Working in content marketing can be a blessing and a curse.
The tactics and strategies that make content marketing work are constantly changing. If you’re someone who loves change and you’re always willing to learn, that’s a blessing.
But it’s a curse because you’re often flying blind. Whether it’s a new channel or you’re adapting to new audience expectations, you might find yourself looking for guidance more often than not.
Luckily, there’s a whole world of content marketing books that can help you stay ahead of the curve.
However, some of the best content marketing books may not be ones about content marketing at all.
The Usual Suspects of Content Marketing Education
If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering—do we really need another blog post covering books about content marketing?
Seriously, there are hundreds and hundreds of articles that can give you lists of books from industry leaders.
Some of the usual suspects? Read a few articles, and you’re bound to see entries like:
- Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- 10x Marketing Formula by Garrett Moon
- Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Content Chemistry by Andy Crestodina
- The Content Code by Mark Schaefer
And the lists go on and on.
Combine all of these books with the treasure trove of free blog posts and guides you can find online, and you should everything you need for your content marketing education.
Well, if that were the case, new books wouldn’t be published. All those courses that industry leaders release would fall flat. And you’d show up to work every day with a roadmap for success.
Books about tactics and strategies give you a great foundation. The ones listed above are all fantastic.
But you need to take your education a step further with books that help you see content marketing problems in a different way.
5 Top Content Marketing Books Not About Content Marketing
Writing, strategy, social media, SEO—no matter what role you play in the content marketing world, you need to come up with creative solutions for complex problems.
Looking for step-by-step playbooks specifically about content marketing won’t help you build that creative muscle.
To improve your creative problem-solving skills, look to books that are adjacent to content marketing. This could mean just about anything—memoirs, management studies, popular psychology, self-help, and more. The key is finding what works best for you.
If you want a push in the right direction, here are 5 of the best content marketing books from my shelves (that aren’t actually about content marketing).
1. Show Your Work! By Austin Kleon
“In his New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon gave readers the key to unlock creativity. Now comes the next step in the journey: how to get known.
Show Your Work! Puts an end to the destructive myth of the lone genius by showing artists and writers, makers and creative entrepreneurs how to join the new ecology of talent. It is about getting found by being findable, about using the network instead of wasting time networking.
The key is process, not product. Share something new every day (but don’t turn into human spam). Keep an amateur’s mind—where the possibilities are limitless. Be a connector, a teacher, an open node. Don’t hoard.
In ten vital new principles, Show Your Work! Shows that you have to be open, generous, brave—an artist that other artists will steal from.”
This book is relevant to any content marketer who has ever struggled to hit publish on any piece of content. Whether it’s fear that it’s just not good enough or analysis paralysis, this book explains how to get comfortable with sharing your work.
If you’ve been noticing the LinkedIn revolution and wondering how you can start getting attention (for you and your brand), this book can help.
Great quote: “If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community. If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be a connector.”
2. Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow
“From one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood—a self-proclaimed comedy nerd—comes a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the funniest people on the planet from the past thirty years, including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Sarah Silverman, Roseanne Barr, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham.
Loaded with the kind of back-of-the-club stories that comics tell one another when no one else is watching, this remarkable, borderline-obsessive book is Judd Apatow’s gift to everyone who loves to laugh.”
You might be surprised by how many content marketing lessons you can learn from some of the world’s greatest comedians.
Comedians are all writers. And they constantly put their work out into the world to get feedback and make improvements. Learning more about that process and the emotions behind it can help you improve your marketing
Great quote: “Oh, I love the bomb. You have to embrace the bomb. And the bigger the moment, the tastier the bomb.”—Jon Stewart
3. Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
“In Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker explains how to create your career path by knowing when to seize opportunities and when to change course. This influential Harvard Business Review article helps you unlock your full potential by discovering your strengths, recognizing how you best work with others, and identifying the work environments that are right for you.”
This book brings us back to content marketing as a blessing and a curse. The reality is that there are few set career paths in this work. Positions and titles keep changing, job functions continue to evolve, and it’s on you to navigate your way through while finding ways to provide the most value.
In 55 (tiny) pages, Drucker gives you the advice you need to take control of the uncertainty. From understanding your strengths to recognizing how you learn and finding where you belong, this book can really ground you in your content marketing career.
Great quote: “Whenever someone goes to his or her associates and says, ‘This is what I am good at. This is how I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to concentrate on and the results I should be expected to deliver,’ the response is always, ‘This is most helpful. But why didn’t you tell me earlier?’”
4. Originals by Adam Grant
“It’s one thing to have new ideas, but another to stand up for them. Adam Grant, one of his generation’s most provocative thought leaders, explores how individuals can recognize good ideas and speak up without getting silenced, parents can raise creative children, and leaders can build cultures that fight groupthink and promote innovation.
Using remarkable studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant shows that original thinkers are surprisingly similar to the rest of us. They procrastinate. They grapple with doubt and fear. And they have bad ideas. What sets them apart is that they choose to act anyway. This book offers groundbreaking insights about how we can all become more successful in championing our best ideas.”
Content marketers have a tendency to compare their efforts to those around them. You look at what some massive brands are accomplishing and try to figure out how to replicate the results. Or, there’s a particular marketer you follow who is constantly putting out great content, and you think there’s no way you could do the same.
In this book, Adam Grant proves that anyone you’ve put on a pedestal has felt the exact same way. And he shows you how to fight through and get to the other side where your original ideas can get results.
Great quote: “In the case of The Lion King, that is what happened when Maureen Donley suggested that the script could be like Hamlet. The dose of familiarity helped the executives connect the novel savanna script to a classic tale.”
5. Linchpin by Seth Godin
“In bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book is about you—your choices, your future, and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.
There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team: the linchpins. These people figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.
Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations. They may not be famous but they’re indispensable. And in today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom.”
Including a Seth Godin option on a list of content marketing books isn’t exactly groundbreaking. But it’s not often you see Linchpin mentioned in this context.
Just by the nature of the field, content marketers are almost forced to become linchpins. While not everyone will become a linchpin, striving to be one will almost certainly help you advance your career and drive content marketing results.
If you’ve ever read anything by Seth Godin, this book will feel familiar. Of the work I’ve read, I think it’s his best.
Great quote: “The only solution is to start today, to start now, and to ship.”
Content Marketing Requires Continuous Learning
It’s okay not to have all the answers in a content marketing role.
What’s more important is the willingness to keep studying, learning, and experimenting to determine new paths to business results.
The 5 books mentioned here can help, but it’s not even close to an exhaustive list.
Head over to LinkedIn and let us know which books have helped you improve your content marketing work the most.