The Ideal Copywriting Book For Beginners?

by Don Luis Banned
46 replies
They say I have the talent for writing but I don't know how to write in such a way that attracts customers and produce sales. That is why I am interested in studying copywriting. Can you recommend a good copywriting course or book for beginners?
#beginners #book #copywriting #ideal
  • Profile picture of the author themesplice
    Hi highly recommend "The Ultimate Sales Letter" by Dan Kennedy
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    • Profile picture of the author Studio13
      Originally Posted by themesplice View Post

      Hi highly recommend "The Ultimate Sales Letter" by Dan Kennedy
      That was the first thing that came to mind when I read the title of the thread, so +1 to this.
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Ceskavich
        Don't drink the kool aide...

        I have no doubt you have good intentions, but to learn copywriting, you read the masters. And Dan Kennedy is no master copywriter.

        Caples, Schwab, Schwartz, Collier, Hopkins, Kennedy, Ogilvy, Stone. Those are the books you'll learn your trade from.

        Starting with Dan Kennedy is like buying into the cult on your very first spiritual journey.

        - Alex
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        • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
          Originally Posted by Alex Ceskavich View Post

          Don't drink the kool aide...

          I have no doubt you have good intentions, but to learn copywriting, you read the masters. And Dan Kennedy is no master copywriter.

          Caples, Schwab, Schwartz, Collier, Hopkins, Kennedy, Ogilvy, Stone. Those are the books you'll learn your trade from.

          Starting with Dan Kennedy is like buying into the cult on your very first spiritual journey.

          - Alex
          Ahh...

          Let's see. First you say Kennedy is no master. Then you name Kennedy as one of the masters you'll learn your trade from. I guess you mean John F. Kennedy, huh? Or maybe Harvey Swartz Kennedy... :rolleyes:
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        • Profile picture of the author ARSuarez
          Originally Posted by Alex Ceskavich View Post

          Don't drink the kool aide...

          I have no doubt you have good intentions, but to learn copywriting, you read the masters. And Dan Kennedy is no master copywriter.

          Caples, Schwab, Schwartz, Collier, Hopkins, Kennedy, Ogilvy, Stone. Those are the books you'll learn your trade from.

          Starting with Dan Kennedy is like buying into the cult on your very first spiritual journey.

          - Alex
          Now THIS is some seriously funny ****.

          I don't disagree with you about the masters - I read them regularly. And to be a great writer, I think you must really study and be very familiar with their work.

          But to discount Dan as a great writer and someone to study is a foolish move.

          When people like Bill Bonner, the man who started Agora, asks you to work for him... or Gary Bencivenga - you know, the greatest living copywriter - says "you've given me top level information for years and always at a discount" (or something to that effect), or you have an entire issue in the Gary Halbert Letters devoted to praising your ability, or when you get paid over $35k to write copy by companies like Guthy-Renker...

          Then please, feel free to say something like "Dan is no master copywriter" and that starting with Dan is like buying into a cult.

          Even then, it's a ****ty and baseless thing to say.

          His book, The Ultimate Sales Letter, is among the best basic texts to read about copywriting.

          Please read "Look Over My Shoulder," listen to "Influential writing Workshop," and take a break from The Salty Droid before you go downing Dan's abilities.

          Now, I add a caveat: Dan's strategies don't work in every industry. Financial, for example, isn't 100% compatible (about 50% is). But Dan knows this - he never talks about consulting with financial, or writing financial copy, because it would take a damn long time for him to learn how to write to that market.

          Anyway, I posted this so that people who read Alex's post wouldn't get scared away from Dan. Yeah, his entry level material is very basic - because it's entry level. The higher you go, the more advanced and powerful the strategies.

          In response to the OP, I highly recommend Victor Schwab's "How To Write A Good Advertisement." In my opinion, it's the #1 beginner's book to learn copywriting basics (beyond structure and style stuff that Dan Kennedy discusses in his book).

          -Angel
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    • Profile picture of the author Jonathan 2.0
      Thanks for the Dan Kennedy suggestion: I'm going to read that book. : )
      Signature
      "Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity."―Joseph Sugarman
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  • Profile picture of the author Toniy
    I was in the same position once

    There is a BIG difference, so you'd be right to get studying... you'll be amazed at how your regular writing improves as well.

