The most prolific writers are usually the most prolific readers, and therefore virtually every copywriter you will ever meet can offer you their personal selection of the best copywriting books to read.
Are copywriters in demand?
If you’ve done your research, you probably already know that copywriting is in high demand. With the current pandemic and increasing globalization, there is great competition for consumers.
That’s why a good copywriter is incredibly valuable to any business. But where do you start when you start a copywriting business?
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Copywriting Business?
Well, one of the best things about running a copywriting business is that you can get started with a low up-front cost. Even better – you can run it part-time. You can choose to write text on the side or do it full-time.
You can rent an office space to work from home or to work from your dream vacation destination. As long as you have a computer and a stable internet connection, you’re good to go.
The subject of copywriting (or actually writing in general) is vast – especially when it comes to inbound marketing and a brand’s content style.
There are many styles, uses, and tricks to study, and they are usually very different for each industry and audience.
As you begin to learn more about your skills and develop your marketing copy writing skills, you will most likely focus on very specific writing skills, including storytelling and persuasion.
Can copywriting increase my sales?
Good copywriting can improve your sales and marketing to increase sales and build lasting, personal customer relationships
So you want to start writing. Whether it’s your full-time career, a part-time job for an extra income, or the craft to promote your business, you can’t do it without help.
Instead of jumping right in, it is best to read up on the do’s and don’ts for copywriting so that you are fully prepared. Here are some of the best copywriting books:
1. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is the father of modern advertising. After some time as a cook and researcher, he got into advertising and founded Ogilvy and Mather. He became one of the biggest names in advertising.
Ogilvy on Advertising is a collection of advice that ranges from extremely strategic to extremely tactical. In this reputable best copywriting books, Ogilvy on Advertising, Ogilvy gives you direct advice based on how he ran certain campaigns. The book has loads of examples across all media, including print, radio, and TV commercials.
Ogilvy goes beyond specific advertising tactics to talk about how to identify top talent and grow an agency. The great thing about Ogilvy on Advertising is the high quality breakdowns and explanations behind the scenes.
2. Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath
In Made to Stick, Professors Dan and Chip Heath explain how to get your readers to remember your message. They talk about the factors that make things memorable or, as some marketers say, make them sticky.
Made to Stick isn’t technically a book about text writing, but it’s still very useful for copywriters, freelance writers, and content creators. It’s a book about why ideas catch on and that can help keep your text in the minds of readers and one of the best copywriting books
To make an idea memorable, follow the acronym SUCCESs.
- Simple: Sticky ideas are simple and easy to understand
- Unexpected: Ideas that surprise us are easier to remember
- In concrete terms: ideas that are easy to imagine and can be imagined in our head are easier to remember
- Credible: Ideas from credible sources are more credible and are accepted as truth
- Emotional: Emotionally charged ideas stick more clearly in our heads
- Stories: Stories are easier to remember than abstract ideas or concepts
Any of these tactics will solidify your ideas.
3. The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
The Boron Letters are a series of letters that direct response copywriter Gary Halbert wrote to his son explaining marketing tactics and wise wisdom. It goes way beyond a simple sales book or fancy executive promotional advice – it’s packed with specific, actionable training on how to convince people to buy from you.
Gary Halbert has been called “the greatest living copywriter” – and quite a controversial one too. Some of his business practices landed him in jail where he wrote The Boron Letters.
Halbert’s book is a unique blend of marketing tactics and life barriers that can be applied to copywriting.
This is not so much a book to write and copy as, each letter focuses on one piece of advice. There are lots of really good copies and life wisdoms scattered in a very readable book.
4. Breakthrough Advertising: Eugene Schwartz
Breakthrough Advertising is considered by many copywriters to be the bible of writing. It is so revered that the cheapest one you can find anywhere is around $125. (But if you can swing it, it’s definitely worth it).
The concepts behind your copy already exist because your audience’s wants, problems, hopes, and dreams already exist. All copywriters do is assembling it.
Breakthrough Advertising is probably best known for the idea of the 5 Levels of Awareness many modern copywriters use to organize landing pages and other conversion copy. These 5 phases indicate how a copywriter does persuasive work. The 5 levels of consciousness are:
- Ignorant: This person does not know they have a problem and they are usually not worth promoting.
- Problem Aware: This person knows they have a problem, but they don’t know that there are solutions to the problem.
- Solution-aware: This person knows that there are solutions, but has not decided on one and does not know your product.
- Product Aware: This person knows your product but is not entirely sure if it solves their problem.
- Most Careful: This person knows a lot about your product. You are about to buy, but you need to know the specifics.
Eugene Schwartz will teach you how to bring persuasiveness into your copy. He also has great ideas on how to tap existing demand in a market and generate new demand, and shares many of the great ideas copywriters need to understand in order to get their readers’ minds..
5. Finding the Right Message by Jennifer Havice
Explanations are easier to understand when someone is using language that you would use yourself. Using a common language (AKA speaking human) to connect with your audience is exactly what Finding the Right Message is all about.
Jennifer Havice is a modern day conversion copywriter. In Finding The Right Message, she shows you how to use your audience’s words. Using the words your audience is using can get inside their head and make them nod along with what you’re saying.
Finding the right message will show you why it is important to use the audience’s language. It also gives you specific, tactical ways to learn how to find and use customer language – even if you’re not a market researcher, even if you don’t know how to conduct surveys, and even if you don’t have an audience yet.
