Here is my personal list of the 10 best books on copywriting.
And I strongly suggest you to read a few of them if you're learning copywriting at the moment.
- Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz
- The Boron Letters by Gary C. Halbert
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
- Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins
- The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
- Propaganda by Edward Bernays
- On Writing by Stephen King
1. Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
If you had to read only one book, it should be this one.
Doctor Robert B. Cialdini is a well-respected searcher in behavioral science. He explains with his book the 6 fundamental psychological principles that explain how people can be influenced.
He illustrates each of those principles—Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking, and Social Proof—with thorough and detailed examples based on scientific experiments.
In my humble opinion, this book although not directly about copywriting is the best book to understand the whys and hows of human behavior.
2. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz
This is my absolute favorite copywriting book.
It is written by the legendary Eugene M. Schwartz, one of the best copywriters in history.
This masterpiece can have a tremendous impact on your business and the way you write copy.
I know it costs more than a common book... but it's not a common book and it's worth 10x what it costs.
If you think that it's too old to be yet effective. Let me tell you this: do you really think human behavior has changed since 1966?
3. The Boron Letters by Gary C. Halbert
Again another classic that you can find online for free.
You surely must have heard of Gary Halbert and his famous dollar letter.
In The Boron Letters, Gary explains his tactics and knowledge about copywriting to his son.
It is not just pure theory and gives you specific actions to drastically improve your copy.
Plus it's really a page-turner book which you can read in bed.
4. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
Joseph Sugarman is maybe one of the greatest Mail-order Marketers still alive.
He's the founder of JS&A Group which was one of the first companies to market the world's first pocket calculators through direct marketing.
In his handbook, he explains in a very structured way his copywriting process. He uses a lot of his own experience to prove and illustrate his point which makes the concepts incredibly easy to memorize.
5. Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins
Another book that you can find for free.
Although this is an old book written in 1923, it is often cited by many copywriters as a "must-read" book.
And there are good reasons why.
In his chef-d'oeuvre, Claude C. Hopkins describes one of the first versions of A/B testing and coupon-based customer tracking which were very innovative at the time... and are pretty common strategies we still use nowadays.
If you pretend you're into direct marketing, you cannot avoid this book.
6. The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
If you don't know Dan Kennedy, 2 words: No B.S. (and also big mustache).
He's a serial, successful entrepreneur and author, let alone it is a well respected and recognized marketer and copywriter.
His book The Ultimate Sales Letter, takes you by hand and shows you how to write a sales letter (or a promotion email, it's the same) through excellent examples.
Thanks to its practical approach, this book allows you to take action right after reading it.
All of my students to whom I recommended it feel they can produce better sales copies after reading it.
A must-read if you're a beginner.
7. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is known as "The Father of Advertising". His approach is based on deep research of consumer habits.
He has also produced one of the best headlines in history: "At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock" headline.
This book is not copywriting strictly speaking but a more global explanation of advertising.
Although it was written in 1985 and the medium might change, the principles remain the same — and no-one has mastered those like Ogilvy himself.
His advertising methods are among the best the world has seen, and the book is filled with real-world examples of his most successful campaign.
You can't pass by.
8. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
Blake Snyder is not a copywriter. Although he's made a great job with his wonderfully eye-catching book cover.
This book is THE reference for screenwriters, so why is it in a list for copywriters?
Well you must know that as copywriters, we usually have recourse to stories to connect with our prospect and capture his attention.
And who are the best storytellers, if not film writers?
No one will deny that they're masters in the art of telling a story that you cannot detach from.
So if you're already a decent copywriter, you should definitely read this book to pimp your storytelling skills.
But shh, don't tell others please, it's our secret 😉
9. Propaganda by Edward Bernays
Yet another guy that's not a copywriter.
Edward Bernays is the "Father of Propaganda", which is the Art of influencing mass behavior.
He is a pioneer in the field of public relationships and has developed several techniques to manipulate and shape public opinion. Which sadly has been wildly at use during war times or to encourage women into smoking.
So as a copywriter, you must be interested about what Bernays has to say about human behavior right?
10. On Writing by Stephen King
Should I present Stephen King?
With more than 50 books published—among them The Shining, The Green Mile or It— no one would argue with the fact that Stephen is the King of American fiction authors.
Copywriting is first and foremost... writing.
Before any influential and psychological hack, you need to put words in a way that attracts readers like a honey pot.
In On Writing, the King is sharing with us his secret habits and tricks to write compelling stories, in a very practical and actionable manner.
If you call yourself a writer, you must read this classic.
[Bonus] Start with Why by Simon Sinek
I couldn't resist breaking my own rule of listing only 10 books.
It wouldn't be fun to follow all those rules right?
"How great leaders inspire everyone to take action."
Just get a look at the cover, and don't tell me it's not the work of a copywriter.
Simon Sinek is well known for his multi-million view TED Talks "Start with Why".
If you haven't seen it, it's a great example of how to make a Steve Jobs-like presentation that captures people's attention... and never give it back.
His book will teach you one of the most important factors that drives human behavior and that's why I recommend it to you.
Don't read this book before the others though, it's only for advanced copywriters that already master their Art and want to push it further.
I hope copywriters will stop asking me about my list of copywriting books—here it is!
If you read those 10 + 1 books, there is no way you can write bad copy.
But always remember: it requires a lot of practice to be able to write great copy.
If you appreciate my work, you can buy one of those books through one of those affiliated links to support me.