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At first glance, copywriting may seem easy. Many of us already spend our workdays producing all sorts of written content, so why should writing copy be any different? Unfortunately, just like most things done by professionals with years of practice, copywriting is harder than it looks.
A good advertisement can sell a product without drawing attention to itself. It might not be stylish, but it’s clear, relatable, and establishes trust with the reader. It can get them talking, sharing, and buying. Fortunately, like most skills, good copywriting can be taught!
We’ve compiled a list of books from respected industry professionals to help improve your writing and provide you with the knowledge necessary to write copy that will get in your readers’ heads and stay there. From copywriting books for beginners to more advanced writers, there’s something for you below.
Best Style Guides for Writing
The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr.
The Elements of Style is one of the most influential books on the topic of writing. Originally published in 1920, Cornell University English professor William Strunk Jr.’s work remains relevant to this day. Its periodic re-editions have earned it a spot on the Times 2011 All-TIME 100 Nonfiction Books. With such impressive credentials, we had to include it in our list of best books for learning copywriting. Its timeless advice can help anyone cultivate a clear writing style that can be found at the heart of quality copy around the world.
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century – Steven Pinker
This modern usage guide provides practical and entertaining advice on writing while avoiding the strict tone of its predecessors. Unlike more traditional authors, Pinker fully embraces the fluidity of language. His expertise in linguistics and cognitive science results in a framework that is based on reason and evidence. His book shows how language usage evolves, and how sometimes bending the rules may lead to better results.
Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power – William Brohaugh
Writing assignments in school and university often encourage us to write lengthy and complex sentences. After all, how else are we supposed to reach the minimum word count? Unfortunately, this skill doesn’t translate well to the real world. Brevity is key, especially when your client is paying for every word. William Brohaugh’s book will quickly help you get rid of these bad habits. With Brohaugh’s advice, you’ll learn not only which words to use to say exactly what you mean, but also how many are needed.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction – William Zinsser
This book is great for anyone interested in writing. It covers a wide range of nonfiction styles, from writing a memoir to covering sports, business, and technology. Zinsser’s principles and insights provide practical and precise guidelines that will help you reach technical mastery and transform your prose. With more than a million copies sold this guide has proven itself to be an essential piece of any writer’s collection, whether experienced or just starting out.
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer – Roy Peter Clark
It’s important to have the right tools for the job. With Roy Peter Clark’s book, you’ll be well equipped for your copywriting journey. His 50 strategies cover both basic (“activate your verbs”) and more complex ideas (“use internal cliffhangers”). Having this toolbox in your arsenal will help you make your text sharper, more memorable, and compelling.
Best Copywriting Books for Beginners
How to Write Copy That Sells – Ray Edwards
How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards is a relatively short book that’s jam-packed with useful information. It’s structured around the P.A.S.T.O.R framework, a helpful acronym that will guide you to quickly writing easy-to-read and effective copy. It covers copywriting techniques for a variety of purposes, from websites and social media to direct mail and email marketing. With tons of examples and templates, it’s bound to elevate your copywriting to the next level.
Copywriting Made Simple: How to Write Powerful & Persuasive Copy That Sells – Tom Albrighton
Tom Albrighton’s book certainly takes the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” to heart. However, if you let the irony of this dissuade you from reading this book you’d seriously miss out. Filled with helpful illustrations and diagrams, it’s one of the best copywriting books for beginners who prefer visual learning. Copywriting Made Simple not only explains how to write persuasive and engaging copy using psychological techniques, but also visualizes these core concepts with accompanying images, bringing the information to life. Albrighton’s 15 years of freelance experience have made him an expert at the psychology of proficient copywriting, and his book can teach you how his “six proven principles of persuasion” can help you shape your reader’s responses.
The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells – Robert W. Bly
Originally published in 1985, Robert W. Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook is still regarded as one of the best copywriting books. Currently, in its fourth edition, it expands on key insights of the field and adapts them for the digital age. Its up-to-date advice encompasses current digital trends, content marketing, videography, increasing response and conversion rates, and much more. Given Bly’s nearly four decades of experience in multichannel marketing, multiple awards, and over 100 books published, he’s a voice worth paying attention to.
Adweek Copywriting Handbook – Joseph Sugarman
You know you’re the real deal when you’re able to get a vice-president of the United States to endorse your skills on the back cover of your book. In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, Joseph Sugarman holds your hand through the entire copywriting process. From conducting the initial research to writing convincing copy, this step-by-step guide provides you with all the necessary tools and tactics to produce copy that will effectively sell your product. This classic is one of the best books for learning copywriting, and the ultimate companion resource that every beginner copywriter should keep on their desk.
100 Great Copywriting Ideas – Andy Maslen
If you need copywriting inspiration, look no further than Andy Maslen’s 100 Great Copywriting Ideas. This book outlines ideas taken from some of the world’s most successful companies. Each idea is clearly presented, partnered with advice on how it can be applied in your work. With simple ideas like abstaining from using overtly complicated vocabulary and formulas that help you pique your target’s interest, this book offers a great toolkit for the beginner copywriter.
Best Copywriting Books for Advanced Writers
All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works–and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All – Seth Godin
Anyone who’s read more than two articles on copywriting has heard that “great copy tells a story”. But what does this really mean? Products nowadays are embedded with meaning. Customers don’t just buy an item – they buy the story behind it. That’s why great marketers don’t focus only on the features, they tell a tale that fits the customer’s worldview. One that they’ll want to believe and share. Using numerous anecdotes, this book shows how stories led to the success or failure of various marketing campaigns. If you want your copy to truly stand out, read this book.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek
You may have already heard of Simon Sinek. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers and Simon’s Ted Talk is one of the most popular Ted videos of all time. His book expands on the ideas from his videos. People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. Being able to articulate why you’re selling something can be far more compelling than what you’re selling – Sinek calls this idea The Golden Circle. If you’re still not sure, watch Sinek’s Ted Talk for a condensed version of his ideas.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip and Dan Heath
The average adult in the US spends an estimated average of 470 minutes with digital media each day – a whopping seven hours and 50 minutes! How can you make your writing unforgettable when you have to compete with so much content? In their book, the Heath brothers explain what makes ideas stick, and ways to make them stickier. It follows the acronym SUCCES (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credibility, Emotion, Stories), which helps you concisely to draw in the reader, build a mental picture, appeal to emotion, and stimulate further interest. This framework is also a useful tool to quickly check the quality of your copy. It can be the difference between an unremarkable piece and one that immediately captivates your audience.
Letting go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works – Janice G. Redish
Our attention spans are not getting any longer! When searching for things online we usually want what we’re looking for as quickly as possible. We visit a website and collect the information, reading only what’s necessary. This book is filled with useful tactics and strategies for creating content for the web. It will show you how to divide your copy into bites, snacks, and meals. The bites (headlines or phrases) will capture your reader’s attention and lead them to the snack (a short summary) which will, in turn, usher them to the meal (the article). Redish’s book will teach you how with the right plan and organization you’ll be able to generate content that will have your readers coming back for more.
Good luck starting or continuing your copywriting journey with one of these fantastic books! We have no doubt that making your way through one or more of them will have a noticeable impact on your approach to copywriting and writing itself.
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