Original question from Quora:

What are the best books on copywriting?

My Answer:

There are already like 26 good answers filled with lists of copywriting books. They are good books. I don’t disagree with the lists.

I disagree with something else though.

To illustrate this, I need to tell you about a few guys who started a band. Their names were George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon. Eventually they added Ringo Starr to form The Beatles.

The Beatles is the most successful rock band of all time. However, before they were The Beatles, they spent years playing clubs in Hamburg, Germany.

Yes, like David Hasselhoff, they were big in Germany, but not right away. In the early 60’s they were more of a cover band playing in dive bars and strip clubs.

They played for hours and hours. It wasn’t a 30 minute set, it was all night long.

“We had to play for hours and hours on end. Every song lasted twenty minutes and had twenty solos in it. That’s what improved the playing. There was nobody to copy from. We played what we liked best and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud.” -John Lennon

Their job was to put on a show. Every night.

I’m sure at first they were decent, but not amazing. Over time they figured out what worked and their performances improved.

They built their skills by playing and performing every single day. They covered blues songs and early rock n roll songs and whatever else they could.

They didn’t start by writing hit songs, they started by playing other hit songs, over and over again until their fingers bled and their vocal chords were worn out. Then they played more.

There was no book on how to be The Beatles. You can’t go to a music store and buy a book on “5 Secrets Of How To Be A Rock Band” and become The Beatles or Led Zepplin or The Rolling Stones.

The way to get to that level is to practice and perform in front of people.

And that brings me to Gary Halbert, the best of all time. He had a pretty simple method of learning copywriting…

Every day, take a great sales letter (in whatever form) and copy it by hand. Do that every single day. Take 30, 60, 90 minutes or whatever every single day and put it toward hand copying great ads.

It’s the copywriting equivalent of playing cover songs until you master them. There is no way around the practice of it.

Knowledge and technique are important, but they only really matter when you turn them into your own skill.

Reading copywriting books is a waste of time if you aren’t putting the time into practicing the skill of copywriting. You learn more by doing than by reading.

-Brian

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