A review of reviews of Ann Handley’s ‘Everybody Writes’

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I wanted to write a review of Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes but a few dozen people beat me to it.

So instead, here’s a review of the reviews of Ann Handley’s new book Everybody Writes.

When you’re done, you won’t need to read another review of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes — but you will probably have to read Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. Here goes:

Everybody Writes: The Book All Content Marketers Need at Their Desk

by Alex Barca on the Curata blog

Alex gets straight to the point and offers four reasons we all need this book next to our desks (it’s comprehensive, fun to read, humanises content and is inspiring – sorry if I over-boiled that Alex but this is the age of the short atten-).

She then follows up with an interview with Ann (Ann gives really good interviews). I like her answer to the question, ‘Why did you write the book?’:

“I wrote this book because I couldn’t find what I wanted—part writing guide, part handbook on the rules of good sportsmanship in content marketing (based on the rules of journalism, in part), and all-around reliable desk companion for anyone creating or directing content on behalf of brands.”

Which is about as good a description of the book as you’d expect from the person who wrote it and who also is such a good writer that she wrote a book about writing.

Book Review: Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

by Charlotte Litley on the Bad Language blog

I don’t think Ann would approve of Charlotte’s opening line, “Ann Handley is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and our very own Matthew Stibbe is speaking at their 2014 B2B Marketing Forum in Boston in October.” It kind of jumps too fast to a tangential promotional message, cramming Matthew Stibbe right up against Ann in an unseemly sentence. But hey, that’s a quibble.

Charlotte then gives a quick summary of each chapter of Handley’s book. It’s a good tactic if you’re not sure how to structure a book review – which I’m (clearly) not.  I’ve used exactly this technique before (when I reviewed Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In – which is, like Ann Handley’s book ‘Everybody Writes‘, excellent). (Did I just do a Stibbe?). (It felt relevant).

Charlotte ends with a well-chosen quote from Nancy Duarte in the foreword to Ann’s book (Everybody Writes). Nancy says, “‘This book inspires you to become a stronger writer. And it does so with style’.” I agree both with Nancy and with Charlotte on this.

Everybody Writes – A Short Review of Ann Handley’s New Book [VIDEO]

by Tim Miles on the Miles & Co blog

Okay, I’m starting to see a pattern in headlines about Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes. They all have the title of the book in the headline and they all mention Ann Handley. I think this is a good idea and I hereby adopt it for my own meta-review.

Tim does, however, kind of spoil his otherwise tidy headline with that Tourettes-like brackety-shout, “[VIDEO]“.  I guess if  I’d gone to the trouble of doing a video review of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes, I’d want people to know about it right up front. People like video a lot more than they like book reviews which is why Google never paid a squajillion dollars for a website called BookReviewTube.

It’s a good video. Tim has a natural telegenic thing going on. The audio is a bit boomy but who am I, Quentin Tanrantino? [I am not].
[Oddly, and, decidedly asidedly, the headline “A review of Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes” scored only a 33% EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) on the Advanced Marketing Institute’s (free!) Headline Analyzer that I recently heard about on a podcast that had Sarah Mitchell in it.

So I pumped up the emotion and tested the headline, “Why I passionately love Ann Handley’s new book, ‘Everybody Writes'” and, baffingly, got a 30% EMV.  Adding ‘love’ and ‘passion’ actually lost me three emotion points.  Getting desperate, I went all Buzzfeed with, “7 reasons I adore Ann Handley’s new book, ‘Everybody Writes’ – the third one will shock you stupid till you drool like I did.” and what did I get? Still a measley 30%.  To which I can only say, what the HELL does the Advanced Marketing Institute want from a headline?]

Tim is clearly a student of books about writing because he gives a list of his favourite books about writing, to which he has just added Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes.

Tim likes:

[I am SO glad the links came with that cut & pasted list.]

[Bird by Bird?!]

