Bookshelf must-haves for new and aspiring copywriters and entrepreneurs
The best copy you’ll ever write doesn’t lie between the pages of a best-selling book about online marketing...
I know - strange perspective to have when I’m about the give you a breakdown of some of my favourite books on copywriting - the irony - but stick with me...
After a decade of toiling with my pen, I’m 100% certain the best words you’ll ever write in your business lie between the ears of your ideal customer.
Be obsessed - in a good way, not all Joe Goldberg in You - about solving your customer's problems so you can write creative and customer-centred copy.
Here are some prompts for you to think a little deeper -
Think and feel about their current situation...
What dreams, hopes and desires do they have...
What ideals, values standards do they hold...
What makes them tick (in a good and bad way)...
How can you deliver the goods and give them what they need and want...
What polarising position, cause, belief or fight do you share with them...
Books to support your mission
Empathise, stay curious and create the best quality or service… One that will address a big pain point for your customers.
These books can help you communicate your message more effectively and build stronger connections with your customers.
Some are specific to copywriting. Others can support you as an aspiring entrepreneur, both in your life and work.
Books for Copywriting & Marketing
1. Ogilvy on Advertising - David Ogilvy
A timeless classic by a legend in the advertising world. It’s a clear, concise and practical read. It's considered the advertiser's handbook and a must-read for many copywriters.
Ogilvy dives into the importance of research and how to write successful copy… and get people to read it. It’s stood the test of time for a reason. Wisdom and insights that can be applied today, nearly 40 years on.
“I don't know the rules of grammar. If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.” - Ogilvy
2. The Copywriter’s Handbook - Robert W. Bly
A great place for new and aspiring copywriters. And it’s really helpful if you run a small business and create content in the modern world.
Packed with tons of techniques to help you write effective copy on and offline. As well as principles to improve email marketing campaigns, tips on how to craft ad copy and optimise your website design and copy.
“The words in your copy should be like the windows in a storefront. The reader should be able to see right through them and see the product.” - Bly
Great advice for anyone in the throes of crafting website pages, ad copy or sales pages.
3. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook - Joseph Sugarman
A book about copywriting by the master himself. A great book for aspiring entrepreneurs and copywriters alike. Sugarman breaks down what it takes to write copy that will entice, engage and motivate customers to buy. Arguably, a little dated in parts (some eyebrow-raising references) but you learn some timeless copywriting principles.
“Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem.” - Sugarman
Tip! Less is more so keep your process simple and easy to execute. Everyone prefers to read fewer bullet points and take fewer steps to see results. So, strip your method back (if you need to) and design a system that gets your customers from points A to B as efficiently as possible.
Notice, I didn’t say quickly?
The key is to make it simple but not every process can be fast. You know the ins and outs of your business...
You might be able to offer quick wins but the deeper work that produces longer-lasting results may take hours, days, weeks, months or years to see transformational results... That’s fine. Just do your best to keep it simple.
4. Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion - Robert B. Cialdini
This is a bookshelf must-have for many copywriters.
A big part of writing motivational copy lies in understanding consumer psychology, what makes people tick and the subtle keys that compel them to buy. That’s what this book details.
As you read the book it will become clear that deeper things are taking place below the surface of every purchase and every consumer. Cialdini explains them in great detail so as a business owner you can tune into your customers on a deeper level.
Although Influence has had many revisions and updates over the years, some parts of the book can still seem a little dated for the millennial reader. But there’s still a wealth of knowledge and valuable insights to be learned. Take the bits that resonate. Leave the rest.
“The way to love anything is to realise it might be lost” - Cialdini
Tip! The best copy is found in your customer’s head.
Pay attention to the words your customers are using to describe their situation and the outcome they desire.
This FREE guide, Know Your Customers So Well, They’ll Think You’ve Been Reading Their Journal, will help you explore the inner working of your customer’s mind (and heart). Learn how to write words in your business that connect and resonate with them more. Grab it here.
Books on Strategy
5. Made to Stick - Chip Heath, Dan Heath
Why do some ideas stick and others not? That’s what this book explores in great detail with examples of success stories and poorly executed ideas. Made to Stick will help you transform the way you communicate your ideas in a way that’s unforgettable.
The Heath brothers lift the hood and show the mechanics behind what makes great ideas sticky so you can apply the same principles in your business to share your ideas and message in a stickier way.
“Create the need for closure” - Chip Heath, Dan Heath
Human beings want to know the answer to a question. That’s why open loops are so effective in copywriting. When done right they can create a sense of intrigue and pique the reader's curiosity.
I talk more about open loops and how to write captivating headlines and attention-grabbing segues in this post. WATCH IT HERE.
6. Save The Cat - Blake Snyder
This is one of my favourite books and it has nothing to do with copywriting. It’s about screenwriting and more specifically how to make your ideas more mesmerising and your script more captivating.
Weirdly enough so many principles for writing Hollywood-worthy scripts can be applied to sharing your message clearly and using copywriting techniques to position you brand in the right way.
Save the Cat is bursting with creative ideas and proven strategies (with examples) you can easily adopt and use in your business, whether you’re a copywriter or not.
