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Just like any other form of creative expression, copywriting isn’t always an easy process. Staring at the dreaded blank page can be tantamount to torture for copywriters at any level. Whether you’re just starting as a junior copywriter, or you’re a seasoned pro, you’ll know this feeling very well.
It’s different for everyone, but there’s no doubt that turning to those with more experience and expertise is always a great option – and it’s here where books come in. Sitting in your local library or on the digital shelves of online retailers is a treasure trove of copywriting knowledge just waiting to be discovered.
As a niche industry, finding the best books to learn to copywrite – or to help you out of a creative funk – isn’t always a simple task. That’s why we’ve put together our recommended reading list as a companion for copywriters across the board.
Ready for some creative inspiration?
5 of the best books to learn copywriting for beginners and pros
These are some of the best copywriting books for beginners and should be on any self-taught copywriter's bookshelf:
1. “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr.
Let’s begin at the beginning: not with any book focused on the art of persuasion or selling, but instead on writing itself. Of course, at the heart of any great copywriter’s skillset is the ability to write, and “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. is a must-have book for anyone who plies a trade with the written word – or, frankly, anyone with a website which utilises web copy.
Originally written almost 100 years ago, this book is still incredibly relevant today, detailing as it does the specific rules surrounding the use of language when writing.
If grammar isn't your strong point, this book is essential. Even if you aren’t a copywriter and simply want to improve your grammar, this book should be on your bookshelf.
2. “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy
Of course, not all copywriting is the same flavour, with varieties including brand copywriting and direct response copywriting. It’s the latter of these two which inspired this book recommendation: “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy.
Sometimes known as the father of advertising, Ogilvy was an archetypal 1960s ad man, inspiring TV shows like “Mad Men” and founder of one of the world’s oldest advertising companies – which still exists today. His approach to advertising stems from his analysis of consumer habits, and in his book, Ogilvy offers his personal ethos on advertising and how to sell – including famously contrarian advice about simply ignoring the rules.
If you’re looking for the historical context for modern copywriting, this book – originally published in 1963 – is something of a bible.
3. “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This” by Luke Sullivan
A copywriter’s role is very often focused on ad copy. More specifically, writing ad copy that really sells. And it’s here that many copywriters can feel the pressure, especially when they’re asked to come up with compelling ads in fast-paced environments like ad agencies. In such situations, copywriters need every tool in their toolbox, and “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This” should have pride of place.
Written in 1998, this oddly named book provides both the theory behind great advertising copy, but also teaches the practical skills necessary to craft copy that sells. Even better, the latest versions of the book have been updated over the years to cover digital topics like social media. Sullivan also details the history of the world’s most well-known ad campaigns: those that worked, and those that didn’t. It’s here that the name of the book comes from a reference to the oft-criticised but still very successful ‘Squeeze This’ campaign for Charmin toilet paper.
If you want to know why some campaigns work and others just don’t – the answer is right here in this book.
4. “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz
This book will give you all the insight and knowledge you need to create copy that is insightful, concise and engaging. It’s the perfect book for beginners as Schwartz defines copywriting as “never written, but assembled”. This essentially highlights the idea that the concepts behind copy already exist because the desires, hopes and dreams of your audience already exist. Copywriters simply assemble it.
This teaches new copywriters that copywriting isn’t creating new things but rather displaying the things we already know in a useful way. This will teach new copywriters to be concise and insightful with what they write. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be a good copywriter! But you can give people new ways to use it.
If you're looking for an all-round introduction to the craft, this is one of the best books for copywriters new to the industry.
5. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini
So far, we’ve looked at the best books to learn copywriting skills in both practical and theoretical terms, but there’s one more area to consider: psychology. Written by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD, this book ventures into the thinking behind advertising, attempting to discover exactly what drives purchasing behaviour and, in turn, which specific advertising methods are effective.
As the name suggests, “Influence” is a book about how to get people to say ‘yes’ to advertising. Cialdini uses the book to set out what he calls his six universal principles, then shows readers not only how to leverage these in ad copy, but also how to protect yourself from falling for them. Isn’t that a persuasive pitch?
If you’re looking to understand more about the psychology of sales, this book is the perfect solution for any copywriter.
No matter if you’re a copywriter yourself or you’re a business owner looking to tweak your own copy, any of these best books on copywriting will serve you very well. Or you could discover some of the other resources we have on the Copify blog to help you master how to learn copywriting step by step.
✏️ If you want a professional copywriter to create content for you today, get started with Copify for on-demand content writing.
Main image credit: Thought Catalog