Copywriting Books, Copywriting Examples and Everything Else You Need
In this article, I’m going to give you my reading list for developing awesome copywriting skills. The list includes copywriting books, what to do with copywriting examples and a few other magical tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Let’s start with the basics.
Do You Need to Read Books To Learn Copywriting?
You need to read some copywriting books to understand copywriting. A lot of people make the mistake of listening to idiots online who say, “Just practice!”
When you first hear the words, “You can be a copywriter and make a ton of money!” you are bewildered, overwhelmed and you don’t know what you’re doing.
Good luck practicing copywriting when you know absolutely nothing about it.
It’s better to read a handful of copywriting books and then practice. You need the understanding first, and then the practice. Copywriting books give you the understanding and reading and learning from copywriting examples will give you the practice.
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I’d never want a surgeon who’d never read a book on anatomy. I’d never want a surgeon who’d never practiced on a cadaver. Either/or isn’t sufficient for a surgeon, and it’s not sufficient for a copywriter either.
Luckily, you don’t have to read a countless number of copywriting books. You need to read a handful of copywriting books and then practice, practice, practice. Here are my recommendations for copywriting books.
What Are Your Copywriting Book Recommendations?
Let me just reiterate the above – you don’t need to read a ton of copywriting books. You certainly don’t need to read endless blogs and forums and other low-quality information sources. (Obviously this blog is excluded. Read this blog every day and share it with all your friends.)
A handful of copywriting books followed by a lot of copywriting practice will get you where you want to be. These are the books I’ve read, learned from and can recommend.
The Boron Letters By Gary Halbert
Gary Halbert is a copywriting legend, and for good reason. He’s written some of the best-selling sales letters of all time. The Boron Letters are a set of letters he wrote in order to teach his son – and you – how to write copy.
In The Boron Letters, you’ll get to go inside one of the best minds in copywriting history, learn valuable skills and also learn about business in a wider context.
The Boron Letters are available free if you don’t mind reading them on Gary Halbert’s website, or you can get them in book form via Amazon.
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is an advertising giant. Ogilvy on Advertising is a fantastic book which will teach you about copywriting, advertising and marketing. It covers sales letters, television and radio salesmanship and how to build an agency. It’s complete knowledge from a copywriting giant.
I managed to get a copy from a charity shop. I recommend you all start shopping in second-hand bookstores, because you can find some gems. Sometimes, you’ll find Ogilvy on Advertising at a really cheap price, which is awesome. Or, you can get it on Amazon here.
Sometimes, you find even better deals… which I’ll talk about below.
Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso
Before I talk about old knowledge in dusty bookstores, I’ll talk about writing for the web.
Most copywriting books that are worth reading deal with sales letters and other old-fashioned media.
An important thing to remember is that copywriting is a set of techniques that can be applied to any medium. Web Copy That Sells uses the same devices for the web that Ogilvy on Advertising suggests for print media.
How To Write And Sell Simple Information For Fun and Profit by Bob Bly
This book is about simple information… and profit.
It’s great for those of you copywriters who are self-employed. It talks about how you can use and recycle information by putting it into different formats. If you own your words, this is more money with little extra work. Obviously that’s a good thing.
How To Write and Sell Simple Information For Fun and Profit also talks about how to make sure you own the words you write. This is crucial if you make a living through your words.
Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
I like reading old books. When it comes to business, there are a million different resources you can use. There’s a lot of information which is very niche, and there are complexities layered upon each other.
Whatever business you’re in, it’s worth going back to older information. The information is clearer, simpler and oftentimes it won’t sacrifice any relevancy.
Scientific Advertising is an example of that. If you read this book (it’s in the public domain, so you’ve no excuse not to) you’ll see that most of the groundwork is laid out for modern copywriting. This book is filled with information that has been updated and rehashed countless times over the years.
Get it on Amazon here.
Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
Consider this another “magical tome” for copywriters from the olden days.
It is similar to Scientific Advertising in that you can see where thousands of marketers are considered “experts” because they’ve simply read and rehashed the lessons they got from Breakthrough Advertising.
Copies of this book go for hundreds of dollars – someone is selling it for $300 on Amazon. I scan used bookstores for this book all the time. I haven’t had any luck yet, but I have read the book. How?
I found it at a local library.
Look around, get your hands on a copy of this and read it.
Once you’ve read all of these, move on to the next step.
…About Reading Copywriting Examples
Once you’ve read the above books, you’ll know as much about the structure and techniques of copywriting as you need to. The above copywriting books will give you everything you need as far as understanding the mechanics of copywriting are concerned.
But reading those books won’t make you a master copywriter. You’ll still be terrible at copywriting if all you do is read copywriting books.
What you need to do next is read copywriting examples.
But that’s not all I recommend you do with copywriting examples. I recommend you take the copywriting examples you find and turn them into your own personal set of templates. Everyone does this to some extent – copywriters call it a swipe file – but I think you should take it a step further. Read this article on how to do that.
In this article, I’ve given you everything you need to get a world class education in copywriting.
Read the copywriting books. Make notes on them if you have to, but internalise the lessons.
Then practice a ton. Copy famous adverts out by hand. Pull them to pieces and rewrite them using everything you’ve learned.
Do this over and over until you can do it in your sleep.
Then, you’ll be excellent at copywriting.