John Forde of The Copywriter’s Roundtable, part 1

You’re going to like this interview. I’m talking with John Forde of The Copywriter’s Roundtable. John was personally trained by Bill Bonner, one of the greats of the direct response world. This alone should tell you something. We’ll cover a lot on this interview, so I suggest you get ready to absorb all of this for your direct response education…

RYAN: How did you get started in direct marketing?

JOHN: Ha… like a lot of good things, it was thanks to a string of happy accidents that’s so long I’m not sure I could lay it all out for you here. But the short version is that I was in grad school at night and took a $15-a-day internship at a Baltimore publishing company. The owner and founder was Bill Bonner, who happens to be one of the best direct response copywriters in the U.S. And I had showed up at exactly the time he wanted to train an in-house copy team. I was the first guinea pig. It was trial by fire those first few years, but 18 years later, here I am.

RYAN: Who were some of your top influences and mentors in the business?

JOHN: Well, Bill for one. I wouldn’t be in this business if he hadn’t given me a shot. He also encouraged me to study all the usual books by copy heroes and heavy hitters — Claude Hopkins, John Caples, Gene Schwartz, David Ogilvy — along with more contemporary types like Gary Halbert, Bob Bly, and others. Michael Masterson came along not too long after I’d gotten started. He re-doubled my education. And you can’t count out the copy we were reading at the time, from guys like Gary Bencivenga, Clayton Makepeace, and more.

RYAN: Can you tell me about the history of the Copywriter’s Roundtable? Why did you start this valuable service?

JOHN: Back in the spring of 2001 or so, about 25 or 30 copywriting and publishing colleagues got together at a retreat in the Ahr Valley in Germany. A lot of wine and a few days later, we’d shared a lot of “what’s working now” secrets. And someone suggested we try to keep up the exchange via email. It didn’t happen for a long while. But I had a project that got stuck in legal review for a long, long time. I needed to get something out in front of people. So I wrote the first issue. It went out to only the group from Germany, but they kept forwarding it and asking to add names. And so on, until we’d gone from 30 people to around 12,000 readers today. Still a modest number, but not bad considering I’ve never done what I should be doing to add new names.

RYAN:  How do others submit their articles for consideration in the Copywriter’s Roundtable?

JOHN: Sign up at and read the issues. If you think you’ve got something that will fit, send it over! Just shoot me an email at “”…  all kinds of insights from working copywriters are welcome. It’s a roundtable, after all. I balk at superficially self-promotional stuff. But if you’ve got some insight on what’s working, I’d love to share it. If it’s good stuff, I’ll run it and in exchange give the contributor link exposure at the end of the article. We’ve had contributions from a lot of industry greats, including Michael Masterson, Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, Michel Fortin, Sean D’Souza, Chris Marlow, and many more.

RYAN:  Who is the main audience for CR? Other copywriters? Marketers?

JOHN: Copywriters, first and foremost, of course. Both long-term pros and newbies. But also marketers of any stripe, business owners big and small, and people just interested in writing or… in at least a few cases… simply being entertained. I like to have fun while writing it. I hear from a lot of people who just read it to be entertained or because they’re just now thinking of getting into the copy field.

Tune into part 2 of this interview tomorrow…

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