If you’re a copywriter wondering which books you should ask for this Christmas, or if you’re searching for the best books to buy a copywriter…
Help is at hand.
Here you’ll find five recommendations that will help inspire and influence anyone who writes to sell.
In fact, influence is actually the title of the first pick…
Influence by Robert Cialdini
But before too long I’ll read it again.
Well, the truth is there aren’t many ‘theory’ books about copywriting and marketing that truly stand the test of time.
And frankly, it’s often better to re-read a book like Influence than flick through the pages of some sad books on marketing.
Plus, let’s face it: do you really remember everything you read the first time you go through a book?
Of course not.
More importantly…do you ever ACTION everything you read? Probably not. Which is why it pays to re-read undeniably insightful classics like this.
Don’t get me wrong, you should read modern books on marketing as some of these can be great (The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton comes to mind), but this month I’m going back to this indispensable industry standard.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Or at least, you need to have a damn good grasp of marketing.
Books like Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational will help with that. In fact, this one will help a lot.
You see, this is all about testing – perhaps the single most important thing you can do in direct-response copywriting and marketing.
By testing different elements of your copy, you can learn which angles work better, which emotions pack the most punch and which words trigger the most engagement.
And, of course, when you find something that works really well, you can repeat it. And repeat it. And repeat…you get the gist.
Dan’s book is a good one to start with on this subject as it covers a lot of the standard testing stories people refer to these days. It looks at price testing – which is always useful – and it investigates how people rationalise things comparatively – which will get you thinking about how to handle offers in your copy.
All in all, I think it’s one of the most solid books on marketing in the modern era and well worth a read.
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
A surprise in the sense that it could be considered a self-help book…
But more so because I 100% recommend you read it even if it is a self-help book.
In fact, I was so moved by it when I read it myself, I contacted James and interviewed him about the book and writing in general.
So, why did I enjoy this so much?
Well, aside from the mentions of Woody Allen, Kurt Vonnegut and various other cultural characters that I relate to – it seems a very authentic book.
Indeed, James is a very authentic writer. He writes openly. He writes honestly.
But Glenn, is it a self-help book?
Well, as James explained when I spoke to him – he wrote about how he helped himself in the hope that it would inspire those looking in. I think it succeeds in doing that. It’s not preachy. It’s not self-aggrandizing. And it’s not waffly, like so many of its contemporaries.
Instead, it’s direct. It’s full of ideas. And it’s pretty funny too.
That’s why I recommend you keep an open mind and give it a read yourself. (And let me know what you think.)
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Damn this guy was good.
Indeed, I imagine you’ve probably already heard one or two stories about Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, CEO of Pixar and co-creator of the Apple Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and any other tech breakthrough you care to name.
You might have heard he stank too – he figured his clean living and fruitarian diet would cover him.
You might have heard how he ran his whole company on the premise of everything being “insanely great”.
And hey, you might have heard how he was a little insane himself, constantly flipping on people and being a bit of an asshole at times.
Whatever you’ve heard though – just read this book.
Seriously. It’s great.
At just under 600 pages it’s not a slim volume, but it’s so bloody interesting you’ll find yourself rushing through it to find out what the guy does next.
Chances are you own something that Apple (and by extension Jobs) has produced, so you’d guess there are some serious lessons to be learnt about selling from this guy.
I can confirm there are. A bucket load.
So, if you haven’t read this, I encourage you to give it a shot.
The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
Whilst I was in Florida one year, I was chatting with copywriting legend, Drayton Bird. Among other things we got to talking about authors and which books – beyond your standard copywriting texts – are worth reading.
On admitting I’d not read any Camilleri, Mr Bird exclaimed:
“Oh my man, you’ve got to read Camilleri. Do so immediately. He’s wonderful.”
As it happens, the next day I stumbled on a small bookshop in Delray Beach that was dedicated to crime fiction.
I sought out Camilleri’s first book in the Inspector Montalbano series – The Shape of Water – and bought a copy.
Despite having a long list of books to read, I quickly read it on the plane home and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Well written. Well plotted. And well-paced.
I guess it’s those three factors that make it such an easy read. I’ve dug a little deeper and on a few parts I’ve examined there’s a relatively low FK Score too – perhaps that’s a contributing factor.
More than anything, though, I think it could be down to the serial structure of the narrative. Each short section leaves you with a question to resolve in the next section. It’s a basic device, but it’s effective.
I think there’s value in thinking about how you can do this in your copy.
The theory could easily be applied to an email series or a long copy sales letter. A lot of the most successful sales letters already do this.
It’s simply a case of making sure you leave enough interesting crumbs in each email or section of your letter for your reader to follow. Do so and they’ll be with you to the end, much like I was with Camilleri as he led me through this enjoyable novel.
And there you have it.
Five top books for copywriters – any one of which I’m sure would bring a smile to any copywriter who found it in their stocking. (Though just in case my Mother is reading – I already own all these.)
P.S. There is, of course, another book I recommend adding to your wish list this year. My own. The Art of the Click aims to share with you everything I’ve learnt about direct-response copywriting over the past decade. If you enjoy following my ramblings for All Good Copy, then you’re sure to like the book. It’s out now and you can get a copy here.