I hate writing promotional copy. I hate talking about myself. I hate staring at a blank page on my web site and wondering what I should say. So when I saw the book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, by Ann Handley, I decided this was probably one I needed to pick up. And I was right.
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a training and education company. Everybody Writes is a book about how to effectively write copy for all the marketing material you have. Handley offers tips and hacks for web site content, blog posts, home pages, landing pages, email marketing, blurbs and more.
The book begins with general rules for copy writing, which I already knew, because they’re very close to journalism rules, and, in fact, she discusses how copywriting is just another form of journalism. I intuitively knew that, but it was helpful to make the connection, because I now have permission to approach my copywriting with the unbiased pen of a journalist—something I’ve been trained for. That benefit alone made this book worth it. But there’s so much more in it. Handley offers guidelines for different types of writing that I found helpful to remember when I’m crafting a pitch for a magazine or writing a query letter or brainstorming a blog post. In fact, now I think I have to overhaul everything. Which is a little overwhelming, but, in the long run, for the best.
Handley writes in a very conversational style that was, at times, even humorous. For a book on copywriting, I found this remarkable. She knows her stuff.
One of my favorite parts of the book was a section on annual reports and how you can make them interesting. Handley used examples from the actual annual reports of Mailchimp and Warby Parker, a one-for-one eyeglasses company, and how these two companies crafted annual reports that actually made people want to read them. I found it incredibly helpful, because it gives us permission, as business owners and marketers, to think outside the box when it comes to things like annual numbers and reporting on what our company has accomplished in the last year.
Handley also made another connection that I’d never really thought about: The Ugly First Draft. I allow myself an Ugly First Draft for my fiction writing, but, for some reason, I’d never allowed for my promotional writing. Well, now I will, because she mentioned it, and I had a Eureka moment. Of course you should have an Ugly First Draft. Promotional writing is like every other writing—get the words out, then make it pretty in the revising.
I have about 6,000 words of notes that I took during the reading of this book, which I’m sure I’ll be referring to every time I have to write promotional copy. It’s an invaluable resource to have on any writer’s shelf—especially mine.
The book mentioned above has an affiliate link attached to it, which means I’ll get a small kick-back if you click on it and purchase. But I only recommend books I enjoy reading myself. Actually, I don’t even talk about books I didn’t enjoy. I’d rather forget I ever wasted time reading them (but if you’re curious whether I’ve read something or what I thought about it and it’s not mentioned here, feel free to ask).