Have you ever played the game of telephone?
You know. The game where 20 people stand in line with a person in front saying a phrase to find out what the 20th person says?
Remember how distorted the phrase was by the end? Sometimes it was a completely foreign sentence!
That’s what reading most of marketing is like right now.
Garbage. Steamy, pungent, total trash.
That’s why I’ve written this article, so you can learn from the truly influential copywriters (and thus marketers!) of all time.
If you’re going to read about any subject, I highly recommend you go to the source. It’s at the source where you’ll find the real gems.
Most marketing books are carbon copies of these OG’s. They slap new names on old school formulas and package it with a pretty picture to get your email address.
With that in mind, let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Classic Copywriting Books You Must Read
“Break-Through Advertising” – Eugene M. Schwartz
Pound for pound the best book on copywriting. It’s difficult to read, and you’ll be using it as a reference for ages, but it’s worth every penny.
Eugene studies everything. Every detail necessary to write a stellar ad. From the market size and phase they’re in, to your mentality about writing.
Treat it like the textbook. Mark it. Dog-ear it. Do whatever you must to absorb this book.
“The Boron Letters” – Gary C. Halbert
Written for his son Bond with the sole dedication of making sure he understood how to write and sell.
The Boron Letters are not about copywriting per-say. It’s a book about life with large chunks teaching you how to sell. If you’re an entrepreneur, salesperson, or even an executive, you’ll benefit.
Think of these letters as a peak into the mind of one of the greatest advertisers in the 20th century.
“Scientific Advertising” – Claude Hopkins
Written from the vantage point of science, Claude accurately decodes advertising into its simplest parts.
Ads fail because they’re written with the intent of entertaining the buyer. If you approach advertising with this mindset you’ll fail. Simple enough.
The reader must be pulled, from sentence 1, into purchasing your offer.
You must use science and consistent testing to make this a reality.
Hence the point of “Scientific Advertising”.
Modern Copywriting Books You Must Read
You might be asking. Really? You recommend only 3 books to teach the core principles of copywriting?
Glad you asked!
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? If not, go read about it here before you continue.
What’s important about the 80/20 rule is it’s fractal by nature. You can apply the 80/20 rule to the 20% of activities themselves.
What this means is 4% is all that’s needed to get 64% of the result.
If you read, study, write notes, and reread the above books you’ll be more successful than 90% of your peers.
Once you complete that, read these next books to get a more advanced picture.
Ca$hvertising – Drew E. Whitman
The best copywriting book written in the 21st century. Seriously.
Drew packs his book with actionable playbooks for your advertising that will enhance your principled knowledge.
With this book you’ll be adding jet fuel to the fire.
Everybody Writes – Ann Handly
You’re selling and writing copy every day. Doesn’t matter if you’re selling products or convincing leadership to allocate more budget to your project.
Either way your goal is to convince them to see and accept your side of thinking.
This book is for business owners, new entrepreneurs, marketers, salespeople, or anyone looking to improve their writing quality.
Get it and absorb the knowledge.
The Copywriters Handbook – Robert Bly
Techniques, guidelines, and rules of thumb. That’s what you’re getting with Bob Bly’s incredible book.
I like having this as the final book within my unofficial copywriting “degree”. It gives you the cherry on top for your career with copywriting.
Give it a read.
So often we think we need a lot of information to understand a new field. This is simply not true.
I’ve given you the best of the best books on copywriting. Sure, you can go out and read 100 books on the subject, but at the end of the day how much are you actually absorbing?
Here’s my recommendation.
Read all of these books in order, while taking notes. Then rest.
When you’ve forgotten about it for a day or two, re-read your notes and ask yourself how much you remember.
Then read it all again.
If you do this, I promise you’ll be a great marketer.
Or don’t, and read 40 different copywriting books all saying the same thing.
It’s your choice.