Ben Settle

  • Book & Tabloid Newsletter Publisher
  • Email Supremacist
  • Alt-Copywriter
  • Software Investor
  • Pulp Novelist

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Came a “troll bait” question, but a good question all the same:

Ben, I might sound like an ape for asking this. But outside of selling to your own list, what kind of advertising have you done for companies? 
You almost never reference your own experiences or projects that you’ve worked on. Outside of Email Players, Berserker Mail and your app. 
It would be interesting to hear some past stuff you’ve worked on.
Happy trolling

There are many answers to this.

1. I spent the first 9 years up in this business doing client work.

Including for some of the savviest clients imaginable who taught me quite a bit. Sometimes I talk about lessons from those days in my emails, and in a series of trainings I created I use as premiums. But mostly, they lend themselves better to paid content where those lessons and stories can be told in the correct context.

2. The most valuable lessons I have learned are from my own ventures.

Where my own money & time (not a client’s) are on the line.

Where my own brand/reputation/credibility (not my client’s) are on the line.

And where I am forced to be a helluva lot more cunning, inventive, creative, and ambitious than if I have a client handing me a pre-qualified list of customers, offer, brand I can sell with, as well as check I get to cash whether my marketing/copywriting works or not.

3. I don’t trust freelancers who only tell client war stories

For one, almost all of the ones I see exaggerate (some more than others) just how much their “copy” had to do with a client’s sales. Email Players subscriber Ryan Healy wrote an email about this not long ago that I think should be enshrined on a wall somewhere.

I don’t necessarily blame copywriters for doing this sort of thing.

It’s just part of the game they have to play.

My favorite is a guy I once saw bragging about how an email campaign brought in “$500,000!”

Could almost hear the guy roaring & pounding his chest like King Kong when he typed it:


But I can assure you his “emails” did not bring in that $500k.

I’m sure they helped make the sales.

But the client’s gigantic list no-doubt built over time and at a great expense/testing, the hot offer, solid marketplace positioning, the well-known brand, the impeccable reputation, the benefits customers got from their prior offer(s) that gave a lot of those $500k in buyers a good experience well before hand, therefore making them far more likely to buy that next offer… and probably a hundred other variables had more to do with that $500k than the emails — no matter how well written or persuasive they were.

Ed Mayer’s classic 40/40/20 rule hasn’t changed much, in my opinion.

(40% is list, 40% is offer, only 20% is the creative)

Although I suspect it’s more like 50/30/20 nowadays.

Doesn’t really matter though.

Either way, I just assume all copywriter claims are tastefully & ethically embellished. The smart ones do it anyway, but without lying. Being overly humble is no way to get clients or make any kind of significant impact on a market place.

So it’s a balancing act.

It’s also why I couldn’t tell you how many sales my emails and copy brought in for clients.

I only know what clients have told me and have to take their word for it.

Like, for example, when writing the sales letters for Email Players subscriber Captain Chris Pizzo’s self defense offers. When tested, mine won handily. And the ones that weren’t tested and he just ran my stuff (he was easily my all-time favorite client) he always said they made a bundle. In one case the first day they ran a sales letter I wrote he said he and the CEO he hired went home early since so many sales came in.

Was that because of my “copy”?

Some of it.

But the lion’s share of the credit went to him for all the above reasons.

I got to effectively “parasite” off his prior successes.

At the same time, I have a video testimonial from one of the owners (Tim Erway) of the old Magnetic Sponsoring business, where a single sales letter I wrote brought in millions in direct sales for them, and probably tens of millions in ongoing and repeat sales.

Those were exact words.

How many millions or tens of millions?

I have no blessed idea.

But, I can tell you right now, MOST of those sales were ultimately because of things I had nothing to do with — including a super motivated customer base of hyper buying home business buyers, curated traffic brought in by guys like the late Jim Yaghi, Mike Dillard’s personality and marketing savviness, the team they had, their army of affiliates (many who used to go out of their way to shake my hand and thank me when I spoke at seminars — since that sales letter helped make them so much money) and a whole host of other factors giving me a nice tail wind.

Same when I worked in the golf niche.

Or when I wrote the ad for Ken McCarthy’s copywriting course.

And just about any other client I worked with.

So at the end of the day it’s all relative.

Plus, it’s also based on the goals of the project.
For example:

When I launched my latest book Markauteur last month, I was shooting for 50 sales. It’s such an esoteric book I would have considered that a successful launch. More than enough to pay for the printing (hard cover is not cheap to print, especially with the current supply chain and inflation specter hovering over my business), cover & interior design costs (I invested quite a lot in that too…), and the hours of time I spent on it where I could have been selling other stuff.

So to me, fifty sales would have been a great “base.”

