50 Books to Help You Become a Better Writer

[tweetmeme]No matter what you do for a living, being able to write well is a useful skill. But in today’s abbreviated social media world, where 140 characters is the maximum length of a tweet and 80 characters is said to be the optimum Facebook post, (according to Buddy Media), it’s more important than ever to write clearly and concisely to reach your target audience effectively.

There are numerous books available to help you become a better writer. Online Writing Courses has put together a list of 50 books – divided into the following categories:

  • Classics
  • Composition and rhetoric
  • Genre and medium
  • Literary criticism, reading and analysis
  • Notable writers

I’ve read a few of the books on the list including The Elements of Style by William F. Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. This is the classic writing manual I read in college. More recently, I read and can recommend On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This is an easy-to-read classic writing guide – especially useful for those wanting to write as economically as possible without losing meaning.

Other books on the list that I recommend include: Words Fail Me by Patricia T. O’Connor and The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly.

What is your favorite book about writing?


Why Your Website Needs a Headline – Not a Welcome Sign


How many times have you searched for a company on Google and when you visited their website, the home page headline simply said, “Welcome”?

I see this time and time again online. And while “Welcome” is a nice sentiment, that precious real estate would serve your prospects better if it featured a headline, similar to what you would use in a direct mail advertisement for your product or service.

Why is this important?

Headlines Help Convince Website Visitors to Buy

According to author, copywriter, public speaker and direct marketing expert Ted Nicholas, 73% of all buying decisions are made at the point of the headline. That makes the headline the most important element in any promotion, online or off. Nicholson spoke yesterday at AWAI’s Fast Track to Copywriting Success Bootcamp, which I’m attending this week. He told the audience of copywriters that a headline has 5 major responsibilities:

1. Attracts attention
2. Communicates the strongest benefit
3. Appeals to a prospect’s self-interest
4. Sets the tone for the offer
5. Selects the right audience

Now that first point – attracts attention – is especially important online, since you only have about 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention. If your prospect doesn’t see right away why they should do business with you, they’re going to hit the back button and find someone else.

But there’s another reason why your website needs a proper headline, and not a “Welcome” sign.

Headlines Help Your Website’s Search Engine Ranking

When a search engine “spider” crawls through your website, it is looking for certain elements such as keywords and header tags. If you put keywords into your headline and include those words in a header tag or H1 tag, the “spider” will see that information, and reward you with a higher ranking on the search engine results page or SERP.

A keyword-rich headline, therefore, can help your website be found by a prospect AND help convince that prospect to do business with you. And isn’t that why you have a website in the first place?

If you’d like to replace the “welcome” sign on your website’s home page, email gloria@gloriarand.com today for a free SEO copywriting estimate.

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E-Mail Marketing Paying Off for Small Businesses

It’s a no-brainer that small businesses should reduce expenses during a recession to help maintain profitability.

But which expenses?  If you think marketing should be cut back, you couldn’t be more wrong! Marketing should be stepped up during bad economic times, so a company will be well-positioned to take advantage of the economic recovery.

A new study by Hurwitz & Associates, reported in eMarketing.com, supports this theory as it relates to small businesses.  The
study found that two-thirds of small businesses that expected increased revenues had raised or planned to raise marketing spending.  That compares with just 32% to 36% of businesses with flat or declining revenues.

The study also found that small businesses are keeping marketing costs in check by switching to cheaper, web-based tools such as social media, e-mail newsletters and search. E-mail in particular, is likely to remain a vital force for marketing.

The decision that small businesses need to make is whether to outsource their online marketing needs to freelance copywriters, or handle the work in-house.  The DIY (do-it-yourself) instinct may be “cheaper,” from a strict-cost standpoint, but it may wind up costing a company more in the long run due to the time spent on blog-writing, e-mail marketing campaigns, and social network management.



Why I Want to Win a Seat to the Copywriting Success Summit 2009

So here’s the challenge: Chris Garrett, co-author of the “Problogger Book,” is offering copywriters a chance to win two tickets to the Copywriting Success Summit 2009 hosted by white paper guru, Michael Stelzner.

How to win: Write a blog post explaining why you want to win, in no more than 1,000 words.

Ok, Chris Garrett, I’ll take you up on that challenge. Here goes! 

This summit is being billed as the largest online event dedicated to helping you successfully market your writing business. But wait – if I can attend online, why would I want to win tickets to this event in person?  Let’s see, let me count the ways…

1. The best of the best in the copywriting industry will be at the summit: Peter Bowerman (Well-Fed Writer author), Steve Slaunwhite (Start & Run a Copywriting Business author), Michael Stelzner (Writing White Papers author), Marcia Yudkin (Persuading on Paper author), Nick Usborne (Net Words author), Casey Hibbard (Stories That Sell author), Chris Marlow (the original copywriter’s coach), Pete Savage and Ed Gandia.

