Copywriting

20 copywriting books you need on your bookshelf

The Venn diagram of “people who love to read” and “successful writers/entrepreneurs” is almost a single circle. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to find one success who wasn’t also a voracious reader.

Warren Buffett? Big reader.

Jeff Bezos? Big reader.

Elon Musk? Big reader (and possible supervillain).

Whether you’re still finding your idea or you’re writing your 15th sales page, there’s always more to learn from the masters. Which is why here at GrowthLab we have a stack of recommended books for all aspects of copywriting. Great copywriting can mean the difference between a dud and a six-figure launch.

We’ve used the knowledge gained from these books to build a suite of courses for our 40,000+ students, helping them make millions of dollars.

And now we want to give you a gift: Our in-house curated list of the 20 best copywriting books every entrepreneur needs.

(Note: NONE of these links are affiliate links. We make no money from these recommendations. We just think they’re really good!)

The 20 copywriting books you need on your bookshelf

1. “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples

Source: Amazon

John Caples authored one of the most captivating advertising headlines in history (“They laughed when I sat down at the piano — but when I started to play!”) and also one of the most essential copywriting books on copy tactics. A huge proponent of testing each element of his marketing campaigns, Caples distilled his findings into 35 proven headline formulas. The book is also a great primer on call-to-actions and running your own marketing tests.

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2. “Copy Logic” by Michael Masterson & Mike Palmer

Source: Amazon

“Copy Logic!” offers up a three-part system that will help any new copywriter turn out clean, impressive copy that sells. Michael Masterson and Mike Palmer, both master copywriters and direct marketers, unveil their strategies on writing winning copy that turned Agora into a $300 million publishing powerhouse.

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3. “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz

Source: Amazon

Possibly the rarest copywriting book on our list, “Breakthrough Advertising” is masterfully written, tactically dense, and incredibly insightful. The best copywriters swear by it, which is perhaps why the book has been out of print for years now and remaining copies sell for anywhere between $100 and $500.

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4. “The Boron Letters” by Gary Halbert

Source: Amazon

The late, great master copywriter Gary C. Halbert lived a legendary life. In his own words, he’s been “robbed, tied up, gagged, blindfolded, threatened. I’ve made and lost millions. I’ve been eulogized, ostracized, and plagiarized. I’ve also … been both a prison guard and prison inmate.” And it’s as an inmate that he penned his most intimate and eye-opening work, “The Boron Letters,” where he doles out timeless copy and life lessons to his son Bond.

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5. “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy

Source: Amazon

David Ogilvy is the man Don Draper was based on. Yeah. He’s widely considered to be the “father of advertising” and is the founder of the legendary advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather. He left behind a legacy of iconic advertising campaigns in his wake, including “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” and the “At 60 miles per hour” ad for Rolls-Royce.

In “Ogilvy on Advertising,” he shares everything from how to get an advertising job to his system on writing copy that people want to read. So put on your sharpest suit, mix yourself a mid-day martini, and settle back for some insights from one of the greatest advertising minds that ever was.

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6. “My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins

Source: Amazon

This is actually two copywriting books in one — and both are worth the read if you’re an aspiring A-level copywriter. “My Life in Advertising” dives into Claude Hopkins’ history in business advertising, peppering vignettes with actionable advice and marketing strategies. “Scientific Advertising” showcases the theory and tactics behind marketing. Of this book, David Ogilvy actually said, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this copywriting book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

If that doesn’t make you want to read it, you’re on the wrong list. Try this one instead.

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7. “The Robert Collier Letter Book” by Robert Collier

Source: Amazon

Ever wonder how to craft the perfect sales letter? How about writing copy that can create a profit-generating machine? Though master copywriter and thought leader Robert Collier wrote this one in 1931, the copy lessons taught in the book are timeless. His insights on direct marketing are still touted as sacrosanct almost a century since they were published.

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8. “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!” by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Source: Amazon

Al Ries and Jack Trout possess decades of marketing acumen, and in “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” they’ve distilled their findings into “the basic laws that govern success and failure in the marketplace.” If you ignore the laws of physics, you won’t be able to fly a plane. Likewise, if you violate the laws of marketing, you can’t build a great marketing campaign.

