Copywriting research starts at Homerton Library

or how Henry uncovered the Homerton Library conspiracy

I’d developed a foolproof seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER. Now I just had to execute it.

Where to start?

I rolled a one. Yes, I was going to Do Way More Research.

Where does research start? AT THE LIBRARY!

1. Getting to Homerton Library

I showered, squeezed into a button shirt and made my way to the library.

While walking I hummed everyone’s favourite song about libraries. Yeah, that one from Arthur.

Having fun isn’t hard,

When you’ve got a library card.

(That’s right!)

Having fun isn’t hard,

When you’ve got a library card.

Remembering the nation’s best-loved aardvark was a reassurance and useful for my future career (aardvark is a good copywriting word because it starts with two a’s). Surely the library wouldn’t be a bore at all!

Then I remembered that I didn’t have a library card.

Did that mean I couldn’t have any fun and more importantly couldn’t do any work?

Probably.

But I was almost halfway there. I couldn’t turn back. Valiantly, I strode on.

2. Enter the library

The foyer smelled like bleach and primary school lunches. It was only 10:00am but already uniformed children were stalking the corridors (probably hiding from bullies).

This all brought back painful childhood memories so I hastily passed through the metal detectors and entered the book room.

I was almost knocked out by the heat. It was tropical.

Now between the bookcases I pulled out my imaginary binoculars and took a moment to admire the wildlife:

  • A suit perched on a low padded chair. No book just a phone. He was definitely pretending to be there for a business meeting.
  • A hippy reading a vegan cookbook. He must be trying to figure out how to make his tinned spaghetti & sausages more palatable.
  • Three evenly spaced shadows hunched over keyboards all scrolling through Facebook. It must be that time of the week when people need to update their universal credit claimant commitments with job search activity.

I carefully placed my imaginary binoculars back. As the world spins it’s heartening to know that some things will never change.

I made my way to Librarian Island. 

I’ve lost my library card. I need a new one.

The only librarian sitting in front of a computer gave me a disgusted look, “I don’t know how to use the new system.” She turned to her coworker, “Darnell, can you help him?

And for once Darnell’s shaking head was a resounding yes! Of course he could!

Darnell sat me down and went through the secure library card recovery procedure, “What’s your first and last name?” – Yeah, that was it. He didn’t even ask for my address.

Library card fraud is an opportunity

Hell, if the whole copywriting thing didn’t work library card fraud might.

THE PLAN: Get someone’s first and last name, take out smutty books (Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight), scrawl dreams of kidnapping onto the blank pages at the back, date them and proceed to blackmail whichever irresponsible person didn’t shred their junk mail.

Darnell found my account and promptly demanded £12. Apparently I’d never returned a book on the Rolling Stones. That didn’t sound like me. I way prefer the Stooges.

It was a difficult decision. I didn’t want to give Homerton Library £12. I was unemployed. But eventually I complied. I needed access to free books.

He then handed me my magnificent new key to knowledge. It had pictures of cyclists in London Fields. GREAT!

But where to start? I knew the Dewey Decimal System by heart, but where do copywriting and technology fit into its ten categories? Was it general works, philosophy and psychology, religion, social sciences, language or history, biography, and geography?

Where would writing to trick people and make money fit into that list? Probably religion.

Luckily I didn’t have to ponder for too long, there were signs for those less gifted than I.

3. Who buys books for libraries?

I was directed to the technology section.

Pursuing the books was a disaster. They were dreadful.

Quick Steps Microsoft Word 2003, Step by Step Microsoft Word 2016, My Facebook for Seniors, DK’s Effective Marketing and Successful Marketing Plans in a Week. HG Wells’ War of the Worlds was there too.

Damn.

Once again Arthur had wasted my time. There definitely weren’t any decent books at the library and I wasn’t having any fun at all.

Maybe I was looking in the wrong section.

I accessed the online catalogue. I knew the title of one book that I wanted to borrow, Ogilvy on Advertising.

Apparently there were only two copies in London and they’d been missing in action since 2011 and March 2019 respectively.

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4. Settle with what’s there

I knew then that going to the library was just like dating.

I was going to have to follow my parents example and settle with ripping trodden chewing gum from the pavement and making the best of it.

So here’s to making the best of it!

I borrowed:

  1. Persuasive Copywriting, Andy Maslen
  2. Writing Great Copy, Sallyann Sheridan
  3. The Golden Rules of Blogging, Robin Houghton
  4. Creative Advertising: An Introduction, Miriam Sorrentino (this one looked good, it had pictures)
  5. How to Write a Marketing Plan, John Westwood
  6. SEO for Dummies, Peter Kent

All six looked shit but they were going to have to do.

Who knew? They’d probably be the backbone of a later extremely well received post on my blog entitled Top Six Books Copywriters should Totally NOT Bother Reading. I was at an advantage. Unlike the other lists of top books copywriters should read (here, here and here) at least I’d actually read the books in mine.

Homerton Library had given me until 11th June to make this list. I was going to need to move faster than that though. I set a timer and said to myself softly, “Henry, you’ve got until Sunday. Go.

5. What I learned about the library

I had the books, but while at the library I think I may have uncovered something much more sinister.

Face it. Here’s what sinister looks like spelled out in black and white:

  • £12 library fines.
  • Unemployed patrons.
  • A selection of books that actually reduce your chances of finding work.
  • An extortionate staffing and heating budget.

You’ve already figured it out, haven’t you?

Yes, Homerton Library was in cahoots with all the self help publishers. It was delivering an effective plan to make sure people stayed unemployed and kept getting fined (I wasn’t sure how, but they must have been). It was like the Department for Work and Pensions but more creative.

It was my civic duty to expose them and uncover this conspiracy.

But first, I had to read all these books.

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