How the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches Sold Over 3 Million Copies

The fiercest psychological trigger

Mohammed Nadir
Oct 6 · 6 min read
Dozens of books hanging from the ceiling.
Dozens of books hanging from the ceiling.
Image via Negative Space on Pexels

In 1973, Joe Karbo self-published his famous book the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches. The book sold over 3 million copies. It became one of the most successful self-help books ever sold.

The classic self-development book also contained direct marketing techniques to make money the Lazy Man’s Way. Some say that it looks very amateurish and can be easily dismissed as a marketing scam. Others swear that it brought them riches more than they ever dreamed they could have.

But that’s irrelevant. I’m not here to discuss the quality of the book or review it. I didn’t even read the book.

I’m here to break down how Joe Karbo was able to do it. How the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches sold over 3 million copies. How to implement the fierce psychological trigger he used to sell this book to millions. So you could learn how to implement this and sell like Karbo.

What you have to offer doesn’t have to be a book to implement this, it can almost be any product or service.

How to Craft a Million Dollar Offer

You may have heard of the guy, or you may have not. After all, he died almost four decades ago.

Anyway, let me tell you a little about him; Joe was discharged from the Army in 1945. At age twenty, he had a wife and a child, but no money and no college education. At that time he started his business career. He later moved on to acting, then advertising, then radio, and finally television.

Joe Karbo started a direct mail business and sold a variety of products on his show. He mastered the craft of direct-response advertising and made a lot of riches, then he wrote his classic ad to sell his book to show others how to make money the Lazy Man’s Way.

I learned about him through his classic mail-order ad, as I was studying copywriting. The Lazy Man’s Way to Richest ad. The ad that sold over 3 million copies.

Because in this ad, is where all the magic happened.

Of course, there were other major factors to the tremendous success of the ad. I will show you what they are later in this article. They all played a significant role in the success of his book, especially the last one. But what stood out to me, and probably most of the people who bought the book because of his compelling ad, is the satisfaction conviction he offers. As Joe Sugarman likes to call it.

Joe Karbo offered an audacious 31-days money-back guarantee. He promised his readers to not deposit their checks until the period is over. That if you didn’t like the book you could return it and get your uncashed check within this period. It was an irresistible offer.

Sure, everyone offers a money-back guarantee or a free trial these days — these days — but this was in 1973! Sure it was used a lot back then, but only a few dared to make it as long as a full month, and without cashing the money. And don’t forget, this is a book. Not software. Not clothes. Not a subscription.

Unlike many other industries, a money-back guarantee is not so common when selling books — especially in 1973 — but Joe Karbo was bold enough to do it.

How to Joe Karbo in Your Industry

What could you do to make your offer as irresistible as Joe’s offer was? Find the norm — the average — and the typical satisfaction conviction others in your industry offers, then go Karbo.

If they offer 14-days trails, offer 20, 28, or even 30! If they offer a 60-days money-back guarantee, offer a 90-days money-back guarantee. The take away here is to go overboard. To Joe Karbo your offer. Not in an idiotic way, but a clever and calculated one.

You want people reading or watching your offer to think, “Oh no… he’s going to be ripped off.”

Of course, there are risks to satisfaction convictions, and the bolder they are the higher the risk. But if you wish for massive large-numbers crazy results — especially if you’re new to an industry and yet in the shadows — then you should consider going Karbo. The potential reward is way higher than the risk.

The more belief you have in your product or service, the bolder you could go. But make sure your product or service is at least good, like really good, really really, really good.

Elements of a Million Dollar Offer

Joe Karbo’s irresistible satisfaction conviction was probably the main reason the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches sold millions of copies. But, there were other major factors. Let me break down the most influential ones here with you.

1. Established Audience

Joe Karbo was many things before he published the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches. He was a businessman, served in the US Navy, an actor, and a TV star. But he was in no way like the TV or movie stars of today.

He and his wife co-hosted ‘The All-Night Show’ from 1961 to 1963, until they were forced off-air because the station that televised Joe’s program was sold to the Metromedia Corporation. They wanted to do all-night TV themselves after witnessing the success of his show — the bastards — so they didn’t renegotiate his contract and Joe’s successful show was over.

He also published several how-to-books and sold tens of thousands of them through direct mail.

Joe’s previous successes gave him credibility. And they say, you need only one thousand true fans to succeed. So he seemed to have that before publishing the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.

I know that building an audience is not easy and can feel overwhelming, but it can still be done. It needs to be done if you want to sell like Joe Karbo.

One of the best ways to build an audience is to give people value for free, constantly, and consistently.

content — content — content.

Keep putting out quality content on platforms that fit you and your business best, and over time, you will have your audience.

2. Credibility

As I said, Joe’s previous success gave him credibility. But for selling this book, he needed a different type of credibility. He promises you to make you rich the Lazy Man’s Way, so to do that he must be rich first.

In the ad, he conveys and states very clearly how rich he is. He comfortably bragged about his $250,000 house (more than a million in today’s dollars), his office being right on the beach, and the breath-taking view he had. His 2 boats, his Cadillac — that he paid in cash for — and his mountain cabin.

He even included a sworn statement from his accountant in the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches ad, certifying that Karbo’s net-worth was more than one million dollars. The guy might have been lazy, but he sure was clever.

3. Great Copy

“You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” — Beth Comstock

I’ve tricked you. Haha. Joe Karbo’s incredible satisfaction conviction wasn’t the main reason he sold over 3 million copies of the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.

Can you guess why? Because you could have an established audience, a ton of credibility, and an irresistible satisfaction conviction. But if your copy is bad, your offer will suffer.

The fiercest psychological trigger Joe used was his copy. The way he framed his offer. The biggest bargain of your life, he wrote with confidence. The way he triggers the reader's emotions. The way he grabs you from the headline, and not lose you until you’ve read his entire ad.

If you can’t convey the message of your offer right, you will miss out on a lot of sales, customers, and clients.

Joe Karbo wrote the Lazy Man’s Way to Riches ad so good, it made him a copywriting legend.

He got the headline right, the sub-headline right, the first sentence right, the second sentence, and the third one right. Then from there, you can’t stop reading. You can’t stop reading. You just can’t stop reading. You can’t stop until you finish.

I believe this was the one-main thing that made him sell so many books — millions of books — it’s hard to resist the immersive copy of his classic ad.


Always remember these elements when crafting the offer of your product or service.

But what if you don’t have an established audience? It’s okay, you could build an audience. It’s okay to start from scratch, from nothing. Almost everyone who has an audience did!

Give your audience value, nurture your relationship with them, and build trust with them.

And when crafting your offer, don’t forget to show your credibility. If people don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.

Lastly, remember to make your copy persuasive and compelling— and when it comes to satisfaction convictions — go Karbo.

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