Especially since that book will now become an upsell for other offers.

And, also, because I will be selling it again, for years to come — making the overall sales from the launch a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. Not to mention the offers embedded in the book which also make me ongoing sales, and then those books have embedded offers that will make me more sales for many years to go, and on and on.

But, I didn’t get 50 sales.

I got 94 sales, plus a healthy number of upsells.

That came out to about $65k in gross (not net) sales.

That is almost double what I would consider “successful” for an offer like that.

As you can see, those numbers are FAR from exaggerated guru-numbers — with all their embellished rounding things up, counting sales that haven’t yet happened but they project will, not to mention needing their own army of affiliates, JV’s, and back-scratching favors called in, while also probably getting a tsunami of refunds, suffering horrible merchant account fallout, brand damage, and the list goes on.

If you think that doesn’t happen I have a fake vaks to sell you.

It’s a tale as old as the direct marketing industry itself.

Anyway, so certainly my modest launch was not millions or tens of millions. Thus, you won’t see me pounding my chest about it like $500k launch guy. Even though, unless he had some kind of royalty deal in place (in which case my hat would go off to him for making a cunning deal that totally favors him — all the glory, none of the fallout), my 94 sales launch was mostly likely dramatically more profitable to my business than his launch emails were to his if all he got was a one-time or retainer fee.

So again, it’s all relative.

4. I was recently asked on a podcast how much money my copy and emails have made.

I told him I had no earthly idea.

Especially because of the above reasons.

I said the only sales I can 100% claim credit for are what have gone through my own cart.

In my case, as of the time of that interview, it was about $9.3 million.

That’s everything that’s gone through my cart from 2009 – end of 2022.

Doesn’t count anything from the 7 years before that.

(When I only used PayPal or something).

That also does not include whatever part I had in the tens of millions in sales from my various client projects, my software ventures, (where I write all the ad copy — emails and ads), the several dozen affiliate campaigns I’ve done in the last 21 years, the licensing deal I have with AWAI on my Ten Minute Workday product, the partnership deals I’ve made where I wrote all the copy and got paid on percentages and/or with a flat fee, and the list goes on.

It’d be impossible to calculate it one way or the other.

So while every Tom, Dick & Harry copywriter is making wild claims about being a $900 million copywriter!” or whatever the numbers are these days, even though their part in that $900 mil is most likely a small, minuscule pittance… your humble servant and daily email horror host is merely a lowly $9.3 million copywriter that I can 100% say is all of my own doing — and not anyone else.

Sorry if that disappoints the goo-roo fanboys.

If it does, they really should go haunt those other guys.

I got nothing apparently of value to share…

All right, so that’s the answer to her question.

Yes, I do talk about client stuff mostly in my paid offers.

But the vast majority of insights, lessons, strategies have mostly come from running my own offers, to my own lists, at my own expense… and not safely doing it at a client’s expense and business’s pre-built and pre-grown infrastructure of offers, buyers, leads, marketplace positioning, and brand recognition.

Including the insight taught in Email Players each month.

More on that here:

Ben Settle

Recently a friend and Email Players subscriber wanting to run for state Senator (not sure he wants me to name him or not) asked about what’s more important:

…the message itself or who delivers it?

Is this something you’ve explored and I am just not understanding what I am seeing? I’ve used it in the past to get through doors I can’t open but know someone who can. Tell me (or us through EP) more about this. I get the high level jist of it, am I over thinking it and need to keep it where it belongs at just a fundamental level, or is there more nuances I should be aware of?

The short answer:

Yes, the who is far more important.

Social proof, market place positioning, status, celebrity appeal, etc trump “writing.”

I’ve written lots about this.

And I would argue Status is #1 to everything.

A few examples:

1. Kim Kardashian

She has gotten paid upwards of $800k to tweet about a new brand.


For a friggin tweet.

And from what I hear, she’s helped launch many a brand that way.

Yet, you could go round up the 10 greatest copywriters who ever lived — Halbert, Kennedy, Carlton, Bencivenga, Caples, Schwartz, Makepeace, D’Anna, Nicholas, Sackheim… and any other greats — and then blackmail, extort, even force them at gunpoint to write the world’s most persuasive tweet for someone with the same audience but who is not Kim Kardashian and does not have her sex tape & reality TV show status, credibility, celebrity appeal, etc and probably not even come close to making that kind of dough.

2. Bill Burr’s “great man” bit about Arnold Schwartzldhidfkjhdheger

Where he says:

“But because he’s a great man, he had the balls to move to America, became famous for lifting weights. I lift weights. Nobody gives a shit. He lifts weights… “Aah, aah, aah!” Becomes super famous.”

i.e., if Bill Burr writes about lifting nobody cares.

