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10 Classic Marketing Books You Should Read

June 28th, 2010 by Bob Bly

1) How to Write a Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab (Wilshire Book Company, 1962). A common-sense course in how to write advertising copy that gets people to buy your product or service, written by a plain-speaking veteran mail order copywriter in 1960.

Best part: 100 ?archetypal? headlines that people are still using in various forms today to create new controls (e.g., ?When Doctors Feel Rotten, This is What They Do?).

Availability: Still in print (Wilshire Publishing) and available on

2) My First 50 Years in Advertising by Max Sackheim (Prentice-Hall, 1970). Another plain-speaking, common-sense guide that stresses salesmanship over creativity, and results over awards. The author was one of the originators of the Book of the Month Club.

Best part: The oversize format allows full-size reproductions (large enough for the copy to be legible) of many classic direct response ads (e.g., ?They Thought I Was Crazy to Ship Live Maine Lobsters as Far as 1,800 Miles from the Ocean?).

Availability: Out of print and difficult to find.

3) The Robert Collier Letter Book by Robert Collier. While Schwab and Sackheim concentrate on space ads, Collier focuses on the art of writing sales letters, of which he is a master. You learn how to write persuasive sales letters in a friendly, natural, conversational style.

Best part: While some of the letters may seem old-fashioned and dated, Collier?s timeless principles still apply.

Availability: Comes in and out of print. Somewhat difficult to get.

4) Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961). The book in which Reeves introduced the now-famous concept of USP (the Unique Selling Proposition).

Best part: The idea that every successful ad must (a) offer a benefit, (b) the benefit must differentiate your product from the competition, and (c) the benefit must be big enough to motivate buyers to purchase your product instead of others.

Availability: Out of print and difficult to get.

5) Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. A copywriting guide by one of the greatest direct-response copywriters of the 20th century.

Best part: The notion that advertising does not create desires; rather, it focuses already existing desires onto your product.

Availability: Available from Boardroom Books.

6) Tested Advertising Methods, Fifth Edition by John Caples, revised by Fred Hahn (Prentice-Hall, 1997). An updated version of John Caples? classic book on the principles of persuasion as proven through A/B split tests.

Best part: The A/B split headline tests with the results (e.g., for an air conditioner, ?How to have a cool, quiet bedroom ? even on hot nights? pulled 2 ? times the response of ?Get rid of that humidity with a new room cooler that also dries the air?).

Availability: In print. Available in bookstores and online.

7) Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy (Atheneum). Charming autobiography of legendary ad man David Ogilvy, packed with useful advice on how to create effective advertising.

Best part: Chapter 6 on ?How to Write Potent Copy.?

Availability: Out of print and difficult to get.

8)-Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins (Bell Publishing, 1920). A book on the philosophy that advertising?s purpose is to sell, not entertain or win creative awards ? and how to apply this philosophy to create winning ads.

Best part: His observation that ?specifics sell; superlatives roll off the human understanding like water off a duck?s back.?

Availability: Since the copyright has expired, this book is now in the public domain and is available as a free downloadable e-book on several Web sites.You can also buy it as a paperback on

9) Method Marketing by Denny Hatch (Bonus Books, 1999). A book on how to write successful direct response copy by putting yourself in the customer?s shoes. Packed with case histories of modern direct response success stories, including Bill Bonner of Agora Publishing, and Martin Edelston of Boardroom.

Best part: The introduction of the concept of method marketing, which states: ?You cannot write copy without getting inside the head of the person to whom you are communicating and becoming that person.?

Availability: In print and available on; also on Denny?s Web site

10) Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman (DelStar, 1998). How to write successful advertising copy by a modern master of the space ad.

Best part: The 24 psychological triggers that get people to buy.

Availability: In print and available on

Did I leave out any of your favorites? (I know I left out a dozen or so of mine!)


This entry was posted on Monday, June 28th, 2010 at 1:30 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

45 responses about “10 Classic Marketing Books You Should Read”

  1. Ryan McGrath said:

    Fantastic list, Bob!

    Here is my own personal Top 11 list:

    1. Scientific Advertising & My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins
    2. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
    3. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
    4. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    5. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
    6. How to Write a Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab
    7. The System Club Letters by Ken McCarthy
    8. Cash Copy by Jeffrey Lant
    9. Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
    10. The Magic Words That Bring You Riches by Ted Nicholas
    11. The Secret to Selling Anything by Harry Browne

  2. Bill Perry said:

    I would add “Hypnotic Writing” by Joe Vitale for my own list.
    I can’t contest the books on you list, Bob, as I’ve not read them yet.
    Guess I’ll be adding to my PaperBackSwap wishlist!

  3. Scott Martin said:

    Bob…you were modest here…I’ve enjoyed the Bob Bly books I’ve purchased.

  4. Jodi Kaplan said:

    Many of the out of print titles you mentioned are available at Abebooks (

  5. Ryan McGrath said:

    AbeBooks is a good resource.

    Another is this site:

    It’s amazing that I’ve found some of these books for sale online at $10 or less, including shipping.

    In fact, I’ve even found used classics for $1.00…that is, one buck. Think about…priceless knowledge, as good as (or even better than) $1,000 copywriting course, for less than a fast-food cheeseburger. Wow.

  6. Stacy Ranta said:

    Don’t forget your local library as a resource. The majority of out of print books they can get for you easily.

    Sure, you can’t keep them, but you can always take scans or photocopies of the parts you want. Plus it’s free.

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  8. Books Read said:

    Thanks for this informative direction. I hope this will help to others. There are lots of books to read for acquire various knowledge. So people should read more books.

  9. Josh Stu said:

    For the business to be successful, it must have a reliable marketing strategy. Otherwise, everything might be put into waste. The logic behind it is that you’re doing business to cater services or to sell products to others so how could that be possible if you can’t reach them easily.

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  12. sent sa?l?k said:

    Thanks for this informative direction.

  13. hkqida said:

    Thank you Bob!
    I am looking for some marketing books to improve my knowledge. I will read some of them according your list.

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  14. alice said:

    Hi I just have this “Method Marketing by Denny Hatch (Bonus Books, 1999” some the method are useful but I have no other….

  15. Andrew Wallace said:

    Marketing is very important to every business. Without the right marketing strategies, getting positive result is slightly impossible. I’m glad you enumerated some useful materials which we could actually use to more about marketing.

  16. Michael Fisher said:

    “10 Classic Marketing Books You Should Read” in this article very important because have very usefull information. It helpful for increase Marketing. Thans for sharing.

  17. mahmudul islam said:

    david ogilvy is the greatest advertiser the world has ever seen. his books are great and unparalleled.

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