How to Blog VI: 15 Tips for Guest Bloggers

by Anne R. Allen

Guest posting on blogs is a great marketing tool. The frenzy for blog tours seems to have quieted down a bit  recently, but whether you’re launching a new title, promoting an editorial service, or simply building platform, providing content for other people's blogs is still an effective way to reach potential new readers or customers in a personal, interactive way--and hey, it's free!

For writers who aren't comfortable with keeping a blog of your own, it's also a fantastic way to get yourself known in the blogosphere.  

If you’re currently marketing a book, you've probably been urged to line up some guest blogging gigs. If you’re with a big publisher, you may have a publicist who will book a blog tour for you.

Guest blogging can be a lot of fun. You can meet fascinating new people and reach out to readers. I’m so grateful to the wonderful bloggers who have hosted me. I didn’t know all the ropes at first myself, so have to admit I’ve learned some of this stuff the embarrassing way.

Unfortunately, a lot of the information on the Interwebz about guest posting isn’t specific to publishing/ writing blogs. You may hear that you should search for blogs that contain certain keywords and mass query them—or only approach bloggers with a high traffic ranking. This advice can end up wasting your time.

And, um, make you look like a doofus.

You wouldn’t believe how many emails I get like this: “Hello Blogger: I see your blog, ANNE R. ALLEN’S BLOG has an Alexa rating under 150,000, and you once wrote a post on topic X on ANNE R. ALLEN’S BLOG so I (or “my client”) would like to guest blog on ANNE R. ALLEN’S BLOG next week. We’re offering this content free of charge, Blogger.”

Do I really have to explain why that gets our hackles up? The assumption is that we don’t have enough good content of our own, we don't plan ahead, and we’ll take any old content out of the blue, sight unseen. And—try a little Golden Rule stuff here, publicists—who do you know who likes to be addressed as a generic nobody by some robot?

We want posts from people who are familiar with our blog and have something valuable to offer you, our readers—not something to throw on Blogger so Ruth and I don’t have to write a post this week.  And because we only post four times a month, every piece has to be fresh, hooky, and content-rich enough to keep our audience coming back. We also book our guests way in advance so we can drum up interest in the visit.

Here are some tips on how to avoid annoying the bloggers and get the most out of blog touring and guest-posting:

1)     Don’t judge a blog by Alexa rating alone. 

You’ll only get a small piece of the picture.

Alexa is a Web analytics company that rates websites globally according to traffic. (You can download your own rating icon by going to Google rates a 1. Amazon has an 11. Ours hovers around 125K. Most author sites are in the millions.

But if you’re an author with a southern vampire saga, a blog with a small readership of Sookie Stackhouse fans can reach more actual readers than a major blog that focuses on something like Action-SciFi or Christian romance. I learned that on my own blog tour: the guest post that generated the most sales was for the blog with the “worst” stats. But the readers were in exactly the right demographic for my romantic comedy/thriller  Food of Love.

On the other hand, if your own blog has an Alexa rating of 12 million, it’s not a good idea to approach somebody with a much better rating—especially a stranger—and expect them to welcome you with open arms. If you don’t have a blog following of your own to bring to the table, you’ve got to have some spectacular content to offer. 

2)     Don’t expect a blogger to be impressed with “free.” 

That isn’t going to impress a blogger any more than it would impress the staff of the New Yorker. Most successful blogs have a very specific style and audience and not everybody is going to be a good fit. Most author blogs are not monetized, so we’re ALL working for free.

3)     Don’t offer “content” that’s just an advertisement

Offer something of real value to the reader. This is the #1 thing we run across in guest blog offers. If we monetized, a small ad on a site like this would easily cost $25 or more per day. Professional publicists know that, so when they breezily ask for what is basically a free, week-long, full-page advertisement, it’s insulting.

4)     Make a strong pitch.

Show that your content is up to the expectations of this audience. Our blog is getting up to 80,000 hits per month, but one mediocre post can permanently lose some of that audience for us. You’re asking us to take a risk. Convince us you’re worth it.

5)     Address the blogger by name. 

And, um, if the blog is called “Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris” this shouldn’t strain anybody’s brain cells. 

6)     Make requests by email, not Tweet or FB DM. 

Those get lost and people can’t find you again. A quick pitch in the blog comments is OK with me—as long as it’s on-topic—but be careful because not all bloggers feel the same way. To me it shows you read the blog and engage with other readers, so a dynamite (short) comment pitch might get a request for more info.

7)     Um, VISIT THE BLOG! 

Read a few posts and comment. This should be no-brainer, but most of the people who query us don’t seem to have a clue what the blog is about.

It helps a lot if you’ve commented a few times, too.

NOTE: Commenting on blogs may actually be an even more effective tool than guest posting—and it sure is easier. Social Media guru Bob Mayer  said on his blog last week:

 “One of the best networking tools is to go to people’s blogs and leave cogent comments.  People tend to read the comments on their own blogs.  If you make sense, you will get noticed.”

8)     Conform to the blog’s tone. 

This blog is lighthearted and fun. Doom and gloom and a “boot camp” mentality will totally annoy our readership. So will posts that tell them to spend a lot of money on services they don’t need.

9)     Don’t offer off-topic content. 

Just because I once made a joke about airport security doesn’t mean we want to run a blogpost on the evils of the TSA. The blog header says “Writing about writing. Mostly.”  If you don’t have content for writers, you’re wasting your time.

10) Always follow the blogger’s guidelines

Some bloggers are very kind and post them. Alex J. Cavanaugh has a great set of guidelines here. We don’t post ours, because with four posts a month, we take very few guests and we don’t want to be swamped with offers we have to turn down. Make sure you find out how soon they need the material (I like a long lead time, so I can pimp the post.) Also find out what the word count needs to be. (This varies widely, so always ask.)

11) Include pictures, bio and links and send your copy as an attachment

Don't make the blogger look up your buy pages, or go to your website for your publicity package. Your copy should contain live links, and you should attach a .jpg of your book cover and your author photo. You can also include a short blurb for your book, if you’re promoting one, but make it short and sweet. The blogger may not use your blurb, but it’s worth sending one along. NOTE: It's best to send your copy in a Word.doc (Word 2003) not a .docx, since .docx files can be incompatible with a lot of programs. 

12)  Offer a giveaway of your book.

Not every blog does give-aways (we don't do them often) but it's common practice, so be prepared to offer one.

13) Plan to be available to respond to comments 

And check in for several days after.

14) Promote the guest post on social media

Tweet, FB, and link from your own blog. You want people to read it, right?

15) Remember to thank the blogger

Either in the comment thread or a follow-up email. They are giving you free advertising, so a little gratitude is in order.

The rules for queries are actually pretty much the same whether you’re querying an agent, a reviewer, a blogger or a potential boss: find out who the person is before you take up their time— then take up as little of it as possible.

Personally, who am I most likely to invite to guest post? Somebody who comments regularly and has interesting ideas, not just a product to sell.

Ruth and I love our guest bloggers and we’ve had some of the best: The legendary Lawrence Block , Golden Globe winner Terence Stamp, Amazon #1 seller Catherine Ryan Hyde , uberblogger Nathan Bransford, Molly Greene, Jami Gold, Nina BadzinSamuel Park , Janice HardyJeff Carlson , Elizabeth S. Craig , Roni Loren , Kim Wright , Michael Brandman , Michelle Davidson Argyle , agents Danielle Smith, Laurie McLean and Pamela Van Hylckama Vlieg, publisher Mark Williams—and of course NYT million-seller Ruth Harris (who was such a popular guest I wouldn’t let her leave) –thank you all!

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