18 Best Copywriting Books To Power Up Your Writing & Sales

May 21, 2020 | Sean Foo

Want to improve your copywriting skills rapidly and close more sales or just impress your marketing friends? 

Sure you can, by reading awesome copywriting books!

However, learning it can be challenging when there are tons of guides out there. That’s why we’ve handpicked 18 books to get you started.

What? Not another random list!” We hear you! 

You want to know exactly what to read, based on the specific challenges that you face.

That’s why we grouped them up – so you can jump right into the section you want.

We’ve also included key lessons from each book, so you can learn something while reading this article too!

Ready? Let’s dive in!


Copywriting Classics

Whether you’re a beginner or veteran, you can’t claim to be a serious copywriter until you’ve read these!

Copywriting is rooted in advertising and direct response mail. So it helps to learn their principles, from books written by their respective legends.

Though these are written decades ago, don’t be fooled – their insights remain timeless, and relevant even today! That’s why you can definitely learn a thing or two from them.

1. Ogilvy on Advertising (by David Ogilvy)

Written by the “Father of Advertising”, this book gives an overview of advertisements – including in print (copywriting). 

Great for beginners, Ogilvy shares concepts like ‘positioning’ and ‘brand image’ in a way that’s easy to understand!

Two key takeaways:

  • Copywriting is meant to sell, not to be entertaining or creative. So even if “How To…” or “5 Ways To…” headline formulas seem bland, follow them.

  • To write a good copy (i.e. one that sells), do plenty of research beforehand. Talk to your target audience and understand your product thoroughly, so that you know exactly how to strike the right nerve!

2. Scientific Advertising (by Claude C. Hopkins)

Credited by Ogilvy to have “changed the course of (his) life”, this book provides common-sense, practical advice for writing copies that sell. 

Heads up: Hopkins was the one that started test marketing and copy research too.

Two key takeaways:

  • Whether your copy sells can depend entirely on your headline. That’s why make sure it’s specific and appeals to the audience you want. (E.g. By naming his book “How to Win Friends & Influence People”, Dale Carnegie sold millions of his book – which still remains a classic today.)

  • Write as though you’re speaking to your prospects one at a time. This way, you can direct your offer’s appeals specifically to your audience.

3. Breakthrough Advertising (by Eugene M. Schwartz)

This book is deep.

It provides higher-level concepts than what’s usually found in other copywriting books that will blow your mind. 

If you have been doing copywriting for some time, this is a book you can visit to refine your writing.

Two key takeaways:

  • Successful copywriting involves channelling the hopes, fears and desires of millions of people worldwide (called the ‘Mass Desire’) into a single product – thereby making the owner (and you, the writer) rich!

  • The more aware your prospect is about his needs and your product, the less detailed and creative (to ultimately sell) your copy needs to be.

    (E.g. If your prospect knows all about your latest camera and already wants to buy it, all you need to do is to state “New Camera – now at $149!” to sell it.)

4. The Boron Letters (by Gary Halbert)

A series of letters written from an imprisoned dad to his son, Gary Halbert shares tips to write copies that sell millions like he did. 

While it might not be an instructional roadmap, every letter contains copywriting secrets and gems that you would be wise to pay attention to!

Two key takeaways:

  • If you want to make readers feel closer to you, include personal, specific information in your copy. You can share maybe how you’re feeling as you write too. (E.g. How we’re trying to meet deadlines as we write now…)

  • You can also engage your readers constantly by asking questions. (And answering them too. Makes sense? Good.)


Triggering Emotional Appeals

Years after Ogilvy first advocated research as the basis for advertisements, many vigorously-tested principles have emerged. 

These principles are simple, powerful, and can help sway your readers towards a purchase!

Learn these principles today to power up your conversions.

5. Tested Advertising Methods (by John Caples)

This book has one key message: stop guessing, start testing! Another book that can be considered a classic, it shares different ways a winning headline can be written. 

It also lists a few almost magical words to use, that are tested to catch readers’ attention!

