What are the best books to learn copywriting?

20 replies
If you're interested in getting started on #copywriting, you have to understand exactly what it is first.

In short, copywriting is really moving words around to make them sound better. It's not just about "writing," it's about psychologically influencing people to do something, whether that's to purchase something or sign up for your email newsletter.

The best way to get started on understanding copywriting is the read the best of the best books.

Here are my favorites:

1. This Book Will Teach You to Write Better - Neville Medhora
2. The Copywriter's Handbook - Robert W. Bly
3. Ogilvy on Advertising - David Ogilvy
4. The Boron Letters - Gary C. Halbert
5. Scientific Advertising - Claude C. Hopkins
6. Advertising Secrets of the Written Word - Joseph Sugarman
7. The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

Tell me: what are your favorite books to read in your trade? What books do you think every professional should read?
#books #copywriting #learn
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  • Profile picture of the author THEroyseo
    Here are 5 books I really enjoyed reading

    -Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

    -Breakthrough Copywriter: A Field Guide to Eugene M. Schwartz Advertising Genius by Dr. Robert C Worstell

    -The Robert Collier Letter Book by Robert Collier

    -Pre-Suasions: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

    -Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
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    Nicolas Roy
    Warrior For Hire

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    • Profile picture of the author KNutter1995
      Thanks for the response! I think it's about time to hit the library for some summer reading!
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  • Profile picture of the author Taisiya Wolker
    Most colleges that have business schools also have departments that teach marketing. Advertising, including copy writing would be included in these classes.
    Otherwise, go to your public library, there will be shelves of books that teach all sorts of writing skills, including copy writing. (Keep in mind that most ad agencies have copywriters on staff, so picking it up on your own and finding work as an independent contractor will be difficult without some sort of proven track record. Your best bet is working within an agency, and they are going to be more inclined to use people with marketing degrees because they will know the technical aspects of the job, not just the creative.)
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  • Profile picture of the author Nick Million
    Another gem that hasn't been suggested yet is The Ultimate Salesletter by Dan Kennedy.
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  • Profile picture of the author acnescars
    Thanks for sharing these book names. Really going to start reading...
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by acnescars View Post

      Thanks for sharing these book names. Really going to start reading...
      So, the OP wants to be a copywriter, eh? Any book will get you started, and after 1001, you'll have an education. Will you be able to write copy after reading a thousand books? Who knows, but I'd wager, NO.

      Here is a very simple book to get started, and very affordable. By Vic Schwab; HOW TO WRITE A GOOD ADVERTISEMENT.

      Why? Because it is basic and simple and has the elements covered you'll find in all the books.

      But here comes MY REPRISE:

      INTENT. All copy writing should BEGIN there. What do you want your words to do?

      Once you understand your copy is the STIMULUS, a way to get ONE person interested enough to DO something, then you start at the end, the result, or the intent of the copy.

      One reason we harp on target markets and 'starving crowds' is because we know those are the easiest people to move toward the result we seek.

      So, all copy is a STIMULUS /RESPONSE mechanism. A machine to move the reader from one place at the beginning to another, at the end. The in between has scores of paths, outlines, blueprints, models to follow...and that is most often what you'll find in almost all books on writing copy.

      Usually, a copywriter with experience writes about a process or method which he/she has found to work. The most common ones are FORMULAS.

      LIKE; Attention, Interest, Desire, Conclusion, Action, Satisfaction. This just one of many like minded formulas, some have proof elements, others add steps, just depends on what the copywriter's experience is or was, often determines what formula he creates to sell his books.

      HERE is one for free, and covers what many pages in scores of books tries to get you to understand...

      NO one wakes up hoping to read your BRILLIANT words, not even your beloved mother desires to see your latest and greatest attempt at copy. So, lesson one is

      IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU OR YOUR BRILLIANT WRITING.

      Copy is a stimulus to get your reader to RE ACT to it and then, maybe,
      ACT upon it.

      In order for that to happen, it has to be seen. And read (or heard or watched).

      This is one of the weakest links in all the copywriting books, I call it the INTERSECTION where your copy meets your target.

      Will it be old school mail order, a letter in the mail? Or a TV ad? Radio? Newspaper (god forbid)?...

      An email, web site; landing page, capture page, sales page, link, YouTube video, Instagram picture, Facebook ad or Group post?

      IT is a critical consideration and the one most often overlooked. A BAD, in fact a poorly written piece of copy can have great results IF the right intersection is used, and the best copywriters in the world will bomb (like Halbert did with his "fatty" radio ad, ZERO responses), if they choose the wrong place to intersect with their target.