This is a formidable list and if I were Ann (which, I assure you, despite the weirdness of this post which might, to a reader of, say Nabokov, hint that I am indeed Ann Handley disguised as Doug Kessler writing a book review about my own book, I am not and have never been) I would be really honoured to be on it.

Tim, like Charlotte, does a whistlestop tour of the six sections of the book (you know the one) and ends with, (Oh, and PS – I’m not affiliated with Ann in any way. She didn’t pay us or provide us with a review copy of the book or anything. We just thought it was—as my four-year-old-for-another-week daughter says—a big ole’ bucket of crazy awesome!)

Which is either the coolest disclosure statement I’ve seen in a while or a bit of a whinge that Ann didn’t even give the guy a free book despite all he’s done for her. Or both.

In any case, I wish Tim’s daughter a very happy fourth birthday which has probably now long passed. (They grow up so darn fast.) I don’t know about you, but I think Tim (or his wife or brother or something) prompted his daughter to say that cute thing about a ‘big ole bucket of crazy awesome’. I mean, she wasn’t even four. [This is not churlish. Just because someone taught her to say something cute does not detract from the fact that it patently is cute.]  We both, you and I, need to move on now.

Customer Reviews: Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

from Amazon.com

Oh, man, this is a whole new barrel of reviews. I can’t review them all but there are some doozies in there (admittedly a few are by Anne’s friends but can you seriously look at me and tell me that if you’d written a book and it was on Amazon your friends wouldn’t get on there and post some great review action for  you? Of course they would.)

It doesn’t get much better than this:

Ann Handley's Amazon reviews so far

One stingy thing (hard g stingy (painful) not soft g stingy (miserly)): the Amazon listing quotes ‘From the back cover, praise for Everybody Writes’ and lists the blurbs by David Meerman Scott and Brian Clark and Kristina Halvorson and Ardath Albee and Jay Baer and Andrew M Davis and it does not list mine.  And I did a really good (and sincere) gushy one for her!

So someone — Ann or her publisher or someone – decided that either my quote was NOT as good as I thought it was (it so was) or, far more likely, decided that Doug Kessler just doesn’t carry the whomp of a David Meerman Scott or a Brian Clark or a Kristina Halvorson or an Ardath Albee or a Jay Baer or an Andrew M Davis.
[Pause for the sheer audacity of that to sink in.]
Okay, I can see their point.

But it still stings.

(Maybe this is why Ann hasn’t sent me a copy of her new book: because I got dropped from the back cover and she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Well she should have thought about that before she let that publisher prick dump me is all I can say. And anyhow, did she think I wouldn’t get a copy and find out? Sheesh.)
[Even shorter pause while I get over myself…. 2…1….. I’m good.]
The Amazon reviews are all enthusiastic but in a convincing way not in a ‘her friend wrote that’ kind of way. Here are some headlines:

“Ridiculously valuable reference for the marketing writer with lots of specific “how to” guidance” – P.G.Bartlett.

[which got a 35.71% EMV score. For crying out loud.]

“A great resource that is easily accessible and will be often referenced. You will see results.” – Ryan J. DeJonghe

[37.5% EMV — I clearly am an amateur at headline writing even though I’ve done it for like 30 years.]

“Absolutely fantastic book for everyone who writes…so, everyone!” by “Kelly Gorgone, Writer, Speaker, Lawyer, Educator”

(Who, I KNOW is, as well as being all those things, a really good friend of Ann’s but who I know also has integrity and if she HATED the book would find some excuse to not review it. She would.)

[Her headline got a WHOPPING 62.5% EMV score!  You go Kerry!]

“A very useful and actionable business book” – A. Kuenn “Arnie K”

Is that the best you could do, Arnie K? Are you Ann’s friend or are you just some guy – because if you’re the former I think you could have done better than that (but if you’re the latter, never mind I guess).

[Score: 28.57% EMV.  Thank CHRIST for that. I was beginning to wonder about the Advanced Marketing Institute’s (still free!) Headline Analyzer.]

