There are two critical ways for content marketers to absorb important copywriting mechanics: learning how to write and practice. I’m can’t help you with the practicing, because you yourself need to write and continue writing in order to practice. However, to assist you with the learning part, here are seventeen classic copywriting books that will help you improve your copywriting abilities.
1. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
This book by Claude Hopkins expresses the powerful truths he has experienced concerning salesmanship in print. These lessons have been pertinent for many years across all forms of media, and they continue to influence today’s online marketing.
David Ogilvy once said that no one should be permitted to have something to do with advertising until they have read this book seven times. This book is life changing. I recommend reading Scientific Advertising before other books on advertising or marketing because it might change your way of thinking.
2: The Robert Collier Letter Book by Robert Collier
This is a remarkable book because it has numerous examples of winning ads.
This book shows how Robert Collier’s sales copy sold in thousands. His stories bring in orders for more than $3 million, and Robert Collier’s ads also generated orders for more than 80,000 books on the history of world war.
- Do you mean global war? Or do you mean World War One, World War Two, or both of the World Wars?
- Tell us more about the book. What’s it about? What examples can you provide?
3: Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
John Caples was an ex-engineer who wrote one of the most renowned headlines in history in his first year as a copywriter
- For the format I would suggest something like “Book 3: “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples”
- What makes this book good? Don’t just tell us, explain what makes the book good.
4: Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
You will not be able to get the hands on this book without having to pay a heavy price. So, once you know anyone who has a copy, ask to borrow it. The part I like to discuss is the 5 stages of purchaser preparedness. You will look at your audience in a different way after reading this page.
- See previous note about the format.
- It’s probably better not to start off by telling the reader they won’t be able to get their hands on the book. You’re trying to get the reader interested in reading the book, and this will put them off.
- Tell us about the 5 Stages of Purchaser Preparedness. Demonstrate to the reader that you know what this is about.
- What’s the book about? You didn’t tell us anything with this paragraph.
5: How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor O. Schwab
The first chapter shared 100 headlines, which made the price of this book worth every penny.
Through this book, you will have the opportunity to learn:
– How to connect readers with emotional triggers
– How to justify with facts
– How to close the sale with social evidence
Additionally, all of the amazing examples provided throughout this book is a complete bonus.
- What makes the headlines worth the price? What headlines?
- You tell us nothing about this book.
- Provide some examples.
6: Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
This book will allow you to move slowly through the mind of one of the 20th century’s most brilliant and rich advertisers. Time magazine called David Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.” This book is a perfect example of why that is the case.
He was well known for the huge amount of energy he poured into each advert. This 1984 discourse on advertising is like having a close discussion with Ogilvy.
- Again, you tell us nothing about the book.
7: Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joe Sugarman
If you remember Blu-Blocker sunglasses or the JS&A Group, then you most likely know of Joe Sugarman. If you were born in the early 70s you should definitely know about him. His ability to sell a product lies in his skill to tell a story about any product.
The main message of this book is that the purpose of the headline is to make you read the first sentence. The purpose of the first sentence is to make you read the second sentence, and so on. Think of it as a guide.
- This is a much better paragraph. You bring us in with a hook and tell us more about what the book is about.
- Know him? As in personally? Or know OF him? Knowing someone and knowing of someone are two different things, and this is an important distinction to make.
- Guide to what? Spell it out.
Book 8: Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves
Do you know Rosser Reeves?
Maybe this will help; Rosser Reeves is said to be the model for the character Don Draper on Mad Men. Rosser Reeves was the wise and influential ad man known for the Dristan and Anacin ads and another classic.
This text is a comprehensive lesson concerning selling a product through advertising, derived from thirty years of thorough research.
Ogilvy once made a remarked that he would buy 450 copies of this for all of his officers, employees, and even his clients. If such a marketing giant would think so highly of a book, then clearly it’s a must-read for any aspiring copywriter.
9: Influence by Robert Cialdini
Although this book is not about the skill of straight response copywriting, it converted me from a fictitious snob into a zealous direct response copywriter.
It made me understand I can love marketing. I can love the skill of using words to influence and persuade people.
The seven techniques Robert Cialdini teaches can be applied to all kinds of writing not just copywriting.
- Tell us what straight response copywriting is. Tell us how the book converted you.
- List examples of where you believe these techniques can be applied.
10: Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
This copywriter is known for many books. This book was written in 1963 before Ogilvy in Advertising and for me, and this is the best among one of the two books of his on this list.
You can find this sample of the sections in this book:
- How to run an advertising agency
- How to get clients
- How to maintain clients
- How to build great campaigns
- How to write powerful copy
- How to show advertisements and posters
- How to make fine television commercials
By 2009, more than two million copies of this book have been printed and sold. It’s also a great book for anybody who needs to manage talent too.
- Before David what? Do you mean before Ogilvy entered advertising?
11: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
According to Goodreads, this book is “a handbook of how to succeed in the world: a pocket bible for the talented and timid alike to help make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible.”
