It doesn’t take much to put a few words together to form sentences, and to put sentences together to make paragraphs. But great content writing is much more than that.
Content marketing is powerful, but it’s also hugely competitive. Many companies use content marketing for lead generation. To stand out, you need to know the best practices and tools required to write for the web.
The more you can learn, the better you’ll meet the expectations set forth by clients, editors, and employers. In this regard, there are some outstanding books about content writing for the web which should be on every content writer’s shelf.
Although there is no single book for a content writer which covers everything, a combination of these content writing books will give you much-needed context on all types of writing.
Best books about content writing
Before we start, let’s be clear on one thing. If you start your journey of learning to write just with books on the subject, you won’t go very far.
Reading books on content writing isn’t enough to make you a better writer. First, you’ll need to get into the habit of reading the type of material you plan to write. Then comes the practice - writing at least 500 words every day to hone your skills.
Once you have been reading and writing for a while, only then picking up a book on content writing would make a real difference. Because by then, you’d know the struggles and problems that loom over you when you write.
So you would want to know whether other writers have gone through the same challenges and how did they solve them. With that in mind, read the following books about content writing from masters of the craft.
On writing well
I have learned a lot from this classic book about content creation, including the value of brevity and simplicity. I also took away that humor and surprise are essential ingredients of all nonfiction writing.
Whether you want to learn copywriting just to get through the day, or aspire to be a professional writer for the web, this is a content creation book for everyone.
On Writing Well is a content writing book filled with basic principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher.
With more than one million copies purchased, this is a book for content writers which has stood the test of time. It has been and will always be a valuable resource for content writers.
The copywriter's handbook
This book has some good material about content creation. It clicks even more when the author talks about something I have struggled with a lot in the past - writing the actual sales content after the headline.
The book discusses many of the standard principles which every copywriter should be aware of - such as writing benefits instead of features, power words, and constructions sentences and paragraphs.
This is one of the better copywriting books I have read, along with "Tested Advertising Methods" by John Caples. If you have nothing but these two content creation books, you’d have most of the information you need to be a copywriting expert.
The revised fourth edition of this content writing book takes it up a notch by adapting material to fit the new digital age. There is advice on modern concepts like content marketing, landing pages, online videos, writing for the web, and more.
Technical writing process
This book is a comprehensive and accessible overview of key components in technical writing. It is helpful for beginners as well as non-technical writers who want to create a structure around their content writing work.
If you find yourself with the responsibility of creating technical documentation, or managing a documentation project, this is the book for you.
I have often been charged with helping to develop documentation standards and a centralized library for client teams. And this book is one of my go-to resources for content creation.
The concepts in this book can help develop a great first-pass implementation on a writing project. It is one of my recommendations for anyone facing the challenge of improving support documentation.
This content writing book breaks down technical writing for the web into a simple, five-step process that can be used to create almost any piece of technical documentation such as a user guide, manual, or procedure.
The insider's guide to technical writing
The Insider’s Guide is a comprehensive collection of answers to the questions you may have about technical writing. For instance:
- How do I best conduct an interview with a Subject Matter Expert?
- What is the style of technical writing?
- What best practices and standards do I need to be aware of?
- What does the workflow of a documentation project look like?
Every complex product needs to be explained to its users, and technical writers, also known as technical communicators, are the ones who do that job.
Whether you're thinking of becoming a technical content writer, or you've been working for a while, The Insider's Guide to Technical Writing is a content development book that can help you be successful.
Unleash the power of storytelling
Facts and numbers alone aren’t enough to express ideas and meet goals. Stories have great power to lower defenses, create trust, and persuade others to take action.
The right storytelling can help in a lot of ways: ace a job interview, close a business deal, get a raise, build relationships with coworkers and customers, align people to a vision, promote your business, and more.
Unleash the Power of Storytelling is a content development book that provides an actionable plan to craft and deliver powerful, moving stories to achieve what you want from work and life.
Although the market is full of content writing books and gurus on the subject of storytelling, this book cuts through the noise and explains storytelling in a no-nonsense way.
