Top 20 Copywriting Books Every Direct Response Copywriter Should Own
Whether you’re still finding your business idea or you’re writing your 15th sales page, there’s always more to learn from the best copywriting books. Which is why here at IWT we have a stack of what we believe are the best books on copywriting, which, if done well, can mean the difference between a dud and a six-figure launch.
Don’t believe us? Just check out our post on how a $100,000 sales page is made.
Plus, we’ve used the knowledge gained from these copywriting books to build a suite of courses for our 40,000+ students, helping them make millions of dollars, collectively.
And now we want to give you a gift: Our in-house curated list of the 20 best copywriting books every entrepreneur needs.
(Note: NONE of these links are affiliate links. We make no money from these recommendations. We just think they’re really good!)
The 20 Best Copywriting Books You Need on Your Bookshelf
1. “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples
John Caples authored one of the most captivating advertising headlines in history (“They laughed when I sat down at the piano — but when I started to play!”) and also one of the most essential copywriting books on copy tactics. A huge proponent of testing each element of his marketing campaigns, Caples distilled his findings into 35 proven headline formulas. The book is also a great primer on call-to-actions and running your own marketing tests.
2. “Copy Logic” by Michael Masterson & Mike Palmer
“Copy Logic!” offers up a three-part system that will help any new copywriter turn out clean, impressive copy that sells. Michael Masterson and Mike Palmer, both master copywriters and direct marketers, unveil their strategies on writing winning copy that turned Agora into a $300 million publishing powerhouse. A damn good copywriting book.
3. “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz
Possibly the rarest copywriting book on our list, “Breakthrough Advertising” is masterfully written, tactically dense, and incredibly insightful. The best copywriters swear by it, which is perhaps why the book has been out of print for years now and remaining copies sell for anywhere between $100 and $500.
4. “The Boron Letters” by Gary Halbert
The late, great master copywriter Gary C. Halbert lived a legendary life. In his own words, he’s been “robbed, tied up, gagged, blindfolded, threatened. I’ve made and lost millions. I’ve been eulogized, ostracized, and plagiarized. I’ve also … been both a prison guard and prison inmate.” And it’s as an inmate that he penned his most intimate and eye-opening work, “The Boron Letters,” where he doles out timeless copy and life lessons to his son Bond.
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5. “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is the man Don Draper was based on. Yeah. He’s widely considered to be the “father of advertising” and is the founder of the legendary advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather. He left behind a legacy of iconic advertising campaigns in his wake, including “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” and the “At 60 miles per hour” ad for Rolls-Royce.
In “Ogilvy on Advertising,” he shares everything from how to get an advertising job to his system on writing copy that people want to read. So put on your sharpest suit, mix yourself a mid-day martini, and settle back for some insights from one of the greatest advertising minds that ever was.
6. “My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins
This is actually two copywriting books in one — and both are worth the read if you’re an aspiring A-level copywriter. “My Life in Advertising” dives into Claude Hopkins’ history in business advertising, peppering vignettes with actionable advice and marketing strategies. “Scientific Advertising” showcases the theory and tactics behind marketing. Of this book, David Ogilvy actually said, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this copywriting book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”
If that doesn’t make you want to read one of the best books for copywriters, you’re on the wrong list. Try this one instead.
7. “The Robert Collier Letter Book” by Robert Collier
Ever wonder how to craft the perfect sales letter? How about writing copy that can create a profit-generating machine? Though master copywriter and thought leader Robert Collier wrote this one in 1931, the copy lessons taught in the book are timeless. His insights on direct marketing are still touted as sacrosanct almost a century since they were published.
8. “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!” by Al Ries & Jack Trout
Al Ries and Jack Trout possess decades of marketing acumen, and in “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” they’ve distilled their findings into “the basic laws that govern success and failure in the marketplace.” If you ignore the laws of physics, you won’t be able to fly a plane. Likewise, if you violate the laws of marketing, you can’t build a great marketing campaign.
9. “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Victor Schwab
The perfect copywriting book for any fledgling copywriter. By the end, you’ll know how to do everything from writing profitable headlines, to crafting a compelling call-to-action, to leveraging psychology to get your readers to buy. Victor Schwab knows his stuff too. After all, this is the same copywriter who took Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and propelled it into an all-time best seller.
