Products are only one of the many elements of a brand. Brands offer an entire lifestyle to their consumers. They express their aspirations, they reflect their values, and at times speak about their philosophy of life. There is a lot that goes between creating a brand and convincing people that the brand truly reflects their feelings and emotions.
Copywriting is the strongest bridge that connects the brands and the products with the people and creates a compelling desire in them to own it. But this does not happen with all the copies. Poor copywriting can rather spoil even the best products or brands. An impressive copywriting on the other hand can fetch a crowd towards your brand… the crowd that brings loyalty with it, the crowd that can become your community just through a few expressive words that sync with their emotions.
Copywriting is a skill that is inherent in some individuals. It can also be acquired through learning and practice. Studying classical and most successful copywriting examples is a great way to enhance your copywriting skills. Another way is to learn it by reading the best copywriting books.
And here I am with you to take you through some amazing and highly informative books on copywriting. These incredible books will not only tell you about how to pick and assemble words floating around you to create the most attractive messages but also when, where and to whom to deliver your magnetic words- through a quiet whisper in the ear or a loud shout in the crowd!
The Top 10 Best Copywriting Books
#1. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
Ogilvy is the most revered name in the field of advertising and copywriting. He is said to be the father of modern advertising. And who can believe that this father of modern advertising was once a chef and a researcher?
This particular book on advertising and copywriting was first published in 1983 and is considered to be a must-read book for every sales and marketing student and professional.
Before this book, and around two decades back in 1962 Ogilvy had written the bestseller “Confessions of an Advertising Man”. The book was so comprehensive that it had covered all the aspects of advertising. And this was the reason why many marketing experts were intrigued by the release of this new book on advertising by the same author.
What prompted the magician of advertising to launch this new book? What additional knowledge Ogilvy has shared with his dear audience in his new book? And How is “Ogilvy on Advertising” different from his earlier creation?
Ogilvy on Advertising is fundamentally the same book as the earlier publication. But a lot has changed in the world of advertising and copywriting since then. Ogilvy on Advertising is highly illustrative. Almost every page of the book contains one or more pictures and photographs. Ogilvy has depicted his own work of advertising on these pages and also presented the work of many other successful and reputed marketers.
Apart from these highly expressive illustrations, the book is also filled with suggestions and guidelines on running specific campaigns, developing broad strategies, and executing fine tactics. Ogilvy gives numerous examples of campaigns on different channels like print, photographs, audio, and video, etc.
Apart from advertising strategies and tactics Ogilvy also offers his guidance on recognizing talent, grooming them in the industry, and growing the ad agency by utilizing their talent. As you read through the book, you realize that Ogilvy has not left any aspect of advertising and fundamentals of copywriting untouched. Whether it is the market research or creating an impressive copy, Ogilvy offers practical and implementable tips that he himself has tried successfully in running his agency.
But the question is, ”Does the book that was published more than four and a half decades back still hold relevance in modern times, particularly when the world of advertising and copywriting has witnessed a transformation in its style and approach?”
Well, if you look at the channels that this book talks about then you will really not find much relevance in today’s world. Like, when Ogilvy gives examples of pulling the crowd through a newspaper ad, it surely won’t make a lot of sense to the modern copywriter as no one reads newspapers anymore.
However, if you are a true student of copywriting and want to learn the basic rules of advertising, this book is still as relevant as it was in the era when there was no internet, no cellphones, and no social media around.
“The insights shared by David Ogilvy about great advertising are still relevant in the digital world. Anyone interested in marketing must read this book. It’s a light and fun read!”- Anonymous Customer Review on Amazon.
#2. The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
It isn’t too long back that Gary Halbert first published Boron Letters in June 2013. But it is rather too long back when those letters were written which are included in the book. These letters were written by Gary, the legendary copywriter, to his son Bond in the year 1984 in which he shares his experience of 46 years of his life with Junior Halbert.
The letters include life lessons, lessons on how to make money, raise your family, invest in good health, learn to Copywrite, and also the psychological aspects of copywriting, and so on.
The one tenuous thread that keeps running throughout the book is Gary’s insistence on health and in particular, psychological health. Gary talks about the connection between mental health and its effect on copywriting. In a letter, Gary writes to his son-
“How you feel affects how you think. This is why writers need a strict routine which gives them the best possible chance to be in a pretty good mood for work.”
The beauty of the book is that it comes directly from the heart of a man who has experienced something so valuable in his life that he wants to share all of that with his son and with everyone else who is interested in learning about the philosophy of life in the most practical way and wants to learn the minutest concepts of copywriting through those experiences.
