My first job after grad school was working for a small magazine, book, and software company. As a programmer, it was my dream job; I was able to play with the innards of Apple II computers for most of the day, and for the rest of the day try my hand at every aspect of magazine publishing.

I found myself drawn to and fascinated by direct-mail marketing, which at that time was the primary way magazines acquired subscribers. I loved the creative aspect of it—the challenge of designing envelopes that begged to be opened, persuasive headlines that lured the reader into the letter copy, and forms designed so simply that they nearly filled themselves out.

I had studied nutritional science and flavor chemistry for nine long years of "higher ...

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