What makes a great copywriter? It’s a mistake to think you need to be a literary genius who’s read War and Peace to write good copy. In fact, it might even hold you back.
The best copywriters know how to communicate their ideas in a simple and straightforward way that anyone can understand. You don’t need flowery language and complicated metaphors.
In fact, the most important skill a copywriter can have is knowing how to sell.
So, if you’re a business owner or a salesperson who’s spent time with customers and knows how they think, you already have a big advantage.
It also doesn’t hurt to take a few lessons from the masters. Over the years, I’ve personally read a lot of books on copywriting. Recently, a client asked me for my recommendations on the best, so I thought I’d share my list with you:
John Carlton is a copywriting legend who started out as a freelancer and quickly developed a reputation for having a masterful understanding of salesmanship and human psychology. His primary expertise is direct response copywriting but he is also an ad copy wizard and a pioneering web copywriter. In this powerful book, he reveals the techniques and secrets that helped him make it to the top.
If you’ve done any research, then you’ve probably seen this book recommended to aspiring copywriters (or anyone in business or advertising). Let me tell you: this book is NOT overhyped. It really is one of the greatest books on copywriting ever written. While some of the examples might seem a bit outdated, the real value of this book is the fact that it dives deep into the human motivations. Schwartz really understands why people read ads and what makes them buy and this is what makes this book timeless. Breakthrough Advertising sells for hundreds of dollars on Amazon, but if you look hard enough you may find a PDF online or a copy at your local library.
You might think that a book on copywriting from 1923 would be obsolete in our digital age, but Scientific Advertising is as relevant as ever. In fact, you might even say that Hopkins predicted our current era as the scientific approach he outlines is based on testing and measuring everything. This is a true classic and has been cited as an influence by many of the greats, including David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert and Jay Abraham.
When it comes to writing copy that sells, we all know that testing and measuring is absolutely essential. But what’s the best approach? In Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples outlines a comprehensive method for creating, testing, and improving your copy. It covers everything from headlines to word usage to the key elements of a successful advertising campaign. And, it comes recommended by David Ogilvy himself.
As you probably guessed by the title, this book mostly deals with sales letters, but the techniques and formulas Kennedy uses can be applied to any medium. Kennedy is also a master of long copy, so if you want to learn how to write an effective landing page, you can definitely crib a few ideas from this book.
If you want a real masterclass in copywriting, look no further than the Boron Letters by Gary Halbert. The book was originally written as a series of letters to Halbert’s son, Bond while serving time in Boron Prison in the Mojave Desert. In the letters, Halbert revealed a lifetime of wisdom on marketing, persuasion, and of course, killer copy. This book is a bona fide classic and a must read for any aspiring copywriter.
For more great tips on creating awesome content, check out my interview with Eric Siu on the Marketing Speak podcast.