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Your Next Reading List: The Best Books on Content Strategy to Level Up in 2020

Looking for the best books on content strategy? Good luck.

Type “content marketing” into Amazon and you’ll get about 5,000 results. If you try “content strategy,” you’ll do a bit better at a mere 4,800 results.

How do you know what’s worth reading? To be honest, almost all of it. But I don’t think you want to spend the next 13 years reading a book a day.

As content strategy and marketing continue to grow, more and more ideas are cropping up that are worth considering.

I’ve identified ten authors who I think are worth your time. They range from the basics of content marketing to cutting-edge thought leadership on the future of content, and beyond.

Here’s your next reading list. It’s time to hit the books. 📚

Just Give Me the List: The Best Books on Content Strategy for 2020

1. The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right – Meghan Casey

2. The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas – Melanie Deziel

3. Content Strategy for the Web – Kristina Halvorson

4. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content – Ann Handley

5. Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow – Carrie Hane & Mike Atherton

6. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability – Steve Krug

7. The Stranger’s Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online – Gerry McGovern

8. Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less – Joe Pulizzi

9. The Context Marketing Revolution: How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media – Mathew Sweezey

10. Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content – Sara Wachter-Boettcher

11. How to Write Copy That Sells: The Step-By-Step System for More Sales, to More Customers, More Often — Ray Edwards

Bonus: Get Hands-On and Practical With My Updated Content Strategy Guide

best books on content strategy

The 11 Best Books on Content Strategy You Should Read in 2020

The best books on content strategy don’t always look like they’re about content strategy … but trust me! Each of these titles will expand your perspective or deepen your understanding – or both. Here are my best recommendations (in alphabetical order by author’s last name). 

1. The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right – Meghan Casey

Why You Should Read It: A lot of content strategy books are written for solopreneurs, freelancers, or one-woman-shows, but The Content Strategy Toolkit is so much more! In it, you’ll find practical strategies and guidelines for a variety of situations, including how to tell your boss that the company’s blog needs help, or how to handle content meant to get stakeholders on board with an idea. 

Who Is Meghan Casey? She’s a well-known trainer and speaker on content strategy, who also runs her own content consulting firm. Follow her on Twitter right here.

2. The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas – Melanie Deziel

Why You Should Read It: So, you’ve got a content strategy and a content marketing approach all outlined – but you’ve still got to come up with topics! Even in 2020, it remains a huge challenge. The Content Fuel Framework helps you overcome that challenge, even make it look easy. That’s super awesome when you’ve got deadlines and a schedule to maintain.

Who Is Melanie Deziel? She’s a content marketer who specializes in brand storytelling and founder of the company StoryFuel. You can follow her on Twitter here.

3. Content Strategy for the Web – Kristina Halvorson

Why You Should Read It: Before content marketing was a mainstream concept online, Kristian Halvorson published Content Strategy for the Web, a groundbreaking work that explained to business owners why those unending site redesigns weren’t increasing revenue. This is a great book for getting a good sense of how content strategy and marketing have evolved over the years, while picking up time-tested tips and advice that works.

Who Is Kristina Halvorson? She’s the CEO of Brain Traffic, a leading content strategy agency, as well as the founder of Confab, a yearly content strategy conference. You can follow her on Medium and also Twitter.

Content Strategy for the Web

Kristina Halvorson stresses the people components – workflow and governance – as much as the content components in content strategy. Source: Content Strategy for the Web

4. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content – Ann Handley

Why You Should Read It: I talk a lot on this blog about how ridiculously good content is the backbone of content strategy. In Everybody Writes, Ann Handley agrees. “Our online words are our currency,” and online, everyone has something to say. If you’re looking for a way to hone your voice and communicate truly compelling messages, this is the book for you.

Who Is Ann Handley? A kicka$$ speaker, for one. (Check her out on YouTube.) She’s also the Head of Content at Marketing Profs. Follow her on Twitter.

5. Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow – Carrie Hane & Mike Atherton

Why You Should Read It: All good content strategy starts with a framework. However, what that framework is can vary from project to project. I like Designing Connected Content because it shows you exactly how to structure a content framework that combines strategy, design, and management in a cohesive system. If you’re struggling with having too much content, or you’re not sure how your individual pieces fit together, then check this book out. It may give you a few ideas about how to look at your content differently.

Who Are Carrie Hane and Mike Atherton? Carrie has over 20 years as a content strategist, and she provides wonderful consulting and training. (See her Twitter here.) Mike is a content strategist at Facebook who is also known for his public speaking. (Find him on Twitter here.)

6. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability – Steve Krug

Why You Should Read It: This book has been around for 20 years and its advice still rings true. Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited) is a short and insightful piece on usability and the user experience (UX) online. With so much of content strategy focusing on improving your customers’ experience of your brand, applying these bits of advice to your content strategy and marketing can increase your effectiveness at getting the right content in front of the right customers at the right time. (Just make sure you get the Revisited version, which I’ve linked.)