Arden started his career in advertising at the age of 17 and for fifteen years he was an executive creative director at Saatchi and Saatchi.
- You don’t tell us enough about the book.
12: Copy Logic by Michael Masterson and Mike Palmer
Most books are about writing copy from scratch. Only a few address the much more common need that many copywriters have: how to improve the copy you already have.
That is where Copy Logic comes in. In this book, direct marketing professional Michael Masterson and expert copywriter Mike Palmer reveals their rational, step by step process for turning B level copywriting into an A level copy within 24 hours.
This is the accurate process that was honestly responsible for assisting one company increase its revenues into the $400 million yearly range while creating six-figure incomes for many of its copywriters.
- What company is this? Tell us.
13: The Copywriter’s Handbook by Bob Bly
Perhaps most well-known for its perfect features versus profit checklist and its twenty-two point exam is The Copywriter’s Handbook. This book has all you need.
This was the first book a friend of mine picked-up years ago when he entered the online world of copywriting.
And now like other online copywriters, it’s hands down among the best on this list.
- Why is it relevant that we know that this was the first book a friend of yours picked up?
- Why is it “hands down among the best?” How does this book help someone become a better copywriter? What about it justifies its place on this list?
14: The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa
If I had to choose a favorite book on advertising, I would say The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa. This book teaches you about the twenty keys to a “Great Brand Story.” and the reason why your business needs it.
This book is a bit more of a branding book, however, it’s extremely helpful in helping you understand what is most important to convey to your customers.
Some words from the book:
The Fortune Cookie Principle comes down to two simple equations:
Product + Meaning = Brand
Product – Meaning = Commodity
Think of your satisfied and comment, copy as being like a first date. It’s the way your brand begin establishing the type of relationship that leaves people looking for more.
- This part about words from the book does not seem relevant. Furthermore, is this how the book formats it? If not, don’t format it this way.
- The inclusion of a quote is a nice touch and should be done for the rest of the entries as well. It gives the reader a better sense of what the book is about. However, make sure the quote you include is word for word what’s in the book.
15: Dancing Dogs: How to Make Palz and Win Ritz by Oliver
This is one brand name you might not be familiar with. He is widely known on Twitter and has # followers. Not many people will recommend their own book for a Top 5 list, but if anybody can pull it off, it’s Oliver.
- What brand name? Do you mean this website? Do you mean Oliver’s brand?
- Tell us exactly how many followers Oliver has.
- Who is this person? Is this a real book?
16: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
We read books to improve ourselves in certain areas of knowledge, and this is especially true when it’s the field we work in. Some copywriting books are very popular and tend to be passed around and frequently quoted by our peers. However, if you read all the same books as everyone else in the industry, you might not be able to distinguish yourself as separate from your peers. Reading books that aren’t as well known by our peers gives us fresh perspectives that they won’t have, and allows us to think outside the box.
Never Split the Difference is a good negotiation book, and it’s written by someone who comes from a more unique perspective than many.
Chris Voss was a leading FBI kidnapping negotiator and learns the tough way what actually works in a negotiation, as you find out in his book. Voss has taught at universities such as Harvard and M.I.T., which is a fantastic indicator of just how good his methods are
This entry wouldn’t be complete without a model from Voss.
- What is the quote? Is the first sentence of the paragraph the quote? Is it a direct quote? Previously you included the quote at the end of the entry, and that was a nice touch. Including it, in the beginning, isn’t wrong, but you need to be consistent with where the quote appears in each entry. Either start the entry with it or end the entry with it.
- What model? You don’t present the readers with a model. What makes Voss the father of modern advertising? Who gave him this title? Also, as stated before it is customary to refer to an individual by their last name, not their first.
17: Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Made to Stick is a wonderful book, made even better by the fact that what it teaches doesn’t just apply to copywriting. You can use it to figure out how to do a lot of other things. For example, a fiction writer can use it to write better books, and parents can use it to convince their children to eat their food.
Still, I say it’s particularly useful for copywriters. It gives you a structure for being able to judge your work on. This structure comes in the form of a checklist of six things you can look for in your work:
You don’t necessarily need to have all six things to make your work good. Including two or four items on the checklist can be enough. Furthermore, even having all the things on this checklist won’t guarantee that your work is the best it can be. If it was that easy there would be more great copywriters in the world. Rather, the point of this checklist is to point out the precise things you might look for when you go over your work, and it would be beneficial to refer to this checklist as a reminder to look for the presence of these things in your work.
There are also many other wonderful stories in the book that give you an insight into how the best copywriters write, so you will be entertained while you learn. It’s a win-win!
- Is this checklist directly from the book? Are they chapters? Or is this what you gathered from it?
These books are each an invaluable resource for copywriters at all levels. They allow us to benefit from the experience of the writers, and to apply their knowledge to the work that we do. However, it’s important to mention that many of the books are uncommon, or might have very expensive.
You may want to check your local library or ask people you know before you order any of them.
Which classics would you add to this list? How many of these copywriting books have you read or plan to read?
Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you!