Tim Ikels - Creator, Publisher, Marketer

The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert: Raw Copywriting Truths

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Forget the copywriting rulebook. If you want to write words that sell, study The Boron Letters. These aren’t some polished marketing guide. They’re blunt, real-world lessons written from a prison cell by the legendary direct response copywriter, Gary Halbert.

Who the heck was Gary Halbert?

Halbert wasn’t your buttoned-up ad man. He was a rule-breaker with a knack for turning words into cash.

His campaigns - remember the “Coat of Arms” letter? - made millions.

His approach? Understand what people really want, focus on a killer offer, and write with a conversational punch.

The Boron Letters: Unfiltered and Effective

These letters, written to Halbert’s youngest son, are pure gold.

No fluff, just actionable advice:

Why The Boron Letters are a must-read

They’re honest. They’re bold. And most importantly, they work.

Halbert’s letters show:

What to do with all this wisdom

Don’t just read the letters, use them:

  1. Own your voice: Generic copy is forgettable. Let your true self shine through.
  2. Know your “A-Pile”: Who’s your perfect customer? What keeps them up at night?
  3. Show, don’t tell: Paint vivid pictures with stories, not just bullet points.
  4. Craft killer headlines: Write titles that demand attention or pique unstoppable curiosity.
  5. Close with confidence: Tell your reader exactly what to do next.

The Boron Letters prove that persuasive writing doesn’t have to be boring. It can be rebellious, effective, and wildly profitable.

If you want words that work, start with Gary Halbert’s unconventional wisdom.

Let his brazen spirit fuel your writing journey!

All Of Gary Halbert’s Boron Letters (In Correct Order)

Chapter 1 - Start With Your Body

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/BoronLetterCh1.htm

Summary: Halbert drops in with a curveball - his first letter isn’t about snappy headlines or killer offers. It’s about getting yourself in peak physical condition.

Why? Because a strong, healthy body fuels a strong mind, and you’ll need that mental edge to write copy that kicks ass. He pushes running, exercise, and even fasting to clear the cobwebs.

This chapter is about investing in yourself. Don’t expect marketing magic to happen if you’re sluggish and unfocused. Halbert’s message is clear: your body is the foundation of everything else you’ll achieve, writing included.

Remarkable: Halbert’s in prison, yet instead of complaining, his first word is about self-improvement. That’s a mindset shift worth stealing.

Chapter 2 - Prioritize Your Health, Ditch the Distractions

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/BoronLetterCh2.htm

Summary: Halbert continues his emphasis on physical health. He talks about specific foods he believes aid in mental clarity, pushing fruits and even periods of fasting. Sounds a bit fringe, but his main point is clear: garbage in, garbage out. To think sharply - which is essential for great copy – you’ve got to fuel your body well.

This chapter also gets into ditching distractions. Halbert’s in prison, so his distractions are obvious. For us, it’s email notifications, social media, the endless noise of modern life. His message: if you want to do deep work like writing persuasive copy, you need blocks of uninterrupted focus.

Remarkable: Halbert’s not afraid to be prescriptive. He tells you what to eat, how to fast - you might disagree, but this boldness forces you to re-examine your own habits.

Chapter 3 - Independence Over Everything

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/BoronLetterCh3.htm

Summary: This chapter takes a turn. Halbert gets philosophical, hammering home the importance of self-reliance and a fiercely independent mindset. Forget relying on others, hoping for handouts, or blaming your circumstances. You’ve got to own your success… and your failures.

This mindset is vital for copywriters. The market is fickle. Clients can be demanding. It’s easy to get discouraged. Halbert’s message: don’t make excuses. Cultivate that inner drive that refuses to quit, no matter what challenge pops up.

Remarkable: Halbert gets brutally honest about his own failings. He talks about entitlement and a victim mentality. This isn’t sunshine and rainbows - it’s a gut check about the attitude you bring to your work.

Chapter 4 - Build Those Biceps (and Your Reputation)

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter4.htm

Summary: Halbert dives into physique again, but this time the focus shifts to building strong arms. He sees this as practical - you need that strength - but also a symbol. Strong arms command respect, both in prison and the world at large.

This translates to the copywriter too: you build your reputation through results, not empty promises.

This chapter is about backing up your sales pitch with substance. Halbert warns against being a “blowhard” - all talk, no action. He pushes delivering value, building a track record, and letting your work speak louder than your words.

Remarkable: Halbert gets brutally honest about the “weakling” mentality and how it undermines you. He’s not saying be a meathead, but there’s power in refusing to be pushed around - literally and figuratively.

