“Good writers,” someone a hell of a lot smarter than me once said, “are great readers.”
And great readers of the right books can become better writers.
There isn’t a writer alive who doesn’t think they couldn’t get better at their craft. On some level, we all harbor doubts and anxiety about our work. Most of this doubt is ill-founded of course. After all, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have if we were that bad, right?
About a year ago I was an in-house copywriter working for a former client. Circumstance, let’s call it, forced me back out into the world of the self-employed. His old pal Self-doubt met me at the door.
They’re a rough-and-tumble duo, Circumstance and Self-doubt. They grab you by the throat, toss you to the ground and put the boots to you.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Or someone who has. Or someone who would like to avoid all that.
Avoid it, if you can.
I spent much of 2017 picking myself up. I’ve spent a lot of time retrofitting my skills as a writer, journalist and editor for the digital marketing world — lending a formal framework to my skills as a content strategist and copywriter.
We’re talking four certificate programs, webinars and seminars, a conference, hours of podcasts, untold downloaded eBooks, courses and white papers.
Books borrowed, bought second-hand and ordered online. Books on philosophy and rhetoric, white papers and scriptwriting. Books on the science of persuasion, copywriting and content marketing. A trove of information that can help any writer write better, marketer market better, and freelancer run a freelance business better.
Here are three of the best books you can buy for the business writer on your list.
EVERYBODY WRITES, by Ann Handley
Ann Handley is the mastermind behind MarketingProfs.com, a terrific source for digital marketing tools, training, events, and more. That savvy becomes obvious the moment you crack this go-to guide for all things related to digital content.
EVERYBODY WRITES has a simple premise. Since we all have the power to create content — websites, blogs, email campaigns, podcasts, videos — we might as well be at least competent at it. The more effectively we present our ideas, the better we’ll communicate our messages and pull in donations, sign up volunteers, sell widgets or whatever it is we’re trying to do.
Full disclosure: I bought this book as a Christmas present to myself and spent the day reading it. Between raids of stocking candy, of course.
Handley lays out the book in six parts.
- Writing Rules: How to Write Better (And How to Hate Writing Less)
- Writing Rules: Grammar and Usage
- Story Rules
- Publishing Rules
- 13 Things Marketers Write
- Content Tools
At about 300 pages in hardcover, the book has plenty of heft and more than a little something for writers of any kind and stage of development. Sure, you might know some of what the book covers (grammar, for example). But you’ll find the rest of it useful, if not fascinating. You’ll want to keep this one within reach.
She’ll help you write better content that will be found and read. And, no, you don’t need to be a born writer.
MASTER CONTENT MARKETING, by Pamela Wilson
Half the battle of content marketing is figuring out effective, step-by-step processes that help you create more and better content in less time.
Author Pamela Wilson delivers on that and more. In spades. Wilson has 30 years in the marketing game. She’s the founder of BIG Brand System and is a former executive VP of educational content at Rainmaker Digital, the folks behind Copyblogger.
Her processes apply to writers writing to both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) audiences. She’ll help you write better content that will be found and read. And, no, you don’t need to be a born writer.
Some of the topics covered:
- Setting up your ideal working time and place
- Making the reader the hero of her own story
- The seven components for creating epic content
- A killer swipe file of headlines (and why they work to help you create your own)
- How to be a better storyteller
- How to use images to make your content stand out
Get MASTER CONTENT MARKETING for its easy-to-use templates for your headlines, subheads, first sentences, and more. And keep it for the wealth of resources, guidance — and simple encouragement — you’ll need to make a go at writing.
You can’t swing a dead cat ... without hitting Michael Port.
BOOK YOURSELF SOLID, by Michael Port
For those determined to leave behind their comfort zone in 2018, BOOK YOURSELF SOLID is your guidebook.
You can’t swing a dead cat in the entrepreneurial / marketing / personal branding world without hitting Michael Port. Dude has a really interesting personal story, and he’s not shy about sharing his own experiences to illustrate his points.
Personally, this book was (and still is) the hardest to act on, but probably the most important of the three that I do act on. Port forces you to focus on the little details that make up the big picture. Stuff like what exactly is your business? Who exactly is your audience? And just why exactly are you doing this on-your-own business thing, anyway?
But it’s also the kind of inventory you need to do if you’re to have any hope of success.
They force you to think about what you really want to do, or at least what you really want to do at this moment and for the near future. Because those decisions drive the steps you’ll take, help identify the people you want to work with and generally keep you afloat long enough to fake it until you make it.
The book has four modules.
- Your Foundation
- Building Trust And Credibility
- Simple Selling And Perfect Pricing
- The Book Yourself Solid 7 Core Self-Promotion Strategies
Port’s process boils down to being genuine in your desire to help others through your work and confident in your ability that you can do it. Working for yourself is hard. The self awareness and authenticity that Port forces you to bring to the table add to your chances of not only surviving on your own, but also thriving.
Have you read any of these books? What top 3 or 5 other books or resources do you recommend? Leave a comment, and let’s geek out a while.