If Arnold does, everyone reads it, even if it’s written in ancient Transylvanian with Dracula’s blood.

3. Warren Buffet

Email Players subscriber Gary Bencivenga once talked about how he had persuaded one of his clients in the investment market to buy a rival newsletter for one reason and one reason only that had absolutely nothing to do (far as I know) with the content of the newsletter.

The reason?

It had a testimonial — they dang near hid in their advertising — from Warren Buffet.

That one testimonial, with Gary’s copy, would have broke the industry.

But without the testimonial?

Even the world’s greatest living copywriter wouldn’t be able to work the same sales miracles.

So that’s my take on it.

Messenger > than the message.

I don’t like it anymore than anyone else probably does.

But much easier to win this game by aligning with reality than kicking against it.

To learn more about Email Players go here:

Ben Settle

I don’t know who needs to hear this.

Or who will find it relevant.

But last month while listening to a biography about Jim Henson (the guy who invented the Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, etc), I got to thinking about how some of my business “heroes” ended up being what I can only refer to as “successfully disappointed.”

Take these 4 guys:

1. Jim Henson — spent all his time working with puppets until he could find a “real job” with prestige.

2. Dr. Seuss — only wrote children’s books because he was under a contract with his client who he did advertising for not to write any other kind of books. (He originally couldn’t have cared less about writing children’s books and just did it for money.)

3. Gary Bencivenga — according to the interview he did with Email Players subscriber Ken McCarthy, this Email Players subscriber who is universally considered to be the world’s greatest direct response copywriter got into this business to do cool TV and other kinds of advertising campaigns (writing slogans, etc), and never made it out of the direct response department…

4. Stan Lee — he wanted to be a serious novelist, and write the great American novel, not write a bunch of comics for kids where he was mandated to never write words of more than two syllables, etc.

I don’t know about you.

But I’m glad these guys never fulfilled their original dreams!

And I’m sure they were crying all the way to the bank…

And so it is.

More info on Email Players here:

Ben Settle

A response last month to an email talking about my “no coming back” policy:

“Sounds selfish as fuck. Why’s it a problem if someone cancels and rejoins? Feels like no extra effort on your part but just one extra sub could change a life.”

What’s that smell?

Smells like zoomer…

And no doubt a self-projecting one at that.

I don’t really know either way if he’s a zoomer, nor do I care. But he certainly reminds me of a zoomer schlub who probably plays business on social media all day who once said I am being selfish for the same kind of reasons.

But let’s break this down, as maybe he has a point.

Who is really the selfish one here?

The business who has a clearly-written policy that enforces standards that demonstrably has made its customers far more successful (by many of those customers’ own admission to me over the years)… or the goober wanting that business to cater to the timid little flakes and toe dippers who want to come and go based on their feels & mood, who have zero sense of discipline, who lack the balls required for commitment, or who are embarrassingly ignorant of the power of continuity-of-learning vs one-off learning?

Nothing I sell will “change their lives.”

Because their lives are filled with flakiness and reacting to the dopamine drip they get buying new things, seeing a cool bullet, or hearing about the latest product launch or whatever — as if merely putting a new product under their pillow will summon the magic marketing fairy blessing with them with sales by osmosis with its mystical twinkle pole.

You can answer the above question for yourself.

And after that do whatever you want.

But this is one reason I implement as many rules as I can think of.

The more rules, the higher the quality of customer. The higher the quality the customer the more success the customer has. The more successful the customers the more testimonials flow in. The more testimonials that flow in the more word of mouth sales. The more word of mouth sales…

You get the picture.

If not, maybe this marketing thing ain’t your bag, Spanky.

Otherwise, for more info on my Email Players newsletter go here:

Ben Settle

From a recent Mike Cernovich substack:

“Writers can’t not write. It’s therapy. That’s why people who ask how to write are admitting that they don’t want to be writers. They’d already have a huge volume of work. It might not be that great. It may need an editor. But it would exist.”

That describes me in college.

I was the guy who spent all day reading about writing and writers.

I talked a lot about writing and writers, too.

And I even did a little writing and was a writer at times (like a variety show script for my fraternity, a TV script for a student produced show that was never used, and an adaption for a short story called “The Werewolf” by Angela Carter for a comicbook-style video for a video production class — which, incidentally, is in my Enoch Wars mobile app).

But I wasn’t really “a writer.”

Or, rather, I was one of those writers who was full of crap.

Because I called myself a writer but wasn’t regularly writing with little to show for it.

That’s most “writers” these days as well.

No, I didn’t really become a writer until I got into copywriting.

And even then, I didn’t hit my stride until I started writing daily emails for a few months, and realized the therapeutic benefits in addition to the sales that resulted from simply writing more content than I did before, faster than I did before.