Two key takeaways:

  • Enthusiasm sells. Before writing your copy, make sure you are enthusiastic about the product you sell! To then transfer your enthusiasm onto your copy, just pour your thoughts out into a messy first draft first. You can always do your edits after.

  •  Pictures sell. But only when they’re relevant to your offer. (E.g. Pictures of models do not sell doughnuts!)

6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (by Robert B. Cialdini)

While this was originally written to warn the public against marketers, it ironically became the go-to book for marketers to improve their sales. 

The 6 key principles inside are now widely-cited by marketing books worldwide too.

Two key takeaways:

  • Using Social Proof: We tend to do what others do (especially those like us). So whenever possible, include testimonials and share your offer from a personal, “been there, done that” point of view.

  • Using the Contrast Principle: If you want to sell a sweater, present a higher-priced option (e.g. a suit) first. This makes the sweater seem more affordable, thus a better deal overall.

7. Cashvertising (by Drew Eric Whitman)

This book is very comprehensive in different ways to sell. It offers not just principles for how people think, but more than 100 proven ways to use them too.

Two key takeaways:

  • The Inoculation Theory: To make your customers believe in your product more, challenge their beliefs slightly. This provokes them and makes them lash back to defend their beliefs – which strengthens their beliefs along the way.

  • Don’t just state the stats – make them feel it. Instead of saying a car has 453 horsepower, describe the thrill, the rush they feel as they zoom past their neighbours’ car.


Lessons from Sales

At its core, “effective copywriting is salesmanship in print” – as said by Gary Bencivenga, one of the top copywriters of all time.

Copywriting and in-person sales follow the same principles. They uncover prospects’ needs, fulfil the needs, and address any fear that may hinder the sale.

Learn from these sales giants to boost your sales today!

8. Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect (by Joe Sugarman)

If you ever had to choose the emotional appeal to use, read this book. Each appeal is explained with a short anecdote, as well as when to use them.

Two key takeaways:

  • Your copy need not force readers to buy immediately after reading your copy (though that’s ideal). It can plant a seed of thought in their mind however, so they may buy from you next time when they feel the need.

  •  Instead of burying your product’s flaws 6-feet under, bring them up! Being honest and upfront builds trust, making prospects more open to buying from you. (Provided you show the good parts outweigh the bad.)

9. The Secret to Selling Anything (by Harry Browne)

Copywriting is all about sales. If you ever felt that you cannot sell though, this book is for you. 

The book explains why if you’re human, you can sell. 

Interestingly enough, it also shows why you don’t need the typical always positive, “believe in yourself 100%” attitude to be a good salesperson.

Two key takeaways:

  • You cannot motivate anyone, no matter how persuasive you are. You can only find out what already motivates someone before you appeal to his motivation to sell him something.

  • To deal with the fear of selling, ignore it. Focus on getting good at spotting your prospect’s motivations (and how you can help him) instead. When you get better at selling, the fear will eventually go away.

10. Way of the Wolf (by Jordan Belfort)

If you want a “big picture” overview of the sales process, this is it – especially when you are writing direct response copy.

Using these techniques, Jordan Belfort built a stockbroker firm dealing with hundreds of millions in stock issues (before it came crashing down from stock fraud). 

And it’s time you use them to supercharge your copy for those sweet conversions!

Two key takeaways:

  • To make someone buy, the prospect needs to believe not just in your product. He needs to believe in you, and your company too. This is what Belfort calls the “three 10’s” – having 10/10 certainty in all 3 areas.

  • Besides building the “three 10’s”, you need to make it easy for your prospect to act, and make it painful for him not to. You can do this simply by using the words “step-by-step”, “easy”, and “simply”, while painting a painful “more-of-the-same” future for your prospect.


Crafting your Story

Facts tell while stories sell.

If you want to capture your audience’s attention, you got to tell a heart-thumping, engaging story that people identify with.

