Words have the power to inform, entertain and persuade. But the words on a page (or screen) are only ever as powerful as the writer that wields them. In order to be the most convincing, interesting and effective copywriter you can be, you need to use words like a Jedi with a typewriter. And like all good Jedis, you should learn as much as you can from the masters.
Reading the following 10 copywriting books won’t automatically make you an exceptional copywriter (or a Jedi for that matter), but used correctly they will enhance your writing and boost your results.
David Ogilvy has been referred to as ‘The Father of Advertising’. The agency he founded, Ogilvy and Mather, went on to become one of the largest ad agencies in the world. ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ meanwhile has become one of the go-to reference tomes for copywriters. In it you’ll find the master’s advice on advertising that sells, B2B advertising secrets, tips on running an ad agency and many other topics that remain relevant today.
‘Can I Change Your Mind?’ focuses on the nuts and bolts of persuasive writing. As well as looking at the skills you need to succeed as a copywriter, the book will teach you how to apply them practically. Camp is an experienced freelance copywriter with more than two decades of experience under his belt. He’s also written more than a dozen children’s books, which some might argue target a demographic that’s even trickier to please than the paying public.
Write to Sell: The Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting – Andy Maslen
Andy Maslen’s specialty is B2B copywriting. In this book he provides pragmatic tips and techniques for persuading buyers, reaching your goals and improving readability. Maslen, who has been in the business for more than 20 years, also looks at how layout and design can have an impact on the effectiveness of your writing. One topic covered that might appeal to small business owners is how non-professionals can still write compelling copy.
Robert Bly has written a large number of books on the subject of copywriting, and this is one of the most useful and accessible. As the name suggests, The Copywriter’s Handbook serves as both a primer for novices and a reference source for experienced hacks. Topics covered include how to make your copy more readable, sales letter techniques and ‘the eight magic headlines’. If you’re looking for something specifically targeted at online copy, check out Bly’s ’The Online Copywriter’s Handbook’.
If you’ve already mastered the basics of copywriting, this book can give you the guidance you need to reach the next level. The 10 lessons each deal with a different element of copywriting, from the basics to utilising figures of speech and leveraging the ‘power of narrative’. The chapter on ‘The seven habits of highly successful copywriters’ ties it altogether and provides a framework for future improvement. Gyles Lingwood has a copywriting and educational background, and is currently a lecturer teaching creative advertising. Roger Horberry meanwhile trains copywriters, as well as being a successful independent copywriter himself.
There are two interesting facts about this book. The first is that it was written by a murderer serving a life-term in an Arizona prison. The second is that Louis Victor Eytinge wrote this book in 1914, having perfected his sales letter writing techniques selling items made by fellow prisoners to curio dealers. Through his prison entrepreneurship he became a highly acclaimed copywriter, and this book contains the secrets to his success.
‘The Copy Book’ was published in the nineties by one of world’s leading ad agencies, but remains relevant in today’s digital age. The book contains not just lessons and tips on how to craft compelling copy, but also numerous real life examples of advertising at its finest. The book has been updated since its publication, and now contains more recent ad examples. Alongside each ad you’ll find essays by more than forty advertising professionals from around the world. A few snippets are available to on the D&AD website.
While not strictly about copywriting, On Writing can teach would-be and experienced copywriters a thing or two about the practice of writing. The book serves as a memoir of the master of horror fiction’s writing beginnings, as well as providing inspiration and tips for those who are drawn to write. King’s advice to avoid adverb use, read constantly and write in the passive voice are just a few points that copywriters can take away from this entertaining book on the writing craft and life.
Advertising Secrets of the Written Word – Joe Sugarman
Joe Sugarman’s background is in direct marketing, and one of his main claims to fame is the marketing campaign he spearheaded for the world’s first pocket calculator. In this book he shares secrets that he has used to make a substantial amount of money by convincing people to buy things. Sugarman looks at the creative process behind writing copy, the structure of copy, as well as providing examples of what works.
In order to effectively get people to buy a product or service from you, you need to understand the way they think. That’s the premise behind this book, which suggests practical ways to tap into the subconscious for better sales results. Roger Dooley is the founder of neurosciencemarketing.com, a website which specialises in the area ‘where brain science and marketing meet’.
There are many other good resources out there that can help you get started in copywriting or simply hone your craft. You can also pick up plenty of information online.
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