Great books for new copywriters to learn from

Written by Meghan Downs

When you start to look for copywriting resources, you realise how many GREAT things have been written and shared. It’s almost overwhelming – where do you start?

With the high number of useful articles, books, podcasts, talks, groups, communities, and courses available, how do you decide what to do first? Well, that’s almost an impossible question to answer. But I want to try…

Speaking from my experience, I want to share the resources I have loved so far for starting my career as a freelance copywriter, starting with books. Copywriting needs good marketing foundations, with human behavioural psychology a big factor in success. Some of the items listed here may not seem directly linked to copywriting – trust me, they are.


Books to help you be a good copywriter

There are many, many books that are still on my wish list. These are the ones I decided to buy and read first, mainly to help my bank balance!

Building a StoryBrand – Donald Miller

This book sets you up for writing stories for your business. It goes through the formula used to create characters like heroes and guides, then lead them through a narrative. Once you read it, you’ll recognise the familiar patterns in all blockbuster movies and your favourite novels.


building a storybrand graphic


Influence – Robert Cialdini

Possibly the most talked about book of them all and a classic, Cialdini breaks down the psychology of persuasion. Want to know how to persuade people? Start here.

The Choice Factory – Richard Shotton

Taking inspiration from ‘Influence’, Shotton has laid out 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy. Each chapter goes into a different bias, giving examples of how this applies in everyday life.

This book is so successful because each bias is backed up with cold, hard data. And data doesn’t lie. Shotton then takes this one step further and tells you exactly how to use this data in your marketing.

Everybody Writes – Ann Handley

Ann explains the basic premise of writing great content in a super digestible and actionable book. Her funny and witty character shines from the pages, making you feel inspired about the writing process.

Ann Handley with her book


Confessions of an Advertising Man – David Ogilvy

“Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass” – David Ogilvy

A classic read that was written by the head of one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, Ogilvy & Mathers. This book was written in 1963 and is still surprisingly accurate, even with the vast changes within the industry.

Ogilvy teaches the fundamentals of how to become a successful ‘Ad Man’ (think Don Draper from Mad Men). He is honest about the (sometimes questionable) tactics that made him so successful. It’s like a direct line into a creative genius’ mind.

Write to Sell – Andy Maslen

This is more of a ‘how-to’ style book. With common persuasion and psychology techniques as the basis, Maslen gives you tools and checklists to use these to write better sales copy. The book is clear and concise, detailing exactly what works and what doesn’t.

The most practical book I’ve read so far on writing copy, with specific exercises set throughout.

Survival Skills for Freelancers – Sarah Townsend

Although not a copywriting book, it is invaluable to read this if you are thinking of working for yourself as a freelancer or sole trader.

Townsend is a copywriter who uses this book as an opportunity to turn her experience in a practical guide for people starting out. Her mistakes, lessons, and achievements are all used in this book to share her expertise.

The honest approach really struck me, as Townsend does not sugar-coat anything – there’s even a section at the beginning that tells you to seriously think about if you’re the right kind of person to work freelance. And that’s great as most business books tell you that anyone can be an entrepreneur and become a millionaire.

Seth Godin

I’ve not named a particular book here, as Godin has written so many books that are all based on the principles of marketing and standing out. Many Godin fans will tell you their favourites and why, but I can only vouch for the couple I have on my own shelf – Permission Marketing and Purple Cow.

It’s also important to note that Godin has been a guest on many podcasts, is highly active on YouTube, and posts regularly to his blog. You can get his insights and creativity without paying for a physical book if needed.

Watertight Marketing – Bryony Thomas

A book that’s been on my shelf with good intentions for a while. It’s more of a manual or checklist for you to go through your business and make it as good as it can be.

I admit I have glanced at it and I’m not quite ready to start tackling this – maybe a better one for a couple of years into freelancing. I will start soon, I promise.

Other great copywriting books

  • Copywriting Made Simple – Tom Albrighton
  • One Plus One Equals Three – Dave Trott
  • Copywriting Is… – Andrew Boulton


stock image of a stack of books

What other books can help you to become a good copywriter?

These books are in my personal collection – I’ve been impressed and found value from each in their own way. As you will know if you are looking into copywriting as a career, an important aspect of writing is reading. Read ads. Read packaging. Read everything.

I wanted to share some recent reads that I’ve enjoyed –

  • A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

An honest tale of a love story during the war. Hemingway is renowned for getting his point across in a simple, rhythmic way. This was my first Hemingway read (I know, where have I been?!) – the story was not my favourite, but I loved the artistic style and the mix of short, snappy sentences with longer, complex prose. He showcases the importance of simple words and active voice.


  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

A beautifully told story about a young girl who steals books during the Second World War. It’s told by Death himself. I’d recommend everyone to read this book – it was emotional and brilliant. I couldn’t put it down. It taught me the power of stories and different perspectives.


  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Another emotionally hard-hitting read that was told in such a delicate and heart-warming way. It’s a tale of a young boy living through traumatic events during the War in Afghanistan. Another page-turner. The story has a theme of forgiveness and love.

Hosseini’s follow-up book titled A Thousand Splendid Sons is also a great read.


  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

This book delves you straight into the lives of a young black couple in America and the troubles they face. It tackles racism, incarceration, and the broken justice system in America through a heart-breaking story. It’s written in very clear, easy to understand language that portrays emotions so strongly. It reminds me of a modern-day To Kill A Mockingbird.


…and some that I haven’t –


  • Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

I bought this book as I’m trying to make my way through reading the classics. I’m only about 25 pages into this book but I feel no connection to the story or the language used. I’m not compelled to keep reading. It’s got the longest sentences I have ever seen, with hundreds of commas. They’re so long that you forgot what the start was by the end. I may return to it at some point but for now it’s taught me that I prefer a concise, modern language style.


  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The language used in this book was unusual – not like anything else I had read. I think it’s a bit of a marmite, either love it or hate it. The whole story is bleak, telling a tale of a post-apocalyptic struggle of a father and son to survive. There are no quotation marks used for dialogue, which made the story seem even more bland. It’s been acclaimed as a great story, but it left me feeling sad and empty.

Learning from reading different styles

As a new copywriter, you need to learn from these different styles. Each book read teaches you something, even if it’s not one you personally enjoyed. It’s also a good tool to recognise the art of storytelling – how do these authors make you feel? What language did they use to make that happen?

This is not an extensive wish list by any means. As you can see, there are so many great books on copywriting and other topics that can help you as a new copywriter. Please let me know if you found this list useful. Get in touch if you’ve read any other great copywriting books (or books in general) and have a good review!