designer) Heikki Ratalahti worked with me to create a boxed set of 11 CD’s of every direct package Bill Jayme ever wrote—210 individual direct mail efforts in PDF format for 138 different mailers in all categories--“The Bill Jayme Collection.”

The 11 CD’s are indexed by category and completely searchable.

Plus, we added a bonus DVD of Bill himself presenting live.

My buddy Ben Settle just promoted the offer to his tribe and we sold out within hours…so I printed up some more sets…and I now have eight (8) in inventory which I will sell first come, first served.

I am not planning to go back to press after those are sold and will focus on the Rutz product.

Order here today if you want to claim one of the last sets of “The Bill Jayme Collection.”

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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