Writing Better: Books and Resources on Copywriting

Feb 18, 2020 | Better Writing

Carlos Amador wants to know more about copywriting. Here’s the email he sent me.

“Mr. Bock, I read your review of Building a Story Brand and wanted to say thank you for your review, as it steered me towards purchasing the book. Are there any other books you would recommend for someone just learning copywriting?”

As I said in my review of Building a Story Brand, I’ve been a professional writer and copywriter for 50 years. I thought Building a Story Brand was a great book for anyone who wants to master the use of stories in copywriting.

I said I was an experienced copywriter, but not a great one. My strength is helping people structure and create great business books. But I’ve done copywriting over the years to earn my keep, so I pay a lot of attention to great copy writers.

It’s always best to learn from the masters. Here are some books I go back to again and again when I need to do some copywriting. I hope they’ll help you, too.

Let’s start with the classic book on persuasion. It’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Dr. Cialdini will teach you the basics of persuasion. You can use his “persuaders” as a benefits checklist. It’s a foundation for everything else you’ll learn about copywriting.

The book that’s been on my reference shelf the longest is How to Make Your Advertising Make Money by John Caples. The edition I have was published in 1983. Caples is an old advertising hand. He starts his book with the secrets of successful advertising and goes from there. It’s about as close as you can come to a course on basic copywriting between covers.

Dan Kennedy has written a lot of great copy and a lot of great work about how to write good copy. My favorite is The Ultimate Sales Letter: Boost Your Sales with Powerful Sales Letters. The book was written when regular postal mail sales letters were the centerpiece of good direct response advertising. Don’t let that stop you from mining the riches of this book. I recently reviewed Kennedy’s advice on “Three Letter Formulas” when I wrote a LinkedIn profile.

Caples and Kennedy both stress the importance of learning from great advertising headlines. What Dan Kennedy does with that is exceptional. In the chapter “Get Your Sales Letter Read,” he produces “fill-in-the-blank headlines.” They will help you write headlines based on headlines that got great results.

Joe Sugarman is another master. He wrote the book, Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence, and Persuade. You’ll find 30 sales “triggers” in the book, as promised. You’ll also find some worksheets and other tools to use the triggers effectively.

If you’re looking for idea starters, pick up a copy of Words That Sell: The Thesaurus to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas by Richard Bayan. Find yourself stuck in the middle of a writing project? Pick up Words That Sell and thumb through it. You won’t go far before you come up with an idea that will help.

I saved the best for last. Bob Bly has been an effective copy writer for as long as I can remember. He also publishes excellent how-to material on a variety of topics, including copywriting.

You can get acquainted with him through his classic, The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells. But don’t stop there. Go to his product website and check out all the material he offers.

Copywriting, like every other kind of writing, is a craft. That means you can learn it. You may not want to be a full-time copywriter, but copywriting skills will still come in handy. So, read some of these recommendations. Learn the basics. Then, improve your emails, web copy, marketing materials, and more.

Note: All links to books on Amazon are affiliate links. If you follow the link and buy a book, I get a small commission.

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