4 Books Every Copywriter Should Read
Most books on copywriting are nonsense. However, there are 4 books every copywriter should read. What are they?
Well, these 4 books aren’t overwhelmed with a bunch of theories and instead get straight to the meat. The meat is what keeps you fed and nourished while everyone else starves.
Now let me begin by saying copywriting in and of itself isn’t important. I’ve seen many people waste their energy trying to learn “the secrets of copywriting”. Studying formulas and a whole bunch of things that don’t move the needle.
To this day I don’t call myself a copywriter even after earning $3,000,000 for my clients collectively (not personally). My main focus is on putting together great offers and telling people about them in the best possible way. Through email marketing and Twitter marketing.
I leverage my understanding of human nature, sales 101, and basic copywriting principles to achieve this.
So, when you’re going through these books don’t think you are getting some secret formula. Do formulas exist? Yes, they do. Do NOT however focus on them as you will be a robot. Robotic copywriting will prevent you from connecting with your readers. What you need to do is learn the principles of copywriting, formulas to get started, and then create your own sauce.
That’s the “secret”.
Because with your own sauce, you can find creative ways to capture people’s hearts and minds. Turning them into raving fans and happy lifelong customers. With all of this cleared up, let’s dive right in.
Must Read Books for Copywriters
1) The Boron Letters
The Boron Letters is one of my personal favorites. Gary Halbert wrote it to his son Bond Halbert while in prison. Gary is known as one of the best copywriters to have ever lived earning millions of dollars through his ads and seminars.
However, what I liked most about him was his attitude.
There’s a certain realness to him few people allow to shine through. This realness combined with his ferocious ability to turn words into profit made him stand out amongst everyone else.
While the Boron letters isn’t quite a “copywriting formula book”. It was what got me approaching my writing from a business perspective.
Here are my favorite The Boron Letters Quotes:
“Sell People What They Want To Buy!”
“Then, of course, what you do, is rewrite the rough spots and read the copy out loud again. And, what you do, is you keep repeating this process until your copy is completely smooth and you can read it without stumbling at all.”
“I don’t exactly know what I’m going to write about today so what I am going to do is just keep putting words down on paper until I start to get some direction.”
“Self-reliance is the real motive of great businessmen and not money.”
“You see, when things are tough I have discovered that a very very simple (but effective) thing to do is just keep moving in some sort of positive direction.”
“Find A Market First… And Then Concentrate On A Product!”
“Products are a dime a dozen. They are important but much less crucial to success than finding a hot market.”
2) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a great book by Stephen King. It is one of the best books I have read about writing. From the way he tells stories to dropping writing gems, this is a must have.
You see, your job as a copywriter is telling good stories and knowing how to pique people’s interests with your words. This book will help you understand the craft of writing better than 90% of the world.
While they’re trying to find the right formula, you will write up a story that draws your reader in and convinces them to buy.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Quotes:
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page”
“Must you write complete sentences each time, every time? Perish the thought”
“I am convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing… Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad,’ is a fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with”
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut”
“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
3) Confessions of an Advertising Man
Confessions of an Advertising Man was the first actual copywriting book I ever read. David Ogilvy for anyone who has been living under a rock. Was the person who helped create what we now call branding and much more.
While it is a quick read, you get page after page of wisdom from one of the best Advertising men in history.
For me, I liked the integrity he preached. As when you understand human nature and sales, you can sell anything. With David Ogilvy it was different. He preached only selling offers you liked and thinking about the human on the other side of the advertisement.
This is something most broke copywriters don’t think about. They think writing copy is some magical process where you make money fall from the sky. When the reality is, you are speaking to another human being. This human being has desires, problems, and so you should speak to that.
For example, when I’m writing these articles. I am not writing to some random person on the other end, I am writing to you. Every word is structured to ensure you are getting the most value you can.
That way you walk away from each article with something to use. I take this same approach when selling online. It’s no surprise when I began writing to specific people instead of chasing magic money, I started earning.