I have taken Nick Usborne’s online copywriting course thru AWAI, so I know what terrific advice he gives.  I’ve also read ebooks by Steve Slaunwhite and Ed Gandia — also offering excellent knowledge to the beginner copywriter.   And I subscribe to Chris Marlow’s newsletters, where she offers some awesome coaching advice. But to be able to see and hear these people in person, as well as others I’m not as familiar with, would be a tremendous boost to me personally, and professionally.  I know I have much more to learn to become a successful copywriter.

2. The grand prize features a consultation with Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer (Peter will spend an hour with you, helping you market your business). 

I’ve read Peter’s book, and it truly gave me a jumpstart in launching my business.  But to have the opportunity for a one-on-one coaching session… Well, that would be great. I’ve doing my best to market my business – using social media, networking, etc. But I’m sure there are lots more tips Peter can offer that will boost my bottom line.

3. The grand prize also offers a site-critique by Chris Garrett, where he  will identify actionable steps I can take to improve my blog. Sounds like a good plan to me!  I hope he’ll also offer some time-management tips.  It’s tough sometimes finding the time to spend on writing, marketing, social media etc. Please help!!! 🙂

4. I’d receive a copy of Chris Garrett & Darren Rowse’s “Problogger” book, and a copy of the book, “Writing White Papers” by Michael Stelzner.  Free books! Who doesn’t want to save money these days? My library card is getting a lot of use, so it’d be nice to have actual copies that I can return to again and again. Plus, I’d be kinder to the environment – staying at home to read, instead of driving to the library to pick up another book. 

5. I can bring a guest.  While I’m sure my husband might like a trip, I know two other copywriters who would love to attend. Not sure how we’ll figure out who goes if I win… but maybe they can battle it out.

So, that’s it, Chris.  Don’t know if this will be enough to get me to win, but I have to say, this is the fastest blog post I’ve written in my life. I saw Michael Stelzner’s post on Facebook, clicked on the link to your site, and in a half an hour, was ready to post!  (Of course, I just realized, I have no idea where this summit is being held, but that’s ok – I can travel anywhere in the U.S. – no passport yet, but it’s on my to-do list!)

Hey blog readers – wish me luck!


It Pays to be Persistent and…. Patient!

For anyone starting a business, landing that first client can be challenging, frustrating, and ultimately, rewarding.

It takes guts, persistence and, as I learned, patience.  Instant gratification is overrated.  It’s much better to wait for something.  Think back to your childhood. Waiting for Christmas morning to arrive.  The presents always seemed sweeter, if you had to wait for them.

So it is in business.  You may be impatient to get that first sale. I was… at first. But I also knew that all good things come to those who wait.  I decided to be patient, especially since my potential clients were a pair of awesome life coaches, who took a chance on a fledgling SEO copywriter.

I had finished the copywriting course and was half-way through the SEO copywriting course when Jennifer Lee and Leah Turner of Creating Your Masterpiece came into my life.  They came to speak at a meeting of Mothers and More, a non-profit support group I belong to.  They talked about the importance of setting goals and taking action. The message came through loud and clear to me.

The next morning, I decided to put into practice what I had learned so far about SEO and checked their website to see if it was optimized.  It wasn’t.  They needed help. I swallowed my nerves and sent an email thanking them for the great presentation.  I explained that I was starting my own freelance business as an SEO copywriter and could help get their website to move higher up the search engine ranks.

Leah and Jen knew SEO was important; they just hadn’t had a chance to do anything about it yet.  I submitted a proposal to them, but they rejected it – saying it was too expensive.  I could have given up right then, but I knew they needed the help and I knew I could do the work. So, heeding the advice of other copywriters I’ve studied, including Heather Lloyd-Martin, Ed Gandia, etc., I offered to scale back the project for less money.

They agreed, but couldn’t commit right then because taxes were due, etc. The coaches encouraged me to stay in touch, because they wanted to get their site optimized.  I emailed them periodically and sent them a sample of my work to show what I could do for their site.  That did the trick, because two months later, they agreed to my original proposal for the full amount!

FYI – I’m currently putting the final touches on a new revision of Creating Your Masterpiece’s home page since they have changed the focus of their business and are updating their site. It should be uploaded soon. Watch for it! www.creatingyourmasterpiece.com

July 26 update – I uploaded the new home page  today. It was a long time coming, but I think the results are well worth it.