But the sales and business-side is almost secondary.

And nowadays you can’t get me not to write.

That’s the only reason I have been able to write something like 8,000-9,000 pages of content between my books & print newsletter runs. Plus over 7,000 emails to my list (including some that are 6, 7, even 8 or more pages long, which also tend to be some of the best converting ones..), hundreds more emails collectively for clients I’ve worked for and/or other business ventures I partner in or have partnered in, God-only-knows how many sales letters (my Copy Slacker book published in 2019 has nearly 500 pages of my sales letter copy in it, and I’ve written many more sales letters since), hundreds of ezine articles for multiple niches, multiple comicbook scripts for the ongoing Email Players comicbook (that runs through the newsletter each month – I’ve written the stories through 2024’s issues), and even nine novels in my Enoch Wars horror story series — the last of which I’m less than a month away from finishing editing.

Yes, there’s an enjoyment aspect to it.

i.e., If I don’t find it fun I don’t write it.

Which by itself is a lesson for writers..

But what Mike Cernovich said about writing above being therapy is 100% true.

I work out all kinds of mental bull shyt via writing. It’s like wakeful dreaming. And at this point I do it whether I’m getting paid to or not. Like, for example, my Enoch Wars novels which I haven’t spent hardly any time marketing other than very superficially to my list (most of who don’t even read fiction) – and that barely make back the costs I spend on the covers and having them produced into audio books. Doesn’t matter because I cannot not write them. The last couple months I’ve spent 3-4+ hours per day on just tediously editing them, in addition to banging out emails and other content – like Email Players issues, 20+ emails sequences selling those issues, plus some other stuff I have going on for later this year. If I didn’t love writing – if I found the process painful or boring – I wouldn’t bother and would just spank out one email per day and do nothing else with my time like I used to do. But I write fiction because it’s a blast building out worlds and characters and storylines, and seeing the kind of stories I like to indulge in that nobody else has ever written (that’s why a lot of authors write books, because nobody else has written the books they want to read), and all the other copywriting benefits I get from the process.

And that’s the thing about people who spend literally 4, 6, 8+ hours per day writing:

It ain’t normal.

It’s quite abnormal in a lot of ways.

Just like being perfectly comfortable spending 8-9 hours (or more in my case sometimes) completely alone each day writing and/or walking while writing in my mind, thinking up ideas for writing, living inside my head (I don’t know how Stefania copes with it) to prep for more writing is abnormal. That’s why when someone asks about “how to get into copywriting” I already know they’re probably dead in the water. Otherwise they’d just start doing it, figuring it out as they go, making mistakes, and enjoying the process.

That’s how I did it, at least.

I can’t speak for anyone else.

But it’s not unlike how James Cameron started making movies.

He didn’t go to school for it.

He didn’t get permission to do it.

And he didn’t haunt masterminds, Facebook groups, or sit around talking to other filmmakers on social media about making movies for motivation, accountability, and inspiration.

No – he just picked up a camera… and started making movies.

The result?

The only filmmaker whose made three movies that have cracked $2 billion.

You don’t do that by talking.

You do it by doing.

Anyway, I don’t know who needed to hear this.

I literally typed the first draft of this email on my phone, shortly before bed.

(Writing right up until sleep probably ain’t normal either..)

But whoever is reading this finding it useful, I’ll just leave you with a song lyric by the late, great Fred Rogers whose life, work, and success habits I’ve been digging deep into over the last 8 or 9 months especially (this month’s January Email Players issue was essentially all about that).

If children can grasp this then any adult should be able to:

You can make-believe it happens, or pretend that something’s true. You can wish or hope or contemplate a thing you’d like to do, But until you start to do it, you will never see it through ‘Cause the make-believe pretending just won’t do it for you.

Good advice for children.

Even better advice for those longing to be writers.

All right, speaking of writing:

More on my Email Players newsletter here:

Ben Settle

A response to yesterday’s email about so-called AI-written copy:

“Am I a moron to actually love the ai generated sales letter for a winter coat? It has personality and is fun to read. Most ai generated responses are as exciting as dirt. However, when asking the piece in Ben Settle style the result was magical in my sorry opinion.”

Doesn’t make him a moron, necessarily.

But as far as it being in my “style” – I can’t imagine writing an ad that sounds like this:

Listen up, folks. Are you tired of shivering your ass off every time the temperature drops? Are you sick of wearing bulky, unflattering jackets that make you look like the Michelin Man?

Well, have I got the solution for you. Introducing the baddest, toughest, warmest jacket on the market. This baby’s got insulation technology that’ll make a Yeti jealous. Water-resistant exterior that’ll keep you dry in a monsoon. And pockets? Oh, we got pockets. Pockets for days.

