I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
Top-rated books are worth their weight in gold.
You can literally learn everything from the best copywriters for less than $30.
But then again, you probably know this since you’re here.
So kudos to you!
I’ve come across many influential copywriters in my journey. Writers like Gary Halbert, Neville Medhora, and Joseph Sugerman to name a few. But there’s one particular quote that’s stuck with me.
“Copywriting is one of the most important skills you can have in business and one of the most important skills you can have in life.”Sam Parr, Founder of The Hustle and Co-host of My First Million
I truly believe copywriting is one of the most underrated skills. It forces you to learn about people, business, and sales. It even teaches you how to think and write clearly.
So in this article, I’m going to share the best copywriting books you need to read if you want to become a great copywriter and successful entrepreneur.
1. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
Joseph Sugarman was one of the first copywriters I came across. A core principle was revealed to me in this book. It’s called “The Slippery Slope Method” where the first sentence should lead the reader onto the second sentence and so forth until the reader takes the desired action.
When I'm struggling to write something I always think about the slippery slope method and it gives me some direction. Of course, this is just one insight within the book, there are loads more. If you’re new to copywriting but have a basic understanding of marketing and business you could learn a lot from this book.
2. The Greatest Salesman in The World by Og Mandino
This particular book was written by Og Mandino in 1968 and is still a best seller. It’s not a typical copywriting book and isn’t even entirely about sales. There is a spiritual side to the book. It helped me gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a successful salesman and entrepreneur. A lot of the learnings can be applied to your own copywriting career.
If you find yourself in need of some routine, discipline, and guidance then this book would serve you well. You won’t become an overnight success as a copywriter, and Og Mandino will remind you of this.
3. The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
Gary Halbert is an infamous copywriter who was sentenced to Boron Penitentiary for tax fraud in 1984. During his sentence he wrote a set of letters to his son, these eventually formed the popular Boron Letters.
The letters contain all of Halbert’s experiences and lessons about copy, sales, and business. I learned two ideas that I still apply today.
- Always translate features into benefits
- You need a swipe file if you want to be effective
Copywriters of all levels should read and even handwrite the Boron Letters to get a sense of good writing.
4. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
Claude Hopkins was one of the early pioneers of direct-to-consumer advertising. He was also a strong advocate for testing and measuring the performance of campaigns to identify winners. Scientific Advertising goes deep into all the principles and processes you can apply to write better-performing ads.
One concept that stuck with me was the purpose of a headline. Hopkins suggests it's the only way to pluck a qualified reader. Someone who reads the headline and is intrigued is by nature someone who would likely purchase from you. This is why testing headlines are so important.
Overall, the book covers a lot of advertising principles, so if you want something more comprehensive then this book is for you.
5. Where Stellar Messages Come From by Joanna Wiebe
Joanna Wiebe is the founder of Copy Hackers, one of the largest copywriting blogs on the internet. The book is one of three in a series about writing better copy and selling more. What I like most about this particular book is the emphasis on listening to your customers. One of the best ways to write copy is by taking the words right out of a customer's mouth.
If you’re interested in developing a messaging strategy and learning how to swipe your customer's words I highly recommend giving this a go.
6. The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
Dan Kennedy is a marketing genius and the author of many different marketing books. He’s been a mentor to some of the most successful entrepreneurs including Russel Brunson, who eventually acquired Magnetic Marketing from Dan Kennedy.
The Ultimate Sales letter is great for marketers who have a product and offer ready to try. You’ll learn how to craft the copy, position the offer, and relentlessly test until you find a winner. Dan has a very methodical way of approaching this so you can apply it to almost any product, service, and offer.
7. Confessions of An Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is known as the “Father of Advertising”. He ran a huge advertising agency and put a lot of emphasis on copywriting. In his book, Confessions of An Advertising Man, Ogilvy shares all of his secrets and thoughts on advertising. Everything from how to manage an advertising agency to making campaigns for food products. It’s all packed into this one book!
This might seem like a slightly outdated option since it was before the explosion of the internet but the principles remain true. For instance, Ogilvy makes it clear that the purpose of advertising is to sell not to entertain. This is more applicable than ever in the “attention economy”.
8. Influence by Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini is an American psychologist and famous author. Cialdini shares his six core principles of persuasion, which are literally a blueprint for successful marketing. Influence isn’t a regular copywriting book although it is useful for markets and salesmen who want to better understand human psychology.
Marketers that want to create more effective offers and write better copy should invest in this book. One thing I found interesting was the idea of scarcity. I always knew this was important but only after reading Ciadlinis's take on it did I understand why and how to apply it properly.
9. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath
Chip and Dan Heath are two academic brothers from Stanford and Duke University. Their book explores why some ideas are adopted and others are simply forgotten. They explain the concept through the acronym “SUCCES” which stands for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story.
Made to Stick is a great option for people who want to write winning campaigns and make sure their copy has a lasting impact.
10. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Robert Greene is a New York Times best-selling author of many books including The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War.
You probably didn't expect to see this on the list, but hear me out. Understanding power dynamics, psychology, and people is critical to writing effective copy. Robert Greene does a phenomenal job of explaining how you can use people's natural tendencies against them for the upper hand. In this particular context, it's useful for understanding your audience and making more sales.
11. This book will teach you how to write better by Neville Medhora
Neville Medhora is the copywriter behind Copywriting Course, a popular copywriting forum, and course. He’s been publishing content for years and has worked with brands such as The Hustle.
In this book, he quite literally teaches you how to write better copy. It’s also very short, you could get through it in one sitting. It's packed with copywriting formulas and tips you can apply immediately. If you’re after a short copywriting handbook then this is a perfect option.
12. Obviously Awesome by April Dunford
April Dunford is an expert B2B positioning consultant. She helps businesses update their product positioning to accelerate their marketing and generate more sales. This is particularly useful for copywriters who need to take an angle when writing copy. In her book Obviously Awesome, Dunford explains all the signs of weak positioning and how to address this through the “Five (Plus One) Components of Effective Positioning”.
For copywriters who want a practical guide to effective positioning, this book is key. I reference the components each time I need to write copy for a new brand.