Posted on January 27, 2012
Blogging is mainly about two things—writing and marketing.
Since such a large part of blogging success comes from quality writing that stands out in the crowd of mediocre articles, it behooves blog writers to become better at writing. That's why the first two books on this list are about writing.
But blogging isn't only about written content. It's also about promoting the great posts that get written. No matter how awesome an article is, if no one knows it exists, it won't get read. That's where marketing comes in, and that's why book number three is about marketing.
All three of these books should be at the top of any blogger's reading list, because all three will help blog writers become better at their craft.
So without further introduction, here are three books that every blog writer should read right now:
Writing with Style is written by John R. Trimble, a professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. When he taught at Texas, his class was so rigorous, students were required to apply to take it. Do you know any other writing classes where students have to apply to get in? His class was that good.
Not only was his class that good, but his book on writing may be even better. Most people never had the opportunity to benefit from the John R. Trimble writing course, but anyone can benefit from reading Writing with Style. And if you want to become a better writer, you should.
Here's a sample quote from chapter one that exemplifies what kind of writing help you will receive:
"Most of the novice's difficulties start with the simple fact that the paper he writes on is mute. Because it never talks back to him, and because he's concentrating so hard on generating ideas, he readily forgets—unlike the veteran—that another human being will eventually be trying to make sense of what he's saying. The result? His natural tendency as a writer is to think primarily of himself—hence to write primarily for himself. Here, in a nutshell, lies the ultimate reason for most bad writing." (p. 4)
By reading this book, not only will you learn that the biggest writing mistake is being self-centered, but you'll also learn that the secret to good writing is re-writing, the best kind of writing is a conversation between the author and the reader, conversational language is better than pretentious, and the best writers connect every sentence and paragraph to the one before and behind. That's enough for one book, and those are only a few of the many lessons to be learned in this one.
If your goal is to get better as a blogger, and you can do that by becoming a better writer, there's no better book than Writing with Style by John R. Trimble. It's short, it's helpful, it's fun, and it's easy to read. If you want to become a better blog writer, you simply can't go wrong by reading this book. It's a definite must read.
For more writing tips from John R. Trimble, watch this short video form LawProse.org..
On Writing Well is written by William Zinsser, a journalist and non-fiction writer who also taught writing at Yale University where he was the fifth master of Branford College. This book is considered his classic guide for non-fiction writing, and it's a well-thought-out exposition that is guaranteed to improve any writer's prose.
Here is a sample quote from chapter two:
"Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon." But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what. "These are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank." (p. 6)
As you can see, carving out unnecessary phrasing is one of the many lessons to be learned from this book. Others include: the essence of writing being re-writing, readers wanting writers to sound genuine and to not put on airs, writers being most natural when writing in first person, and that writing is the only way to learn how to write. These are but a few of the many lessons to be learned.
If you only have time for a single writing book, Writing with Style is the one. It's short, fun, extremely helpful, and easy to read. But if you'd like a second book that offers a more in-depth exposition on writing from one of the best non-fiction authors and teachers of all time, you should also pick up a copy of On Writing Well. You'll be happy you did.
To read more by William Zinsser, check out his weekly blog column—Zinsser on Friday.
As mentioned previously, blogging is about two things—writing and marketing. Bloggers need to be good at both. With the first two books covering the writing side, Buzz Marketing takes care of the other.
It's written by Mark Hughes who has an MBA from the Columbia business school, is the son of a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and has worked in marketing at PepsiCo's Pizza Hut division, Pep Boys, and America Mobile Satellite. He also grew Half.com from zero to 8 million users in three years as VP of marketing.
Mr. Hughes has a substantial resume. So what has made him so successful? A lot of it has to do with his belief that traditional advertising isn't the best way to increase awareness and generate revenue for companies. Instead, he believes in buzz marketing tactics that cost less and are much more effective.
By reading this book, you'll learn that you should push the six buttons of buzz marketing, which are: 1) the taboo 2) the unusual 3) the outrageous 4) the hilarious 5) the remarkable 6) the secrets (both kept and revealed) (p.29).
You'll also learn how to increase word-of-mouth marketing:
"The entire crux of word-of-mouth marketing is giving people a great story to tell. Why? Because most of us love to be the center of attention; we love to have something interesting, amusing, or novel to talk about, something others will find entertaining, fun to hear . . . and will remember us for having brightened their day a little." (pp. 26-27)
"You've got to give ‘em something to talk about because most of our products and services are simply boring. Law firm—boring. Exterminator—boring. Green beans—boring. Office supplies—boring. Computers—boring. " If you want people to talk about your product, you've got to give them a reason to talk about your product. Give them a story, and not just any story." (p. 27)
As you can see, one of the goals of the book is to help readers learn how to increase word-of-mouth marketing, which experts consider the most effective form of marketing. One of the biggest takeaways from the book is this: buying traditional advertising such as television, print, and online ads is ineffective if it doesn't also create buzz. Not only so, but there are other ways to create buzz besides traditional advertising that can be much more effective.
You'll also learn that creating buzz around your product (or blog) doesn't come down to luck but can be cultivated by learning the fundamental principles of buzz marketing.
As a blogger who doesn't have money to spend on advertising and promotion (are there any that do?), reading Buzz Marketing is a must to get the most out of your promotional efforts. Even if all you do for promotion is write posts and guest posts, this book will teach you how to get the most out of the time you spend on both and provide ideas for other promotional tactics that can attract more readers for your blog.
If you haven't read it yet, don't wait any longer get a copy Buzz Marketing by Mark Hughes. It might be the best marketing investment you'll ever make in your blog.
To learn more about Mark Hughes, read his profile at the Buzz Marketing online advertising agency.
So there you have it: three books that every blog writer should read right now to become a better blogger.
What are your thoughts? Are you ready to pick up a copy of these three books? Would you add any other titles to this list?
Leave a comment to add to this list or to join the discussion.
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