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The Art of Successful Letter Writing Part 7

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

While fancy, like the finger of a clock,

Runs the great circuit and is still at home.—Cowper.

Mine eyes he closed, but open left the cell of Fancy, my immortal sight.—Milton.

Imagination, where it is truly creative, is a faculty and not a quality; it looks before and after, it gives the form that makes all the parts work together harmoniously- toward a given end, its seat is in the higher reason, and it is efficient only as a servant of the will.—Lowell.

IN our previous chapter I dwelt upon the importance of imagination in letter writing and demonstrated, I hope, the general method of application. Now for concrete instances; in explaining this phase of our subject I naturally cannot enter into and describe the thoughts and feelings of other men, so, to be accurate, I am forced to analyze and describe my own. In view of this fact I hope the reader will forgive any apparent egotism in the understanding that the treatment of the subject renders necessary the pronoun "I."

Now, when I sit down to write a letter I have a subject which may be books, medicines, instruments, tools, money, stocks, bonds, promotions, filters, gloves or anything else.

I propose to talk that subject to thousands of persons by medium of the letter I am to write. My first step is to ascertain as nearly as I can from the attributes surrounding the subject (price, quality, etc.), the type of man or woman it would appeal to most; I thus get a composite person. I am no longer talking to thousands of people but to someone representative of those thousands.

Having got my composite person fairly well fixed in my mind I next run back over the list of actual persons I know or have known and select the one that approximates closely in characteristics to the composite person drawn. The latter is then dropped from my mind as the artificial thing it is and I am face to face with a living man (or woman) .


Back in a little seaport town in New York lives a shrewd, close-buying, intelligent hardware man through whom I have often bought. He doesn't buy "shoddy" stuff; he has in fact a remarkable knack of getting the top best the market affords at the lowest price; he is in effect, and in his line, a natural servant to the hardware buying public. He justifies his existence and earns his profits.

Now when I have the right kind of hardware proposition to write about I conjure up Charlie Best (that isn't his name of course) and run hard facts into his brain for five minutes. I see the effect of my arguments, and I know if I have presented the thing right he will motion for an order blank without saying a word. If I don't see him do that the letter is ripped up and I write and write till I do.


In a wealthy suburban town on the outskirts of New York the wants of the community are ministered to by a physician of whom it can first be said he is a gentleman, by birth and breeding, in the true sense of the term. Dr. James (the name will serve) keeps abreast of the latest discoveries and developments in his profession, and, when something really worth while comes out, he has the money to buy, possessing as he does a very enviable practice. If I have medical apparatus or service to sell I conjure up Dr. James and (provided I am personally convinced of the worth of what I have —to him) do not stop till I have his check.

I know just how to talk to the Doctor; he is a finely educated physician, a profound student of psychology, and an appreciative reader of the great poets. There is a touch of the mystical in his nature and I can win his instant attention by striking one of the keynotes that characterize his lines of thought. He is representative of thousands in his class and when I sell him I know I have sold hundreds with him.


Down in Maine there lives a shrewd little woman who, as the mother and manager of a family of five, limited by a small income, as incomes go, knows values thoroughly, and knows when she has a bargain and when she has not. Verbiage won't have any effect on Mrs. Smith (which name will serve) and if by any misrepresentation you succeed in getting goods within her doors not up to value you may expect them back the next day.

Mrs. Smith is a buyer for the cheaper grade of goods that wear—she is typical of hundreds of thousands of families and I know when I have sold her I have sold a very large proportion of others like her.


In Bridgeport, Conn., lives Ralph (which isn't his name) an erstwhile college boy, now approaching thirty, yet with lots of boyish tricks about him reminiscent of old college days.

Ralph writes little amateur poems, dramas, etc., and is studying literature. He is naturally a book lover, so, when I have a book or books to sell my first task is to make the sale to Ralph; it would be easy if he had the money, but he isn't blessed with a great share of that commodity; however, given the right book and the right talk, he is almost a certain victim on the "Dollar down and a dollar a week" plan, so when I have an installment proposition on books my mind hies forth to Ralph because I know when I have sold him I have sold hundreds of his type.


Down South I have a speculator (he would hate to be called that, but he is) . He considers himself an investor; the only trouble with that adopted definition is that Charlie's "investments" all stand in to pay him (on their own showing) thousands per cent if he wins. Occasionally he does, and the winners have so far kept him sufficiently well ahead of the game to be able to "plunge" when any good looking venture comes along. Charlie isn't a "sucker" by any means. He is simply that type of business man that balances chances and is willing to take one personally if they seem to favor him or the project he goes into. You would waste time talking "hot air" to Charlie, but take him a sound idea and he's "In on it."

When I have a speculative proposition upon which I have myself been convinced I conjure up Charlie and lay it before him; his type is numerous, and when I have him sold I have hundreds of thousands sold.


Down in the New York financial district in "The little crooked street with a graveyard at one end and a river at the other" waiting for the unfortunates who face grim Despair within its boundaries, a great banker has offices. His hobby is automobiles. He wants and will have, if money can buy it, the automobile that is king of the road. If I have that type of automobile to sell I naturally and automatically conjure him up because he is representative of a thousand and one millionaires who buy with him.

So the list runs; over a period of twenty years I have met so many men of special types and characteristics that it has become easy to pick out from those I know the one man to whom the proposition will especially appeal.

That man, on each proposition, I pick out and write to and at. I am opposite to him in his home or office as I write, by and through that gift or faculty of imagination which Washington Irving classed as: "The divine attribute that is irrepressible, unconfinable; that when the real world is shut out can create a world for itself, and with necromantic power conjure up shapes and forms and visions to make solitude populous."


What is there to it? I do not know! I can only say that this is my method, and through that method I have achieved results—sometimes wonderful results. I have imaged a great life insurance company and watched it assume physical form and actuality from the mists of erstwhile fancy. I have screened on my brain the picture of a great factory through the doors of which poured hundreds of men who set in motion whirring machines —and saw the thing grow as I rubbed the magic lamp! I have visioned a great magazine sending words of comfort and cheer to thousands of hearts sheltered beneath old rooftrees—and saw the thing done even as I thought!

I have seen three hundred thousand dollars worth of automobiles swept off the sales floor within a week by men to whose brains I had flashed a picture of the machine that appealed to them and I have seen factory and office powerless to cope with the flood of orders engendered through the faculty to accurately vision the type and class of men who would buy on a certain appeal.


What I have, and what I know, is given as fully and as freely as it has been tendered to me, and I am glad if, as a result of these chapters on the wonder-work, IMAGINATION, I am able to set the feet of others on the road to success through the art of resultful letter writing.

What I have done I have always felt should have been done, and the wonder to me is that I have never wondered at what came—I have accepted results as the inevitable consequence of certain prior acts and would have felt natural laws had played me false if those results had not come.

It should not of course be thought that the results accomplished in specific cases have sprung absolutely and entirely from the letter, as the term is narrowly understood, though the letter (or letters) have formed, in their letter form, an important and essential part of the campaign. I consider an enclosure, folder or booklet an extension of the letter proper, precisely as the telescope is an ex-tension of the faculty of sight.

Primarily and basically a man is reached and influenced through a message conveyed to him through the mails, and that message is essentially the same whether in the form of a letter of twenty-five pages, or a letter of one page and a related booklet of twenty-four pages that extends the letter in the more convenient form of a booklet.


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