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10. “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy
The marketer so nice he’s on here twice. David Ogilvy penned “Confessions of an Advertising Man” in 1963 and it’s considered to be essential reading for anyone who wants to dip their toes in advertising. Though it’s been half a century since its publication, this particular copywriting book continues to be the bible for all things advertising. In its pages, Ogilvy includes his revolutionary insights into copywriting, crafting winning campaigns, and keeping clients.
11. “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman
Award-winning direct marketer Joseph Sugarman gives us the exact tactics and systems on how he crafts top performing copy. The intensive book breaks down the exact formula that goes into making a good advertisement. Sugarman also reveals his insights on the theory of copy, giving readers a look into one of the brightest copywriters who ever lived.
12. “All Marketers are Liars” by Seth Godin
Marketers can only hope to succeed through authentic storytelling. In other words, you don’t need to tell straight facts to tell a good story. Rather, your story needs to be “consistent and authentic.” If nothing else, “All Marketers Are Liars” will challenge your framework of how you approach “truth” in your copy.
13. “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves
Another copywriting book to come out of the crucible of Madison Avenue in the sixties. “Reality in Advertising” gives you theories and systems based on three decades of advertising research. Rosser Reeves breaks down exactly how ad campaigns succeed, and perhaps more importantly, why they fail. He believed that a product’s unique selling proposition (a term he coined) should be the driving force behind any advertisement. His no-BS approach often comes across as hard-nosed — but his results, having created some of the most iconic television advertisements ever, speak for themselves.
14. “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got” by Jay Abraham
Jay Abraham is many things: An entrepreneur, a business executive, and an incredibly sought-after direct response marketing expert. In “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got,” Abraham gives readers his framework to help entrepreneurs seize upon previously unseen opportunities. It’s a great book for any copywriter who wants to help businesses sell by looking at products from different angles.
15. “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King
While this isn’t specifically a copywriting book, it is downright essential for any writer. Part memoir, part primer on style, “On Writing” is a classic book for writers and lovers of the craft that goes into making compelling stories. In the first half of the book, King tells the story of how he got his start being the “Master of Horror,” while in the book’s second half, he offers his view on grammar and style. And if you haven’t had enough book suggestions, he also gives readers his own essential reading list at the end.
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16. “Influence” by Robert Cialdini
Dr. Robert Cialdini spent years studying psychology and developing himself as the world’s foremost expert on persuasion. His book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” distills his research into six core principles. This is an essential book for any aspiring marketer (that means you too, copywriters).
17. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield
What “The Art of War” is to the military general’s battle strategy, Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” is to anybody who has ever suffered from the oft romanticized (but mostly BS) “writer’s block.” Whether you are sculpting a statue or just starting a blog for your online business, you’ll find Pressfield’s tactical solutions to crushing the demons of procrastination enlightening and motivating.
18. “Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion” by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson
This book will open your eyes to the subtle persuasion tactics that we experience every waking moment from advertisements, politicians, and even televangelists. And in the age of “fake news” and media hysteria, “Age of Propaganda” is more relevant than ever.
19. “The Social Animal” by Elliot Aronson
If you majored in psychology, there’s a good chance you might already have this book on your shelf. “The Social Animal” is required reading in psych classrooms across America. The book gives a solid primer on social psychology. The author, Elliot Aronson, knows his stuff too. He’s the only person to win the American Psychological Association’s three major awards (for writing, teaching, and research).
20. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
There’s a reason this book will almost always appear on lists of essential books on marketing, business, psychology, writing, being a pick-up artist, whatever! Despite being written almost a century ago, the lessons in this book are timeless. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” will help develop your professional and personal life.
Use copywriting books to build a million-dollar business
Good copywriting is a bare essential to a thriving business. Without it you won’t get traffic, leads, and ultimately sales.
If you’re a weirdo like us and love learning about copy tactics, check out this 30-minute video of IWT CEO Ramit Sethi crafting one of his legendary engagement emails from the ground up.
And it’s one thing to read copywriting books and blog posts on copywriting. It’s another thing to take action and transform that knowledge into a profitable business.
That’s why we invited our friends and students who have developed million dollar businesses to give us their very best systems and tactics on writing remarkable copy.
We compiled the best insights into our Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Content. Just enter your name and email below for instant access.