But the real kicker? It’s got a slim fit design. That’s right, you can look like a million bucks while feeling like you’re wrapped in a heated blanket.

Don’t let Old Man Winter get the best of you. Step up to the plate and grab yourself one of these bad boys. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Reads like a low IQ J Peterman catalog pitch.

So how would I write it?

If selling a coat I’d write it more Robert Collier-style, and not-at-all “Ben Settle-style” – whatever that even means.

So what I’d likely do is, I’d lead with and blow up and accentuate the status of the item, along with whatever discount/excuse for a sale, deadline, and social proof elements I have to play with.

As far as AI accurately “sounding” like me, it lacks humanity or experience.

It might sound “cool!” to swipe file addicted newbie copywriters who don’t know any better. But I doubt it’ll ever be as effective as real writing based on real world understanding of a market.

Plus, I’ve never written anything even remotely close to:

“Listen up folks” (I never, ever address an audience, I always talk to one person, or as Mister Rogers put it “one little buckaroo”)

“we got pockets for days” (what does that even mean?)

“Insulation technology that’d make a yeti jealous” (a normie buying a coat would find this stupid)

“trust me, you won’t regret it” (literally the last thing I’d say in any kind of mass consumer market ad is “trust me”, it immediately sounds like you’re up to something)

And so on and so forth.

If someone looks at that and thinks that’s “Ben Settle style” I don’t know what to tell them.

It’s almost the exact opposite.

To learn my methods doesn’t mean sounding “like” me.

It means using your own personality and words.

All I can do is give you the tools which I do in my Email Players Newsletter.

More about that here:

Ben Settle

Reader Rohan Iqubal sent me the following bit about chatgpt last week.

Been getting asked a lot about this recently.

And not to give any spoilers… but, I’m not exactly worried about it.

And in my opinion neither should anyone else with tight copywriting game:

“Hey Ben, this is my first time writing to you. Hope you don’t roast me lol. Just sending you something I found interesting. So, I was playing with chat gpt. And I gave the prompt. “Write copy for Warm Jackets”. Nothing particular. Nothing interesting in reply. UNTILLLLL, I asked it to write in Ben Settle’s voice. See, what it gave back. Looking up to your response too.”

Listen up, folks. Are you tired of shivering your ass off every time the temperature drops? Are you sick of wearing bulky, unflattering jackets that make you look like the Michelin Man?

Well, have I got the solution for you. Introducing the baddest, toughest, warmest jacket on the market. This baby’s got insulation technology that’ll make a Yeti jealous. Water-resistant exterior that’ll keep you dry in a monsoon. And pockets? Oh, we got pockets. Pockets for days.

But the real kicker? It’s got a slim fit design. That’s right, you can look like a million bucks while feeling like you’re wrapped in a heated blanket.

Don’t let Old Man Winter get the best of you. Step up to the plate and grab yourself one of these bad boys. Trust me, you won’t regret it.


I ain’t exactly pacing the room worried about this sort of thing ever replacing or making obsolete my voice, my writing skills, my personality, or my email response, much less exceeding it. And if the above doesn’t shut up the nervous nellies worried about that sort of thing, nothing will.


I give the great Matt Furey a lot of credit for showing the rest of us the way.

And the #1 thing I learned from studying his stuff is this:

Email is a transfer of emotion and energy from writer to the reader. Imagine, for example, A.I. trying to write an “RIP email” (like I recently did for Jim Yaghi and my dog Zoe) and not sounding completely cold and soulless.

I’m not saying A.I. doesn’t or won’t have a place.

Maybe it does/will.

I know some writers are saying they are using it.

And I’ve also seen how utterly stupid a lot of it looks when used “on” people I know.

In my opinion A.I. tech for copywriters is basically the sex dolls of direct response — the copywriting incels with no copywriting game when it comes to writing from the heart and the gut will have to use them some day if they want to score.

Who knows?

But if that happens I also have zero doubt they’ll have to keep settling for the bottom-of-the-barrel customers and leads nobody else wants, while those with some copywriting game swim in all the high quality customers and clients they can stand.

All right, I’ll leave you with one more thought.

I get lots of email, copywriting, & marketing inspiration from great movie directors.

Anyone who has read my emails or books or newsletter long enough knows this.

Probably even A.I. knows it at this point.

And if you want a guide on how to write emails that blow any A.I. generated copy to hell, read this bit by Martin Scorsese from 2019, when he talked about all the dumbed-down super hero movies that had by then peaked:

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well-made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

Read the last sentence over and over and ever.

And apply to your emails henceforth.

That’s free advice.

Which means, probably most reading this will balk at it.

Not “cool” enough.