      Yet it often is one of the last things thought of, we see it all the time in this section and in copywriting blogs and groups all across the Internet.

      IF you begin with the INTENT of getting one person to respond to your stimulus, then, logically, you figure out where they are at, where you will create your INTERSECTION, and because you know and understand, that not even dear ol mom is waiting for your brilliant copy, you must get your TARGET'S attention.

      How? Because you know they are PREOCCUPIED with something, because they are the target, eh? And you create a pre-occupational interrupter at the intersection.

      From there, any one of the 27 or more formulas can be applied, or it can be as simple as they have a PROBLEM, you have a SOLUTION. Or simpler NEED/WANT - PRODUCT/SERVICE

      All the books you will ever read, and may you read them all, will bring you full circle back to the stimulus/response mechanism.

      So, even before you begin with INTENT of your copy, a better GO square or starting point would be an understanding of human needs, wants and motivation and as our own Princess of the WF has pointed out, one needs look no further than the mirror to see a human being with needs and wants and a well known buying history. A good as place as any to start.

      Then grab a copy of Vic's book. See the simple structure, and review your last dozen buys. What did you buy, from whom, and why?

      What got your attention? What persuaded you to buy? Did your decision follow the pattern of those books? Was there a headline or picture which got your attention?

      Then what happened? Then what?

      Good luck in your copywriting adventures, it has become a CHEAP commodity to be had for pennies these days, some 20 thousand so-called copywriters available at Freelancer, Fiverr, etc.

      Yet, the 1% club will make it big, and maybe Max5ty will give you a ride on his private jet, because that COULD be the reward for a person serious enough to understand what copy is and isn't, and the big thing, it isn't about YOU, but what you can do for them.

      GordonJ
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      • Profile picture of the author Princess Balestra
        Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post

        So, even before you begin with INTENT of your copy, a better GO square or starting point would be an understanding of human needs, wants and motivation and as our own Princess of the WF has pointed out, one needs look no further than the mirror to see a human being with needs and wants and a well known buying history. A good as place as any to start.
        Cool to see I ain't bein' misrepresented here as "Princess of the WTF".

        I concur with the intersection theme cos it is like the opposite of mutual forked lightnin'.

        I zap off into space all erratically tangential ... an' you zap off into space all erratically tangential ... but space is a real big area, an' our Sparky might never meet up.

        Any intermediary got srs work to do here & is prolly a minor deity.

        So what about all the competin' thoughts we got that ultimately resolve as one choice over all, one result from all options?

        Here are tangents forkin' from tines to handle.

        All the intermediary gotta do here is reach out to either side an' grab both handles.

        Tine-to-handle prospect got a decision to make, 'bout mebbe the zillion shampoo offers she got loaded up in her browser window array.

        Tine-to-handle copy person seen the gal comin', an' drops precisely the offer the gal is lookin' for -- right where she needs it, right where she wants it -- with all the lighnin' expertise consolidatin' into ONE ZAMMO BOLT.

        Thing is, the internets speeds alla this up an' offers way smarter targetin' options than evah before.

        Which means ... nowan ain't so frickin' stoopid as they were -- an' anythin' too formulaic or 'textbook' gonna come packed with BONUS FISHYNESS.

        Ultimately what sells is the desire people already got in their heads.

        "Abs will get me laid."

        "Beethoven will demonstrate to my management team that I'm an iconoclast."

        "A hip replacement will get me walking again and also mean maybe my grandkids will condescend to give AF."

        Don't matter how stoopid summa this stuff seems -- if it is wanted by the wanter then it demands attention ... clarification ... resolution.

        That's the stuff you gotta write out -- like you tippin' people's brains into a bowl like muesli so you can organise the raisins an' nuts with especially tasty allure before you pop 'em back in the skull as more finely tooned directive agents.
        Signature

        Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff together.

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  • Hey Whipple Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan I found personally really awesome.
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  • Profile picture of the author Copylifemike
    I just finished How to write copy that sells by Ray Edwards.

    Really good book. He talks about his pastor method which was an interesting touch.

    Definitely a must have in your arsenal.

    I also have Neville's book as you mentioned along with The adweek copywriting handbook and Breakthrough copywriting by David Garfinkel.

    The book Great leads will be delivered next week as my new read along with the classic How to win friends and influence others.

    My next up book with be the copywriters handbook and storynomics.
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    Copywriters who work with entrepreneurial clients need to have a solid grasp of marketing strategy as well as wordcraft, and my best teachers on that front were a ton of Dan Kennedy and Gary Halbert audio seminars, especially those where they interacted with the audience in "hot seats."

