These are all the books and ads you must read to get a firm grip on copywriting, according to advertising guru (and teacher) Gary Halbert (and here, archived).
A lot of advice is dished out on the internet, but it's rarely authoritative, and people rarely act on it. That blog post by Gary Halbert is an example of one worth acting on if you want to learn how to sell using copy.
So this is my log of Step 1: to read all the content. (Step two is to copy and re-write ads as my own, and step 3 is to re-read and take notes.)
I found it a little challenging getting all the resources on that page. For example, not every book is available online, or in Kindle format (my preferred, since I travel a lot), or indeed through online booksellers at all. So I've provided some links below.
(Some of them are Amazon affiliate links that provide me with a small commission, but costs you nothing. You don't have to use the links, but I'm providing them here in case my squirrelling around helps you. I get less than 50c a sale usually. $$$)
My favourites from this list
If I had to recommend a few books and no others, I'd recommend:
- How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor Schwab, way cheaper — if you're on a budget, start with this!
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz, well worth the $125
Then I would read the ads, and start producing them.
The other books are interesting, but anyone with an analytical mind should know the basics of quantitative advertising and so on.
Read these books, and no other books
I re-ordered this list slightly, to prioritise the best books.
- "Breakthrough Advertising" by Eugene M. Schwartz. Hardcover only, new print for $125. This should be the first book on the list, and maybe the only one on many people's lists. Available only through this website that is legit (I bought from it!) It costs a LOT more on Amazon, or even on eBay, to the point where you could resell it for an easy profit. Further, don't buy the later annotated editions. You want this original one. I haven't read the later ones, but I have read that they take away from the core message.
Want my summary of Breakthrough Advertising? I've been poring over this book for so long that I'm writing a more modern, cleaner version, without all the out-dated references. Subscribe to my email list on the main page and I'll let you know when it's available.
- "How To Write A Good Advertisement" by Vic Schwab. Available for $5 on Kindle! A very pithy, entertaining and comprehensive how-to book with a huge number of tips and explanations on how to write great copy. Riddled with quotes from famous authors to back it up.
- "Scientific Advertising" by Claude Hopkins. Available for $1 on Kindle. May as well start here! The original book that claimed we should be measuring marketing performance by metrics today known as open rates, uniques and CTRs. It's pretty brief.
- "The Robert Collier Letter Book" by Robert Collier. Available for $6 on Kindle. I'd buy this (not the Audiobook), because even if you're an audiobook fan, it's like listening to a series of old ads and doesn't sink in as well. A series of advertising letters with their effectiveness analyzed.
- "Tested Advertising Methods" by John Caples. Only available as used paperback, from $20. You should really get the 4th edition, available for example through various vendors on this website but I haven't checked if that's legit.
- "The Gary Halbert Letter" (all back issues) by Gary Halbert. Read the website archive. That website is terribly disorganised, and needs a refresh... this guy has attempted to put it in order and it appears to be missing some stuff (no idea what that was). They also charge you $1,000 for printing them all out, but there's no way I'd do that.
- "The Boron Letters" by Gary Halbert. $10 eBook on Amazon. Read this if you want some kind of organisation of Gary Halbert's work. If you want to look at every chapter in chronological order for free, look at them here (legit website): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
- "The Lazy Man's Way to Riches" by Joe Karbo. That's the link to the original edition, only as paperback (used) for under $20. The first part is in many ways one of the original self-help books on reprogramming our minds to be better people instead of constantly talking ourselves down like we're accustomed to doing. The second half is a treatise to direct mail advertising.
- "7 Steps To Freedom" by Ben Suarez. Only available as a hardcover, second hand, for about $10. That link is to the second edition, but it is functionally the same as the first.
Read these ads
Here are links to all the ads on swiped.co, a generally great resource with original copies of the greatest ads ever published, here for you to copy.
- "Do You Make These Mistakes In English?" - I've never seen a more referenced headline.
- "What Everybody Should Know About This Stock And Bond Business" - A full page ad for Merrill Lynch that explained everything about stocks in over 6,000 words.
- "The Nancy L. Halbert Heraldry Letter". A classic direct mail letter advertising ancestor research. Here's the version I re-wrote to myself.
- "How To Burn Off Body Fat, Hour-By-Hour". This ad asks for the reader's help in proving that the weight-loss system works!
- "At 60 Miles An Hour The Loudest Noise In This Rolls Royce Is The Ticking Of The Electric Clock". Written by David Ogilvy.
- "Why Men Crack". Ad ad for a coffee alternative. Great ad, but I can't help but notice we all still drink coffee because the product stands for itself.
- "How To Collect From Social Security At Any Age" by Gary Halbert.
- "The Admiral Byrd Transpolar Expedition Letter".
- "The Lazy Man's Way To Riches" by Joe Karbo. Not the book, but the ad advertising the book. It focuses on benefits, like being in debt --> making a lot of money. It also features a quote by (I think) himself, quoting "the wisest man I ever knew".
And, in general, anything you can get your hands on by:
- Gary Bencivenga
- Dan Rosenthal
- Joe E. Kennedy, Pat Garrard
- Steve Brown
- Drew Kaplan
- Claude Hopkins
- Joe Karbo
- Ben Suarez
- Joe Sugarman
- Gene Schwartz
- Gary Halbert
I'll let you do your own searches on those. Happy hunting!