And so the game continues…

If you want to learn how to write emails the way I do, go here: 

Ben Settle

Earlier this week I had to say goodby to my dog of 15+ years Zoe.

The first time I met her she didn’t pee on me like Babe did on Farmer Hoggett.But we did regard each other when, after six solid months of walking dogs at the local dog shelter, I opened the cage, she jumped on me, I walked her on the beach and didn’t want it to end.

And it wasn’t long after that when she started massively improving my business.

For example:

I was already taking short beach walks, maybe a mile or two, on the regular.

But it wasn’t until I got Zoe when I started taking much longer daily walks (5, 6, 7, 8+ miles) just to get the excess energy out of her (I once had a dog groomer refuse to take Zoe as a client again unless I ran her on the beach first, even though I already was doing just that, if that tells you something…) when my marketing game took off, sped past most of my peers, and has kept me far ahead to this day.

The reason?

I was listening to — and re-listening to — top notch marketing trainings.

Over and over and over.

Day after day, for 4, 5, 6 hours at a time.

And, also, night after night, as I’d walk her on the beach at least twice a day.

Take Email Players subscriber and the man universally regarded as the world’s greatest living copywriter Gary Bencivenga’s Farewell DVDs. I put them on my MP3 player, and listened to that seminar some 25 or 30 times before I stopped keeping track.

Just imbibing his wisdom over and over and over.

Eventually I basically “owned” the info in my mind.

This was late 2007.

By the end

of 2008 I’d doubled — probably tripled or even quadrupled — my business’ income, and can trace a lot of that to those trainings, that I listened to over and over and over. I distinctly remember applying that info to each and every sales letter, and was banging out controls left and right.

Same with the great Matt Furey’s original email course at the end of 2008.

I put the audios onto my MP3 player and got to walking Zoe.

I listened to it, walking Zoe on 6, 7, 8, 9 mile walks each and every day for months… just absorbing the principles, ideas, and strategies over and over and over. I don’t know how many times I listened to it. But it was probably around 20 or more times before I finally moved on to something else.

And so it was with all the other trainings I consider “must learning.”

Everything from the Michael Senoff interviews with Jim Camp, Barry Maher, Stan Billue, Bob Bly, and a guy named Mike Samonek (who used media publicity and space ads to sell his Special Effects Cookbook)… to an interview David Garfinkel gave to the late John Ritz… to the Gene Schwartz Breakthrough Advertising interviews with various A-list copywriters & marketers that Bob Bly hosted many years ago… to Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing lead gen talk he did for the Peter Lowe conferences as well as the Magnetic Marketing course itself (the one from the 90’s, pre-internet, I still listen to it regularly and get ideas)… to the interviews Dan Kennedy did with Peter Montoya (about personal branding) and Walter Bregman (an old school Mad Man guy) for his NO BS Gold Tapes (circa 2003 — don’t ask me where to find them, I have no idea)… to Sean D’Souza’s System Seminar talk from 2008… to the interview Ken McCarthy did with Gary Bencivenga… to Paul Hartunian’s Million Dollar Publicity system… to the interview Doug D’Anna did for one of my own products… and the list goes on and on and on and on.

There were quite a few.

And these guys would probably think I’m creepy how much I stalked their minds while Zoe stalked the beach… day after day, and week after week, for months and years… all the way up until about a year ago, when I could barely walk her the .3 miles to the water at all.

I never would have done all that listening and learning otherwise.

Without Zoe I doubt there’d be an Email Players newsletter.

Or even a fraction of the books I’ve written — including fiction.

As I got many ideas for all my books, ads, sites, businesses from walking her.

It was the same with market and product research. I was a freelancer and doing my own deals back then. And due to the above learning spree, I was rapidly having opportunities handed to me. That meant I was also having to do a lot of research — sometimes very fast — on markets I did not necessarily know that much about like golf, self defense, college funding, and weight loss.

The solution?

Interview and talk for hours to my clients, record the calls, and listen on Zoe walks.

Over and over and over.

Until I could practically recite the entire conversations back verbatim.

I’d ask them about the product, the market, the customers, stories they could tell, problems nobody was talking about that the market had, how their market approached life, what words they used to describe problems, how current events where affecting them, their politics, their ethics, their professions, and the list goes on.

Some of these calls were 2-3 hours long.

And I’d load them in my MP3 player, jingle the leash to Zoe, and get to work.

The result:

Hours and hours and hours of walking Zoe listening about the markets I was selling to. Combine that with the trainings I was also listening to and I was writing ads, emails, lead gen, whatever it was I was being hired for, or doing in my own deals, that were 10, 50, maybe even 100 times better than they’d have been otherwise.

Not even an exaggeration.

I can see it in my old work BZ (“Before Zoe”).