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9. “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Victor Schwab

Source: Amazon

The perfect book for any beginner. By the end, you’ll know how to do everything from writing profitable headlines, to crafting a compelling call-to-action, to leveraging psychology to get your readers to buy. Victor Schwab knows his stuff too. After all, this is the same copywriter who took Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People and propelled it into an all-time best seller.

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10. “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy

Source: Amazon

The marketer so nice he’s on here twice. David Ogilvy penned “Confessions of an Advertising Man” in 1963 and it’s considered to be essential reading for anyone who wants to dip their toes in advertising. Though it’s been half a century since its publication, this book continues to be the bible for all things advertising. In its pages, Ogilvy includes his revolutionary insights into copywriting, crafting winning campaigns, and keeping clients.

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11. “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman

Source: Amazon

Award-winning direct marketer Joseph Sugarman gives us the exact tactics and systems on how he crafts top performing copy. The intensive book breaks down the exact formula that goes into making a good advertisement. Sugarman also reveals his insights on the theory of copy, giving readers a look into one of the brightest copywriters who ever lived.

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12. “All Marketers are Liars” by Seth Godin

Source: Amazon

Marketers can only hope to succeed through authentic storytelling. In other words, you don’t need to tell straight facts to tell a good story. Rather, your story needs to be “consistent and authentic.” If nothing else, “All Marketers Are Liars” will challenge your framework of how you approach “truth” in your copy.

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13. “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves

Source: Amazon

Another book to come out of the crucible of Madison Avenue in the sixties. “Reality in Advertising” gives you theories and systems based on three decades of advertising research. Rosser Reeves breaks down exactly how ad campaigns succeed, and perhaps more importantly, why they fail. He believed that a product’s unique selling proposition (a term he coined) should be the driving force behind any advertisement. His no-BS approach often comes across as hard-nosed — but his results, having created some of the most iconic television advertisements ever, speak for themselves.

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14. “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got” by Jay Abraham

Source: Amazon

Jay Abraham is many things: An entrepreneur, a business executive, and an incredibly sought-after direct response marketing expert. In “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got,” Abraham gives readers his framework to help entrepreneurs seize upon previously unseen opportunities. It’s great for any copywriter who wants to help businesses sell by looking at products from different angles.

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15. “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

Source: Amazon

While this isn’t specifically a copywriting book, it is downright essential for any writer. Part memoir, part primer on style, “On Writing” is a classic book for writers and lovers of the craft that goes into making compelling stories. In the first half of the book, King tells the story of how he got his start being the “Master of Horror,” while in the book’s second half, he offers his view on grammar and style. And if you haven’t had enough book suggestions, he also gives readers his own essential reading list at the end.

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16. “Influence” by Robert Cialdini

Source: Amazon

Dr. Robert Cialdini spent years studying psychology and developing himself as the world’s foremost expert on persuasion. His book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” distills his research into six core principles. This is an essential book for any aspiring marketer (that means you too, copywriters).

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17. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Source: Amazon

What “The Art of War” is to the military general’s battle strategy, Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” is to anybody who has ever suffered from the oft romanticized (but mostly BS) “writer’s block.” Whether you are sculpting a statue or just starting a blog for your online business, you’ll find Pressfield’s tactical solutions to crushing the demons of procrastination enlightening and motivating.

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18. “Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion” by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson

Source: Amazon

This book will open your eyes to the subtle persuasion tactics that we experience every waking moment from advertisements, politicians, and even televangelists. And in the age of “fake news” and media hysteria, “Age of Propaganda” is more relevant than ever.

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19. “The Social Animal” by Elliot Aronson

Source: Amazon

If you majored in psychology, there’s a good chance you might already have this book on your shelf. “The Social Animal” is required reading in psych classrooms across America. The book gives a solid primer on social psychology. The author, Elliot Aronson, knows his stuff too. He’s the only person to win the American Psychological Association’s three major awards (for writing, teaching, and research).

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20. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Source: Amazon

There’s a reason this book will almost always appear on lists of essential books on marketing, business, psychology, writing, being a pick-up artist, whatever! Despite being written almost a century ago, the lessons in this book are timeless. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” will help develop your professional and personal life.

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Use copywriting books to build a million-dollar business

Good copywriting is a bare essential to a thriving business. Without it you won’t get traffic, leads, and ultimately sales.

