What do I have to do to get you on all fours?

I’m working on a call to action and need your help.

I’m looking to create something that works every single time, but I’m struggling.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. I open the wicker basket drawer and loudly rustle some of the bags inside.
  1. Then I go to the cupboard, grab a glass, and pour myself a drink of water.
  1. After I’ve drunk the water, I grab my coat from the back of the door and jangle my keys as I put them in my pocket.

It’s not perfect, but I reckon it’s working about 33% of the time so far.

It needs work.

What do you reckon?

What would get you panting in excitement on all fours…

… if you were a dog?

– – – 

I know it’s hardly an Indiana Jones-like quest, but I bloody hate going up the stairs and having to stir my dog for our morning wander.

That’s why I’m trying to build this Rube Goldberg/Pavlov-style routine that tells him:


… so he comes downstairs on his own.

Weird dog experiments to one side, I know a lot of folks worry about using “call to actions” or CTAs (cos I ain’t typing that out each time) in emails and social posts.

I get it. The CTA is the part that determines whether you cross over the “sleazy line” or not.

If you don’t include a crystal clear CTA, your readers are left wondering if you actually have something for sale. But…

CTA it up TOO much… and you’ll put people off and be labelled a sleazeball for the next 285 days.

It’s a fine balance.

One of the best ways of finding a happy medium is by paying attention to how YOU react to CTAs.

Think about the last thing you bought from an email. What was it about the CTA that made you confidently reach for your wallet, rather than the unsubscribe button?

Ever been turned off by a CTA so sleazy you wanted to scrub your eyeballs with Dettol after reading it?

Stop for a second and ask WHY.

Slowly, you’ll get a clearer image of where your sleazy/non-sleazy line is… and what you need to do to be on the right side of it.

Of course, I’d be an imbecile if I didn’t point out that crafting non-sleazy CTAs is something I cover in “Sent.” – my simple “day-by-day” email writing course that shows you how to write an email your subscribers love… and actually sounds like you wrote it.

It’s NOT about complicated copywriting techniques and there are NO copy and paste templates.

(Actually, that’s a lie. There is a BONUS template. But you’ll have to click the link to see what it is)

if you want to discover a way of facing the blank page and writing an email that asks for the sale WITHOUT needing a 3-hour shower to get all the ick off you…

… you might like it.

Don’t take my word for it though… click this 100% sleaze-free link and see for yourself!

Fair warning – after 30th November “Sent.” is going back in the vault and I have no idea when it’ll be coming out again.

If you have any questions about this…

… or any insights into how to make my dog walking life easier, then hit reply and ask. 

John Holt

P.S. Even though I created “Sent.” for business owners with ZERO copywriting skills, and NOT for copywriters…

I’ve still had a fair few copywriters jump on the course.

One, a lovely chap called Radu, sent me a message the other day:

“Hey John, just wanted to say your email writing course is fantastic. I bought it a week ago and I love how detailed you go each day. 

“Honestly, the way you’ve set it all up is fantastic, I think it’s just right. I know I’m not a business owner. But I love how you set up the checklist, the email about emotions that one was really, really good. 

“It’s funny how you mentioned Dagenham, I live there. :)”

(I know I didn’t need to include the “Dagenham” part, but it’s been a while since I’ve done anything “open loop-y”, so thought I’d keep it. Besides, you REALLY wanna know now, don’t you?)

If you’ve already got an approach for effortlessly cranking out emails your subscribers love, you don’t need “Sent.”.

If you haven’t, then check this out and see if it’s a good fit for you… while you still have time.

The absolutely true (zero bullshit) story of how I lost 35lbs in 2.4 seconds

When you’re trying to be healthy and track your weight, there’s only one thing worse than having no weighing scales…

 And that’s having scales that give you a different reading every time you step on them.

Let me give you a quick peek into some of the things I’ve recently been saying in my bathroom…

“220lbs? That can’t be right. Let me try that again…”

“196? The floor must be wonky. I’ll try on this side of the room…”

“204? WTF?!”

(Memo to self – if I ever release a diet plan, I’m calling it “204? WTF?!”)

– – – 

When our old digital scales died a death, I opted for a set of mechanical ones.

My thinking was they’d be reliable and I wouldn’t have to fiddle around with batteries.

Turns out I was half right…

The readings varied WILDLY every time I stepped on the damned thing.

