Why reading books sucks if YOU want killer copywriting gigs

Warning sign telling copywriters not to read booksWho else has never read a book since school?

Now that may seem like a bizarre question to expect from someone who writes for a living. It might even freak you out.

But the truth is that I’ve never actually read a single book since I left high school.

OK, I’ve read a fair bit of non-fiction – and I’ll get onto that in a minute – but not so much as a single novel, play or any other book of fictional or creative nature.

Absolutely nothing.

I detested English Literature at school. I couldn’t even get beyond the first couple of pages of a novel without hyperventilating with boredom.

So how the hell did I end up becoming a copywriter?

Because there’s a demand for people like me – that’s why

Yes, you read that right, there is a massive market for copywriters just like myself.

Maybe you think we’re illiterate or something, but writers like me just aren’t interested in stories, poetry, sonnets and inspired moments of self-expression.

Instead, all we’re interested in is information. In particular, practical information that makes our lives easier or more pleasurable.

Give me a book or blog post that shows you how to learn Italian the fast and fun way, pitch a press release and not look like a noob or store your wine without turning it to vinegar then I’d much rather read that any day.

Why?

Because it helps me get where I want to go.

And here’s the kicker: Most other people who are searching for content online are doing just the same.

Think about the stuff you read when you’re browsing or searching online. Most of it’s just informational or commercial material. It’s so different from literary writing that it may as well be in another language.

A bad education

Now this is the controversial bit – but trust me, as an outsider, I’ve often seen the signs of this in other people’s writing. Basically, if you’re a copywriter then reading books may end up doing you more harm than good.

By reading literature you could be subconsciously learning a writing style that’s no use whatsoever in the straight-talking world of website copywriting and blogging.

A reality check

And, while we’re at it, here are another few home truths.

Most prospective copywriting clients really don’t care if you:

  • are an avid bookwork who’s always loved words
  • have a dedicated poetry section on your website
  • can impress them with your artistic talents as a writer

All they really want to know is whether you:

  • get what they’re trying to achieve
  • can embrace the subject they want you to write about
  • are able to write in a clear, concise manner that their visitors can understand

So avoid those whimsical musings on your blog and telling prospects your ambitions of becoming a book author – because most business clients won’t be interested in the slightest.

A methodical approach

So you may be wondering how on earth I write when I never read.

Well, as I said, I do kinda read. It’s just I don’t read literature.

But does that make writing any harder?

No.

If anything, it makes it easier – because, for me, writing isn’t a creative discipline. Instead, it’s just a series of systematic or methodical steps.

Here’s how it goes:

  • First, I study the client and their proposition. In particular, I look at any existing copy they have, such as their website.
  • Secondly, I look at competitor websites and make note of all the great ideas and copy that I want to steal from them.
  • Next, after discussing features and benefits with the client, I list the most important sales points. Any that set my client apart from their competitors go right at the top.
  • Then, just like a jigsaw, I piece together the content for each web page. And even if it’s a blog post, I still methodically plan out what I’m going to say.
  • Finally, I write the copy. This is where I recycle, rephrase and reuse any ideas I’ve borrowed from elsewhere.

The great thing about working to a set procedure like this is that, in the end, the copy practically writes itself. And, by the time you’ve finished, you’ve still got a whole new original piece of content.

Now, for all you book fanatics reading this, I’m not of some deranged notion that reading fiction is somehow bad. The world is full of people with different interests and it just so happens it isn’t one of mine.

But the point I’m making is this: Most of the killer copywriting gigs out there aren’t for bookworms and aspiring novel writers. So if you wanna make a real go of freelance copywriting then you’d better keep the two things totally separate.

So come on. Who else has never read a book since school? Do you agree or disagree that reading literature is bad for your copywriting? Leave your comment below.

In our next post: Does it matter if no-one ever comments on your blog?  Find out why it does and what you can do about it.

About the Author

Kevin Carlton is a freelance SEO content writer and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is the owner of the Make every word work for you blog and website copywriting service Write Online.

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