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Inbound Copywriting: What Great Authors Can Teach Us

August 3, 2023

By Joe Gillespie

I’m writing this article from my living room, where I look across to a bookshelf loaded with books. A smaller bookshelf next to it is supposed to be for vinyl records, but it also is overflowing with books. Our basement is sporting a few new Ikea bookshelves that replaced old Walmart ones from the 1990s—and those are filled up. And there’s a giant box of books that didn’t fit the new shelves, waiting for me to find a new space somewhere in the house. In other words, books, books everywhere!

Does this sound familiar? If you love to read, you most likely have a huge book collection. All these tomes aren’t just entertaining and inspiring (and, well, cluttering); they can inform the way you write, including—maybe even especially—your inbound copywriting.

Content is so important to an inbound marketing strategy, and that content must connect with your audience. Your lifetime of reading naturally influences how you write. You can intentionally take that a step further and apply authors’ techniques to your own writing. Here are five great writers I like and the lessons they’ve taught me about creating content:


Stephen King: Proficiency

Stephen King, the master of horror, is also the master of pounding out copy. There was a time around 1990 when I had read almost every one of his books. Now, it’s probably fewer than half because he has remained a writing machine over the decades. He has slowed his pace a little, down to just 1,000 words every day, but that’s still wildly prolific.

You may not need to be that prolific when writing inbound copy, but you should be consistent. If your website visitors like what they see—especially with your blog—they will return, perhaps even subscribe. Failing to deliver consistent content risks losing them as a lead forever. Aim for at least one blog article a week, published on the same day of the week, to establish a cadence that leads can rely on.

(On a side note, if you want truly expert tips to improve your writing, King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is amazing.) 


Michael Crichton: Advanced Concepts That Readers Easily Grasp

My favorite book, all-time, is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. When the movie came out in 1993, my girlfriend (now wife) bought me the book because she knew how much I was looking forward to the movie. I liked the movie but absolutely loved the book, finishing it in an afternoon. What especially immersed me in the book was the science—it was fascinating but never overwhelming, flawlessly supporting but not interfering with the story being told.

You may have technical content you need to share with and explain to readers, but they might be seeking something simpler. Finding the balance is crucial to educating your audience without scaring them off with jargon and heavy details. Understanding your personas will help you achieve that balance, but being like Crichton—weaving a narrative in which all the technical stuff fascinates readers instead of turning them off—goes a long way toward impressing your audience.


Margaret Atwood: Versatility and Point of View

Thanks to the success of the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale, Canada’s Margaret Atwood has garnered widespread mass appeal and confirmed what her core fans had known for years: She is one of the best and most important sci-fi writers of our time.

But Atwood is much more than just sci-fi and dystopian stories. Besides being proficient in that genre for more than 50 years, she has written mystery novels, short stories, poetry, graphic novels, historical fiction, children’s books, and even an opera. Atwood’s versatility can be inspiring for inbound marketers trying to connect with their audiences: Don’t be afraid to try something different. Readers may appreciate the variety, and even if that infographic doesn’t convert as well as your blogs do, at least you come away with a content asset for website visitors to discover and enjoy.

Another thing that sets Atwood apart is her willingness to write from unexpected points of view—and to do so seamlessly. Throughout her works, she explores feminism, environmentalism, social commentary, and the Canadian experience. The marketing lesson is obvious: Write to your personas, but also bring your organization’s unique perspective to content. Not every blog article needs to be written by the same person—shake things up a little. If you’ve done your homework with voice, tone, and messaging, content can be varied while staying on brand.


John Grisham: Set Up the Solution

I might get howled at for calling John Grisham a great author, but his novels are entertaining, which contributes to his success. For me, Grisham is perfect summer reading. He immerses the reader in the premise and makes you want to see the story through to its conclusion. You crave that resolution and can’t wait to see how all the pieces fall into place. Admittedly, the resolutions in some Grisham novels have disappointed me to the point I moved them from my bookshelf into a Little Free Library or a thrift store—but even those miscues had me turning pages to find out where the story was headed.

Inbound marketing content should drive the reader the same way a Grisham novel does. Set up the problem, show off your expertise (in a relatable way, of course), and deliver the solution. Drawing the audience in with an irresistible premise—and then delivering with an impactful, interesting payoff (sorry, John)—gives leads a reason to read more of your content and continue through the buyer’s journey.


Isaac Asimov: Don’t Get Bogged Down

Science fiction novels can be a slog, even for fans of sci-fi like myself. As a grade-schooler, I would try to read classic sci-fi authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Jules Verne, or H.G. Wells, but they could never hold my attention (except for Wells’ War of the Worlds, but I had seen the movie first). Then I discovered Isaac Asimov. His narratives never felt convoluted—stories zipped along without ever feeling rushed. And his vision was so entertaining that I didn’t blink when seeing sci-fi terms such as psychohistory or the Laws of Robotics. Understanding Asimov also opened a wider range of science fiction literature to me, building the patience in me to tackle authors with chunkier prose.

The lesson from Asimov for inbound copywriters is clear: Be direct and interesting with your content, and take care not to get bogged down. When your content is accessible and the story you’re telling is interesting and helpful, readers won’t be tempted to click away from your website. Plus, if they’re enjoying your blog, they will more likely consider your other content, which all leads them further through the sales funnel.

Not a fan of my authors? Think about the writers you enjoy and how you can incorporate their styles, voices, and mechanics into your own inbound copywriting. You don’t need to replicate Toni Morrison or Oscar Wilde or William Shakespeare, but they can inspire you to create content that resonates with your personas.


Enhance your writing and editing in digital marketing immediately with quick tips from:

How to Write (and Edit Yourself) Like a Rock Star

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Topics: Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing