What’s the best way to learn copywriting?

One question I get asked a lot is like this one from Srdjan in Toronto:


Hey Josh, just wanted to say I really enjoy your style of writing. I see that you’ve put a lot of work into honing your craft and I’d love to know what you would consider the one or two TOP copywriting resources/courses/programs for someone trying to sharpen their skills.


Here are a few tips and resources that really helped me.

First, you need to get a grounding in basic copywriting theory.

Two of the best books for that are:

  • “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Victor Schwab

  • “Kickass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” by John Carlton

John Carlton calls these “working resources.”

They introduce most of the important nuts and bolts concepts without going so far into theory that you get overwhelmed.

The next suggestion might sound a little crazy, at least until you talk to successful copywriters (who have almost universally done what I’m about to recommend):

Get your hands on some copies of old WINNING direct mail letters and newspaper ads, and copy them out.

By hand, with a pen and paper.

Yes, it’s tedious.

Yes, your hand will hurt.

No, I wouldn’t recommend typing instead.

This recommendation comes from world-class copywriters like Gary Halbert and John Carlton.

The reason you do this is twofold.

By copying ads like this, you force your brain to slow down. You start to notice the nuances of the copy. (This is also why I suggest learning some theory first. You’ll have a better understanding of what the copywriter was doing and why the ad worked.)

And you’ll also get a feel for the structure and rhythm of good copy.

I did this exercise myself last year. I spent an hour a day, 6 days a week, and I burned through 10-15 legal pads and several pens.

My writing grew by leaps and bounds. Highly recommended.

(If you’re interested in doing this, there’s a program available that sends you daily exercises by email. You can get more details here: http://copyhour.com.)

It’s also a good idea to pick ONE copywriter and just immerse yourself in everything they have available.

John Carlton is the guy I picked for that because he’s still actively teaching and his sales letters are widely available online.

Picking one “guru” is smart because it keeps you from getting confused by different teaching styles and advice that (seems to) conflict.

Doing all that will give you a solid grounding.

From there I’d suggest picking up my all-time favorite copywriting book, “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz.

A lot of people find this book dense and tough to slog through. I didn’t, but that’s because I was ready for it.

“Breakthrough Advertising” shows you how to get beyond “swiping” from classic ads and formulas… So you can look at any marketing problem and see what advertising approach is most likely to succeed.

Last thought:

It’s better to “go deep” and really study a handful of books than to zip through 100 courses.

I’m reading “Breakthrough Advertising” for the 3rd time right now, and I plan to read it at least 10 times.

There is so much gold buried in these books—it’s well worth the extra time to really OWN the concepts for yourself.