Are You Writing for Spiders?
In the beginning, Mel Martin used to do pencil sketches of how he wanted the packages to look. Eventually he taught himself to use the computer and, in Edelston's words, "became a first-rate, second-rate computer artist." He would design each mailing with tiers of fascinations, the most powerful ones appearing in the largest type. When he wasn't writing copy, Martin would read all of Edelston's newsletters—Boardroom Reports, Bottom Line/Personal and Tax Hotline—and turn the various stories into fascinations. He maintained a massive database of fascinations, including full annotations of which article appeared in which newsletter on which page and where on the page and on what date. When it came time to create a book for past newsletters, the Master would go into his database of fascinations and cook up a mailing; Edelston's editors would then create a book based on Mel Martin's mailing package, not vice versa, as is the usual case in publishing.
Because he was so slow, Mel Martin could not support himself as a freelancer. Early on he asked Edelston for more money. The answer was no; cash flow wouldn't permit it. Finally, Edelston agreed to buy 25 percent of Mel Martin's time. Edelston increased the percentage as Martin's other clients died off and he kept writing winning packages.
"He loved what he did. He used to deliver the finished copy to our offices himself—always perfect. The writing invigorated him. It gave him energy." Kurtz said. "I remember once right after a serious operation, he started writing a package and positively exuded energy. It was his best package. Think of it! He wrote his best package within days of being operated on!"
In 1990, guru Axel Andersson suggested a feature for my WHO'S MAILING WHAT! newsletter—that awards be given to long-term control direct mail packages that continued to work year after year, beating back all tests against them. Edelston's organization won a staggering 10 Axel Andersson Awards. An amazing 16 million of the seven-year-old Mel Martin package, "Bills it's OK to pay late" (née "What never to eat on an airplane") mailed in 1994.