Chapter 5 - It’s All About the Markets

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter5.htm

Summary: Halbert shifts gears and gets laser-focused on what matters most as a copywriter: understanding your markets. Forget fancy writing tricks or the latest techniques. If you don’t know who you’re selling to and what makes them tick, you’re sunk.

He hammers home the idea of becoming a “student of markets.” This means obsessively reading what your target audience reads, joining their conversations, and truly understanding their problems, desires, and lingo. Empathy is your secret weapon.

Remarkable: Halbert’s message is timeless. Trends change, but human nature doesn’t. Investing time in truly knowing your market will pay dividends far beyond any specific copywriting tactic.

Chapter 6 - Your Hunger is Your Advantage

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter6.htm

Summary: Halbert comes back to his core concept of the “starving crowd.” Forget trying to appeal to everyone. Find the niche groups desperate for what you have to offer. That passionate hunger is what will fuel your success as a copywriter.

This chapter is a mindset shift. It’s about identifying those untapped opportunities where people are practically begging for a solution. He pushes you to be resourceful, to think outside the box, and find those pockets of intense desire, even if the markets seem small or unusual.

Remarkable: Halbert gets specific, talking about lists and how understanding them helps you target those “starving crowds.” This is where the big money is made - precision beats mass marketing every time.

Chapter 7 - Know Your List, Know Your Results

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter7.htm

Summary: Halbert doubles down on the importance of lists - specifically, lists of proven buyers. These are your golden ticket.

People who’ve already spent money in your niche are way more likely to spend again. Forget chasing random prospects; focus your energy here.

This chapter is about ruthlessly prioritizing where you spend your time and effort. Halbert breaks down concepts like recency, frequency, and the dollar amount spent. Understanding these factors helps you pinpoint your most promising leads.

Remarkable: Halbert’s bluntness cuts through the noise. He’s not afraid to call out the “shotgun” approach to marketing, where people scatter their efforts to no avail. He demands focused, strategic action.

Chapter 8 - Work Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter8.htm

Summary: Halbert drops all pretense of strategy and gets into the nitty-gritty of mindset. Some days, you’ll be fired up and ready to write. Other days, it’ll feel like pulling teeth. He says push through anyway. Consistency is king.

This chapter is about discipline over inspiration. Halbert’s message: treat writing like a job, even when it feels tough. Show up, set a timer, and grind it out. Don’t wait for the perfect moment - it might never come.

Remarkable: He cuts through the romantic notion of the “tortured artist.” Success, in Halbert’s world, comes from showing up and doing the work, plain and simple.

Chapter 9 - The Headline is Everything (And So Is the Offer)

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter9.htm

Summary: Halbert gets back to brass tacks copywriting. He says a killer headline is often what makes or breaks a promotion. Your headline needs to be a promise. It’s got to grab attention, pique curiosity, and make your reader crave more.

But he doesn’t stop there. Halbert emphasizes that a killer offer is equally important. He talks about using bundles, guarantees, and bonuses to drive a no-brainer decision for your “starving crowd.” Make it irresistible.

Remarkable: Halbert uses a simple framework for brainstorming headlines that still holds up today. It’s a useful tool to start generating those attention-grabbing ideas.

Chapter 10 - Get Moving, Start Now

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter10.htm

Summary: Halbert gets a bit philosophical and urges you to take action. He knows a lot of people will read his letters, get inspired… and then do nothing. He pushes readers to actually start applying the lessons, not just soak up knowledge passively.

This chapter is a kick in the pants. It’s about ditching excuses, breaking down big goals into small tasks, and just getting started. Halbert isn’t afraid to be blunt - he calls out procrastination and the tendency to overthink.

Remarkable: He talks about “movement” as a way to build momentum. Take a small step, then another, and another. It’s about building the habit of action, which is often the hardest part for aspiring copywriters.

Chapter 11 - Make Your Letter Look Like News

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter11.htm

Summary: Halbert dives into the nitty-gritty of direct mail. He wants his sales letter to have the immediacy of a telegram. He uses a plain, casual format that doesn’t feel “salesy.” His goal is to make it feel like a personal message, not a mass-produced ad.

This chapter gets tactical. Halbert talks about specific formatting choices: the date at the top, handwritten-style notes, even the dirt smudge. It’s about making his letter stand out in the mailbox and building trust with the reader.