Who Is Steve Krug? He’s a web consultant who was once a user advocate for Netscape and AOL – he’s been around for a while! His Twitter is also chock full of thoughtful articles and fun discussions on UX.

Steve Krug - Don't Make Me Think

7. The Stranger’s Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online – Gerry McGovern

Why You Should Read It: If you read Krug’s book, then I highly recommend you read The Stranger’s Long Neck alongside it. Whereas Krug’s book focuses on UX, McGovern discusses the customer experience side of your digital presence. I love this book because of the practical tips for identifying your customers’ (or your client’s customers’) needs, which you can then use to craft your content strategy. 

Who Is Gerry McGovern? Gerry has been writing about information design and the digital experience since 1996. The Irish Times has described him as one of the top 5 most influential people in the development of the web. Check out his Twitter here.

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8. Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less – Joe Pulizzi

Why You Should Read It: Epic Content Marketing is one of those books I consider to be a classic in the industry. It walks you through a lot of basics such as identifying your niche and measuring your content’s performance. However, I like it because it emphasizes the creation of compelling content rather than distribution activities as the engine for your marketing. This is a really good read if you want to get back to the basics with a refresher.

Who Is Joe Pulizzi? He’s an entrepreneur and content marketing speaker who has written numerous books in the digital marketing field. All of his books are great. He’s on Twitter here.

9. The Context Marketing Revolution: How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media – Mathew Sweezey

Why You Should Read It: Brand new in 2020, The Context Marketing Revolution is a fascinating read that discusses how businesses in this new decade can rise above the limitless media noise. He dives into customer psychology and the research around why so many marketing campaigns fail – even when it seems like they’re deploying content strategy and marketing. It’s worth a read.

Who Is Mathew Sweezey? He’s the principal of marketing insights at Salesforce, and the author of Marketing Automation for Dummies. Follow him on Twitter here.

The Context Marketing Revolution

Get ready for science, data, and fascinating insights on how content is changing this decade. Source: The Context Marketing Revolution

10. Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content – Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Why You Should Read It: Content Everywhere is another one of those classics that anyone who’s serious about content strategy should read. It examines the role of content and then shows you how to create a cohesive “mesh” of content that drives your brand and converts your readers. By the end, you’ll know how to create content that is lively, useful, and brings your company into the future.

Who Is Sara Wachter-Boettcher? She’s a UX strategist and social justice leader. She’s got a few thought-provoking books that are worth checking out if you like smart, engaging discussions on UX and social issues. Check out her Twitter here.

11. How to Write Copy That Sells: The Step-By-Step System for More Sales, to More Customers, More Often — Ray Edwards

Why You Should Read It: How to Write Copy that Sells is the perfect complement to any content strategy library, because it guides you literally through each step of writing content that, well, sells. The strategies inside are for email marketing, web sites, social media, sales pages, ads, and direct mail — every piece of a common brand content strategy.

Who Is Ray Edwards? Ray Edwards is a copywriter and communications strategist. He’s the host of top-ranked iTunes Podcast, The Ray Edwards Show. Ray has written copy for some of the most powerful voices in business. His marketing ideas and persuasive writing have helped generate an estimated $200M in revenue for clients like Tony Robbins, Michael Hyatt, Dan Miller, Jeff Goins, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Walker, and more.

Get Hands On and Practical With My Updated Content Strategy Guide

That list covers a LOT! But did you know I’ve also written several books? 📘

And the one I’m recommending as a must-read for your content strategy library is my comprehensive guide.

Practical Content Strategy & Marketing is your one-stop-shop for creating a cohesive content strategy from the ground up. I cover everything, from how to identify your content differentiation factor to content promotion techniques – with lots and lots of exercises to guide you through the material!

Look for an update early July coming soon — it’s with the formatter now! — bringing my book fully up to speed with the changes happening in 2020. There aren’t heavy revisions, but you’ll get a more skillset-targeted read with the minor edits.

Learn Practical Content Strategy & Marketing Today

While this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of the best books on content strategy, this selection will help you dive deeper into the world of content. I’ve tried to cover a list of classics and recently published, ground-breaking works to help you get up to speed with the industry.

Any of these books will make great complementary material to an online content strategy and marketing course. Remember: knowledge is power. Happy studying!

Learn content strategy and marketing in 45 days or less with my powerful, step-by-step Practical Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

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the best book on content strategy to read

Opinions

  1. Post comment

    I recently found you on YouTube and you are a gem! All the information you are providing is exactly what I’m looking for to level up my blog writing. You are honestly a huge inspiration and this reading list came just at the right time as did you too women in marketing list. Found one great book from those women and I’m currently reading it 💃 Thank you for sharing 😊

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    1. Post comment

      Aww, you made my day, Virginia!! Thank you so much for letting me know this was helpful, and I’m thrilled you found me from YouTube — finally starting to grow after 5 years of work put in there, ha 🙂 Are you on my list?? I have a new writing course launching tomorrow!

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