You get the idea: people on Amazon really like Ann’s book.

An aside (if you can call anything in this ridiculously meandering piece an aside): if it weren’t for the Amazon listing, I would not have even included Ann’s excellent subtitle in this review of reviews. And I am not alone. The others forgot it too. Which is a shame.

Marketing Book Worth a Look: Ann Handley’s “Everybody Writes”

Why Reading This Book Will Help You Write Ridiculously Good Content 

by Deanna Lazzaroni on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog

This review kicks off a brand new series called “Marketing Books Worth A Look”. Again, another honor (I’m starting to resent Ann Goddamn Handley just a teensy bit, are you?).

Deanna goes the business-like route in her excellent (in both senses: well-written review and positive review) review, with three subheads, “Why Ann wrote Everybody Writes”, “Why you should read it” and “What you’ll learn”.

She also links to a ‘Meet the Marketer’ interview with Ann (LinkedIn called last week Ann Handley Week).

Nice one, Deanna.

Page two of the Google results for ‘Reviews of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes’ is one click away, but…

This has to stop somewhere and it’s not going to stop by me running out of reviews of Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes.

It’s just going to stop.


For the record: I really like Ann Handley’s new book, ‘Everybody Writes’. It, like Ann, is smart, funny, charmingly self-deprecating and extremely helpful. It’s full of practical advice that digs deeper than the standard writing tips. And it puts writing in the context of content marketing, which is timely and unique and clever as all heck.

And, as you have become aware, I have not received a free book to say so.

(You now also know why).


Time to start a Velocity Book Club!


I wanted to comment on Doug Kessler’s Review of Reviews of Everybody Writes. But since Daniel already beat me to it (hi, Daniel!), I decided to instead review Doug Kessler’s review of the book’s reviews.

It’s a little complicated, maybe. So an infographic, a compass and divining rod will come bundled with this comment.

Hence the title of this comment/review post here. The Headline Analyzer tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute (referenced by Doug above) had this to say about it: Your Headline’s EMV Score: 61.54%

I honestly feel like I could just pack it up now and coast on that score for another few years, because that’s a pretty darn good score, isn’t it? And since I’m bragging, let me point out that the Headline Analyzer added this commentary to my score:

“[M]ost professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30%-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words in headlines.”

Gifted. GIFTED!

But here’s the thing: I didn’t really copy-write anything original did I? What I actually am gifted at, according to the Headline Analyzer, is stealing Doug Kessler’s headlines and improving upon them!

Wow! Good content is a a piece of cake, when all you need to do is know who to steal from! SWEET.

But anyway. Back to the Review of the Review of the Reviews.

I found Doug Kessler’s Review of Everybody Writes Reviews to be a gripping read. All the necessary elements of ridiculously good content were there: The emotional, the utility, the inspiration.

And speaking of emotion, clearly it’s running high over his book praise quote being swept off the back cover. Doug implies that the sweeping was unceremonious — that it was done as if with a clumsy push-broom across a messy manufacturing floor.

But that is not true, and someone needs to find him in whatever bar he’s drinking away his sorrows in today and shake him hard, then let him know that his generous comment was actually lovingly tucked into the book itself, alongside Mitch Joel, Joe Pulizzi, and Michael Brenner, and Sonia Simone, among others.

Are these people hacks, Doug? Is that what you are implying? I think you’ll have to answer to them before you start slinging words like “prick-dump” at me.

Also, no one in America knows what “prick-dump” means.

[Dear Reader: The above section of the Review of Review of Reviews is actually a big deflection. Doug asks, “Did Ann think I’d never see the book?” And it’s true: I DID hope Doug would never see the book and notice his booting off the back cover. Which is why I’ve limited the book’s distribution to places where Doug is not likely to visit — southern New Hampshire, Spanish Harlem, west of the Merritt Parkway, and the less-populated counties (<.0100 PSI) in America's Heartland.]

