Sometimes when I speak at marketing conferences and meet marketers who are new to native advertising, they want to know what books on writing, storytelling and journalism they can read to help climb the learning curve faster as they aim to master the art of branded content. I’d often name the best examples of journalist writing or resources I’ve recently used, but I figured it would be more helpful to create a definitive resource list for anyone who might be looking for good books to fill their queue as they make their transition from marketing to sponsored content.
Below is a list of book recommendations, broken out by the role they can play in in your advertising-to-storytelling journey. I’ve read every single book on this list, personally, so these are recommendations you can trust.
I’ll update this list as I hit the back cover of new books that deserve to be included. If you have a suggestion, please let me know! Sounds off in the comments or tweet me @mdeziel. (Please be patient… my bookshelves are overflowing!)
Last updated 1/24/16.
For your professional transition/rebrand:
“Reinventing You,” by Dorie Clark
Making a career change or pivot toward storytelling is made easier with this guide on finding ways to reapply your experience to your new area, how to expand your network, how to update your perception in the marketplace and more. If you want to shift your reputation as you enter content marketing, this is a great guide for doing so.
For learning what makes a good story:
“Think Like An Editor,” by Steve and Emilie Davis.
Written by two longtime Syracuse Professors, this approachable book walks through the mindsets and processes that help editors decide what stories are newsworthy, what sources are trustworthy, how content should be presented, what makes good headlines, and more. This will help frame your own content-based thinking and help you relate to editorial staff you work with or alongside.
“Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” By Jonah Berger
This book will surface some familiar case studies from the world of advertising, but its learnings apply more generally to content as well. Learn the scientifically-backed factors that contribute to traction in videos, articles, ad campaigns and more, and see how those learnings can be applied to your content endeavors.
“Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Thrive and Others Die,” by Chip Heath
Ditto, above. Great examples and interesting insights about the science of what makes a piece of content or a story stick in an audience’s mind long after they’ve consumed it.
For improving your own writing:
“Associated Press Stylebook”
This is a journalists’ bible for spelling, punctuation, style, sourcing, word use, quotes and more. Get the version with the media law addendum, though be aware that native ads are a paid environment (not editorial) and therefore have even more regulation around them that won’t be covered here.
“The Elements of Style,” Strunk and White
If you’re new to writing, you’ll want this to read as well as to reference. This is a time-tested guide to sentence structure, grammar and more, and understanding these basic principles will undoubtedly improve your writing.
For keeping your mind fresh and creative:
“Becoming an Idea Machine,” by Claudia Altucher
This book serves as a great primer on creative thinking, and provides hundreds of prompts for thinking differently. Completing some or all of these list-making challenges will help expand your capacity for finding creative solutions based on the limitations often presented in client brainstorm situations.
“The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice,” by Todd Henry
The sooner you understand the conditions for optimal creative thinking, and the ways that you can support your own creative processes, the sooner you can create the habits and mindsets to consistently produce creative story ideas for your clients and better understand the storytellers you work with.
*I have read every single one of these books and personally chosen to recommend them. Some of these links are affiliate links, which allow me to get credit for any sales that my recommendations drive, at no additional cost to you! Hopefully, that makes this tightly curated list a win/win for both of us!
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