Gary elaborates on his key technique that he calls AIDA. AIDA is short for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Following is what he writes to his son while explaining about Desire and how to engage the attention of the audience by inculcating a deep desire of wanting something badly.
“let’s help him to picture in his mind the benefits of having more money. Don’t think it’s not necessary. Remember, you must always do even the obvious.”
So, I repeat the last sentence here- Remember, you must always do even the obvious. This is something that so many of us miss while advertising or while crafting a copy. We assume and tend to take things for granted, we say to ourselves,” Oh, well it is so obvious for everyone so why to mention it here!”
Boron Letters is rich with copywriting tips. In almost all the letters you will find some seemingly simple tips that can do magic when you implement them in your copywriting tasks. And keeping it simple is the most basic doctrine that Gary professes in the book time and again. He suggests asking questions to yourself and then answering them, as well. This is another simple yet profound piece of advice that prompts you to be in your customer’s shoes and view from their angles- the simplest way to understand your clients and their challenges.
Overall, Boron Letters is a must-read for all marketers and copywriters who want to learn about making money, advertising, and copywriting while getting wonderful insights about life- its trivia as well as the most vital aspects.
#3: The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly
This book is ideal for those who have just entered the most fascinating world of copywriting and have made inroads in exploring its traits.
Bob is an experienced freelance copywriter who has over 40 years of vast experience in the fields of direct marketing and B2B marketing. He has authored more than one hundred books including publications on sex, science, advertising, and so on. Despite having an experience spanning 4 decades, Bob does not have an old-timer mindset. He is a progressive marketer who is extremely sincere in all his interactions.
The Copywriter’s Handbook is an out and out copywriting book. A must-have for beginners, it can prove to be the best friend of even the most seasoned copywriters. It has many simple yet powerful lessons to teach. The biggest lesson that I found present visibly or invisibly throughout the book was that a copywriter was primarily a salesperson. You may ask me what’s so great about it, it’s so obvious! And that is precisely what I found great about it! This most obvious learning is ignored by most of the copywriters. They start considering themselves to be creative artists rather than the salespersons who are selling products to make money or generate sales and not to get an appreciation of their writing skills.
Another one is that writing a copy does not require a genius, it requires someone who can write a good copy. It is as simple and plain as that. A copywriter needs to allow their heart to do the task rather than their head coming in between and meddling with their free-flowing thoughts. It is more of an art than logic.
Bob explains by giving several examples that copywriting is the means to attain the three most important objectives of marketing. One is to get attention, two is to communicate with your audience, and three is to persuade them to buy your product. Bob talks a great deal about the most powerful words in copywriting, “free” being the strongest among them. He shares the 4Us of copywriting i.e., Urgent, Unique, Ultra-specific, and Useful.
Roberts, in the most subtle way, suggests copywriters be conscious of their ego. He suggests that your client may not like the piece of copy that you have crafted despite putting in your best efforts, but you can never provide evidence to your client that what you have written is right.
Bob indicates many myths prevalent in the field of copywriting. For example, many people believe that copywriting is an inherent capability that cannot be cultivated. Some consider it to be a complex science that cannot be understood by ordinary people. Bob says that all these beliefs are far from being true. Copywriting can very well be learned and practiced to attain perfection. It is not some sort of supernatural or magical power. It is like any other art that clicks at times and doesn’t at other moments.
#4: Influence by Robert Cialdini
Dr. Robert Cialdini is an internationally acclaimed authority on persuasion. Robert told the world that though copywriting is a work of art, it blends perfectly with the science of influence. All his life, Robert has been researching the scientific rules governing persuasion and negotiation.
Influence is the outcome of 35 years of concentrated efforts Robert has put in discovering the secret scientific rules on why people get convinced to buy a product. Since its first publication, Influence has been printed in 25 languages internationally.
Robert shares the 6 Universal principles on how to excel in the art of persuasion by applying these scientific learnings. And those 6 principles are:
- Commitment and consistency
- Social proof
These 6 principles are the 6 keys for a copywriter to open several doors to find customers queuing to buy their products. The book is an eye-opener for many traditional copywriters. Some copywriters use some tricky and shrewd persuasive techniques that initially look like giving results but don’t yield anything at best and at worst it will put off your customers forever.
Through these 6 principles, Robert explains what copywriters do to manipulate and misguide people in selling their products. So, in a way, the book is not only for the copywriters but also for the customers to know the tricks marketers use to influence them for their selfish interests.