A common story archetype is the “Hero’s Journey”, where you guide your prospect (the Hero) to the goal he wants (solve his problem, by buying your product). 

These books will share with you more on how you can craft a good journey for your readers.

11. Building a StoryBrand (by Donald Miller)

The good thing about the “Hero’s Journey” is that it gives you an overview of how stories are crafted. 

The bad thing is, you might be unsure as to how you can apply it for copywriting. This book bridges the gap, by diving more into how you can apply each part to your copy.

Two key takeaways:

  • Much like headlines, distil your customers’ wants into one single sentence. If it’s a resort, it could be “rest and luxury”. By distilling your customers’ wants, your messages will become clearer.

  • The stronger and more evil the villain, the more we root for the hero. Find the root of your customers’ pain points, and set it up to be the villain. By making it look big and bad, this will rouse your customers to fight against it – using the products you sell.   

12. Stories that Stick (by Kindra Hall)

Want a deep-dive into how storytelling works? Or what stories you can tell? This book helps you do both. Better yet – as though to prove her point, Kindra Hall writes the entire book in narratives. 

Almost like an educational (non-) fiction, this book shares what stories you need to tell, to sell.

Two key takeaways:

  • Besides sharing how your customer will benefit from the product, share the “founder story”. About the trials the founder went through, to finally come up with the company. This adds a layer of authenticity into your copy and makes the readers trust you more.

  • To find stories to tell, think of stories as “Normal → Conflict → New Normal”. Find situations that aroused intense feelings. Then, figure out what happened before, and what happened after.

13. Save the Cat! (by Blake Synder)

How do Hollywood scriptwriters write story scripts that sell for millions? One such scriptwriter, Blake, answers this question.

It turns out there are mainly 10 ways to craft the “Hero’s Journey” – from the “Monster in the House” (think: long-haired, white dress Sadako from The Ring) to “Whydunit” (or “Why did he do it?” Think: detective stories). Fascinating? You bet!

Two key takeaways:

  • Before you craft your copy, come up with a gripping one-liner summary (or rather, your headline)! This not only catches your prospect’s attention, but it also keeps your entire copy on track too. One way to do so is to add irony into your summary – it catches your prospect’s attention and makes him want to read more.

  • The main conflict (benefit) in your story (copy) got to be primal! This means it has to resonate with something deep within us – like that of hunger and sexual companionship mentioned in Cashvertising.


Copywriting Process

You’ve picked your appeal, and crafted your story. You learnt some basics, and you’re ready to write – but how do you get started!? 

These books will guide you step-by-step to write powerful copies that will flood you with orders!

14. The Copywriter’s Handbook (by Robert W. Bly)

If you ever felt lost as to how to write your copy, you can read this book. It even provides tips for brainstorming, like to combine different ideas or teaming up with others. 

The book also shares how you can adapt your copy to different mediums like print, brochures and e-mail.

Two key takeaways:

  • Beware of using “borrowed interest” to catch attention. This means using e.g. a Ferrari to make your copy selling fitness programs more interesting. When you bring an irrelevant idea in, it confuses the reader.

  • To make your writing sound more conversational, end your sentences with a preposition. (E.g. “What are we fighting for?” sounds nicer than “For what are we fighting?”)

15. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook (by Joe Sugarman)

This book is like the “Triggers: 30 Sales Tools” book by Joe Sugarman too, but with the writing process included. 

The handbook still helps as a reference for emotional appeals but includes more on the writing process itself.

Two key takeaways:

  • If you want to come up with great ideas, take a break after sifting through all the information! Your thoughts will settle, and you’ll eventually have your big idea.
  • The most important sentence after your headline is the first one. It’s main purpose? To get you to read the 2nd sentence. And so on.

16. Breakthrough Copywriting (by David Garfinkel)

Quick and dirty – that describes this book best. David Garfinkel gets straight to the point in sharing how to write copies that sell. 

Like “Breakthrough Advertising”, it’s another deep book that may take just 2 hours to read, but many more reads to fully absorb all its insights.