    I'm biased, but if you're after something closer to home (i.e. more of a 'copywriter's copywriter'), I swear by anything Paul Hancox.

    Love his teaching style... it's like it just gets downloaded into your brain

    He's got a few books out there... He just released a new book... 'Emergency Copywriting' I think it was called and it's very comprehensive.

    It's here on the forum as a WSO and it's aimed at folks who need to write copy in 24 hours.

    But that's more of a market positioning thing... copy in 24 hours appeals more to the 'non-copywriting' crowd who think writing copy is too much work.

    What lies beneath is an awesome book that makes writing copy easy to understand, from the position of a non-copywriter... or a beginner, as you quite rightly said

    Otherwise I know a lot of people say you absolutely must read 'Scientific Advertising' by Claude C. Hopkins. Several times :p

    I read it once. I don't know...

    It all depends on how far you want to go I think...
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    • Profile picture of the author Jake Dennert
      Originally Posted by Toniy View Post

      I was in the same position once

      There is a BIG difference, so you'd be right to get studying... you'll be amazed at how your regular writing improves as well.

      I'm biased, but if you're after something closer to home (i.e. more of a 'copywriter's copywriter'), I swear by anything Paul Hancox.

      Love his teaching style... it's like it just gets downloaded into your brain

      He's got a few books out there... He just released a new book... 'Emergency Copywriting' I think it was called and it's very comprehensive.

      It's here on the forum as a WSO and it's aimed at folks who need to write copy in 24 hours.

      But that's more of a market positioning thing... copy in 24 hours appeals more to the 'non-copywriting' crowd who think writing copy is too much work.

      What lies beneath is an awesome book that makes writing copy easy to understand, from the position of a non-copywriter... or a beginner, as you quite rightly said

      Otherwise I know a lot of people say you absolutely must read 'Scientific Advertising' by Claude C. Hopkins. Several times :p

      I read it once. I don't know...

      It all depends on how far you want to go I think...
      I just had to chime in here with another vote for Paul.

      VERY well-rounded program... with one bite-sized chunk at a time.

      Schwartz, Sugarman, Halbert, Carlton... what made each one of them great is dissected in his program, and he's actually there to help you get a firm grasp on it... one-on-one.

      Best investment I've ever made, but I totally agree with many others in this thread:

      A copywriter's education is NEVER 'over'.

      Sure, the learning process slows down... but it's really got to become one of those 'eat, sleep, breath' things.

      To the OP, good luck on your journey... but take it slow.


      Jake
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    A second vote for "The Ultimate Sales Letter" by Dan Kennedy.

    This is what I recommend to my coaching students and the
    reasons are:

    1. It gives you a quick overview of the total sales letter
    2. It is written in simple language like all of Dan's stuff
    3. You get illustrations for all the principles he shows you.
    4. You don't need a writing or sales background to understand it.

    At the the same time keep in mind that it's a start, but a
    very great start for sure. You get the foundational
    parts of a sales letter that many people miss. It's a
    great checklist for any sales letter.

    -Ray Edwards
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    The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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    • Profile picture of the author Don Luis
      Banned
      Thank you very much for your recommendations, themesplice, Toniy and Ray. I know that there are many good copywriting books or courses but I don't know if they are meant for a beginner like me. I will check out the "Ultimate Sales Letter" first to see if it's meant for me.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Ceskavich
    John E Kennedy.

    You know, the ex-Canadian mountie who wrote that famous note to Albert Lasker.

    Coiner of the phrase "salesmanship in print."

    Sarcasm is reserved for people who know exactly what they're talking about.

    - Alex
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    • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
      Originally Posted by Alex Ceskavich View Post

      John E Kennedy.

      You know, the ex-Canadian mountie who wrote that famous note to Albert Lasker.

      Coiner of the phrase "salesmanship in print."

      Sarcasm is reserved for people who know exactly what they're talking about.

      - Alex
      Brilliant. Congratulations on being the only one who knows exactly what you're talking about. Smartass.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Ceskavich
    Don't get all pissed off at me: You talked **** and got caught out.

    Such is life. Sorry if I made yours harder.

    - Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    Banned
    John E. Kennedy...the Dude who wrote
    I am in the saloon downstairs. I can tell you what advertising is. I know you don't know. It will mean much to me to have you know what it is and it will mean much to you. If you wish to know what advertising is, send the word "yes" down by the bell boy. Signed - John E. Kennedy
    From - John E. Kennedy - Marketing Master
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  • Profile picture of the author Toniy
    Alright so the best books on the subject seem to be from way back when, which is great, I'm happy with that...

    Leads me to want to ask though... Have there been any 'revolutionary' books in recent years... say maybe the last 20 years?
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  • Profile picture of the author Dean Dune
    The only book you really need is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz.

    Most copywriters will try to tell you that this book isn't for beginners...but I heartily disagree.

    Why?

    Because Schwartz packed everything you need to know into this one volume: how to wallop readers with emotion-packed words and sentences, how to use parallel structure and syllogism to "hypnotize" your target audience into buying, how to discover a "hook" - transform the "hook" into a headline, and then use it to write the rest of your ad.

    To reinforce these simple lessons, Schwartz breaks down 5 of his power-house advertisements, and reveals the structure and tactics that lie hidden beneath. Step by step, start to finish, soup to nuts.

    Don't waste your time and money buying four hundred books on "copywriting", you'll just spin your wheels and go nowhere.

    Snap up Breakthrough Advertising. Read it. Then read it again. Maybe once more. Then, start copying the 5 sample advertisements out by hand. BY HAND. Rinse, repeat, and the world will be yours.

    The ONLY other book I would consider buying is the Robert Collier Letter Book...but even that is optional.

    Good luck on your journey.
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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by Dean Dune View Post

      The only book you really need is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz.

      Most copywriters will try to tell you that this book isn't for beginners...but I heartily disagree.
      Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz is about the deepest book
      there is on the subject of copywriting. If you make this your first book
      on the subject you'd have to be a genius to get it.

      You have to read Schwartz several times to get his points and I'm no
      dummy. Having taught copywriting for 5 years now I'd never suggest
      to a student to make Schwartz their first book. You need some
      background in sales and marketing before you can get Schwartz.

      -Ray Edwards
      Signature
      The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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  • Profile picture of the author Dean Dune
    I agree, Ray...it's a tough read.

    But if someone isn't willing to put in the work to get through, understand, and then apply Breakthrough Advertising, then they should consider another career.

    There are no short-cuts in this game, and nobody said it would be sweat-free.
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  • Profile picture of the author Toniy
    I see where you're coming from Dean (excuse me as I include myself in the conversation )... and I'm always a fan of walking the path less travelled...

    But wouldn't the result be the same? Or thereabouts...

    I mean let's say 'Breakthrough Advertising' is the best, the ultimate copywriting book... but it's really tough to get through, especially without any prior knowledge.

    Wouldn't a person receive a more effective learning experience being eased in gradually i.e. with basic sales principles first in pretty much a layman's style?

    That way they get used to the lingo and the concepts... and their frame of reference adapts in such a way that something as hardcore as Breakthrough becomes accessible.

    They then make up the time they spent reading less comprehensive books, by only having to read through it a couple of times to 'get it' instead of a dozen or so...

    Seems like otherwise it's the same as taking an advanced course in Japanese without going through the beginner and intermediate stages first... you might get it eventually but you're making it a lot harder on yourself, for the exact same benefits and results.
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  • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
    I recommend you read Dan Kennedy's Ultimate Sales Letter book and Victor Schwab's How To Write A Good Advertisement. You will learn the fundamentals of copywriting in these two books.

    As others have said, leave Breakthrough Advertising for later.

    If you want to quit copywriting before you start, then read Breakthrough Advertising.

    Best,

    Thomas O'Malley
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce Wedding
    If you'll look at the sticky's in this section of the forum, because this question is asked all the time, you will find many suggestions.

    My advice is, there is no ONE book which will make you a copywriter. Reminds me of the saying, "Beware of the man of one book."

    Look for Mr. Subtle's list of the top 10 copywriting books of all time. Its near the bottom of page 1. After reading those, you'll have the knowledge required to sell in print. If you can't be bothered, here it is:

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    • Profile picture of the author sanjaypande
      You need to get an education in advertising and sales (more importantly sales). A great place to start is here ->

      The Gary Halbert Letter

      Why listen to me, when Halbert is dishing advice ;-)

      Follow the instructions and you should be on your way.

