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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Guest Blogging for Authors: 10 Tips to Help You Land Those Valuable Guest Blog Gigs

Guest blogging is a great way for writers to improve visibility. Most host bloggers will allow you to link to your website and to your book "buy" pages, so the post can both improve your name recognition and sell books. It's free advertising and boosts your search engine rank.

Some authors don't have their own blogs and manage to do very well by simply guesting on other blogs several times a month. Ruth Harris did that before I roped her into invited her to join me here.

You don't have to be a published author to benefit. Guest blogging before you have a book out is a good way to pave the way for a launch, and it's an excellent way to raise your profile if you're a freelancer.

But don't assume all bloggers will welcome you. The higher ranked the blog, the more guest blog queries they're getting—and they may be burned out on the whole process.

Here we often get ten or more queries a day, which makes me sad, because we have to turn away most of them. We host a maximum of 12 guests a year, and book many months in advance. We don't often find the experts we need in "cold" email queries.

There are exceptions: the hilarious Melodie Campbell asked to guest blog with a friendly email query. Since she's a well-known author, creative writing teacher, and the President of Crime Writers of Canada, we were honored she wanted to visit.

She'd also been following the blog and mentioned several of her favorite posts, which made her a shoo-in. We've since become cyberfriends and I'm devouring her books.

Unfortunately, not many queriers are like Melodie. In fact, the one thing 99% of requests have in common is they show the writer hasn't visited the blog (although they give it high, generic praise.) But they don't have the slightest idea what the blog is about or who our readers are. Very few have read our "contact us" page.

They usually offer to blog about "the subject of your choice" and the only thing they seem to know about us is that our Alexa rating is low (a good thing) and our readership numbers are high (thanks, you guys!). They don't realize this is a slow blog focused on the publishing industry, and with only 4 posts a month, each post has to offer something pretty special to keep those numbers where they are.

I usually answer each query individually (which makes me feel some empathy with agents and editors.) I thank the writers and wish them all the best in their careers and then suggest that they, um, read a blog before querying.

After a morning in the guest-blog-request trenches, I decided to do some research. I discovered guest blogging is a hot topic in social marketing circles these days. That's because it is now one of the most popular ways to raise SEO and get backlinks to websites.

Unfortunately, it has also become a preferred venue for dodgy marketers and spammers. Many will provide mediocre content full of links to websites unrelated to the post—sometimes ads for male enhancement pills and "adult" sites.

Yeah, I felt kinda dumb when I realized I'd been working so hard to spare the feelings of porn spammers.

The spam problem has become so bad that Matt Cutts, a major Google blogger, says guest blogging has burned itself out. Last month he announced that guest blogging is dead.

Do note that other experts, like blog guru Jon Morrow, say it's only the low-quality content that's been consigned to the trash heap.

Certainly not every potential guest is offering spammy content. Many queries come from editing professionals, designers and fellow authors who might have something worthwhile to share.

Trouble is, they usually approach in an impersonal way and—although they may reference one post—don't have a feel for our tone or content. Often they make demands but don't offer much in return. Yes, we know it will help your book launch to get your covers and links in front of our 40,000 monthly readers. But if your post is simply a thinly disguised ad for your book or services, visitors will click away and may not come back.

Also, guest posts seldom get the hits our own posts do (readers seem to view guests like substitute teachers—not really part of the curriculum.) So a guest spot is something of a gift. You need to make bloggers want to turn their own bookselling platform over to you, either because you have a big following of your own, offer something fresh and unique, or they like you. Preferably all of the above.

Getting your (high quality) work onto a well-known blog is still one of the best ways to raise your search engine profile. The marketers are right about getting those "backlinks" from the blog to your site. It's a great way to get the Google spider-bots to notice you and raise your own website or blog higher on a Google search page.

But selling books isn't the same as selling shampoo or refrigerators.

With books, you're often better off targeting lesser-known blogs. Forget the SEO and Alexa ratings. Look for blogs that address your audience's niche. A visit to a chick lit blog with 50 followers may sell more copies of your chick lit novel than a visit to a general interest blog with 2500.

Here are some tips for authors who want to try guest blogging:

1) Read the blog before you query. Not just one post. Read several—and make sure you check the comments. That's how you can tell if the audience is right for the topic you're pitching. You don't want to pitch a "how to send your first query letter" post to an audience of published authors or a technical post on SEO to a poetry circle.

In fact, you can get great ideas for topics to write about by reading what people are asking questions about in the comments.

2) Comment on the blog. If bloggers have seen your name before, they're going to pay more attention to your query. The best way to break in is to get to know other bloggers and the blog community.

If you show your expertise in a certain subject in a blog comment, the blogger may even seek you out and ask you to be a guest. That's how we find most of our guests: in the comment thread. Not a query in a comment thread (don't do this), but with a useful comment that shows expertise and good writing skills.

It's how I connected with Ruth Harris. She commented several times on this blog and remembered reading her books when they were on the NYT bestseller list, saw she had no blog of her own at that point, and...the rest is history.

3) Learn how to write blog content. That means using sub-headers, lists, bullet points, bolding, and lots of white space. Older writers like me have a lot of re-learning to do when we start to blog.