All because of walking my furry “silent partner” so much.

Fast forward a few years later:

I had been running a ridiculously profitable and engaged Facebook group called elBenbo’s Lair. A group that was basically a big social experiment, and that also became the basis for my Social Lair book and how much of the SocialLair social media platform (I co-own with Troy Broussard) is structured.

Anyway, I was always thinking of ways to get the group riled up.

Lots of highs and lows — admittedly almost like a benignly abusive relationship.

And one of the “highs” I started doing in there was what I called:

“The Zoe Tapes”

I started walking Zoe on the beach, turned on the phone’s video recorder, and began teaching about whatever was on my mind. At first I did it just as a way to keep the group engaged. It was also a way for my horde inside there to meet Zoe, as I talked about her so much people felt they really knew her.

And I daresay literally 60 videos later they DID know her.

She was as much a fixture in their lives as I was each day.

And it was some of the most valuable content I ever recorded.

It also made me approach content creation differently, too — going even less stuffy and “professional”, and even more lax, loose, and leisurely, with no regard for production values or lighting or sound quality, with more emphasis on the relationship, connection, and the lesson being taught.

Very imperfect.

But also very human, and very relatable and consumable.

Just like all great marketing tends to be.

And it’s influenced every piece of content I’ve created since.

Including Video, audio, or text — and especially emails.

All because of Zoe.

Frankly, if you’ve ever benefited from any content I’ve created, you can thank Zoe. She was a big part of my education, my application, and my edification when it comes to all-things marketing, business, copywriting, persuasion, and anything else you see me talking about.

Zoe’s influence over my life wasn’t just business though.

Everyone loved her.

And I mean literally everyone who ever met her loved her.

Including an ex-girlfriend who usually hates dogs (by her own admission), and used to say “I know she is a package deal with you…” as if it was a negative, only for her to change her tune completely and suddenly start cuddling with Zoe on the regular.

Later on, when Stefania got pregnant, it was the same thing.

You couldn’t have pried Zoe off Stefania with a crowbar.

Zoe clinged to Stefania day and night (even snubbing me!)

We were just talking about how, when she was pregnant with Willis, and I’d go for a long ten mile walk (by this time Zoe could not walk that far, limited to 1 or maybe 2 mile walks), I’d leave the house, and 3+ hours later… return to find the two of them in the exact same spot sleeping and snuggling.

After Willis was born Zoe decided to become his guardian.

We have video footage from the cameras in Willis’ room of Zoe using her head to bull open the door, walk in, make sure Willis was safe, then walk out — all without any of us noticing she even left.

She just did it as a matter of routine.

And when Willis started walking last Spring, they spent a lot of time running back and forth on the deck together.

Anyway, I could go and on and on about Zoe.

And I will — from the business-side — in an Email Players issue.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of what Zoe has done for me and, by extension, my customers & clients who have also benefited from her existence.

So I’ll just end with a bit of bitter sweet irony.

When I got Zoe, the vet estimated her age after spaying her to be 2 or 3.

That was in 2007.

So she was at least 17 or 18 years old when she died earlier this week.

And yet, she was rarely ever sick.

I don’t know if it was because of the high quality food (I only got her the expensive stuff) she ate, the alkaline filtered water (

quite anti-inflammatory) she drank, the genetics she inherited, or a combo of all of it. But she didn’t really start to slow down and have problems until about a year ago. And it gradually went down hill over the course of 2022 until she went from sleeping in bed with us every night waking up to a small “Hersheys kiss-sized” turd on the blanket… to sleeping in the den (her own “wing” of the house) due to excessive panting keeping us up… to me coming downstairs each morning to a pile of poo on the ground or in her bed… to her going

blind and starting to step in her own waste and track it all over (I called it “the crime scene” — as it looked like one, except with poo instead of blood) when I had to start seriously thinking about when I’d have to put her down, while desperately hoping she’d just go peacefully in her sleep.

The things she loved most were now denied to her:

Running, jumping, long walks, sleeping in the bed.

She couldn’t even see or hear by the end, and she barely ate.

About the only thing she could still do was smell and walk, and even walking was hard.

And that’s where the irony comes in:

The first few weeks I had Zoe, in a moment of stupidity and impatience, I almost considered taking her back to the shelter since she made it hard to do any focused work. She kept peeing on the carpet, pacing, and darting all over the place nervously. And I really needed to do focused work to pay the rent as my business was in some unstable economic territory at the time.

She eventually straightened out of course.

But like those first few weeks I had her, when I found it impossible to do focused work with her in the room, it was the exact same in her last few months, where it was impossible to do focused work in the room. Since mid October until she passed on December 27th, I averaged — not an exaggeration — about 3 hours of sleep each night.