Influence is thus a book that tells copywriters what-not-to-do in a very subtle way while explaining to them what-to-do. And if implemented with the right understanding this eventually creates more sales opportunities and conversions for the marketers and better and more useful deals for the customers. The whole process keeps intact the trust of the customers and builds a solid base of loyal customers.
The book explains with scientific evidence why people make decisions, the effects of their beliefs on decisions, the origin and creation of their beliefs and overall belief system, and how they are changed according to the circumstances.
The 6 principles presented by Robert are the psychological reasons subconsciously influencing people without them knowing about the rules. For instance,
- People willingly reciprocate to those who have supported them.
- They follow others and do what others do to gain social approval.
- They want to possess something scarce and difficult to obtain.
#5: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
What could be the most challenging situation in life where using your negotiations skills matter the most?
Well, when you have to use them to save someone’s life.
And if someone has successfully executed these skills on numerous occasions in their life, then persuading a customer would be a cakewalk for them.
And can there be a better way than getting to know about the incidences directly from the person who has experienced them first hand?
That will be great, won’t that?
So, we have this book named ‘Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss’ in which the author narrates his experiences of negotiating with many hard-core criminals. Chris Voss was a former FBI employee who worked as an international hostage negotiator. During his tenure with the FBI, he had dealt face-to-face with many criminals including the terrorists. His negotiation skills were so admired in the department that he was promoted as the lead negotiator for kidnapping cases.
Never Split the Difference is a practical guide to apply some of the proven negotiating skills to successfully resolve the most serious and high-profile criminal issues. Voss has shared 9 powerful principles to enhance your persuasive skills in your business. You can use these skills in creating the most influencing advertisements and crafting highly persuasive copies.
In general, when we think of negotiation, we consider it to be a discussion where both the parties try to pressure and bend each other to accept their respective proposals. But the book from Chris tells us that many negotiations actually spring up positive emotions. Empathy towards others, their care, and concern, and a feeling of joy can too be the important elements of negotiations. While reading the book, you suddenly realize that our day-to-day life is filled with so many situations requiring constant negotiation. We negotiate with our friends, colleagues, family members, and many others we meet in our daily life.
Voss emphasizes a lot on effective listening and developing empathy towards the one you are negotiating with. This lays a strong foundation for a more pleasant and fruitful discussion. Chris has based all his lessons on the extensive research and real-life examples that you can also apply in your personal and professional life.
Chris explains many techniques for effective listening, mirroring, labeling emotions, and so on. He suggests that getting a “convincing no” may be much more fruitful than getting a ”not-so-meaningful yes.”
Overall, the book is a wonderful read for all the copywriters. And not only for the copywriters or marketers but this book is also useful for everyone as we all negotiate with someone or the other in our daily life. Reading this book will change the way we deal with people to convince them to create a win-win situation on any matter.
#6. How to Write Magnetic Headlines by Copyblogger Media
Headlines are the doors to your content and that is why it is very important to design them so attractively that people are automatically pulled towards them to read the content. As per some reliable statistics, 80% of the people read the headlines and only the remaining 20% read through the content.
The book suggests offering one line at a time to the audience and every line should be so compelling that after reading the first line the reader should be curious to read the next line and then the next one and so on until they reach your CTA button.
So, a great headline is not the one that gets the appreciation of the audience but the one that makes them curious to know the content and eventually creates a desire to buy the product that you have offered.
How to Write Magnetic Headlines is written in a very simple style that makes it extremely easy to understand even for those who are new to copywriting. The book guides you almost by holding your hands to teach you the skills to write the most compelling and catchy headlines.
#7: Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath
Made to Stick is one of the most amazing books that explain how to craft a copy that converts. This book is not a typical copywriting book and you can use the ideas of this book in many other fields. For instance, you can use this book to influence your parents to allow you to choose a career of your choice. Or you can write a better novel by applying the suggestions of the book.
Having said, the book is an outstanding work for those who want to create the most compelling copies and pull incessant traffic towards their products. In Made to Stick Prof Chip and Dan Heath reveal why out of thousands of ideas circulated among people, only a few sticks while the others die their own death.
The book provides you a measuring tool that you can use in checking your copywriting work. It provides you with 6 simple features. You may include any 3 or 4 of these features in your copy to make it highly attractive. These 6 features include,
The book is filled with several real-life examples and stories around and beyond these features that make you realize how the most successful copywriters create great copywriting work that sticks in the memory of people for a long time. The book is so engrossing that you do not wish to leave it once you start reading it and want to imbibe everything given in the book.
