A copywriter, according to the Random House Dictionary, is a writer of copy, esp. for advertisements or publicity releases. In simpler terms, a copywriter is a person who writes advertisements with a view to persuading a reader to buy the products or services written about.
Copywriters are sniffed at by some who consider copywriting to be a lower caste of writing, as if anyone could write copy. I disagree. Copywriting takes creativity. Trying to breath new life into an oft-flogged horse can leave that horse lying just as limp by the end of the piece; it takes real talent to raise it back to vigorous life again.
Copywriting can provide you with an income and still leave you with a few hours at night to write what your heart beats loudly for. With an earning power of approx $60-$80 an hour, yes, $60-$80 an hour, it is definitely one of the few writing genres that can be lucrative.
Some books I recommend (these are reviewed on Amazon as being the best of the best):
Start and Run a Copywriting Business (Paperback) by Steve Slaunwhite
The Well-Fed Writer (Paperback) by Peter Bowerman
The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds (Paperback) by Peter Bowerman
Writing Copy for Dummies (Paperback) by Jonathan Kranz
To get in some practice, read the advertisement pages of the magazines in your home. They will look like letters or bios—written and designed in a way to make you feel as if the ads are written personally to you. If the ads makes you feel like you can’t live another day without the products or services, the copywriters have done their jobs.
Some of you more honest folk might feel that you cannot possibly represent a product in this way—writing as if the reader will be sick or fat for the rest of his/her life if she doesn’t buy XYZ pills. That’s ok, there are plenty of other products out there that you can sell without guilt—your homeowner association’s latest activities, speeches for your favorite politician, business proposals, case studies, etc. Have a look around you this week—read the school news, the speech on the Web, the medical report. If you can put what you have read back down or close the page without having fallen asleep, then you probably have what it takes to write copy.