The 7 Best Copywriting Books That Aren’t About Copywriting

Chase Roberts posted this in
Inside Rocket Media
on March 26th, 2015

Story time.

When I discovered I wanted to become a copywriter, I devoured every book on the subject I could find.

From The Copywriter’s Handbook to the Adweek Guide to Copywriting, I ravenously tore through each page, looking for new techniques to add to my repertoire.

Sadly, after reading the most commonly suggested tomes, every new copywriting resource started giving me similar information and thus diminishing returns.

I hit a learning roadblock. (My Amazon cart became lonely. It was awful.)

Our Content Manager suggested that I read books that aren’t about copywriting but are related enough to help sharpen my craft.

Duh. Why didn’t I think of that? I took his advice and broadened my search.

These were the 7 best non-copywriting books I found that I think every copywriter should read to improve their craft.

1) The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand

One sentence summary: Author Lee LeFever, creator of several “explainer videos,” teaches you his step-by step method for creating scripts that can explain anything to anyone.

Why copywriters should read this book: If you can’t simply explain a thing, you certainly can’t sell the thing.

Trying to sell a complex type of software for marketers? Just saying it “saves time and money” isn’t going to get the job done. That describes pretty much any type of business software.

Trying to sell a new, unique service? Well you better find a concrete way to explain what it is you do.

Read this book and you’ll have a repeatable method for explaining even the most complex and unique products and services to your readers and why they should care.

Here are my notes from the book. I refer back to them often because it includes the basic script Lee uses for all his explainer videos.

2) Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

One sentence summary: The Heath Brothers analyze why some stories, myths and messages fly and others flop, all the while giving you the tools you need to make your ideas stick in your audience’s heads.

Why copywriters should read it: It’s a copywriter’s job to get people to:



  1. Pay attention and be interested

  2. Understand and remember your offer

  3. Agree and believe that your product can do what it says it does

  4. Care about your product

  5. Act (buy or sign up for something)


This book gives examples and tips on how to:

  1. Be unexpected (to get attention)

  2. Be concrete (to help people understand)

  3. Be credible (to get them to believe) 

  4. Make your message emotional (to make people care)

  5. Tell a story (so people will act)


Here are my Made to Stick Writing Prompts that I use when writing copy.

3) Letting Go of the Words, Second Edition: Writing Web Content that Works

One sentence summary: Ginny Redish gives concise advice on how to produce clear writing in plain language for the web.

Why copywriters should read it: Would you write copy for a billboard the same way you’d write copy for a TV commercial?

Of course not. The medium affects how you present the message. So if you’re going to write copy for the web, you need to know best practices for how to write for that medium.

While not focused on copywriting, this book will teach you other important skills on:



  • Researching and building user personas

  • Creating a content strategy

  • Writing web content that’s actionable, skimmable and scannable


4) The Tall Lady With the Iceberg: The Power of Metaphor to Sell, Persuade & Explain Anything to Anyone

One sentence summary: Tall Lady With the Iceberg gives you step-by-step instructions on how to create metaphors to sell, persuade, and explain anything to anyone.

Why copywriters should read it: This book should be coupled with “The Art of Explanation” because part of explaining something requires using metaphors, which connect what people don’t know with what they do know.

Example: I once wrote copy that described security motion sensors as “The watchdog of your security system.” That metaphor (connecting a sensor to a watchdog) gives life to a lifeless object, making the copy come alive.

Read The Tall Lady With the Iceberg and see how you can use metaphors to enliven your dead copy.

Here are my notes on the book.

5) 27 Powers of Persuasion: Simple Strategies to Seduce Audiences & Win Allies

One sentence summary: Explains the tools that reporters, marketers, politicians and lawyers use every day at their job to persuade others.

Why copywriters should read it: Imagine this: you spend days toiling over your copy for a client, meticulously crafting each sentence, phrase and word.

Finally, you finish with a flurry of excitement and send your labor of love to the client.

The next day, your client sends you an email that simply says. “I don’t like it. It does not reflect our brand. Write this instead. *Insert atrocious copy that should never see the light of day*.”


Blast!

You look over your notes. It looks like you’ve followed their brand guidelines to a T. And the client’s suggestion is awful (as usual).

How should you respond without insulting your client while simultaneously helping them understand where you’re coming from with your copy?

Read this book to find out.

The 27 Powers of Persuasion is my secret weapon for communicating with difficult clients or those that need a bit of persuading to see my side of things.

6) Mastering the Craft of Writing: How to Write With Clarity, Emphasis, and Style

One sentence summary: Stephen Wilbers teaches you 52 writing techniques, one for each week of the year, to help sharpen your writing skills.



Why copywriters should read it: Most copywriting books focus on principles of persuasive copy. But very few actually teach you the nuts and bolts of writing well.

Wilbers not only teaches you how to write, but WHY writing in a particular way evokes certain feelings from the reader.

Basically, this book is like looking into the Matrix of the writing world. After reading this book, you’ll never look at your writing the same way again.

7) Presentation Zen

One sentence summary: Presentation Zen shows you how to prepare, design and deliver a presentation through simplicity and storytelling.

Why copywriters should read it: At some point in your career, you’re going to present an idea to someone (a client, your boss). And you’ll probably do it in presentation form.

This book will help you apply copywriting principles to your presentations—and make them look fabulous too.

This book goes well with others on the list:

  • The Art of Explanation will give you an outline for a script for your presentation.

  • Made to Stick will help your ideas in the script stick in people’s heads long after the presentation ends. (Presentation Zen actually cites Made to Stick.)


What are your favorite non-copywriting books?

Do you have any non-copywriting books that have helped you be a better copywriter? Email me at chase@rocketmedia.com. Because I will steal them so hard.

Chase Roberts

Web Copywriter

Yes, ladies, that southern drawl is authentic. Chase hails from a small town in Alabama. He loves sweet tea and all the bacon. But, in between consumption of these favorite treats, he plans and writes the copy for Rocket Media’s clients.