For a copywriter, swipe files can be pure gold.
They can reduce the amount of time you need to think about projects, give you new insights and ideas, help you become a better copywriter by copying them via hand or typing it out and studying it, and can give you a behind-the-scenes look at how that copy was produced if you know how to do it right.
But today I want to talk to you about using a swipe file ethically and legally.
I don’t know if you know this, but you can actually be sued for plagiarism if you swipe something that’s TOO similar. So let me show you how NOT to get sued!
Study The Structure
There is a structure to every piece of copy and as a professional copywriter you should be able to spot it. For example, are they using the AIDA formula? Are they using the “tell them what you’re about to tell them, tell them, then told them what you told them” formula? Or something different?
You can also look at things like how they set up the subheads or how the design is laid out and simply modify what they have and MODEL it (don’t copy) to your own sales copy.
Study The Emotions
When you’re studying swipe files before doing a project, the best thing to look for is what emotions they’re hitting on. For example, if you’re selling a weight loss product you’re most likely going to be hitting on the “vanity” emotion constantly.
That’s a given…but what other emotions are they evoking that seemed to have turned out great for that copywriter?
Are their any fears or frustrations they’ve themed that copy on which produced high converting copy?
Here’s an example of this:
The other day I got a promotion and the headline read “Who Wants To Live To Be 100?”
Now I kept that file and the next time one comes in from that company I’ll look to see if it hits upon that same type of emotion – fear of dying young or the promise of growing old while still in great health (depending on your own perspective of the subject)
Study Each Section
There are 4 main sections in copy.
The lead copy
The body copy
You can break these down even further, but these are the 4 main parts. What I like to do is separate each of these sections and study them each individually.
Then create a separate folder with something like “awesome closings” at the top so you know you have a file of closing copy that you like.
If you model just one part of the sales letter, but from a few different sales letters – that will greatly reduce your risk of looking like you “stole” the copy.
What You Need To Notice…
Now I want you to notice something.
Did you see that I’m NOT telling you to model the exact phrases they’re using in the copy?
Instead of copying the exact words off that swipe file, just model the ideas, emotions and thought-process of the person who wrote that copy.
(And I know it was into grey territory with the separating sections idea, but you still wouldn’t be swiping the exact words)
I personally don’t think modeling off other people’s copy is a HUGE disaster because the majority of people are flattered to see their copy being swiped…but you still need to look out for yourself for those “just in case” times.
Just remember, instead of swiping the actual copy, swipe the ideas, emotions and thought processes and you’ll not only write better copy on that job, you’ll write it better forever!
A blog subscriber recently emailed me in response to my article I wrote about learning about direct marketing without ever reading a book.
In that article I talked about how you should be reading and handwriting successful direct response ads, but I never actually told you how to do it!
So now I’m going to.
What I’ve found is the absolute best way to do this is to simply find the top companies in the niche you want to get into, and buy a product from them.
For example I went and bought a bottle of multivitamins from Julian Whitaker from Health & Healing. A few other companies in the health niche are Agora and Healthy Directions.
I know one for the financial niche is The Oxford Club. One from self improvement is Nightengale Conent or Centerpointe (which, if you want to start meditating, is the absolute BEST way to do it).
Once you buy a product, they’ll start sending you direct mail all the time. The best part is, these are multimillion dollar companies spending tens of thousands of dollars on copywriters so what you’re seeing in the mail are usually very powerful.
All you have to do once they start coming is to simply look for duplicates. If you get the same thing twice in a row – it’s a winner.
Another thing you can do is look through the past 6 months or so of a few magazines. If you find an ad that’s been used consistently…it’s working and is a good one to be copied.
A Few Resources To Bookmark
Another good resource is www.HardToFindAds.com, which contains dozens or even hundreds of ads you can copy for free – I think their is a paid membership as well.
Clayton Makepeace also has a swipe file section on his website at .
Ryan Healy is nice enough to give us a few ad copy samples to swipe.
**They all open new windows**
So feel free to head on over to those websites, print out some of the ads, and start rewriting.
Another Option If You Hate Writing
I’ll be honest, I don’t hand-write ads as much as I should. I absolutely hate handwriting. I still do once in awhile, but not nearly as much as I should.
One thing I like doing though is going very slowly through an ad and simply going line by line, trying to figure out WHY that line is in there.
Does it create credibility, proof, trust, etc.?
Is it necessary to lead into another sentence?
Does it provide necessary information you need to know to either expand on a concept they already talked about or set up the framework for a new topic?
Or, you could simply type the ads out. But if you do it – again do it line by line. The major factor in handwriting (I believe) that makes it so powerful is that since you’re doing it slowly, you get to think about each and every line. That’s why I do what I just told you.
So if you’re going to type…just type slow.
So those are a bunch of different ways to get started re-writing very successful ads and learn from the masters. If you have any other resources I didn’t mention here, just comment below and let the rest of us benefit from your knowledge!