I considered 5 hours to be a lot of sleep, if that tells you anything.

And the reason why is, she had lost a lot of her marbles (did not always recognize Stefania or even me at times), would sometimes tremble in fear at not knowing where she was… and could no longer control her pooping or pee.

i.e., the morning crime scenes.

She also paced and walked around in circles constantly, wearing herself out.

And I was basically a one-man hospice for her from midnight to 3 or 4 in the morning.

Then, at that time, Stefania would take over for a few hours while I got work done.

I have long preached that the first hour belongs to you. i.e., always do your own stuff before anyone else’s — client, boss, or otherwise. But for the last few months, the first 3-4 hours belonged to Zoe.

Just another bit of irony she left us with.

Bottom line though is this:

I had the privilege of having Zoe for 15+ years — which was just shy of a 1/3 of my life. Those were good, healthy years so her passing was certainly no tragedy. And she worked her way into every corner of my world from business, to my fiction (the “Shadow Pup” chapter in my 8th novel “God Blood” was 100% inspired by the pic of her shadow I once took below), and she even adorns the cover of my Markauteur book which I had blown up and framed as a family portrait that now hangs on the wall in my den.

Zoe was more than just a silent business partner.

She was also a friend.

She was a family protector.

And she was the single greatest teacher about patience I ever had and probably ever will have. Patience was something I thought I had. But this past year made me realize I had much to learn about patience, and still do.

So RIP Zoe, my good friend — my best friend.

My theology might be skewed, and the following will probably sound dorky. But I like to think Zoe’s up there playing, running on the beach, jumping, and resting on a cozy bed, while eating a pile of treats. I also like to ask God to give her a pat on the head each day for me, and tell her that her dad will see her again someday, and to keep the beach ready.


This is the second “RIP” email I’ve had to write in the last two weeks.

Usually I write maybe one of these every 5 or 6 years.

But I figure the older I get, the more often I’ll be writing them.

And you know what?

I don’t like it all that much…

So to end on a positive note, I mentioned the Zoe Tapes earlier.

And about four years ago I made one of them public on my blog.

Here it is:

Recently Sylvester Stallone was quoted about his Rocky movies.

And, specifically, how he has zero ownership in them.

Doesn’t get even a single percentage of its ticket, merchandise, or other sales.

This, even though he created the characters, wrote and directed almost all the Rocky movie scripts, and was responsible for the franchise and its two Creed spin-off’s existing at all, and the nearly $2 billion in gross profits the movies have amassed over nearly 50 years.

As he put it:

“Who knew Rocky would go on for another 45 years?” Stallone asked rhetorically. “I’ve never used one [line of dialogue] from anyone else — and the irony is that I don’t own any of it. The people who have done literally nothing, control it.”

I don’t want to say it’s exactly the same as freelance copywriting.

The typical copywriter is nowhere near as important to their client’s businesses as Stallone was to the Rocky franchise. But I do wonder if, for example, copywriters like the guy who wrote that famous 17-year control for The Wall Street Journal secured royalties for himself or not… and if not, if he ever felt the way Stallone does about Rocky.

I’ve said it before, I’ll keep saying it:

Copywriters with genuine talent and skill should be their own clients.

Or at least have some kind of asset they own, that they can grow, keep all the money from, and pour their hearts and talents into to give themselves and their families a lifestyle and security, instead of putting it all into their clients’ businesses to give them and their families a lifestyle.

Not saying not to do freelance work.

Just saying to also work yourself into the client rotation.

To learn more about the Email Players Newsletter go here:

Ben Settle


Email Players subscriber Ben G. asks:

You always talk about going 10x with material you wanna study and really master. But at the same time, I notice you have read a lot of different things.

If you were to go back in time and speak to the young 20-old Ben Settle,

How would you advise him on 

a) Which book/material to study or read 10x

b) How to allocate his time between 10x material versus other material (leisure or one-off)

[In other words, how do you deal with information overwhelm]

And I’m curious if the way you would allocate your attention to learning/mastery has changed as you’ve become a more seasoned business owner over the years.

My hopefully-as-wise-as-he-thinks-I-am answer:

1. I would not have done anything different as far as what I consumed 10x

2. When starting I had a lot of time and ambition and motivation to pay stuff off. I didn’t study or do anything else.

3. Re: “info overload” — if you made it through high school and/or college, with all the bull shyt filler courses, without failing, then you can learn marketing. You just do the work and figure out how to get it done.

4. Nowadays I study people and how they solved problems more than technique.

So biographies, case studies, interviews, etc.

With only the occasional marketing-related book.

And even then, it’s almost something I am revisiting.

So that’s that.

More on the Email Players newsletter here:

Ben Settle

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