I was morbidly obese one minute… malnourished the next.

I don’t think I hit the same number twice.

I knew there was a problem, but… I had no idea what that problem was.

The scales themselves are pretty small, so I can’t be standing on the wrong bit.

So I asked the wife to have a look as I stepped on again…

“210.”, she said.

“Really?” I replied, looking down, and that’s when we realised what the problem was.

As soon as I tilted my body slightly to look, the reading jumped to 216.

Looking down increased my body mass by 3%!

So I tilted my head back as much as I could.

“What’s it reading now?”, I yelled, clearly thinking I’d reached it back into another county.


I’d love to tell you that – being a fully grown adult, and realising this was fruitless – I stepped off the scales, put them back in their box, and carried on with my day.

Truth is, I spent the next 20 minutes seeing just how far I could take this.

After some limbering up, I found that if I alternated between my best Michael Jackson “Smooth Criminal” lean forward and my “you better stop there or your spine will shatter” Neo from “The Matrix” bullet-dodging tilt…

I could weigh anywhere between 160 and 240lbs.

If I was standing in any of the positions a normal human being would stand on a set of scales, it still varied by about 35lbs.

The more forward I put my feet or leaned, the heavier I got.

If I wanted to feel light and justify a cheat day week month? All I had to do was inch back a bit.

Long story short, the scales are facking useless.

It’s all well and good looking at metrics, but unless you know what’s going on behind the scenes, it can bite you in the derriere.

The recent fuss over iOS 15 and email open rates is a great example.

If you didn’t know Apple Mail now effectively “opens” many emails you send, you might be tempted to think your recent boost in open rates was down to you finally discovering a subject line formula that works.

And you’d be wrong.

You could make some really bad decisions based on faulty assumptions like that.

Finding the right metric is one thing, but KNOWING it’s being measured correctly is another.

If you want a deep dive into email marketing metrics, including detailed and expansive scientific breakdowns, numerical charts, schematic diagrams, and statistical analysis of the most important variables…

Then stay the hell away from my email writing course, “Sent.”.

Because I don’t touch any of that stuff.

Instead, I try and give you a simple approach to writing emails your subscribers want to read.

Because here’s the thing…

It doesn’t matter what metric you use, or what iOS 1,236 has in store…

If you can’t write an email your subscribers WANT to read… none of it matters.

You can find out more about “Sent.” by clicking any of these complicated statistical analysis phrases I Googled to make myself feel clever:

Ordinal Variable

Denying the antecedent

Poisson Distribution

Just so you know – “Sent.” is only available until the end of November. Next year the price will be higher.

I haven’t got time to go into this here, but statistical analysis shows time and time again that when prices go up… you pay more. 

Interested in discovering how to write better emails that sell your stuff before I jack up the price?

Click here to check out “Sent.”

John Holt 

P.S. There IS an award for being the first email copywriter to use the words “Poisson Distribution” as a call-to-action, right?

“Can I build an email list WITHOUT a lead magnet?”

Someone asked me this question recently. Before I answer, let’s look at WHY building a list without a free bribe feels like such a formidable challenge.

Because it DOES, doesn’t it?

I mean, how many people do you know who DON’T try to butter you up with a PDF, video, or template to get you on their list?

(I’m choosing to ignore the far more important questions you should be asking, like: “Is having more subscribers REALLY the goal? Shouldn’t I be focusing on building a loyal fanbase of people who love me and my work?”

The answers are of course “No” and “Yes” respectively, but let’s gloss over that for now. Just remember I mentioned it and move on will you?)

If you take a step back – away from the world of online marketing for a second – you’ll see evidence everywhere that building an audience without a lead magnet is not only NOT a formidable challenge…It’s actually the norm.
How can you build an email list without a lead magnet?

How do newspapers get subscribers without a lead magnet?

How do YouTubers get subscribers without a lead magnet?

How does Apple have customers clamouring for the new iPhone before releasing any of the specs?

How do movie producers sell-out screenings for their next blockbuster before releasing a trailer?

When you take a wider look, the answer suddenly becomes clear.

You get subscribers by creating something people WANT.

You write great news stories… build awesome phones… make amazing movies…… or write good emails.

Want to build an email list of engaged and happy subscribers?

Write emails your people ENJOY reading.

Useful emails – ones they’re happy they opened.

