From Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising to Think Like a Breadwinner, here are 14 answers to the question, “What are your top book recommendations that you think every copywriter should read?”
- Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead In Advertising by Thomas Kemeny
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- A World Without “Whom” by Emmy Favilla
- Copywriting Strategies: A No-Nonsense Guide to Writing Persuasive Copy for Your Business by Nicki Krawczyk
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
- Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom
- Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly
- Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches
- Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
- Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker
- We’re Smart. We’re Old. And We’re the Best at Everything: The World’s First No-BS Guide to Legal Marketing and Branding by Ross Fishman JD
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford
- Think Like a Breadwinner by Jennifer Barrett
Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising by Thomas Kemeny
Copywriter legends have spun wild tales of their experiences in pitches, writing, and everyday agency life. Thomas Kemeny’s book Junior throws you right into the thick of the process and craft of excellent copywriting.
Thomas, at the time of his writing, had the privilege of working in revered shops like Goodby Silverstein and Crispin, Porter & Bogusky. His Pacific Ocean blue book holds easily digestible bite-size morsels of advice for writing powerful headlines to interesting scripts.
Junior two shares Kemeny’s provocative experiences as well, immerses you from turning ok into good and good into wow.
He teaches you the spectrum of tone from Winston Churchill to Pee Wee Herman. He guides you in how to notrusharadiospotsoitsscrunchedlikethis. It’s a tightly compact 180-word sardine can of educational goodness all writers would benefit from young to young at heart.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
There are lots of great advertising books out there, and one of my recent favorites is Chew with Your Mind Open by Cameron Day. I urge any creatives to read it, as there are many nuggets of wisdom tucked into its colorful and thoughtfully designed pages.
However, to truly immerse yourself in the actual fundamentals of powerful writing, I’d highly recommend Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I’m not necessarily a fan of the horror genre, but Stephen King is an absolute master at storytelling, dialogue, and character development.
This is one of those books that you keep on your shelf and re-read parts of it repeatedly, making it an invaluable resource for writers who are looking to take their skills to the next level.
A World Without “Whom” by Emmy Favilla
A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age had me laughing out loud from start to finish. Emma made the em dash, Oxford comma—yes, I’m a fan—and even commas COOL (that’s right-grammar can be cool!). I couldn’t get enough of the BuzzFeed copywriting team convos and the crazy things they would debate before going to print.
This book not only is a must-read for any copywriter, but a truly engaging and fun bit of literature for any human who writes words that people read (looking at you, Sally Joe, and your lack of punctuation all over IG!).
Copywriting Strategies: A No-Nonsense Guide to Writing Persuasive Copy for Your Business by Nicki Krawczyk
Without a doubt, the book that every copywriter should read is Copywriting Strategies: A No-Nonsense Guide to Writing Persuasive Copy for Your Business by Nicki Krawczyk. Krawczyk has a down-to-earth writing style that makes her writing clear and easy to grasp. (This is not surprising, as she is a fantastic copywriter.) Also, the book really is no nonsense.
You’ll finish reading with a clear sense of how to improve your copy, and you’ll be excited to get out there and start doing it.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
Made to Stick isn’t necessarily a book about writing; it’s a book about making your ideas clear and communicating them in a way that is memorable.
The authors lay out six qualities of a “sticky” idea, from simplicity to concreteness, and provide fascinating examples and ideas along the way to make the lessons actionable.
I’ve used this book to improve the way I do everything, from generating headlines to how I present ideas to stakeholders. There’s an absolute wealth of knowledge and opportunity for those willing to get sunk in and apply what they learn.
Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom
If I had to name one book, every copywriter should know, no title comes to mind faster than Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. It details many instances in which brands facing unique struggles leaned into creative marketing strategies and ultimately flourished.
They teach the reader important lessons about branding, positioning, and even subconscious cues that influence customers’ buying decisions—all with relevant examples of brands you’ve likely bought from yourself.
This book is equal parts informative and entertaining, with no filler. It’s a must-read for any creative who works in marketing or advertising!
Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly
The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly is still one of the best books for copywriters to read. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to write sales-worthy copy and is filled with advice, tips, techniques, and more. This book is wonderful for copywriters.
Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches
This book gives so many great fundamental tips to help writers find benefits and create concepts. There is a section early in the book that shares how you can look at your product in different ways to help you brainstorm ad concepts.
For example, looking at your product upside down, or imagining your product in a different time period or alternate universe. When I feel creatively stuck, I still go back to that section to see if there’s a way I haven’t thought about it.
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message so Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
I would recommend Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand, especially for new copywriters. It does a good job of discussing the emotional responses and cues that writing targets to be persuasive.
Working through the book helps you create a framework for messaging and a structure that is deeper than any single piece of copy.
It also highlights some simple, effective messaging options for different content types and audiences. That’s great to have in your back pocket for your next gig or if you dive fully into freelancing and need to build out your own brand.
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth was completely transformative for me because of this takeaway: you have to focus on helping more people if you want to earn more wealth!
For copywriters, I think this is especially helpful because we are always helping two groups of people: the person selling and the person buying. Helping more of both those groups of people is how you expand your reach and make more of an impact.
To be successful, you can’t just be focusing on your next project. Real magic happens when you imagine helping as many people as you can through your writing.
We’re Smart. We’re Old. And We’re the Best at Everything: The World’s First No-BS Guide to Legal Marketing and Branding by Ross Fishman, JD
In a legal world of marketing blandness, Ross Fishman pulls no punches and gives lawyers and law firms direction.
The book will tell you what images not to use on your law firm’s website. He tells you what sales copy works for legal marketing and why! And you get lots of examples and how successful marketing worked for those firms.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
A little more unconventional than a typical copywriting book, but Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert completely changed my viewpoint around ideation and creativity.
As a copywriter, writer’s block happens. She dives deeply into relatable and raw peaks and valleys we, as writers, face. She also brings a unique approach to welcoming new ideas, leaning into them, and how they can take shape depending on who pursues them.
Big Magic is a book every copywriter or creative should read. It shows no limits to creativity and welcomes various approaches and habits of living with newfound creativity—something we could all use more of these days.
Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford
This book had an outsized impact on how I view the creation of value for my customers. Sometimes we focus too hard on what we are doing and leave our customers as the last pebble in creating what we do when they should be at the forefront of every decision we make.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, copywriter, salesperson, etc., you’ll be able to visualize and easily conceptualize the book’s message through their case studies and witty anecdotes.
Think Like a Breadwinner by Jennifer Barrett
My top book recommendation for copywriters has absolutely nothing to do with writing. Surprising, right?
And yet, it’s completely changed the game for me as a 30-something woman building a career after a lifetime of tinkering around at odd jobs that suited me at the moment.
Reading it was like taking back the reins of my life. It transformed the way I thought about my work and truly brought the seriousness of my career trajectory into full focus. That kind of mindset shift can revolutionize the quality of your work like few practical, tips-and-tricks books can!