If you’re a weirdo like us and love learning about copy tactics, check out this 30-minute video of GrowthLab CEO Ramit Sethi crafting one of his legendary engagement emails from the ground up.

And it’s one thing to read books and blog posts on copywriting. It’s another thing to take action and transform that knowledge into a profitable business.

That’s why we invited our friends and students who have developed million dollar businesses to give us their very best systems and tactics on writing remarkable copy.

We compiled the best insights into our Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Content. Just enter your name and email below for instant access.

Start creating remarkable content that will flood your site with traffic

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There Are 21 Comments

 

This is an awesome list, Tony! Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

I’d add Great Leads from Michael Masterson and John Forde. It’s got a lot of the good stuff from Breakthrough Advertising, but it’s more approachable and you won’t have to sell a kidney to get a copy.

Also, Sugarman’s Advertising Secrets of the Written Word is pretty difficult to find these days. Luckily it was republished as the Adweek Copywriting Handbook. It’s the exact same book, just WAY less money.

Cheers!

I’ve been struggling with the one kidney since getting Breakthrough Advertising so I’m happy to hear that there’s an alternative!

I’m going to add Adweek Copywriting Handbook and Great Leads to my (neverending) queue of books though. Thanks for the suggestions!

Carolynn Ananian

+1 to Great Leads by Masterson and Forde. It’s a slim book but super helpful for hooks and big ideas.

Carolynn Ananian

Great list. FYI, Brian Kurtz reprinted “Breakthrough Advertising” about 2 years ago, so you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for the book. Shoot him an email at [email protected] to buy a copy.

(He publicly shared this info including his email on his blog.)

Brian Kurtz has the rights to reprint Breakthrough Advertising. He printed a few copies some months ago. I’m not sure if he still has some in stock, but I managed to buy a copy from him for less than what it’s going for in Amazon.

Great selection here. I like how you included books that weren’t copywriting-specific, too.

Another one that’s on my must-read list is How to Master the Art of Selling (by the other Hopkins). Heard about it from Gary B.

I second Rob’s recommendation to add Great Leads. I think Brian Kurtz republished Breakthrough Advertising, so it’s only a plasma donation now. 🙂

Here’s the link where you can get Breakthrough Advertising for $125.00:
https://www.breakthroughadvertisingbook.com

Another good book is The Advertising Solution by Craig Simpson and Brian Kurtz. They distill a lot of the lessons from the works of Robert Collier, Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, John Caples, Gary Halbert, and Eugene Schwartz. Here’s the link: http://www.thelegendsbook.com

You can also buy it from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

I’d be careful recommending Mindless Eating, considering the author has had to retract at least 6 of his studies so far in the last 12 months for manipulating data (https://retractionwatch.com/2017/12/28/another-retraction-appear-cornell-food-scientist-brian-wansink/). There are lots of good behavioral scientists out there, so it’d be a shame to keep recommending this guy. Maybe “The Knowledge Illusion” for a bit more about understanding decision-making, or perhaps Predictably Irrational (for general irrationality) or Dollars and Sense (for a good finance-related one) by Dan Ariely?

Thanks Ben, I’ve been following this and I’m not sure how Mindless Eating made it to this list. We’ll make the change. Thanks again for your comment.

How much time do you devote to reading each week? I feel like I should be reading more, but my (not bookaholic) family thinks I read too much as it is.

A few hours a week. I don’t think time is the right measure (although it’s important). If reading is important to you, who cares what others think? On the other hand, maybe your family is right and you’re too much of a bookworm. What do you think is the right answer?

I would give the classic lawyer answer of “It depends.” I try to read a few chapters every night, and I think that’s usually a good thing, but I’ll admit there are nights when my time would be better spent on other things, like sleeping.

“I challenge you to find one success who wasn’t also a voracious reader.”

Challenged accepted.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a self proclaimed non-reader of books.

Thanks for the list. I would have liked to have seen at least one female author on this list 🙂

I really enjoyed the book Nicely Said by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee, and commonly reference it for writing on the web: http://www.nicelysaid.co/

Solid list and almost nothing there about “voice” and branding, which is why I like the list so much … it’s focused on pure direct marketing. I don’t consider Seth Godin to be a direct marketer.

Comments are closed.