    You can find a lot of these on eBay. Do not be put off by "old" copyright dates. The issues involved are eternal.

    Marcia Yudkin
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    Check out Marcia Yudkin's No-Hype Marketing Academy for courses on copywriting, publicity, infomarketing, marketing plans, naming, and branding - not to mention the popular "Marketing for Introverts" course.
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  • For sure, all kindsa reference material be dowin' the rounds, an' I figure obsessive Googlin' gonna leadya sumplace exotic here, same as it does for LOLcats or niche smoochie -- but the learnin' deal got practicals longside alla the academicals, an' best part always is ...

    FFS I dunno what ima dowin' here

    So las' week I got a fancy leisure product backed by a whole buncha excitin' soundin' guys.

    I like that ... enthoosiasm for stuff.

    Problem is, they mebbe so ebullient they skimped on the necessary detail -- an' we rocked out on a kinda spectacular mismatch leaves my purdy face all bruised an' ragged.

    But I now got a cool rewrite project demands resurrection sumplace else.

    An' I figure I gotta watch my own fire-up pizzazz -- speshly when clients ain't actshwlly got no clue what they want.

    Did I bomb this week?

    tbh ima still pluckin' shrapnel outta my ass.

    But I learned sumthin', from outta the sub-perfection grimoire -- an' I way less stoopider now than Monday, if momentarily sans triumphalist champagne.
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    Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff together.

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  • Profile picture of the author poweredspeaker
    I have read this book called "The Boron Letters - Gary C. Halbert". This clearly explains about copywriting. This book is really a great guide for all.
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  • Profile picture of the author jessicamorgan
    A friend of mine is a copywriter at Content Development Pros, he referred me these books to learn copywriting:
    • D&ad copy book
    • Words That Sell
    • Wired for Story
    • Read Me
    • The Idea Writers
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  • Profile picture of the author Careyrussell
    The best books to learn copy writing are: Tested Advertising Methods, The Idea Writers, Made to Stick, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, Everybody Writes.
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  • Profile picture of the author Justin012
    I really enjoyed "The copyrighting handbook" by Robert W. Bly. I also recommend Jimmy D Brown's Contentaire program if you want to get improve your copyrighting skills quickly.

    He's got some powerful, "Fill in the blank" headlines that that are proven to grab anyones attention.

    His program also includes Fill in the blank templates for blog, articles, press releases and email swipes. Definitely worth checking him out.
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  • Profile picture of the author DavidDiamon
    David Ogilvys stuff is good to get overall picture but there are some videos of Carlton on youtube that may be of interest.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Originally Posted by KNutter1995 View Post


    In short, copywriting is really moving words around to make them sound better.
    Seriously?

    If that's true, why not just go to your board game closet, pull Scrabble out and play a game or two? Before you know it, your sales copy would be written.

    But make sure you play with a physical board instead of a computer version. It's been scientifically proven that touching the tiles produces better copy than typing the letters.

    Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
    Originally Posted by KNutter1995 View Post

    If you're interested in getting started on #copywriting, you have to understand exactly what it is first.

    In short, copywriting is really moving words around to make them sound better. It's not just about "writing," it's about psychologically influencing people to do something, whether that's to purchase something or sign up for your email newsletter.

    The best way to get started on understanding copywriting is the read the best of the best books.

    Here are my favorites:

    1. This Book Will Teach You to Write Better - Neville Medhora
    2. The Copywriter's Handbook - Robert W. Bly
    3. Ogilvy on Advertising - David Ogilvy
    4. The Boron Letters - Gary C. Halbert
    5. Scientific Advertising - Claude C. Hopkins
    6. Advertising Secrets of the Written Word - Joseph Sugarman
    7. The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

    Tell me: what are your favorite books to read in your trade? What books do you think every professional should read?
    My opinion, having read, studied and applied from over hundreds of ponderous tomes, the one I would start with, if starting over is

    The MR. X BOOK, or MARKETING SECRETS OF JAY ABRAHAM AND OTHER MARKETING WIZARDS. It is an A to Z, soup to nuts, guide on persuading people to part with their pennies (or even thousand dollar bills).

    GordonJ
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  • Profile picture of the author Sevan Rudolf
    Best books to learn copywriting are

    1.On Writing Well by William Zinsser
    2.Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark (this guy presented at Copy Chief Live last year and spent an hour breaking down a 6-word phrase from Macbeth to show us EXACTLY what made these 6 words so damn memorable. Clark breaks down great pieces of writing and shows you WHY they're so good. It's not just what you say, it's HOW you say it that grabs your audience by the throat.)
    3.Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
    4.On Writing by Stephen King
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