I have a secret. I never read business books. Ever.
I’m not particularly proud of that fact, but whenever I sit down with a book about marketing or social media or business, my eyes glaze over. I do all my reading on the industry via blogs and news sites. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t learn a heck of a lot about how to be a better copywriter and content creator from fiction and narrative non-fiction books.
Whenever anyone asks me how to improve their writing, I always tell them the first and most important tip is to read more. You can’t possibly understand what the language is supposed to sound like unless you immerse yourself in it. So whip out that library card, fire up the Kindle and check out these three books guaranteed to make you better at churning out fascinating, effective copy and content.
On Writing, Stephen King
In general, I feel about books on writing the way I feel about books on business. They’re usually a fairly masturbatory exercise that gives a lot of vague guidelines without actually telling you anything to do. But this book is different. Part autobiography of the horror maestro and half writing primer, it offers simple advice which I’ve cribbed throughout my career. One of the biggest is, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or tools to write.” Sound familiar? But all of it is written engagingly, smartly and with King’s acerbic wit. Whether or not you’re a fan of the horror genre or King, this is a book every writer and indeed, every person should read.
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
A friend recently finished this novel and asked if I had any other recommendations like it. No. There is absolutely nothing like The Night Circus. It’s a fantastical yarn about a pair of dueling wizards set in Victorian times, but none of that’s really the point. There are characters, but they aren’t the reason for the book. The purpose is to create a beautiful, fully realized dreamworld spun entirely out of words. Morgenstern creates a black and white circus filled with mysterious tents. In some, you might find acrobats whizzing through the air. In others, a maze composed of clouds. Great, pretty, but what does it have to do with content marketing? You need to draw customers into your own world. You create the rules of your blog and your rules for writing. Just as surely as Morgenstern draws us into her circus, you need to bring us into your point of view and your world. Though if you do happen to have a cloud maze for sale, that’d be completely and totally awesome.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
This book is a masterclass on how to turn real-life interviews and events into a compelling story. Heck, it’s a brilliant piece of marketing in its own right for the city of Savannah. This non-fiction book reads like a novel, creating a tremendous sense of time and place as it describes a sensational murder and the colorful cast of characters who swirl throughout the city. The writing is taught, energetic, yet spare. It crackles and sizzles and makes you want to do one thing: Go to Savannah. See these people. Be a part of it. And ultimately, isn’t that what you’re trying to do with your blog? Inspire people to want to be a part of you and your amazingness.
What books do you read for content creation inspiration?