Part art, part science. Good copywriting is a mix of both, but the top names in the business each have their own recipe. From time to time, we at Anyword cite some of the greats in our industry, both as inspiration and as guides. Check out some of our blog articles to see how we apply their words of wisdom in a practical way.
Reading the works of the masters is all about increasing professionalism. Along with practice exercises, the use of formulas, and watching your competitors, perusing the knowledge of copywriting and advertising experts is always a good use of your time. Here are a bunch of the best copywriting books, who if you haven’t read already, you probably should add to your Kindle list.
1. Ogilvy on Advertising
David Ogilvy may look a bit like Don Draper (actually, the “Mad Men” star was based on other contemporaries). A knight, a commando, and even a spy, David Ogilvy was responsible for copywriting classics such as The Hathaway Shirt ad. David Ogilvy’s name also appears at the top of many lists about copywriting.
His most famous work is Ogilvy on Advertising. It deals with various topics related to pursuing a career in advertising, including a specific section on copywriting. One of his most valuable pieces of advice is to write copy that sells products; if plain old English will get the job done, then the copy should cut back on being too “creative.”
“If you want an overview of the core principles that are true for ALL ad-like communications, this is a must-read. The medium might change, but the principles remain the same — and nobody knew the principles like David Ogilvy.” – A – Z, Amazon customer
2. The Boron Letters
After the glamor of Ogilvy, we take a slightly different path to Gary Halbert, an extremely successful copywriter and expert at direct marketing. Halbert was the author of the ‘Coat of Arms’ letter, which apparently held the record, for many years, as the most widely mailed sales letter in history.
But not everything went well for Gary, and he ended up in jail for tax fraud – at the Boron Federal Prison. While there, he wrote a series of letters to his son, Bond Halbert, about selling and persuasion. In the book, Halbert details numerous strategies, secrets, and tips that tie psychology and conversion. He also discusses what work needs to be done before the writing starts, like deciding on which product to sell and researching customer desires. As a final note, Bond Halbert edited a modern version which links Gary’s ideas to the current marketplace.
“Halbert’s writing style is just hypnotic. You can see why he was at the top of his game when it came to writing excellent copy. Not only does he provide lessons on marketing and copy, but on life itself and how to be successful in all that you do.” – Lee, Amazon customer
3. The Robert Collier Letter Book
Before ‘new age guru’ was a thing, there was Robert Collier. After successfully treating himself for an undiagnosed, incurable disease, he wrote The Secret of the Ages, a self-help book about human potential. He was apparently on to something. As a salesman, and then as a writer for the P.F. Collier Publishing Company (owned by his uncle), he made millions, as did his books.
The Robert Collier Letter Book is dedicated to sales copy. It covers basic principles and goals, the use of emotion and vivid language, and even recommends a kind of 1930’s version of a CTA. Of particular interest in the book are actual copies of sales letters that Collier used to great success.
“I’ve also read a lot of other copywriting books and attended the seminars, yada yada, but I gotta tell ya – as far as value for money and stuff I actually use …. this is pretty much all I ever needed. To give you an idea, I’ve been marketing online and off for over 16 years and I’ve seen the great majority of the “greats” work. So this is high praise.” – N’s Gadget Reviews, Amazon customer
4. Breakthrough Advertising
The author of Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz, had a rags to riches life. He started at an advertising firm as a messenger boy and worked his way up to become chief copywriter. He also conceived of the five stages of customer awareness, which are detailed in the book.
Breakthrough Advertising is full of concepts that are SOP for copywriters today. Schwartz advises writers to focus on audience desires and use language to trigger them. Discovering these desires results from a lot of research, which should take up 80% of your time. The other 20% of your time should be occupied by writing. In addition, like Ogilvy, Schwartz recommends using whatever language works to sell the product – if people remember the copy more than the product it describes, then the writer has failed.
“How many copywriters do you know whose copy sold an estimated 4 BILLION DOLLARS worth of products for their clients while working 4 hours a day from home… This is not a book for rookies. But it is a book for seasoned professionals who have been practicing for years and now want to go study with the Master.” Joe Karbo, Amazon customer
5. May I Have Your Attention, Please?
(Finally, a book by somebody who is still alive.) Mish Slade runs a copywriting firm named Mortified Cow. Her irreverent style is perfect for today’s generation of writers who want to “sound like a human being rather than a corporate drone.”
May I Have Your Attention, Please? emphasizes simplicity, brand-related consistency, individualized style, and easy to understand value propositions. According to Slade, good copywriting is all about grabbing your audience’s attention with personality and eliminating excess verbiage.
“Welcome to the connection economy where we want to connect with real people… To connect with others, you need words that make you sound like an actual person, words that communicate who you are… and how you are different. Mish takes us on a journey into the words and methods that create connection.” Sia M., Amazon customer
Now, Go and Make a Copywriting Masterpiece
The greats of advertising and copywriting from back in the day were missing a significant advantage – technology. But modern marketing writers combine knowledge, cultivated by reading copywriting classics, with the insights of AI, brought to you by Anyword.
Anyword’s technology understands which kind of language works for a certain audience. Based on a collection of millions of actual ad spots and data concerning their conversion rates, Anyword links audiences with compositional styles.
For the marketer and copywriter, this means a much shorter cycle of creation, testing, and optimization. But what’s more is that Anyword can handle your copywriting needs across the spectrum, from Google Ads to email subject lines, and in styles ranging from formal to feminine. Take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer and discover how Anyword is changing the world of copywriting.