WWJCD – What Would John Caples Do?

Recently, I was in need of some copywriting inspiration and whenever that happens one of the places I turn to is my library of classic marketing and business books.  For years, I’ve collected first edition and classic marketing and business books and some of my most coveted books were written by the legendary John Caples.


I’m sure most of you know John was the brains and copywriting behind the famous ad for the U.S. School of Music first used in 1925. The picture above is an original 1925 ad hanging in my office.

If you have never read a John Caples book and you consider yourself a student of marketing and copywriting, you’re missing out.  Time and time again, I’ve gotten powerful and profitable ideas from reading Caples, so much so many times I ask myself – what would John Caples do?


On this particular day, I pulled a first edition copy of Making Ads Pay, published in 1957.  When I bought this book, it was not readily available, but recently the publisher re-released it and you can buy it on Amazon.com for all of $10.20.

The table of contents alone is worthy of your study:

  • Seven Steps to Successful Advertising
  • How I Wrote My First Advertisement
  • How to Write Story Copy
  • They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano
  • They Grinned When the Waiter Spoke to Me in French
  • Some Principles Learned in Mail Order Advertising
  • An Ad That Failed and One That Didn’t
  • Which Appeals Succeed?……. Which Fail?
  • How to Think Up Ideas
  • How to Write Headlines
  • Ten Ways to Write the First Paragraph
  • How to Write Advertising Copy
  • Ten Ways to Make Ads Believable
  • Six Ways to Prove It’s a Bargain
  • Nine Ways to Make It Easy to Buy
  • Six Ways to Make People Buy Now
  • A Check List for Making Ads Pay

If those chapters don’t get you thinking, I thought I would share some of John’s wisdom since it’s so timeless and essential for all business owners marketing in 2014.  The simplicity of these seven rules might make you smile, but you cannot knock their effectiveness.

John’s book starts and ends with these Seven Steps to Successful Advertising and I share them here to help you with your own marketing and advertising (these are John’s italics):

  1. Stop prospects.
  2. Hold prospects.
  3. Create desire.
  4. Prove the price is right.
  5. Prove it is not a gyp.
  6. Make it easy to act.
  7. Give the prospect a reason to act now.

Does it get any simpler than this?

PROFIT TRIGGER: If you were to make sure every direct mail piece, sales letter, brochure, flyer, etc. you create contains all or most of these seven steps, you would greatly improve your marketing results.

In my copy of Making Ads Pay, on page 234, John wraps up his book by offering this checklist in which he gives multiple examples of each of the seven tips.

  • Get attention.  This is usually done by stating in a few words a believable promise to the right audience. Or by showing a picture of the reward, which your product offers people.
  • Hold attention.  This is done with subheads or sub-illustrations or with a first paragraph which contains one of the attention-devices described in chapter 11.
  • Create desire. This is done by piling up benefits in the copy you write, as described in chapter 12.
  • Make it believable. This is done by including specific figures, testimonials, guarantees, etc.
  • Prove it’s a bargain. This is done by talking about price reductions and building up the value of your proposition.
  • Make it easy to buy. This is done by telling where to buy and how to order.
  • Give a reason to buy now. This is done by including special offers and rewards for promptness.

Print this out and use it the next time you create a marketing piece. For me and what I was looking for the reminder to “show a picture of the reward” prompted me to make a much needed change to a marketing piece I was working on.  Thanks John!

If you have a particular classic book you turn to time and time again, share it with everybody below!

About Mike Capuzzi

Mike is a publisher, Amazon # best-selling author, and coach for business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders looking to stand out from the competition by authoring, publishing and leveraging short, helpful books. He is the author of 19 books, including two Amazon #1 Best Sellers. Learn more about his publishing opportunities at BiteSizedBooks.com.


  1. Chuck on March 6, 2014 at 8:23 am

    My go-to is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. (probably read it 5x) Great post Mike. Thanks!.

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 8:32 am

      Chuck, indeed another classic. Looking at it on my bookshelf right now. Thanks!

  2. Mark G. on March 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Great article!

    I have another classic, which I actually found at Half Price Books in Dallas for $5.99. I could not believe my eyes! …


    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 8:58 am

      Very cool Mark. It’s fun when you can find a classic like that for a bargain.

  3. Gerald on March 6, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Stuck for a headline?

    Make sure you have a copy of ‘How to Write a Good Advertisement’ by Victor Schwab.

    Nice post – I agree with you about Caples.


    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 8:54 am

      Gerald – thanks and nice to hear from you! Of course, we have to mention Drayton’s books, “Commonsense Direct and Interactive Marketing” and “How to Write Sales Letters That Sell!” Tell Drayton I said Hello!

  4. James Daniel on March 6, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for the recommendation Mike…I love JC’s ‘Tested Advertising Methods’, so just bought ‘Making Ads Pay’. Great post:)

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

      James, if you can, get the earlier versions of Tested Advertising Methods. I have editions from the 30’s, 40’s and 60’s. They are a different book from the one currently available on Amazon.

  5. Paul on March 6, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I’ll check it out.Getting ready to read Tested Advertising Methods again. GREAT book!

  6. Edwin on March 6, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Mike I actually bought this book you mentioned a while ago. Something told me a few weeks ago to pull it form the shelf and start studying it. This post is a second reminder. I will not wait for third one. Thanks for the post.

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Good for you Edwin. Enjoy the book!

  7. Carrie Lee on March 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Mike, The book that I like especially if I get stuck while writing a story to sell is “Tell to Win.” I also find that books such as “Convince them in 90 Seconds or less” by Nicholas Boothman give me different perspectives about what it takes to be convincing in general and some of the principles can and should be used when writing. Such as triggering the audiences imagination.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Carrie. I will have to check those out.

  8. Chuck DeBettignies on March 6, 2014 at 10:47 am


    Excellent! Thanks for putting this together.

    I wasn’t aware of this book and will order it immediately.

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

      You will enjoy it Chuck. Thanks for the note.

  9. Craig Valine on March 6, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Mike, love your posts. Thank you. Just realized I have not read my JC books in a while. Read Making Ads Pay 19 years ago. It’s time to revisit and read again through and through. Hope all is well. – Craig

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 6, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Craig – thanks. Keep an eye out on your mailbox (the one out front). I think you’re gonna love what you get!

  10. Edwin on March 6, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Got my first newsletter in the mail today. One word….. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! I had already downloaded the electronic file but I abosolutely love mail!

    • Mike Capuzzi on March 7, 2014 at 7:58 am

      Thanks Edwin – glad you like it!

  11. Tommy Pettijohn on March 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Great post. You’re right about the table of contents, a world-class education on writing Headlines right there!

    I just finished Breakthrough Advertising for the first time and was blown away… I’ve been seeing the concepts in that book show up in some of the best-selling stuff online and it looks like this is the next book I need to devour.

    It’s amazing how relevant these “old” books are to this day, but human psychology doesn’t change!

  12. Ode to David Ogilvy - Mike Capuzzi on May 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

    […] you know I am a fan of the classic copywriters and ad-men of the 20th century. Gentlemen like John Caples, Vic Schwab, Eugene Schwartz and David Ogilvy, which is why when I needed inspiration for a recent […]

Leave a Comment