Remarkable: Halbert’s willingness to experiment is refreshing. He ignores the standard sales letter templates. This reminds us that there’s no single “right” way - find what works for your audience and message.

Chapter 12 - Grab Attention, Create Urgency

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter12.htm

Summary: Halbert continues with direct mail tactics, this time focusing on grabbing attention from the first moment. The envelope, that first impression, is key. He gets creative, talking about unusual sizes, colors, even scents to make his letter stand out.

This chapter also gets into building urgency. Why should someone act now? Halbert uses tactics like limited-time offers, deadlines, and scarcity to nudge people off the fence and drive immediate action.

Remarkable: Halbert’s willingness to be bold is contagious. He shows that “out of the box” often gets the best results. Sometimes making a splash matters more than following conventional wisdom.

Chapter 13 - The Envelope’s Job

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter13.htm

Summary: Halbert doubles down on the importance of the envelope. Its sole purpose? Get opened. Everything else is irrelevant if your reader tosses your mail unopened. That’s where your time and effort should be focused.

This chapter is about understanding human psychology. What grabs attention in a crowded mailbox? How do you use teasers, curiosity, and even a little controversy to pique a reader’s interest and demand that your letter gets opened?

Remarkable: Halbert’s message is timeless. Even in the digital age, this core idea still applies. How do you cut through the relentless flood of emails, ads, and notifications to get people to actually read your message?

Chapter 14 - Add a “Baggie of Dirt” to Your Pitch

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter14.htm

Summary: Halbert shifts gears again, talking about unique attention grabbers that tie back to the product or service he’s selling. He shares how he sold Florida real estate by attaching little baggies of dirt to his pitch. This unconventional approach sticks, becoming a conversation starter.

This chapter is about making your marketing tangible. It’s more memorable to see, touch, or even smell an example than just reading dry text. Halbert pushes you to think outside the box and find a real-world way to make your message stand out.

Remarkable: Halbert doesn’t care if you think it’s silly. If it works and makes you money, embrace it! He’s about ditching the generic and creating memorable moments.

Chapter 15 - It’s All About Building Your Pile

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter15.htm

Summary: Halbert comes back to a core concept: building up stacks of marketing materials he calls “piles.” This means gathering testimonials, case studies, success stories… anything that proves the value of your product or service.

This chapter is about leveraging social proof. People trust what other people say, even more than what you say about yourself. Halbert pushes you to gather hard evidence that removes doubt and builds confidence in your potential customers.

Remarkable: Halbert stresses that creating these “piles” should be a priority from day one. Don’t wait until you have a big success - document the small wins along the way and build that persuasive arsenal.

Chapter 16 - The Power of AIDA

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter16.htm

Summary: Halbert introduces one of the most fundamental copywriting frameworks: AIDA. It stands for:

This chapter is about the structure of persuasion. Halbert breaks down how to move a reader through these stages with your sales letter, ensuring they end up taking the action you want.

Remarkable: AIDA is timeless because it taps into basic human psychology. While modern copywriting uses many variations, this simple framework remains a potent foundation.

Chapter 17 - Don’t Be a Know-it-All, Be a Copywriter

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter17.htm

Summary: Halbert drops a truth bomb - to be a great copywriter, you have to swallow your pride. Instead of trying to show off your cleverness, write in the plain, conversational language of your target market. Match their lingo, their style, even their level of skepticism.

This chapter is about empathy and connection. Forget fancy words and complex structures. Halbert urges you to write like you’re talking to a friend over coffee, building trust and rapport through simple, relatable language.

Remarkable: He’s not afraid to admit his own early copywriting was way too clever for its own good. This humility serves as a great reminder that sometimes the most effective writing is the least showy.

Chapter 18 - The One-Sentence Magic Bullet

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter18.htm

Summary: Halbert focuses on what he calls the “one-sentence magic bullet.” This is a punchy, benefit-driven sentence that sums up exactly what your offer will do for the reader. Think of it as your sales pitch distilled into its most potent form.

This chapter is about clarity and focus. There’s no space for fluffy language or vague promises. Halbert demands a single sentence that instantly tells you: what’s in it for me?

Remarkable: Halbert uses a real-world example of his own successful “magic bullet” to illustrate its power. This adds credibility - it’s not just a concept, he proves it drives results.

Chapter 19 - You Only Have a Split Second to Make an Impression

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter19.htm

Summary: Halbert dives into the power of first impressions. He knows you’ve got milliseconds to grab someone’s attention, so your ad copy better be on point. People make snap judgments, and those initial feelings can make or break your marketing efforts.

