Lewis Enterprises’ Herschell Gordon Lewis on Copywriting for the 21st Century
With 31 books under his belt and dozens of successful mail pieces in the mailstream, such as the long-standing Omaha Steaks and Red Cooper controls, famed copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis heads Lewis Enterprises in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., through which he writes and consults individually. A member of the DMA Hall of Fame, he recently penned “Creative Rules for the 21st Century—the Richest Resource of Copywriting Secrets for Today’s Market,” offered by American Writers & Artists Inc.
Because any direct mail business or copywriter would welcome the chance to pick the brain of the master, I conducted a follow-up interview to Lewis’ Dec. 4, 2007, webinar with Inside Direct Mail (which was sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc.), peppering him with questions (including a couple from listeners) that didn’t get answered during the hour-long presentation. He, of course, answered in his inimitable style.
Ethan Boldt: In the 21st century, what will be the biggest challenges copywriters face in terms of running their businesses? What kind of challenges do you face today that you didn’t in years past?
Herschell Gordon Lewis: The multiplicity of media, and the huge increase in competition, emphasizes reality: We copywriters have to be salespeople, not poets. Choice of fonts is unlimited. Almost-instant analysis of results is both a blessing and a curse. The professional welcomes the future; the dilettante fears it.
EB: How does paragraph structure play into good copy?
HGL: Paragraph structure is a key element in determining ease of readership. For effective letter-writing, paragraphs should have a maximum of seven lines. Some can be a single word. Long, ponderous paragraphs tell the reader, “This is going to be tough slogging.” For no reason other than laziness or ignorance, effectiveness diminishes.
EB: How important will the back of the outer be in the future?