We get asked almost every other day for a list of the best books, courses, blogs, podcasts and other resources for copywriters and content creators. If you’re looking for inspiration, want to learn the basics, or are ready to take your writing to the next level, check out the resources below. (And if you can think of a go-to resource that we’ve missed, let us know and we’ll add it. Details at the bottom of the page.)
The Best Free Copywriting Resources
Bencivenga Bullets: Written by the man who is almost universally known as “the world’s greatest living copywriter,” these short essays are a remarkable resource for copywriters and marketers. If you follow the advice in each bullet, your copy will be more impactful and more effective than ever. (Scroll down for details about Gary’s very un-free course.)
The Gary Halbert Letter: (Once you’re on the page, scroll down for the good stuff). Like the Gary above, Mr. Halbert is well-known for his simple yet power and effective copywriting. The only reason he isn’t the “greatest living copywriter” is that he passed away about ten years ago. The GHL archive is a library of copywriting and marketing education. It will change the way you write.
Best Books About Copywriting
There are literally thousands of books about copywriting. Most of them aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. But we can vouch for the books listed below. They’re all good. Some are so good, you should read them over and over.
If you’re just getting started…
If you’re just starting out, these books will help you get a handle on what copywriting is and the types of projects you might consider taking on as a copywriter.
The Copywriter’s Handbook by Bob Bly. This is an old book that’s been updated a few times as the internet has added to the types of projects copywriters take on. It covers the basics: suggestions for writing all kinds of projects and ideas for making your copy better.
The Well-fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. Focused on the business side of “commercial writing”, this book is a bit dated, but it includes a lot of information that will help you get started. If you’re struggling to create a pipeline of regular, high-paying work, this book may be useful.
The Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman. Also known as The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, this book covers all kinds of copywriting advice from clarity and testimonials to establishing authority and selling a cure (rather than prevention). A very good primer on creating copy that converts potential customers into buyers.
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. This book is often referred to as a classic. Written by one of the original Mad Men, this book is all about creating effective advertising. The old ads featured in the book are charming and perhaps a bit dated, but the advice is still applicable to copywriters today. Ogilvy’s other book, Confessions of an Advertising Man is also a good read.
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan. If Ogilvy’s book had been written in the 90s, it may have resembled this excellent book about creating advertising that not only works, but is loved by consumers. A good read filled with principles for creating copy that connects emotionally with customers. Often mentioned as a favorite by the copywriters we know.
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (and Pearson). If you didn’t pick up a copy of this book during your high-school or college writing course, it’s time to do that now. This is the go-to desk reference when it comes to questions about grammar and style.
The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy. This book is a fantastic resource for anyone who writes sales letters or online sales pages. It steps through the process of assembling an effective sales message, no matter what medium you write for. We’ve listed this book in our “less experienced” section because it’s an easy read. But don’t be fooled, the principles taught here are all “advanced”.
Copywriting Books for More Advanced Writers…
Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. If you could only read one book about creating effective copywriting, it should be this one. This is not an easy read. It’s densely packed with the mechanisms for creating effective direct response advertising—the kind of messages that customers can’t say no to. This book is a bit more expensive than the typical book, and worth every penny. Warning: if you see a copy of this book for less than $125, it is almost certainly a fake.
Anything by Claude Hopkins. My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising are both revered in the direct response community as “classics” that everyone should read. David Ogilvy (see above) said that Scientific Advertising changed his life. Because Hopkins wrote his books nearly a century ago, the language can be a bit difficult, but the principles he taught are pure gold. Because the copyright has expired, you can find both of these books free online with a little digging.
Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. Another old classic, is all about creating copy that works. Caples talks about formulas for increasing the selling power of your copy and how you can better appeal to the masses. Definitely worth adding to your library. If possible, get the fourth edition or earlier (the fifth edition has a few changes that at least one expert has severely criticized).
The Advertising Solution by Craig Simpson. This book takes the writings of Caples, Hopkins, Ogilvy, Schwartz, and Robert Collier and makes them more accessible to a modern audience. If you struggle to read any of the books listed above in this section, try this book first. It pulls out the best advice from the very best copywriters of the past century. Highly recommended.
The Super Mega Brainy Bundle by Joanna Wiebe. This collection of six ebooks all about creating online messages that connect with customers is worth every penny. If you can find it. It’s not currently offered for sale (though we’ll update the page if that changes).
Note: At The Copywriter Club In Real Life event in New York City, Parris Lampropolous shared his recommended reading list for copywriters. You’ll find that list here.
Best Books About Content Creation
On Writing by Stephen King. As you might guess from the author and title, this book is about writing in general, not copywriting. But it is a great book about the craft of writing, dealing with rejection and overcoming the resistance (for more on the resistance, see The War of Art below). What’s more, it’s filled with anecdotes from the life of the best horror writer ever to grace a best-seller list. This is our favorite book on the subject of writing.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Another book about writing, this one covers the basics of writing clear, concise copy, interviewing, reaching your audience, and more.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. This is billed as the “go-to guide” for creating copy for your business that will attract (and even entertain) customers. As the cover says, it’s all about creating ridiculously good content that will help you create a relationship with your readers/customers. A very easy, and good, read. Ann also has another book, Content Rules, all about creating engaging web content that is worth checking out.