This chapter is about design that compels. Forget fancy jargon or clever wordplay. Halbert says your ad needs to be visually crisp, clean, and inviting. Think clear headlines, easy-to-read fonts, and an overall layout that makes people want to lean in and learn more.

Remarkable: Halbert reminds us that even bad design can be effective - if it stands out enough to get noticed. He’s all about breaking through the clutter, even if it means being a bit bold or unconventional.

Chapter 20 - Know When to Shut Up

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter20.htm

Summary: Halbert shifts gears, reminding us that sometimes the best strategy is to know when not to push your agenda. If someone’s giving you a hard no, he advocates for respecting their decision - pushing too hard can damage your reputation long-term.

This chapter is about being smart and preserving relationships. Even if it means losing a sale in the short term, it could save you headaches and open doors to future opportunities. Halbert advocates for maintaining integrity and treating prospects with respect.

Remarkable: As a famous copywriter, you’d expect Halbert to be about hard sales at all costs. Instead, he preaches a balanced approach that builds long-term trust over short-sighted gains.

Chapter 21 - It’s All About the Offer

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter21.htm

Summary: Halbert comes back to a core theme: the offer is everything. You can have mediocre copy, but if your offer is irresistible, people will still bite. He focuses on crafting offers that pack value and reduce any risk for your customer.

This chapter is about making your product or service a no-brainer. Halbert pushes us to think beyond just the core product. Layer on bonuses, guarantees, and anything that sweetens the deal and makes the decision easy for your “starving crowd.”

Remarkable: Halbert urges us to test different offers ruthlessly. Don’t get stuck in your ways - what works today might fizzle tomorrow. Stay agile and experiment to find that sweet spot that drives maximum sales.

Chapter 22 - Read Your Copy Out Loud (And Polish Those Rough Spots)

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter22.htm

Summary: Halbert gets practical with a copywriting technique that’s as simple as it is powerful. He wants you to read your work aloud. This forces you to stumble over awkward sentences, spot repetitive words, and find those areas that feel clunky when spoken.

This chapter is about refining your writing until it flows. Halbert believes that great copywriting should sound conversational, almost like you’re talking to a friend. Reading aloud makes those areas that need improvement glaringly obvious.

Remarkable: He also advocates for copying great writing by hand and reading those ads aloud too. This helps internalize the rhythm and cadence of successful copywriting - it’s like cross-training your copywriting muscles.

Chapter 23 - “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano…”

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter23.htm

Summary: Halbert throws us a curveball with a chapter title inspired by an old, cheesy ad. The point is not about pianos, but the headline’s promise - even a total beginner can achieve astonishing results quickly. He applies this idea to marketing, urging us to craft headlines with similar audacious promises.

This chapter is about harnessing the power of aspiration. Your headline isn’t just about the product, it’s about the transformed life it promises. Halbert wants you to tap into deep desires for quick fixes, effortless solutions, and the instant gratification your market craves.

Remarkable: He acknowledges that audacious headlines can feel over the top. But that’s exactly why they work - they cut through the noise by promising something amazing, even if there’s a healthy dose of skepticism involved.

Chapter 24 - Tell It Like People Talk

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter24.htm

Summary: Halbert comes back to the importance of using conversational language. He says to write the way normal people talk - not with corporate jargon or academic stiffness. This builds a connection with the reader because it feels authentic, not salesy.

This chapter is about empathy and mirroring your audience. Ditch the fancy thesaurus and complex sentences. Instead, use the same kind of slang, contractions, and casual tone that your ideal customer would use in a conversation.

Remarkable: Halbert even admits to using grammatical “errors” sometimes if they help make the copy feel more natural. He prioritizes clear communication over stuffy correctness.

Chapter 25 - Know Your Limits and Recharge

Direct Access: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Boron/TChapter25.htm

Summary: Halbert gets vulnerable. He shares an incident with a fellow inmate and admits that he’s feeling “off.” He’s hungry, stressed, missing loved ones - it’s a bad combo, especially in prison. This leads to mistakes and conflict.

This chapter is about self-awareness and taking care of yourself first. When you’re not at your best, your judgment suffers, your interactions sour, and that negativity snowballs. Halbert knows he needs to step back before things get worse.

Remarkable: He connects this to success in the outside world. Halbert admits that even during his most successful periods, he’d retreat to recharge when he felt off. It’s crucial in any high-stakes environment to take care of your mental and physical health.

Stay awesome,

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