Michael Ellsberg’s (Mixergy) Advice on Copywriting

Today we’re going to take a detour from the regular topics at eigenjoy and talk about a topic a lot of hackers need help with: copywriting.

If you’re reading this blog you probably need help copywriting.

A common trend I’ve seen with hackers is that while we’re strong on technical prowess, we’re short on communicating why our work is important. We can whip up a beautiful rails app in a few hours and craft elegant functional combinators but we struggle to explain why our product is worth someone’s attention (and money).

You may be thinking: wait a minute, copywriting is sleazy and I don’t want to stoop to that. I would argue that while some direct response marketing is scummy, copywriting, in the broader sense, is a lot more than cheap tricks. Being able to craft empathetic and direct copy can mean the difference between failure and success with your product.

Enter Michael Ellsberg.

I first took note of Michael when I read his excellent Forbes article building a social economy through helping others. (He also expounds on this idea in his talk to the Thiel Fellows. Highly recommended.)


Michael Ellsberg at the Thiel Fellowship Retreat from Michael Ellsberg on Vimeo.

Michael was recently interviewed by Andrew Warner on Mixergy and they spent a bit of time talking about how to become a better copywriter.

Michael’s advice was this: create a new email address and sign up for the email lists by master copywriters. This allows you to read and learn their techniques for free. In the interview, Michael also mentioned a number of classic books in the field of copywriting.

I’ve collected links to each of these resources and I’ve listed them for you below.*

Direct Response Copywriters

Please note! These folks range from the soft-sell to the extreme-hard-sell (e.g. Dan Kennedy). Please be aware that I’m not necessarily endorsing these hard-edge techniques, but rather, I want to make you aware of the full range of tools you have in your toolbox.

Copywriting Books

Hope this helps!

P.S.
Since we’re on the topic of copywriting, I’d suggest you checkout Marc-André Cournoyer’s Copy Writing for Geeks. It’s a great intro for hackers who want to quickly improve their writing skills.

* Note: None of these are affiliate links, I have no financial incentive with any of these folks.

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  • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

    Nate, excellent list for getting started. I have John Carlson and Gary Halbert as must reads on my list.

    Schwartz’s “Breakthrough Advertising” is probably the best high level strategy book I have. It’s sort of like the SICP of copy and advertising.

    Ok, back to higher order procedures now…