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Derek Johanson


January 2, 2017

The Best Books For Copywriters In 2017

January 2, 2017 | By | 2 Comments

“I’m serious about learning copy. What copywriting courses do you recommend?”



It’s 2017 but I still recommend you start by reading copywriting books. The classics.

There are plenty of great copywriting courses out there but you’ll be better off both financially and mentally if you read books… especially in the beginning.

Here are the best 7 copywriting books for serious business owners and freelancers in 2017. These books should provide you with the most solid foundation possible moving forward.

These will change how you view copywriting, marketing, persuasion and maybe even the world.

Do not buy another course until you’ve read these.

The Top 7

I’ve listed these in the general order I think they should be read. The only book I’d really avoid reading too early is “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz – and it just so happens to be the most expensive and “course-like” of the bunch.

1. “Influence” by Robert Cialdini

This is not a book on copywriting specifically but on persuasion. Through stories and personal anecdotes, Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say “yes”.

You’ll learn 6 principles of influence that you’ll use in your marketing efforts for a lifetime (Reciprocity, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity).

2. “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook” by Joseph Sugarman

This is a great entry-level book on copywriting from the Blublockers founder and famous copywriter Joseph Sugarman.

There are a couple important take-aways from this book.

First, is Sugarman’s list of “Psychological Triggers” in chapter 19.

Second, is the concept Sugarman calls the “Slippery Slide”: The purpose of the headline is to get people to read the subheadline. And the purpose of the subheadline is to get them to read the first sentence of the first paragraph… and so on until the ad is complete.

3. “My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins

This is two books in one from Claude Hopkins and two things will blow your mind: Hopkins invented test marketing and coupon sampling. And, these books were originally published in 1923 (Scientific Advertising) and 1927 (My Life in Advertising).

But DO NOT let this stop you. The content, especially Scientific Advertising, is remarkably relevant.

There’s a story that Claude Hopkins tells in “My Life In Advertising” that I love.

Hopkins talks about a railroad foreman who looked at his work in a different way than the men he supervised.

Here’s what the foreman said:

“Look at those boys play ball. That’s what I call hard work… ”

“Note what I have done while they loafed there this evening — built most of the porch on my home. Soon I will be sitting there in comfort, making love to a pretty wife.””

“They will always be sitting on those soap boxes around the grocery store. Which is work and which is play.”

“If a thing is useful they call it work, if useless they call it play. One is as hard as the other. One can be just much as a game as the other…

All the difference I see lies in attitude of mind.”

4. “Tested Advertising Methods (4th Edition)” by John Caples

Make sure you buy the 4th edition of this book. It’ll be more expensive but worth it.

David Ogilvy said this about the 4th edition, “This is, without doubt, the most useful book about advertising that I have ever read.”

5. “Ogilvy On Advertising” by David Ogilvy

Sir David Ogilvy is often described as “The Father of Advertising”. He built a Billion Dollar ad agency in the 70’s!

I like to think of him as the father of modern content marketing too.

Why? Here’s a lead generation space ad for his firm Ogilvy & Mather: “How To Create Advertising That Sells.”

Ogilvy is also famous for saying, “‘The customer is not a moron, she’s your wife'”.

6. “Great Leads” by by Michael Masterson & John Forde

This book will answer the most pressing question in copywriting: “How the f*ck do I start my sales message?”

After you’ve built a solid understanding of copywriting principles, Great Leads will open everything up for you.

7. “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene M. Schwartz

This book coupled with Great Leads has probably produced more clarity (and cash) than any other resource I’ve purchased.

Just wait and see what happens to your brain when Schwartz drops the concept of Market Sophistication and Awareness Levels on you.

If you want to buy this book on Amazon, it’ll probably cost you over $400. You can get it through Brian Kurtz for cheaper. Here’s how:

“Many people told me they have seen used copies for sale on line for hundreds of dollars…and those who wrote to me found out that I have copies available at $95 plus shipping.

So if you are interested in purchasing a copy directly from me, just send me an e-mail with “Breakthrough Advertising” in the subject line and I will send you the details on ordering.

And because of the response to last week’s blog, I am planning a re-printing of the book for which I will write an updated Foreword; and doing a “Breakthrough Advertising Course” is also moving up my priority list thanks to all of you!”

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Which one of these copywriting books do you like the most?