I was blessed to know Gene Schwartz…and not just casually, either.
Gene was my friend, mentor and business partner…and I learned so
many lessons from him.
Those of you who don’t know who I am talking about, Eugene “Gene”
Schwartz was one of the most successful and prolific direct
response copywriters who ever lived.
His classic book, Breakthrough Advertising may be the most
important book ever written on copy and creative.
It was important enough for Marty (Edelston) and I to re-publish it
as a “Boardroom Book” when we saw a live bid on eBay for an
out-of-print copy at $950.
Actually, calling it a book about “copy and creative” does it a
disservice… it is the most timeless book ever written on human
behavior as well.
The fact that not one word has been changed from its 1966
version proves that point.
During the 1980’s, Gene wrote many of Boardroom’s most successful
direct mail packages–and he also wrote some of the biggest winners
for Rodale Books (publishers of more health books than anyone at
And here’s the kicker: Boardroom and Rodale never paid him a dime
for any of those landmark packages.
Here’s how that came to pass…
Gene had his own company called “Instant Improvement” which
published health books on many esoteric and eclectic topics which
were sold with some of the most famous direct mail packages
Classic headlines included “How To Rub Your Stomach Away” and “The
Tao of Sexology.”
But I digress…
Instant Improvement was a small but mighty company…and Gene got
there because he understood that without being able to mail the
best lists of other health book buyers, he didn’t have a business.
His house list was quite small–while Boardroom and
Rodale had the most responsive and largest lists in the category of
health book buyers.
Since Boardroom and Rodale needed world class copy and Instant
Improvement needed world class lists, these three direct marketing
leaders comprised the most powerful group of allies since World War
II…(excuse the hyperbole…but it was a huge alliance).
Gene exchanged copy for names…even though he could have commanded
the highest fees of any copywriter at that time.
This amazing relationship led to millions of books sold and also a
much more efficient way to get the best health information
distributed to as many people as possible.
Boardroom and Rodale were able to mail millions of names using Gene
Schwartz controls for years…even after his death…and Gene was
able to mail millions of Boardroom and Rodale names “on exchange”
at an acceptable return on investment for his much smaller books…
But there was nothing “small” about Gene Schwartz…I never met a
man who played larger.
He traded his talent for the asset he needed most at the time…and
money was a by-product, not the starting point…
And that brings me to my quote for this week:
“Reciprocation is about you, then me, then you, then me…and be
the first to give service, information, concessions”
-Dr. Robert Cialdini
Understanding how to be a true partner with those you work with
leads to exponential growth and true business building…
…which beats a series of “revenue events” by a mile.
When I say that I was a close friend to Gene Schwartz, it makes me
proud; when I say I was his partner to help build three
multi-million dollar businesses, businesses that had as their
mission to disseminate the most useful and life-saving health
information to consumers, I know I made a real difference in the
And of course this also means I’m just old…but as Marty used to
say, “I like getting old because now I know so much.”
Thank you, Gene, for being one of the wisest entrepreneurs I ever
met. And for writing my favorite book about human behavior (and
Until next week…
P.S. All this talk about Gene Schwartz got me itching to tell you
about a live event I’m planning for September…you will be among
the first to hear all of the details…not quite there yet…