6. Never Split the Difference by Tal Rahz and Chris Voss
Chris Voss is the former FBI hostage negotiator – and author of Never Split The Difference. He’s giving you his advice on a hostage negotiation, but the real thing is that the book is about advice on how to persuade you.
In Never Split The Difference, Voss gives advice on labeling people’s emotions, a well-known advertising technique. It shows you when to give people choices and what choices they should be.
This is what Never Split the Difference shows you how to do:
- If you have questions about copywriting, how should you do them?
- Should you ask yes or no questions? What questions should you ask?
- How can you get people to think what they should think for themselves?
7. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Why do people make decisions? Where do beliefs come from? How are these beliefs formed and changed based on our circumstances and our surroundings?
To answer these questions, many people recommend Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It is noted as best copywriting books. Robert Cialdini is a notable psychology professor who has done a lot of persuasive research and has identified these 6 principles of belief:
- Commitment and persistence
- Social proof
These principles are the subconscious psychological reasons why people do what they do. Think about it:
- People do things for people who have helped them in the past, e.g. reciprocity
- They do things because they see other people doing those things, e.g. Social Proof
- People do things because those things are rare and valuable and need to be grabbed quickly, e.g. scarcity
Influence explains many psychological principles that you can apply to your copywriting. To put tCialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence into practice, you can use a customer testimonial as social proof in email copies or create a scarcity in your subject line to get people to click more.
8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow isn’t a book about text writing – it’s a book about how people think.
If you understand how people think, you can write good, compelling articles. And when you understand how people make decisions, it’s much easier to convince them to make the decision they want.
Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist who (along with Amos Tversky) won the Nobel Prize for showing that human thinking is not purely rational. He wrote Thinking, Fast and Slow to explain how it works.
Based on decades of psychological research, Kahneman shows that people generally think in two ways, appropriately referred to as System 1 and System 2:
- System 1: Thinking is quick, automatic and emotional. It helps us to draw conclusions and make decisions very quickly, but with sometimes wrong “rules of thumb” (heuristics).
- System 2: Thinking is slow, logical and arduous. The point is to work through the information carefully in order to come to a solution.
Understanding the psychology of decision making can help you make your copy more effective and persuasive.
9. Building Distinctive Brand Assets by Jenni Romaniuk
Building Distinctive Brand Assets explains how to create a connection between your company and the desires of your target audience. Based on research by the Ehrenberg Bass Institute, the book is packed with supportive data and practical advice on how to create a brand that will stick in people’s minds when they’re ready to buy.
Building distinctive brand assets consists of 3 sections that capture the processes involved in the following processes:
- Creation of brand equity
- Implementation of assets
- Ongoing asset management
You won’t see this book on most copywriting lists because it isn’t explicitly about copywriting. Many copywriters focus on the direct response copywriters, the old school copywriters who A / B tested everything and had to generate mailing orders from their ads.
10. How to Write a Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab
How To Write a Good Advertisement’s title leaves nothing to the imagination – it’s literally a book on how to write a good advertisement.
It’s hard to say that there is a single book that teaches you everything you need to know about copywriting – but this book is probably as close as it gets. How To Write A Good Advertisement breaks down every part of creating a good advertisement on both a tactical and a word-specific level.
The advice includes:
- Use that word, not that word, with a higher level explanation of why
- Think about what appeals to people in general
- How exactly you structure your copy
This book is ideal for all content creators as well as copywriters.
If you want to know how an advertisement works on a tactical level, this book will teach you.
11. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk by Al Ries and Jack Trout
While this isn’t a textbook, it’s a great collection of simple marketing “laws” that work – but if you look around, most companies break them. (You will learn about many of the high-level “violators” in the book.)
The reason this book is intended for the freelance copywriter is because it gives you something simple to advise your clients on, beyond just copywriting.
You always want to be able to offer that little something extra. That makes you more valuable and the customers love you.
12. The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost Your Sales by Dan Kennedy
This book is mostly about how someone in a very boring industry (maybe screw manufacturing) was convinced that there was nothing they could do to improve their copywriting because their product was a boring product and there was no way to stand out.
But then Dan took him to a bar and “got him a few drinks” (Dan’s words), and ended up making weird pink flyers and writing fancy texts that got people’s attention … and eventually increased his sales.
There are many worse things you can do for your copywriting career than reading all of Dan Kennedy’s books.
Any copywriter, online business owner, or freelancer can learn a lot from Dan Kennedy’s books.
13. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
Here is another book that should literally belong in every writer’s collection. Tested Advertising Methods is about exactly what the name suggests: proven strategies to sell more.
A literal advertising legend, John Caples was literally obsessed with split testing, which means that every finding in this book was reviewed and tested before it was featured.
This book is really old – so old that David Ogilvy literally wrote the foreword. But the timeless tips have no age. It is worth reading, especially if you are in the direct response copywriting space or work with paid advertising campaigns.
14. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
Scientific advertisements may have been written in the 1920s, but the insights into consumer behavior are still relevant today. This crisp book contains a variety of proven advertising techniques to use text to market your product more effectively.
While not as notorious as Ogilvy, you should definitely seek advice from Claude C. Hopkins. Often referred to as the thought leader behind the popularity of tooth brushing, thanks to his campaign with Pepsodent.
If you’re just starting out, this will help you understand the core principles behind selling and converting your customers into advocates..
15. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
TED Talk host Simon Sinek has since made his shows a complete career platform, and his book Start With Why will change the way you view marketing by inspiring you to look deeper into the “why” behind customer and company decision-making .
Like virtually every business book, this book takes the core concept of video and expands it to 40,000 words.