Top 10 Direct Response Marketing Books

Sadly, I only have a small portion of my marketing library in physical copies. Hence the iPad.

For anyone wanting to immerse themselves in direct marketing, and learn the century-old principles that power virtually all good marketing… here’s a list of shit you need to read/consume.

Scientific Advertising and My Life In Advertising – Claude Hopkins, 1923

David Ogilvy, “The King of Madison Avenue” said that “Nobody should have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.

Ogilvy On Advertising – David Ogilvy, 1983

The original “Mad Man” himself. Eben Pagan who sold over $100mm worth of products as an internet entrepreneur, says this is the most important book on advertising he ever read.

Breakthrough Advertising – Eugene Schwartz, 1966

I dare you to find a single direct marketer who would argue with the fact that this is the best book on advertising ever written. I got my copy on Amazon for $76. A bargain. They’re still going for less than $100 — still a bargain. Before they started printing them again, people were selling their used copies on eBay in the $1000 range. I suspect certain people would gladly have paid 10 times that amount.

Tested Advertising Methods (4th Edition) – John Caples, 1982

David Ogilvy (again!) said “This is, without doubt, the most useful book about advertising that I have ever read.” Caples was a pioneer, and was one of the first to discover the importance of headlines and long copy. Don’t get the new, 5th edition. It was “revised” by some guy. The one Caples actually wrote is far superior. The one you see in my image above is the 5th edition, because I didn’t know this at the time I bought my copy. (I’ve gotten my hands on the 4th edition now, since I took this picture.)

The Robert Collier Letter Book – Robert Collier, 1931

Another classic that was out of print for a long time; copies sold for $1,000 on eBay.

The Boron Letters – Gary Halbert

When Gary’s sons Bond and Kevin first republished The Boron Letters in 2013, the direct response world lost their collective shit. Gary wrote the most successful direct mail piece of all time. A single 250-word letter that profitably mailed over half a billion envelopes, spawned an 800-person company and generated over 7 million customers. This collection of letters is a cult classic. It was impossible to get your hands on for a long time. A true gem, it’s now on Amazon for like 13 bucks.

The Adweek Copywriting Handbook – Joe Sugarman, 2006 (republished from Advertising Secrets of The Written Word, 1998)

Roy Raymond started Victoria’s Secret with the secrets learned from attending an exclusive seminar put on by Joe Sugarman. Joe is a direct response LEGEND. The first to bring the pocket calculator to market (then selling for about $240), and many other technological innovations. After a long and successful career in mail order he took his skills to television, and launched the world-famous BluBlocker sunglasses brand.

Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel – John Carlton

The book that started it all for me. I’d been floundering for over two years trying to figure out this “internet business thing” when I stumbled upon this book, which launched me head-first into the world of direct response marketing and advertising. I dare you to read it without being jolted awake to the realities of business and marketing. It changed my life, and it’ll change yours. The best $100 I ever spent. John’s new-ish kindle book is also highly recommended, The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together.

80/20 Sales And Marketing – Perry Marshall

Not a direct response book per se, but hot damn. I can’t not mention it. This book is so good. I thought my brain would explode halfway through the first chapter. This book will change the way you see the world and your life will never be the same.

Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini, 1984

Very few books have had as big an impact on the marketing world as this. This one isn’t directly about direct response either… but if you were so inclined, you could very well take Cialdini’s 7 “Weapons of Influence” and use them almost as a checklist for creating marketing campaigns…


Obvious Adams – Robert R. Updegraff, 1916

Here’s another little gem for you. Ogilvy gave this to all his employees and told them to read it once a year. It’s short and profound.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be. It’s a starting point.

There are many more books, courses, seminar recordings, etc that are all well worth going through multiple times.

If you’ve read all these books and you’re hungry for more… email me and I’ll point you in the right direction. :)

The image: A small sample of my marketing library. Sadly, I have very few books in hard copy. Hence the iPad, where the Kindle library resides…


  1. Great list, Linus!
    I made the same mistake with Tested Advertising Methods. I haven’t read it yet, so I’m wondering if I should just get the 4th edition and give the other one away .
    I’m glad to know you love the oldies too!

  2. Hey Linus, great list. I’ve been reading a lot more lately (like a book a day, maybe two) and I actually came to your site to see if it was still around. I used to own Gurucrusher[dot]com and do affiliate marketing. I walked from all that bullshit because of the terrible hype and products that filled the space and starting writing (as well as get a real job). Anyways, it’s good to see you around, and I actually just picked up the book “Influence – The power of persuasion” but haven’t had a chance to read it. Have a good one.

    – Coty Schwabe

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