Just like any other form of creative expression, copywriting isn’t always an easy process. In fact, staring at the dreaded blank page can be tantamount to torture for copywriters at any level. Whether you’re just starting out 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 on online retailers is a treasure trove of copywriting knowledge just waiting to be discovered.
As a niche industry, finding the best books to learn copywriting – 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?
The 5 best books to learn copywriting (for beginners and pros)
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 your grammar needs a little sprucing up, this book is an absolute essential. In fact, even if you aren’t a copywriter and simply want to improve your grasp of English grammar and how best to use the language, this book should have a place 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 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. In fact, 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. “The Copywriters Handbook” by Robert W. Bly
With more than 35 years’ experience as a direct response copywriter, Robert W Bly is exactly the kind of industry veteran who has the chops to write a book called “The Copywriter’s Handbook”. And, back in 1985, write it he did.
Now onto its third edition, this is a book which very much earns the title ‘handbook’, providing as it does some of the most valuable tactical and strategic advice a copywriter could need. While many of the best books to learn copywriting seem to focus on the theory behind advertising and ad copy, “The Copywriter’s Handbook” instead teaches the hard skills necessary to be a successful copywriter. For example, the author teaches readers exactly how to open a sales letter, how to make sure your email campaigns are actually opened, how to write headlines which work – and much more.
If you’re looking for actionable advice on copywriting, this is the book to start with.
5. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini
So far, we’ve looked at 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, Ph.D., 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 books will serve you very well. Or you could discover some of the other resources we have to help you learn copywriting.
That said, if it all seems like a little bit too much work for you, don’t forget that you can hire a copywriter anytime right here at Copify. Don’t worry – we’ve already read these books (and a few more) cover-to-cover.