Two key takeaways:

  • When writing your offer, make it feel effortless for the product to work for your customer. That’s why “Puts Music in Your Life” can generate three times the sales of “Put Music in Your Life”. (The first implies the customer needs not put in any effort.)

  • Also, list down questions that your prospects will have when they read your offer. For example:

    • “What do I have to do to get it?” 
    • Then, “How do I order it?” 
    • Then, “What’s the price?” 

And so on. Then, answer them one-by-one in your copy.


Writing for Clarity

You’ve written your first draft – great! You’ve poured all your thoughts onto a piece of paper, or a Word document. 

Maybe you realised your sentences are too long though and need trimming. Your words don’t flow, and your phrases seem awkward.

These books will help you spring-clean your copy, so that it’s sparkly clean for your prospects’ visiting!

17. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (by Ann Handley)

What we like about this book is how it explains when to break grammar rules, simplifies common phrases, and ways to write naturally – which can be a challenge sometimes.

Two key takeaways:

  • Avoid using adverbs (words describing verbs), unless you really need to intensify the idea.

  •  Write simply. Use only phrases you would say to your loved ones. (E.g. instead of writing “provide high-quality solutions”, use “can solve your problem”.)

18. This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better (by Neville Medhora)

This book is really short, straightforward, and fun to read. Neville almost babbles on in his book… but always in a relevant way. 

If you want a quick primer into clear copywriting, give this 34-pages book a read.

Two key takeaways:

  • To write clearly, write casually. (But do remain relevant!)

  • You can craft headlines easily using this formula too:

[Desired end results] + [Specific time frame] + [Address objections].

(E.g. [Get a solid 6-packs] + [in 30 days] + [or your money back!])


(Bonus!) 2 Books To Help Sharpen Your Mind To Master Copywriting Better

Mastering copywriting is a journey that will take years plus a fair bit of bumps and sleepless nights.

Here are two books that will help guide you through mentally, emotionally and spiritually to the end goal: writing awesome copy.

Mastery (by Robert Greene)

Any craft or skill takes time to learn – years or decades even! Copywriting is no different.

While reading books is a good start, you will still need to go through a sequence of steps including getting a mentor and undergoing an apprenticeship to accelerate your learning.

If you are dedicated to mastering the art of copywriting, this book is compulsory reading and deserves a slot in your bookshelf!

Three key takeaways:

  • Value learning over money: It might be tempting to try to immediately sell your services for top dollar – don’t! Learn from an experienced copywriter or write for free for your clients. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t.
  • Trust the process: There will be times you’ll feel overwhelmed or stuck at a certain level – don’t lose hope! Either push through or pivot or find an alternative route and success will find you.
  • Embrace failure: You will write copy that doesn’t convert. Your clients will be unhappy. Your business’s sales will fall. But that is all part and parcel of the journey – don’t hate it, embrace it!

The Obstacle Is The Way (by Ryan Holiday)

 “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Whether you are learning copywriting for your own landing pages or working on a client’s website, there will be times you might be tempted to throw in the towel.

If you want higher conversions, there is only so much you can do in terms of design, the obstacle is still your copywriting skills – you cannot avoid copywriting.

This book will teach you how to shift your mindset from one of self-doubt to self-powered perseverance!

Two key takeaways:

  • When in doubt or facing fear, take action: The last thing you should do is to mull and dilly-dally when writing copy. Test out different headlines, write that introduction again and again. You will get it right eventually – and you’ll be happier you’ve pushed through.
  • See things as they are, not better or worse than they are: As a beginner copywriter, you will have flaws and major knowledge gaps and that is ok. Don’t let any facts slow down your progress – because that is the only way you will get better.


Power Up Your Copywriting Starting Today!

Like you, I’m still an avid learner of marketing and copywriting and the learning journey will probably never end!

Have a great copywriting book that isn’t on this list and I should absolutely read?

Drop me a note at sean@speechsilver.com, I’d love to hear from you!

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