One of the most interesting lessons that I find in the book is that copywriting is not just a play of words. It requires serious contemplation on what a copywriter wants to communicate to their audience and does it in a way that is not-so-apparent.
#8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
A great copy is not determined alone by its absolute quality but also the quality perceived by the audience. And the quality perceived by the people depends on their style of thinking. So, though Thinking, Fast and Slow does not contain lessons on how to write a good copy, it tells you about how people think and makes decisions. And once you know how people think, it makes it much too simple to write a convincing copy for your target audience.
Daniel Kahneman, the author of the book, is a Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences. He is known for his extraordinary work in Prospect theory. While studying human economic behavior, he concluded that humans do not always think rationally. They adopt one of the two systems of thinking- System 1 is fast thinking which is intuitive and governed by emotions and System 2 is slow thinking which is logical, and calculative. Kahneman provides a detailed description of both these systems and also elaborates on the advantages and the flaws of both systems of thinking.
The author keeps the reader glued to the book through his highly engaging style of writing And while the reader is completely engrossed in learning about the two systems of thinking, Kahneman shares many practical insights about the rational (or irrational) behind the decisions taken by people.
As a copywriter, the book not only is useful in identifying your style of thinking in different circumstances but also knowing about the thinking style of people, in general. And as a copywriter, if you understand the psychology of your audience, you can create a more influential and persuasive copy. It will help to amend your copy or to replace it altogether with a more appropriate one if you do not get the expected results.
#9. How to Write a Good Advertisement by Schwab
There is probably no other book that is written exclusively on writing advertisements. You will find many books that cover a particular subject comprehensively. You will also find some books which explain the most subtle aspects of a particular subject very minutely. However, it is rare to find a book that is both comprehensive as well as subtle.
This book contains everything that you wish to know about advertising and copywriting. And at the same time, the book dissects each aspect of copywriting and advertising such that it exposes even the tiniest part of the subject.
The book is written by Victor O. Schwab who is famous for his mail-order ads for the bestseller by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
The book is just perfect to enhance your copywriting skill levels. If you are a newbie in advertising, the book will convert you into an expert advertiser. And if you are an experienced campaigner in the field of advertising, reading the book will make you the master copywriter.
The book offers many suggestions to improve your copywriting and advertising skills. Schwab took 100 headlines and explained the reason why each one of them succeeded in being so popular among the audience.
So, if you want to know everything about advertising from the most course aspect to the finest one, How to Write a Good Advertising will be a perfect option for you.
#10. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
It is difficult to find a serious copywriter who hasn’t come across the famous lines: “Give Me 15 Minutes And I’ll Give You a Super-Power Memory.” These most effective lines were written by Eugene Schwartz while releasing the book of the famous memory expert Harry Lorraine.
Eugene Schwartz is the author of the book Breakthrough Advertising. It is the ideal book for copywriters… but not for them alone! It is the book that must be read by all the entrepreneurs and marketers who want to grow their business and enhance their sales and profits.
The book discusses many different challenges of copywriting and also explains how to control various channels that lead to growth in sales. Writing the most compelling headline and an impressive ad following it, is the biggest challenge copywriters face. Breakthrough Advertising provides the ultimate solution to the problem.
Eugene very emphatically proposes that creating desire in the minds of people is not the objective of a copy. Rather its goal is to bring out repressed fears of people, trigger their hopes, and allow them to express the happiness of finding the solution. Through a good copy, people find a channel to direct all these emotions that already reside in their minds. So, a copywriter essentially discovers and assembles the many feelings associated with their problems, ambitions, and so on.
Breakthrough Advertising talks about 5 levels of awareness from ‘Unaware’ to ‘Most aware’. Unaware people are completely ignorant about the fact that they have problems and therefore they don’t seek a solution. If you try to persuade these types of people all your marketing efforts will go in vain. Then there are people who Eugene term as Problem aware who know that they have challenges but are ignorant about the fact that the solution exists for their problems. The next type of people is called ‘Solution aware’ who know about the solution but have not yet tried the product or are unaware of your product. Product aware is the person who is aware of your offering but not pretty sure if it will help solve their problem. Finally, the Most aware person who is ready to buy your product but wants to know specific details about the product before buying it.
So, these were the top 10 best copywriting books that you must keep in your library. You should give each of them a thorough read and should always keep them with you for ready reference.