The speed with which Kartra can add automation to your business and keep it running smoothly will free up a lot of time for copywriting.
You’re going to split-test new headlines and copy for your sales pages. You’re going to whip up a great batch of FAQ articles to ease the load on your customer support. You’re even going to write that “customer stick” email sequence you’ve been meaning to get around to for the last 18 months.
But you’re also going to have time, not just to write MORE copy, but to work on your copywriting skills and write BETTER copy.
The title of this article is written in the obligatory click-baiting, list-promising style but I plan to subvert your expectations.
Because every time I discover an article that promises to reveal X books that all marketers must read, it turns out to just be a list of the most recent marketing-themed books the author read, with a lazy summary of each.
My goal in this article is to provide you with something more useful…
- If you’re already a copywriter, these books will help you write copy that reads better.
- If you write sales copy, these books will help you write content that converts better.
- If you’re training as a copywriter, these books will get you up to speed quickly and give you an edge over most of your competition.
- And there’s even something in this list that will help you learn to write faster!
Are You a Writer or a Marketer?
If you’re a copywriter, and you plan to excel in your profession, you’d better plan to be both.
Sometimes a copywriter needs to write content that incorporates sales psychology triggers. Sometimes a copywriter needs to write content that shows a mastery of readability and brevity.
And sometimes a copywriter needs to write content that combines the two…
In my opinion, it’s easier to teach a writer marketing skills, than it is to teach a marketer how to write. But whichever direction you’re coming from, you need skills in both areas.
Which is why reading a bunch of books on marketing theory be of limited use in improving your copywriting abilities.
Yes, you should go ahead and read some marketing books (“Influence” by Robert Cialdini is a good place to start), but you should spread your reading choices much wider.
And I’m not talking about reading books on how to write well.
It’s not that there isn’t value in such material; it’s merely that if studying how to write isn’t accompanied by significant time spent completing exercises and practice sessions, it’s unlikely to stick.
You could, for instance, read a book on how to write great articles, but unless you then spend weeks, or even months, practicing article-writing while repeatedly rereading the manual, that knowledge will fade away.
In practice, you’re more likely to apply a couple of points from the book for a few weeks, and then forget what you’ve learned and revert to your regular writing habits.
Great Writers are Avid Readers
You might be able to find some exceptions to the rule, but then I would only submit to you that those writers would have been even better if they’d spent more time reading.
For a writer, reading is fuel. Without it, your writing becomes staid and predictable. Absorbing the material of other writers, from a variety of different sources and genres, is critical to expanding your knowledge, your word power and your familiarity with different styles of writing.
And the beauty of honing your copywriting craft through reading is that you don’t need to consume literature with the specific goal of learning how to write better.
And read, and read, and read.
Read fiction. Read magazines. Read memoirs. Read history books. Read news websites. Read article websites.
Absorb as much as you can, as often as you can, and your writing WILL improve.
Which is why, although this list of recommended reading is not on the subject of marketing or writing, if consumed regularly, these works will help you improve and freshen up your copywriting.
1 – Read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to improve your flexibility with the English language.
The late Douglas Adams was known for writing comedy, but you may not have realized that much of his humor came from his ability to play with the English language. Adams had the gift of writing sentences that were perfectly grammatically correct but were twisted into unusual structures that were comical in their own right.
Douglas Adams was a copywriting contortionist!
I encourage you to read his entire back catalogue. It’s not as sizeable as you’d wish, but there’s enough in there to keep you going for a while and there’s plenty of variety. The Dirk Gently series is well worth a look, as is the posthumous collection, The Salmon of Doubt.
If you complete your Adams collection and want something a little more challenging, give William Horwood a try. Horwood’s writing doesn’t have the “cleverness” of Adams, but it more than makes up for it with gorgeous prose and an incredible depth of vocabulary that never crosses the line into pretention.
The Duncton Wood series is great if you enjoy the fantasy genre. Alternatively, Skalligrigg is a more down-to-earth, but no-less impressive novel.
2 – Read As the Crow Flies to master clarity in your writing.
Jeffrey Archer is sometimes unfairly maligned for his literary skills, but in my opinion, they’re confusing simplicity with readability. Archer has the uncanny ability to create an epic story, spanning decades, and make the reading experience slick and easy to follow.
Archer is a master of clarity and lucidity that allows him to weave stories containing intricate plots without ever confusing the reader. His prose is so slick your eyes will slide down the page with virtually zero friction.
As the Crow Flies is my favorite Archer novel, but every one of his novels has the same easy-to-read style that offers a masterclass in readability and lucidity of thought. His short story collections are particularly fine demonstrations of concise writing, as are his prison diaries (yeah, he was in prison for a while).
For further reading, work your way through John Grisham’s back catalog. Grisham is another writer who is easy to read without ever becoming juvenile or unsophisticated.
3 – Read Cracked.com for a lesson in headline writing.
The articles at Cracked.com despite, in recent times, trading quality for quantity are still well-written and edited articles. But the real value for copywriters is their headlines. If you’ve ever read a great article at Cracked but then struggled to find it again a few days later, it’s probably because the headline has been changed since you first read it.
When an article is first published, Cracked test multiple titles to discover which will attract the most clicks. As a consequence, their headlines offer great insight into what best attracts people’s attention. Cracked generate millions of views for their most popular articles, making their headline testing hugely reliable!
4 – Read The Week magazine to stay in the loop… on everything.
The tagline for “The Week” magazine is a blisteringly confident, “All you need to know about everything that matters.” This weekly journal condenses the main news stories of the last seven days, nationally and internationally, in areas that include politics, culture, sports, science and finance.
If you’re a subscriber, it usually arrives on a Friday and provides a pleasant 1-2 hour read over the weekend.
Aside from the fact that this is a great way to keep in touch with all the main news events through the filter of both left-wing and right-wing media, this publication is an endless source of information on historical events, pop culture and technology.
Copy can almost always be enhanced by including illustrations, stories and analogies. Relating your subject matter to current or past events adds color and texture and “The Week” makes it easy to stay informed and continually add to your store of knowledge.
5 – Play Arrow Words to improve your depth of vocabulary and synonyms.
I’ve always held that synonyms are critical to eliminating repetition and making your writing enjoyable to read. And while I use thesaurus tools to help me come up with new and fresh ways to communicate, it’s much quicker to be able to dip into my mental archive of words.
If you want to improve your word-per-hour count without sacrificing quality, improving your range of synonyms is the key.
There are lots of online games that will help you improve your word power, but I encourage you to go old school for this one. Get your hands on some puzzle books that include Arrow Word puzzles.
If you’re not familiar with them, Arrow Words are a little bit like crossword puzzles, except that the clues are written inside the grid. Because space for the clue is limited to just a couple of words, the challenge has less to do with general knowledge and more to do with your knowledge of synonyms.
As a result, completing an Arrow Word can be accomplished much more quickly than a regular crossword. And the more of these puzzles you complete, the faster you become at recalling synonyms.
You can play them online, but I encourage you to order physical collections. Writing the answers by hand has a powerful effect on your ability to memorize and recall.
It’s okay. Kartra will take care of your business now. You finally have the time to master that pesky marketing stuff that everyone’s always going on about. Yes, there’s more to marketing than having great copywriting skills, but it’s a heck of a good place to start.
I’m always on the hunt for enjoyable reading material that will improve my writing abilities and broaden my vocabulary and knowledge. Please go ahead and post your recommendations in the comments section below.
For storytelling, you should also read Neal Stephenson and Mark Helprin. Both are great storytellers. If you’re going to write, great storytelling is a must and reading fiction is the best way to find it.