The kind of emails they’d miss if you won the lottery tomorrow and packed it all in, so you could finally live the life of your dreams and buy a semi-detached house in Falkirk.

Just. Write. Good. Emails.

That’s how you build a happy list of subscribers without needing a lead magnet.

Now you might be thinking…

“I can see where this is going…“

He’s going to transition into a pitch for his email marketing course, ‘Sent.’.

“He’s going to say something like, ‘… and if you’re looking for a simple approach to writing good emails…’ or something like that.

“Then he’s probably going to ramp up the urgency by reminding me it’s only available for a few more days at its bargain price…

“I bet he also mentions the amazing testimonials on the sales page too – all from business owners like me who’ve used ‘Sent.’ to get more engagement and sales…

“… before rounding it all off by asking me to visit https://insertgaghere.com/sent/ before the deadline on 30th November.

“The bastard…”

You might think that…

… but you’d be wrong. 😉

Have a good weekend,

John Holt

A surprising side effect

One of the more surprising side effects of having an evergreen course is that I occasionally forget the bloody thing exists.

I got a message last week from a “Sent.” customer, saying they’d mentioned it to a few of their friends.

(Always a good sign when customers mention you to people they actually care about)

He also gave me a quote that was so damn awesome, I threw down my tuba and rushed to my laptop, so I could add it to the precious above-the-fold real estate on my sales page.

Here’s the quote:

“It’s the best course on email marketing I’ve done. Including the Shrimp one!”

So yeah… I have an email writing course.

But not for long.

Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn.

I’m popping “Sent.” back into my imaginary – but impenetrable – vault at the end of November.

Quite a few copywriters have taken the course and told me I’m insane for making it this cheap.

“You should be charging three figures for this”, they all said.

(Though sadly not all at the same time. That would’ve made for a potentially glorious barbershop quartet moment)

That’s why I’m giving you a quick heads up.

The next time I offer “Sent.”, I’m probably going to lift it into the three-figure category.

But you can still find it at its “insane” price here until the 30th of November:


If someone you love wants to write better emails, feel free to send them the link.

If someone you hate wants to write better emails, feel free to send them the link…

… NEXT YEAR. It’ll cost them more. 😉


Fancy a steaming hot cup of freshly brewed arse cappuccino?

I can’t be sure, but I think it was the “little horse’s tongue cleaning your butt” line that did it.

I was working on an email sequence for a bidet company.

(I was hoping that would give you complete context, but you probably still have questions)

My memory’s a little hazy, but I THINK we were given carte blanche when it came to humour.

Now, as a frequent visitor to “What the hell were you smoking when you wrote this?” country (I now have dual a passport), this delighted me no end.

I held nothing back in my first draft. I let my imagination go nuts and came up with all manner of weird gags related to the art of bottom buffing.

Anyway, turns out there’s carte blanche…

… and then there’s what I wrote.

I’m not one to boast (because someone as awesome at boasting as me shouldn’t have to), but…

I think I might have invented a new category of carte blanche-ness.

(I’m going to call it: “For the love of God, John. Is everything OK at home?”)

As devastated as I was about my “freshly brewed arse cappuccino” line not making the cut, my copy chief offered some hope:

“I’d much rather you go too far. It’s much easier to tone something down than force some personality into something dull.”

Thing is, I knew this already… I just didn’t think anyone else did.

It’s something I learned as a magician.

You see, it’s easy for a performer who can handle rough crowds to tone down their performance for a quieter audience.

But a quiet performer is gonna struggle to engage the rough crowd at a sports dinner or the heckling, violent, drunken madness that is the Wythenshawe Octogenarians Floristry Society.

This “down is easier than up” rule (The Gravity Principle?) is why I’m a big fan of writing shitty, brainstormy, throw-every-brain-fart-in-there first drafts.

During my first draft of anything, I throw in everything I think I MIGHT use – ideas, quotes, gags, whatever.

Selecting and deleting is so much easier than staring at a gap and wondering…

“How the hell am I gonna fill that?”

And you don’t have to worry about “killing your darlings”, as Stephen King wrote. Just copy any deleted ideas into Evernote, and save them for another email.

I suppose it comes down to which writing problem you’d rather have…

1) Too many ideas

2) Not enough ideas

And if you’re in camp number 1…

Here’s something you might like.

John Holt