We’re already into May and I’m already well into my first recommendation for this month.
First though, let’s just recap on last month’s suggestions…
We had What is the What by Dave Eggers and I must say it was an excellent book. If you haven’t read it yet, make time for it.
I’m not sure it’s directly influenced my copywriting yet, but it has nudged my view of the world somewhat. It was a real eye-opener and as far as the writing goes – the delivery was incredibly accomplished.
Just as it is with copywriting, if you have a good, strong product (in this case the product is the boy’s story) you don’t need to overwrite. Just tell it as it is and the message will get across.
Influence was as useful a read as it always is. Frankly, there’s nothing more for me to say on this book – if you haven’t bought it yet, do so today. If you have and you’ve read it, chances are you’re already putting some of the ideas into action.
Finally, I recommended The Marseille Caper. I said it would be a light-hearted book and that it certainly was. There was less peril in it than there is in a PG-rated Disney film.
But I suggested reading it for the aspirational lifestyle imagery Mayle is so good at creating and it didn’t fail to deliver on that front. If you need some ideas for creating an image of wealth in your reader’s mind, read this.
Now though, let’s move on to this month’s selections, which are a very different kettle of fish.
Here and Now: Letters 2008-2011 by Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee
Those who know me well will know I’m a big fan of Paul Auster. Not only do I have an increasingly valuable collection of signed first-editions, I just damn like his writing.
Reading his work is one of the reasons I got in to writing in the first place and it’s one of his writing practices that I’ve actually adopted in my critiquing of other people’s copy.
You see, I read some time ago that Auster uses a typewriter in conjunction with a laptop. What’s interesting about this though is that he writes each typed paragraph out on the laptop before moving back to the typewriter to create the next section.
This essentially means he’s editing each paragraph as he works through his prose.
It’s a slow and laborious approach, but I’ve found the principle can work wonders in copywriting, especially when it comes to analysing other people’s copy.
In my own writing, I’ll write one section. Stop. Re-read it and then write the next one. Then I’ll stop again. Go back to the beginning. Re-read. And then move on to the next section.
Though it sounds a real chore, it saves a lot of time and editing later on. Your copy is constantly being trimmed and styled and is often much stronger because of it.
You can approach copy that you need to edit in a similar way, with similarly effective results.
A quick tip you can take away there, but another would be to go and pre-order this book and read it as soon as you’re able. These letters will be undoubtedly insightful on a number of issues and the crispness of the writing will give you food for thought.
You can buy Here and Now: Letters 2008-2011 on Amazon here.
Contagious by Johan Berger
But ultimately fail to deliver.
This one’s called Contagious and promises to tell you why some products and ideas get spread more than others.
Will it expose anything new?
We can’t be sure. But we must hope.
From time to time, us copywriters must explore the academic world and see if these dissertation types and their research have uncovered anything worth uncovering.
Having briefly skimmed the book, it’s written in a jovial style and I can see a few case studies that I’m not familiar with. So often these things are the same hokey Harvard experiments repackaged in a bookshelf-friendly sleeve.
It doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Let’s hope it throws up some interesting insights that could be used in our own copywriting experiments.
You can buy Contagious from Amazon here.
Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
I’ve read a lot of Philip Roth’s books and though you wouldn’t naturally associate his work with honing your copywriting skills, I do think he’s a writer all good copywriters should read.
Arguably one of the greatest living American novelists, Roth is obsessed with the psychology of us humans. And naturally, as a copywriter, so should you be.
Though Roth’s novels often explore a darker part of our psyche, it’s good practice for copywriters to think about human emotions in a much deeper way like this. It’s only with a greater understanding of how people think that we can truly make our copywriting emotionally engaging.
You can buy Sabbath’s Theater from Amazon here.
That’s all for this month. If you choose to join me in reading one or more of the books I recommend, be sure to let me know your thoughts on them in the comments below.