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Recommended reading

On Writing Well by William K. Zinsser
A disciple of Faulkner’s “kill your darlings” writing school, Zinsser sagely reminds you that “Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident” and “Rewriting is the essence of writing well.” Professor Zinsser’s chapters on Simplicity, Clutter, Usage—every single chapter in the first half of the book, actually—are worth reading over and over and over and over.

The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly
Bob Bly is a top direct mail copywriter, prolific author and godfather of the how-to-become-a-copywriter book genre. His Handbook tells you everything you need to know about writing brochures, newsletters, ads, feature articles and much more. Back in the day I started more than one project with five sweaty fingers on the keyboard and the other five clutching Bob’s Handbook.

The Well-Fed Writer and The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman
Peter gives newcomers the nuts and bolts they need to start a freelance copywriting career. His books include advice on cold calls, time-saving organizational systems, self-marketing, project pricing as well as many helpful copy samples. Peter’s The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds is filled with straight-shooting advice particularly helpful to seasoned copywriters.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
Read it and use it. The late master adman’s practical advice is as timely now as when he wrote it in the pre-Internet Dark Ages: Reverse type, caption-less photos and arty gimmicks still decrease readership and sales. Before-and-after-pictures, long copy and editorial layout still increase readership and sales.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Trout and Ries
Whatever you market—from soda to healthcare to information services—this book will help you dig deep and discover differentiating features to position your products and services.

Persuasive Online Copywriting by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg and Lisa T. Davis
The authors of this book insist that online “users” are real people who want to buy stuff from your client’s e-commerce website—and that your copy should help them. What a concept. Using principles from their Persuasion Architecture, the Eisenbergs show you how to craft copy that helps qualified buyers confidently click through your client’s site.

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
Back in 1999 cultural prophet Seth Godin predicted the demise of “interruption marketing.” Today “permission marketing” is (almost) universally embraced as the new marketing paradigm. Permission Marketing fills you in on today’s increasingly empowered—and expressive—consumer and shares effective ways to get her to “raise her hand” and join the marketing conversation.

Letting Go of the Words by Janice (Ginny) Redish
My current favorite of the gazillion e- and traditional tomes promising to demystify online content-writing. I read Ginny’s book three times, and refer to its Post-it-marked pages continuously as I craft clients’ website content. Here’s the book’s simple premise: People don’t visit websites to hang out and read. They go to your site to get answers to questions and to complete tasks. Ginny helps you craft the concise, meaty content that your visitors crave. Her webpage classifications (“home,” “pathway,” and “destination”), clear writing style, and examples of online content make it easy to put concepts into practice.

Microtrends by Mark J. Penn
Today the Internet helps tip-of-the-long tail niche marketers flourish. So, unlike yesteryear, small trends make a big difference. Three percent of all US adults, for example, are prisoners or on parole. Six million US teens and ‘tweens knit. One-third of women aged 40-69 date men ten years younger. Who knew? You will—after reading this fun, fact-filled book.

Robin Hood Marketing by Katya Andresen
Non-profit fundraisers, guess what? Donors don’t care about your organization. They care about what your organization can do for them: Engage and empower, let them make a difference in the world, assuage guilt, remember a loved one, fulfill an obligation, strengthen spirituality and more. This book steals “corporate savvy to sell just causes” and should be required reading for all non-profit directors and marketers—and the copywriters who work for them.

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
What happens when everything in the world becomes available to everyone? A new business model evolves to meet the demands of even the tiniest customer base, says The Long Tail author and Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson. Thanks to the Internet, “long tail” niches flourish. But exactly how little-guy marketers benefit remains mysterious to me—something about aggregation. I’m currently listening to The Long Tail on MP3—further enlightenment to come.

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale
My blood pressure lowers noticeably when I open Rodale’s The Synonym Finder. The battered tome—this is the second hard bound edition I’ve decimated—signals I’m in the Deadline Home Stretch. The Synonym Finder is indispensable when your copy is at second draft and needs a final prune and polish.

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