      Start collecting famous ads (space and direct mail only) and break down the structure - Headlines, Lead-ins, stories, bullets, guarantees, scarcity, fake close, real close, layout, transitions, flow, language, creative use of punctuation to highlight points etc.
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      • Profile picture of the author StephenJJackson
        WOW! I'm glad I kept on reading until the end. The information everyone has talked about in this post has been extremely helpful to me, and I only stumbled in here looking for something from Robert Bly.

        Thanks for all the posts..

        I too would like to become a decent Copywriter, and hopefully with some of the recommendations I've read here, I can finally get started.

        Thanks everyone,

        Stephen
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        Stephen Jay Jackson is an Article Content Writer
        Writing the content you need, when you need it!
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  • Profile picture of the author durant0704
    I use the Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy and Words that Sell by Richard Bayan almost religiously
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  • Profile picture of the author MsConnie
    I just started reading The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joe Sugarman, which is turning out to be pretty good read. When I'm done, I'll start on The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert Bly.
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    • Profile picture of the author InfinityNetwork
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanmcgee
    Cash Copy by Jeffrey Lant. Get it on Amazon for $3.95.
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  • Profile picture of the author Everton1
    Originally Posted by Ken_Caudill View Post

    Joe Sugarman's the Adweek Copywriting Handbook. Pick up a copy of Triggers, too.
    Glad to see somebody mention that. I just started in on it. The book is as easy to read as his copy. I can't imagine needing much more after that...if it is studied and dog-eared enough, that is. Really great for someone who needs a starting point to learn and leap from.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jam88es99
    Banned
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    • Profile picture of the author IMBotz
      You HAVE to read Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman. Its well written and its a short read but packed with great info!

      PreSell Mastery is also a good course. I think it was a WSO that was launched within the last year.
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      • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
        Whitman is a fun entry-point for someone wanting to learn more about copywriting.

        --- Ross
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  • Profile picture of the author abugah
    I find it difficult to pin-point one book that is the ultimate. One requires a combination of books-five to seven to really grasp copywriting. In any case one never stops reading. If you are too busy, read two books a month. Otherwise, a book a week will bring you closer to mastery than you can imagine.
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  • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
    I just finished reading Ray Edwards' Writing Riches...an excellent book for a copywriter.

    His chapter on writing bullets is worth the price of the book.

    Some good insights on email marketing as well.
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    • Profile picture of the author Rick88
      Copywriting is always an on going learning process. You need to get the basics down but always be learning. The above mentioned are excellent resources especially the List of Ten.

      Personally I got started with John Carlton who writes an over the edge type. I love his 17 point checklist. However that type is not for all copywriting which leads to the question what type of copywriting do you want to do?

      There is B2C which is business to customer, B2B which is business to business, case studies, brochures, website sales pages, video scripts, and so on and so on. This may be new to you so here is my suggestion. If you can go to a Barnes and Noble or some other larger bookstore, you can browse though several different books by Dan Kennedy and others. There is the library and even used book stores can have some of the older authors mentioned above. Browse through them just to get an introduction.

      As for the older writers mentioned above, these are gold nuggets. They follow proven methods that work and work extremely well. Anyone who tells you not to pay attention to them is clueless about marketing. These books are worth studying.

      The good news is that if you put effort into this you can do it well. Just always be learning but keep in mind that what you write for determines the style. Of course you should be acquainted with the styles.
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  • Profile picture of the author jurisaragih
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  • Profile picture of the author Top Dog Marketer
    One of my favorite copywriting books is the robert collier letter book.

    You should be able to buy it used for less than $5 on amazon.
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    I'm the "Top Dog" when it comes to marketing.

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  • Profile picture of the author DawnH
    Thanks for the recommendations here! I downloaded The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy and read it last night. Already got a good first draft going! BTW, if you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime account, you can "borrow" Kennedy's book from Amazon at no cost...

    I will probably pick up a few of the other books mentioned here in the near future, but I have to agree that this one was a great one to start with!
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    • Profile picture of the author rcallaby
      For what is it worth I highly recommend Dan Kennedy, Robert Bly and John Carlton.

      There are of course some outstanding recommendations mentioned in this thread and they are worth checking out. However, the above list is what i started with and am still learning.

