Nate Hopper at The Awl has put together a nice piece on authors who were once copywriters.
“We keep you clean in Muscatine,” was one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s better lines for a steam cleaner in Iowa.
Salman Rushdie wrote, “Look into the Mirror tomorrow—you’ll like what you see,” for The Daily Mirror.
Dorothy Sayers wrote “Come on Colman’s, light my fire”and helped to create the Mustard Club—one of the most popular ad campaigns of the time.
Helen Gurley Brown worked at Foote, Cone & Belding, and wrote lines for Sunkist, Catalina swimsuits, Breast-O’-Chicken tuna and Lockheed, among others.
In addition, Don DeLillo and Joseph Heller were once copywriters.
Yet for all six, advertising was mostly just a means to an end—a day job to keep them solvent until they were lucky enough to leave. But their time in advertising wasn’t a waste: as copywriters, some learned how to write economically and on deadline; others discovered fertile subjects in the office life and business culture around them; while others used office hours to work on the books that would later make their names.
Elmore Leonard, Martin Amis, Fay Weldon, Augusten Burroughs, Richard Yates, James Patterson and Frederick Exley are also recognized as copywriters in comments on the post.