"True originality can’t begin until you know what you’re breaking away from." - Blake Snyder
7. Building a StoryBrand - Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen - Donald Miller
The power of storytelling is explored in glorious detail through Miller’s 7-step process to help you master the art of clear and effective communication so you can grow your business.
Learn how to express who you are and what you do in a way that connects with your ideal customers. It invites you to look deeper into the reasons why your customers make purchases so you can create engaging copy that speaks to your individual needs and desires.
"Nobody will listen to you if your message isn’t clear, no matter how expensive your marketing material may be" ― Donald Miller
Books on Mindset
8. Rest - Why you get more done when you work less - Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
A phenomenal antidote to the burnout-promoting culture most of us live in. Soojung-Kim Pang brilliantly describes why burnout is not a prerequisite for success.
With examples going as far back as the Industrial Revolution, you understand where our infatuation with busyness - at the sacrifice of our well-being - stems from.
“If you want to rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.” - Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
From a copy perspective:
Some of the best copywriting ideas can be found when we are resting, walking, sitting quietly or engaging in a hobby. Taking time to step away from your desk, move your body or change your surroundings can inspire creative thinking and new ideas.
9. The Miracle Morning - Hal Elrod
This book is about setting new habits in the morning (a huge giveaway from the title). Elrod wants to inspire the reader to start the day strong so they have a more fulfilling day.
Elrod breaks down the 6 practices to help you get more done which he coins as the S.A.V.E.R.S.
These are the habits you want to do in the first hour after you wake (and the earlier the better). Now, if you’re not a morning person, don’t let the title put you off. There are still some interesting ideas and takeaways to grab and apply to your own life.
The way Elrod sees it: “By simply changing the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible.”
From a copy perspective:
One of the practices Elrod promotes is to scribe (that’s “write” to you and me). And a healthy habit for any aspiring entrepreneur to adopt is to write every day. It could be journaling, writing a piece of content in your business or working on a client project. It doesn't really matter. Do your best to make writing every day part of your daily ritual.
Books on Creativity
10. The Artist’s Way - A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity - Julia Cameron
The Artist's Way has inspired millions of readers to venture on their creative journey and find a deeper connection to their process and purpose. The author delves into problems and stumbling blocks that may be restricting creative flow and offers insightful methods to help readers create opportunities for self-growth, self-discovery and personal rejuvenation.
Deemed a revolutionary programme, this book will help you to rediscover your passions, get your creativity back on track and will enable you to take the steps needed to make transformational changes in your life.
“Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment we are timeless.” - Julia Cameron
11. The War of Art - Steven Pressfield
An inspirational book helping readers silence the inner cynics that lie within all of us. Steven Pressfield powerfully recognises and quashes the ‘dream-blocking barriers’ that we all face.
Originally written for writers, it has become increasingly popular with entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers and thousands of other creative people around the world. And it’s easy to see why - the book aims to help readers channel their creative energy and overcome the fears that are holding them back from reaching their fullest potential.
Steven Pressfield outlines a clear, kick-ass battle plan to help readers conquer their inner naysayers. He suggests that great success can be achieved with courage, hard work and following the right formula.
“Fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.” - Steven Pressfield
Books on Purpose & Productivity
12. Start with Why - Simon Sinek
Considered one of the most influential books of its time, Start With Why is the leader's handbook on how to be inspired and inspire others to take action and reach their highest potential.
If you’re looking for ways to motivate your team, children and - dare I say it - even your spouse, you need to understand the power of identifying the why.
Based on the most-watched TED Talk of all time. WATCH IT
“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.” - Simon Sinek
13. The One Thing - Gary Keller, Jay Papasan
This book has the potential to be a total game-changer especially if you’re like me and prone to having multiple tabs open, a checklist as long as your arm and a propensity to believe more can be done in an hour than is humanly possible.
This book reminds us that multitasking is a myth. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time.
As an entrepreneur, it’s a smart move to keep your top priority in check and stay committed to the completion of that one task until it’s done (or until you decide to sack it off). Either way, having laser focus leads to better productivity.
“The secret to extraordinary results is to ask a very big and specific question that leads you to one very small and tightly focused answer.” - Gary Keller, Jay Papasan
From a copy perspective:
Get in the habit of specifying your number one objective every time you write copy in your business.
Be clear on the:
1 x Problem
1 x Solution
1 x Action to take
When you can drill down to these basic core fundamentals, you’ll be in a stronger position to write clearer copy. And clarity is important because a confused brain doesn’t buy.
WATCH THIS VIDEO because I dive deeper into how to take the concept of The One Thing and apply it to your business.
Let's sum it up
And there you have it - 13 books to spark your creativity, inspire action and foster positive habits to help support you start and grow your business.
The goal isn’t to read and master every wise word littered on the page. Instead, soak up the ideas that resonate most. See what tickles your fancy and suits your business style and way of life and give them a try.
Before you go ~
What’s your favourite book? Tell me in the comments.
Please share this post with a friend who’d appreciate it.
'Til next time ~