You’ll find a step-by-step process for identifying, building, and conveying powerful stories. This book about content writing covers the essential ingredients for a content writer to make a good story and helps you avoid common storytelling myths and traps.
The Associated Press stylebook
The Associated Press stylebook is the gold standard for those in news writing. With the help of AP Stylebook, you will know how to write content with the clarity and professionalism the Associated Press is famous for.
The AP Stylebook will aid you in mastering rules on grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and word usage. If you are a writer, editor, or student, this is one book about content writing you shouldn’t be without.
Writing tools: 55 essential strategies
This is a great book on content writing to learn some tricks of the trade. With 50 resources mentioned in the book, there are too many to remember when writing.
So what I do is highlight my copy and re-read those markups again and again to get them to stick in my memory.
I love the detailed insights like
- Watch the -ings because using a lot of them can hurt good writing
- Lose the dash - it's for the punctuation-illiterate
- Use adverbs only if they change the meaning of the verb, such as "killing me softly."
This is one of the content writing books that has made me a better writer. Roy Peter Clark shares insights from his 3 decades of experience in writing, journalism, and teaching into a series of fifty short essays.
It’s a classic guidebook for beginners and experts alike and remains one of the best available books on content writing for the web.
Strategic writing for UX
When your product depends on users to carry out specific actions — such as purchasing tickets, using public transit, or playing a game — how do you pick the right words and assess if they work?
This content development book shows you what it's like to handle this in a high-performing product team. It provides a clear picture of how different types of writing merge to form a product experience.
Torrey Podmajersky provides UX strategies for converting, supporting, engaging, and re-attracting users.
Moreover, I liked that the same principles covered in the book can be applied to any kind of product. There are several examples to show that with different products and implementations.
You’ll also learn frameworks and patterns, ways to measure effectiveness, and the workflows which make it easy to collaborate. Finally, this content creation book helps structure your voice throughout for an easily recognizable brand experience.
Storycraft: writing narrative nonfiction
Jack Hart is a former managing editor of the Oregonian. He has guided several Pulitzer Prize-winning narratives to publication.
From understanding story theory and structure, to mastering point of view and such basic elements as scene, action, and character, to drafting, revising, and editing work for publication, he covers all a content writer needs to know in this content development book.
For example, Hart has the best explanation of the importance and use of a theme that I've found anywhere. He says:
"A theme statement suggests your structure. It guides your reporting. It helps you find a title. If you have to cut, it tells you what can go and what must stay. In one way or another, it affects every phase of the writing"
He then goes on to show how he helped writers find the themes of stories that went on to win national writing prizes.
With examples that draw from magazine essays, book-length nonfiction narratives, documentaries, and radio programs, Storycraft will be an indispensable content development book for content writers for years to come.
This is a content creation book for people who want to get good at writing exceptional, compelling nonfiction. Another one is Sol Stein on Writing.
You can't make this stuff up
There is something artistically beautiful about how the author interwove instruction and example into a stunning tapestry.
The book has not only reminded me of some sound fundamentals, but it has given me many new perspectives on how to tell a story creatively.
Telling true stories well is hard work. In You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Lee Gutkind, the go-to expert for all things creative nonfiction, offers his unvarnished wisdom to help you craft the best copywriting possible.
Frank, to-the-point, and always entertaining, Gutkind describes and illustrates every aspect of the genre. Invaluable tools and exercises illuminate key steps, from defining a concept and establishing a writing process to the final product.
Offering new ways of understanding the genre, this practical guidebook will help you thoroughly expand and stylize your work when writing for the web.
Conclusion: books on content writing
A number of content writing books are published every year. But it’s not possible to read them all. You could only have so much time and money to spend on these content creation books.
So what’s great is you can stick to the proven copywriting books that have stood the test of time. It’s not necessary to read each and every new book on content writing out there.
Hopefully, these books about content writing for the web will give you a head start in learning how to write content and developing your content development skills.
Did we miss your favorite book? Did you try these content writing books? Do you have any questions or comments regarding these content development books? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.