Master Content Marketing by Pamela Wilson. Pamela is a designer who made the shift to content creator as she built her business, then joined Copyblogger’s content team. This book is all about creating clear content goals and strategy to guide what you create and is filled with examples you can draw from. Pamela also created an interesting podcast with Jeff Goins that tracked the progress of writing the book.
Best Books about Human Behavior and Psychology
Copywriting isn’t just about words. It’s about getting readers to take action. Whether that’s a request for more information or clicking the buy button, it’s all about human psychology. These are a few of the best books about that topic. Just remember to test these principles in your own work. What works in a laboratory, doesn’t always translate to a blog post or sales page.
Influence and Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini. Influence is probably the most-ever referenced book on how human behavior is affected by things like scarcity and social proof. If you haven’t read it, add it to your bookshelf now. And Pre-suasion takes a look at what you can do before you ask for the sale to make sure you’ll be successful. Full of interesting stories and lots of science, we highly recommend both of these books.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kanneman. This is the book that started all of the discussion about System 1 and System 2 thinking. Or the lizard brain vs. the human brain. Kanneman will help you understand how humans process information and make decisions—critical knowledge for anyone who writes copy that needs to get a response. Be sure to read this one.
Made to Stick and Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The Heath Brothers make human psychology easy to read. Their books are packed with excellent advice (and frameworks) for getting customers to pay attention to your message (Made to Stick) and getting them to switch to your offer or product (Switch). If you write copy that needs to get customers to take action, study both of these books.
Brainfluence by Roger Dooley. In this book, Dooley shares short write ups of significant findings from neuroscience and suggests how it might translate into the sales process (and other business applications). It’s not a book about one big thing, rather it’s about dozens of ideas you can test and try to make your copy more effective. And it’s fascinating.
Buyology by Martin Lindstom. All about what influences your customers to buy. Lindstrom pulls from neuromarketing and other scientific studies of the things that determine whether a prospect will purchase what you have to offer or walk away. A good read.
Best Books About Creativity
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If you’ve ever struggled to get started on a copywriting project, or you break into a sweat when you stare at a blank page, this book is for you. Pressfield writes about the difference between an amateur artist and a professional, overcoming the resistance, and shares a ton of great advice for getting stuff done. Worth re-reading every year.
Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon McKenzie. Writing about what creativity is exactly is a huge challenge, but McKenzie comes as close to getting it right as anyone ever has. It’s not a process. And it’s not an undefinable something that just happens. Whatever it is, this book captures it almost perfectly. If you’re a copywriter working inside a big organization (and if you call yourself creative), you’ll love this book.
The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin. More than any other on this list, this book will change the way you think. Martin outlines a simple framework for thinking and decision making that will give you a new way of looking at challenges and creative problems. It’s a bit academic, but it will get you thinking in entirely new ways.
Other Books Worth Reading
Finding the Right Message by Jennifer Havice. If you do customer research as part of your writing process, then you need this book. In it you’ll find templates for customer interviews, ideas for message mining and surveys, as well as solid advice for how you use what you find in your research to create copy that resonates with your customers. Such. A. Good. Book.
Positioning by Ries and Trout. Positioning is all about how the products you write about relate to the other products in the marketplace. This is a great resource for figuring out how to write about your brand without coming off looking like everyone else in your category. It’s a short classic that every copywriter should be familiar with.
Dotcom Secrets by Russell Brunson. This book will walk you through the process of creating a sales funnel for your product or business. If you write funnels, email sequences, or landing pages for your clients, get this easy-to-read book.
Pivot by Jenny Blake. If you’re thinking of making a career change into copywriting, this book will give you the formula to to it—and make sure you succeed when you jump. And if you’re already happy as a writer, it will get you thinking about, “What’s next?” It’s a great book all about how to get comfortable with career change.
Of course, you should be reading lots of books about things other than copywriting. Read fiction. Gary Halbert used to recommend Travis McGee novels to his copy cubs. Study how great writers tell a story and capture a moment with words. Read history and science and philosophy. Read business books (so you understand what your clients are thinking and struggling with). Read old books (they’ve proven their worth over time). Read everything you can get your hands on.
The Best Copywriting Blogs
Copyhackers. Created by Joanna Wiebe, this is the go-to resource for learning conversion copywriting. Just read it.
Copyblogger. Lots of good stuff here. Some of it fantastic. Some of it basic. Some of it designed to get you to buy their products. But a good resource.
Other blogs worth checking out…
The Copywriting Podcasts We Prefer
Courses We Recommend
Gary Bencivenga’s 7 Secrets of Wealth Creation for Copywriters. This course costs $5000. But it is the gold standard for copywriting courses. Yes, we’ve taken it, and yes, it is worth it. If you can afford the expense, what you will learn here will pay you back dozens of times in more successful copywriting and sales. Just the sales page alone is a workshop in writing great copy.
The Copywriter Accelerator. This course from the founders of The Copywriter Club covers the basics of laying a foundation for your copywriting business so you can succeed. This isn’t about writing better (though it includes copy critiques). It’s all about the business side of your copywriting business. If you’re a newish copywriter, this course may help you accelerate your business growth.
If you know of a good course that deserves some love, ping us (see below).
This list is incomplete. So if you have an awesome copywriting resource that we haven’t linked, let us know (reach us at: rob [at] thecopywriterclub [dot] com). We’ll keep the list updated as best we can.
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