To sum up, for anyone still reading (hi, Doug!):

1. I love this review of reviews. I said on Twitter that you are the David Foster Wallace of content marketing. And your parenthetical asides and commentary make it so.

2. You are seriously great. You inspire me personally and elevate our entire industry with your wit, generosity, humor and humility.

3. Thank you for being my friend.

I had the same idea — read the book, write a review, post it on storycroft.com, etc… But, yeah, everybody else beat me to it and said everything better than I could’ve said it. So… this was a great idea, to compile reviews… I will add one thing, and forgive me if it’s in all of this somewhere already, but: Buy a print version instead of an e-version. I read “Everybody Writes” on my Kindle. I’m going to have to buy a bound copy so I can keep it handy, scribble on it, dog-ear pages, etc. It’s that kind of book. Fun to read, fun to flip through going, “Where was that part about that thing…?”

“A Review of Ann Handley’s Review of Reviews of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes” gets me only
61.54% EMV so I think we’ve hit the law of diminishing returns.

Ann’s review of my review of the reviews of her book is, annoyingly, better than my review of the reviews of her book.

So I’d better give up.

And I didn’t know my blurb was on the inside of the book, with Pulizzi and Joel and Brenner and Simone. I feel better now. Please apologise to your publisher for calling him or her a prick. And to my fellow log-rollers for implying I was disappointed to be stuck inside with them while the glamour crowd shouted their clearly insincere praise from the back cover, where quotes can actually drive sales (“Buy this!”) instead of simply offering reassurance (“Aren’t you glad you bought this?”).

I never thought the Merritt Parkway would be mentioned on the Velocity blog and I surely never thought the word ‘prick-dump’ would be either* — but both on the same page? Venus has indeed aligned with Mars and the result beats the shit out of ‘Hair’ on even its best night. THIS my friend, is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

And I agree with Jay Croft: buy the paper edition not the Kindle edition. You can’t tuck the Kindle edition up next to Stunk & White or Fowler or ‘Bird by Bird’ (to which I still say WTF?!!).

And thanks for rescuing what might have been (no, let’s face it, probably was) a really stupid idea (a review of reviews) by laughing in all the right places and commenting graciously instead of snipingly or defending your publisher (who I think we both know showed bad judgement on the ‘who’s in, who’s on back’ front but hey — we all make bad decisions (demoting Kessler) and good ones (publishing Handley).

Even though I don’t even know what a Bygone is I am prepared to let one be one just this once.

* BTW, Ann, I didn’t mean ‘prick dump’ as a verb. I meant ‘publisher-prick’ as the subject and ‘dump’ as the verb. But I kind of like ‘prick dump’ as a verb in the slam-dunk family (despite the gross fluid-dynamics it implies) (and everything else it implies) and it’s not like I coin words every day even accidentally, so I hereby submit ‘prick dump’ to the Oxford English Dictionary for inclusion in the next edition. I leave it to them to define it.

That was exhausting.

If you think it was exhausting to read, Oli, imagine writing the bastard.
It kept me up past my bedtime (which explains some of the hallucinogenic qualities).

This is amazingly funny and very meta. (And I love all things meta – I once made an infographic of infographics and I do content marketing for a content marketing software company). As someone whose review was reviewed, I also chuckled in all the right places— even though you referred to me as “he” instead of “she” :).

I think we can all agree that Ann’s book is worth a read!

I just stumbled across the story behind “Bird by Bird”. Great read: http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/11/22/bird-by-bird-anne-lamott/

That’s cool! Turns out ‘Bird by Bird’ is a very cool title…

For the record, “We just thought it was—as my four-year-old-for-another-week daughter says—a big ole’ bucket of crazy awesome!)“ means she was a week away from her 5th birthday… She had another whole year of living life to come up with that great quote than you gave her credit for! 😉

    Need video.

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