      Thanks,

      Richard
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      • Profile picture of the author matiogi
        What does everyone think of Ryan Deiss and David Frey?

        I've been using David Frey's 12 step salesletter formula, although I have to say I've not been making many sales so far but that is probably more my fault than his I would guess...

        He has his 12 step formula available for free if you search for "marketingbestpractices 12 step foolproof sales letter"
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  • Profile picture of the author JasonChoi
    I've read through Sugarman's and Kennedy's books. I also liked Joe Vitale's Hypnotic Writing, but in my opinion, you could probably find amazing material right here on the Warrior Forum. There are some amazing WSOs that are cheaper and easier to work with.

    I often like to read other people's ads to get real examples rather than spending a long time reading books on it, but of course that's just me.
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  • Profile picture of the author Increase Media
    Being a good copywriter is more about being a good seller. In order to sell you must first understand why people buy amd what makes people want to spend money. I otherwords, you need to know how people think.

    A great resource is: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Warriors
    Originally Posted by Ken_Caudill View Post

    Joe Sugarman's the Adweek Copywriting Handbook. .
    seconded. i also like "advertising secrets of the written word" (reading it now)
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  • Profile picture of the author thehorizon
    Dan Kennedy's Ultimate Sales Letter or Sugarman's Adweek is probably the best place to start, an opinion from my beginner's experience.
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  • Profile picture of the author Treborrevo
    For a simple primer - this post by Halbert can't be beat.

    Then go and start reading Bruce's list. Halberts simple primer will give you a place to stick all that knowledge.

    Copy By The Numbers
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    Robert Stover
    RobertStover.com

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  • Profile picture of the author bankableResults
    Claude Hopkins books ("My life in advertising" and "Scientific advertising") will teach you the basics a copywriter needs to be great.

    However. It won´t teach one of the most important things...

    ...How to channel demand onto your particular product. Which is key. Cause even a well written piece of copy fails every time, if it doesn´t address the market in the right way.

    On that subject, the first few chapters of Gene Shcwarz book, Breakthrough Advertising, will tell you everything you need to know to hit your markets responsive cord.

    Gene Schwarz writing is very clear, and he talks about critical things that no one else (that I know of?) talks about. For example:

    * The three tools every successful copywriter use.
    * When a fresh appeal is needed.
    * Which appeal that is most likely to pay off.

    Ohh, and don´t get stuck in the "prepare-to-write" stage for too long.

    The only thing that determines the quality of your copy... is the numbers. Just write and test. And don´t be discouraged when you "fail".

    As Schwarz used to say: "A very good copywriter is going to fail. If the guy doesn’t fail, he’s no good. He’s got to fail. It hurts. But it’s the only way to get the home runs the next time."

    Good Luck!

    //Sara

    P.S. One last thing (before anyone complains) my English "sucks" cause I´m Swedish.
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    • Profile picture of the author marlon
      Hey,

      Dave is a great friend of mine.

      Having said that, the 12 step formula he presents is
      the one I originated and taught in 120 seminars around
      the world.

      I have a video as evidence teaching it in Boulder, CO
      back when Rudl was alive and Yanik and Edwards were
      unknown.

      Dan Kennedy's book is a SALES PITCH for his copywriting
      services. It teaches you what to do but NOT how to do it
      and as such is a brilliant sales pitch....so brilliant that people
      think he actually taught ANYTHING in the book, which he pretty
      much didn't.

      To his credit, Dan has 2 sets of videos on copywriting that are
      very good.

      Halbert's letters are a must reading, including Boron.

      All 3 Caples books are a must but have to be seen in the light
      of modern methods.

      No one mentioned Michael Masterson which I view as a
      massive oversight. I think I paid $1000 for his notebook
      of which only probably 120 pages are about copy and it's
      120 pages I refer to often.

      Schwartz was brilliant but you have to already be pretty darned
      good at writing copy to really get what he's writing about.

      Conversational Hypnosis by Lidor has many things that apply
      to copy.

      Bob Serling's old book on copy was groundbreaking. He was the
      FIRST to codify a sales letter into steps other than the super
      lame AIDA formula that is the worst copy formula in the history
      of the world.

      My 12 steps were my own distillation of what I learned from
      Bob's original 16 steps.

      Marlon Sanders
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