David Ogilvy also gives plenty of advice I still use to this day with getting clients, retaining clients, and building a good business. Combine all of this together and you’re looking at a profitable copywriting career.
My favorite Confessions of an Advertising Man Quotes:
“The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.”
“Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”
“What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.”
A good advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself. It should rivet the reader’s attention to the product. Instead of saying,” what a clever advertisement,” the reader says, “I never knew that before. I must try this product.
“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
“There is no need for advertisements to look like advertisements. If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50 percent more readers.”
4) The War of Art
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a phenomenal book. I’ve read it twice and plan to pick it up once I return to the US for a visit. The main points that I took away from The War of Art revolved around resistance and taking risks.
You see the writing game is a mental game. It is easy to overthink what you’re writing or the offer you are creating. That is where resistance comes in and stops most people in their tracks.
They go from excited about all they will do. To feeling the weight of the world in their mind and not progressing. What Steven Pressfield points out is that it is your job as an artist (copywriter) to push through resistance. To bet on yourself and take the risk.
Which for me was quitting my job back in 2016 and doing a bunch of other things along the path to get where I am now. While you read the book, you realize how many of your “problems” in life are in your head.
Especially being a copywriter when you’ve got a deadline to hit or you’re seeking to make a name for yourself, resistance will strike. This book will serve as a great tool to read from time to time during those periods.
The next big insight you will get is how unserious you’ve been with your dream. I know for me at the time it hit me hard. I realized I would show up to my job on time and work my butt off. Yet when it came to my dreams, I treated it like a hobby that I casually did.
After years of being on the path, helping 2,500+ people, and doing weekly coaching calls – I have noticed the same pattern in others. You want to be a million-dollar copywriter and live the good life. Yet you struggle to do the bare minimum and then blame it on external nonsense.
Listen, when I was cleaning properties early in the morning. Then flipping products on Craigslist later in the day. I always found time to write and work on my craft. Putting in all of that time every single day since 2014 has made my dreams come true and now I’m working on bigger ones.
But you living the life you want starts right now.
You have to decide that XYZ is what you want to do and that you will give as much time as you need to make it happen. Whether that is only 1 hour or 5 hours a day is up to you. Stop approaching your life with such a casual hobby approach.
There are people out there who want what you claim to want much more. They will put in the extra hours and do whatever is required. You simply can’t compete with a person like that unless you play this game seriously.
Here are some The War of Art Quotes:
“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
Bonus Resources for Copywriters
As a copywriter, you become good at taking from everything around you. Maybe it’s a conversation you hear at work. Maybe you’re out walking and you see something that generates an idea.
You learn to live in the world, without being of the world. Then turning your observations into a new email, sales page, or offer. The books above while not all directly about “copywriting” will give you extra tools for your work ahead.
It will take as long as it takes, but don’t give up. Here are a few last copywriting resources to give you before you go on your way.
Every freelancer I know has a Swipe File. This applies to copywriters, web designers, resume builders, etc. Now, what exactly is a Swipe File? A swipe file is a treasure trove you can tap into when doing your work. You gather your best work and then find other people who have done good work.
Then combine it all into your own armory of ideas and templates you can pull from. As a copywriter, this will come in handy. I can’t tell you the number of times I have sat there staring at a blank screen.
Instead of sitting there for hours as most people do, I simply open up my personal armory and find something. Instantly I get an idea and put together an amazing email for my clients.
So if you don’t have one yet, I recommend you begin studying and taking from Swipefile.com. It is a free website with loads of great ads, emails, sign-up forms, and much more.
Freelancer Profit Manual
The next resource is Freelancer Profit Manual. Inside you get access to 20+ videos and a private group of 100+ members. All of which are making money as a freelancer in every niche you can imagine.
I put it together after working as a freelancer through the ups and downs. You can get it here.
I hope you took a lot of notes from this article, today friend. You can find all of the books mentioned on Amazon.
I will talk to you again soon.
Always the best,
PS: If you’re not sure what skill you want to build, I put together a book for you. It’s a free guide but will give you 33 different profitable skills.