I'll be writing a post soon about writing 21st century prose. Whether you're writing fiction, essays or blogposts, you attract more readers these days if you can write concise, skimmable copy.

4) Use a friendly, personal tone. A blogpost is not a news article, college thesis, or tech manual. Offer information in an entertaining, non-condescending way. Keep things light and encouraging. If you have a tale of woe, make sure the ending is hopeful and upbeat. (And be careful of language. Make sure it's appropriate for the blog. If you want to guest for somebody like Chuck Wendig, it's fine to go all four-letter in the text. On this blog, not so much.)

5) Don't just target book blogs. Think about where your readers might hang out.

  • Write crafting cozies? Try a blog that talks about selling crafts on Etsy. Crafters are probably going to be more excited about a new mystery about a crocheting sleuth than a bunch of writers whose Kindles are already overloaded. 
  • Have a war memoir? Find some blogs about veterans' issues. Most visitors might only buy two or three books a year, but if they "know" you, one might be yours. 
  • Set your thriller in an exotic local? Look to travel blogs. Travelers love to read books set in a country they're planning to visit—or would like to revisit via armchair.

6) Read the guidelines. If a blog doesn't have a separate "guest blog guidelines" page, it may be because they don't take many guests. But there will usually be a "contact us" page, so check it out. Bloggers sometimes don't give guidelines a separate page because spammers have been taught to search for guest blog gigs by Googling the blog name with "guest post guidelines".

But if they're posted anywhere, read them. Some bloggers may prefer to give you a topic, or may offer questions so the post can be in interview format. They may have specific requirements for number and size of photos and/or word count. They may suggest you offer a book give-away. Don't assume you "know the ropes". Guidelines are there for a reason.

Note: "guidelines" is something of a misnomer. Whether you're querying agents, publishers, journals, or blogs, "guidelines" usually means "ironclad rules".

7) Check out other guest posts. If you're a beginning freelance writer, you probably won't land a spot on a blog where bestselling authors and movie stars go to promote their books. You also won't benefit from guesting if the blogger has been lazy and accepts a lot of mediocre content.

Here our guests have mostly been seasoned authors, award winners, or experts in their fields (and yes, we've hosted a movie star). They also need to be good general-interest writers who don't use too much jargon, because tech-speak reads like Klingon to a lot of our readers (it sure does to me). A humorous approach is a big plus.

But you don't have to be a movie star or a bestseller to guest for us. You do need to be experienced in writing solid Web content and have something unique to say.

Here are some examples of guests who hit it out of the park for us:

Individualize your pitch to each specific blog. We don't post personal stories, but lots of blogs do. Bloggers are usually happy to get success (or failure) stories, interesting anecdotes about researching your book, posts based on your book research or funny stories about the writing life. A lot of blogs like interviews, too.

8) Don't spam. Offer new, useful, informative content and make sure you're not writing a thinly disguised advertisement for your own book or services. This is important. I see way too many guest posts that are just ad copy.

9)  Write a professional query via email. Write it like any other query. Open with a mention of why you're querying this particular blogger. Then pitch your project. Follow up with your credentials and links to your "clips" on your own blog or guest posts.

Note: as I said above, DON'T request a guest spot via comment thread, tweet or direct message. When I wrote about guest blogging two years ago, somebody actually pasted a query into the comments, showing they hadn't read a word of the post.

...so for those people, here's a bonus tip:

10) Read the blog. Seriously.

Guest blogging is one of the best ways to build your platform—and it's free advertising for your books. But remember you're asking for a favor. For more tips for guest bloggers see part 6 of my "How to Blog" series.

If you're a new writer without a presence in the blogosphere, it may be worth your while to launch your book with a professional blog tour, which will involve guest blogging as well as interviews and reviews. It will cost you some money, but doesn't have to be hugely expensive.

This week indie advocate Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an in-depth piece on her own experiences with guest blogging. (But you might want to turn off your speakers first. She has a strange audio ad for air freshener that kind of freaked me out.)

For a list of some vetted blog tour companies with price comparisons, see Greg Strandberg's post on Joel Friedlander's blog of February 5th. Greg's own blog is BigSkyWords.

What about you scriveners? Do you host guests on your blog? Have you been a guest? Have you had good experiences? What tips would you give new guest bloggers?

We LOVE comments. If you have trouble commenting because Blogger elves won't accept your ID (They prefer GooglePlus IDs, because they're owned by Google, alas) just email me through the "contact us" page and I'll personally post your comment.

This week I'm taking my own advice and doing some guest blogging myself. On 2/17, I'll be at Romance University talking about how authors can stay safe online, and on 2/19, I'll be visiting the Insecure Writers Support Group, with an author's guide on how not to spam.

Also: There's still time to vote. Our blog has been nominated by Indies Unlimited for "Best Resource for Indies"—one of just 7 blogs—along with Kristen Lamb, Joel Friedlander "The Book Designer", The Passive Voice, The Creative Penn, David Gaughran's "Let's Get Digital", and The Indie View. Anybody can vote over at Indies Unlimited. Voting closes on February 21st at 5 PM Pacific time.


The Camilla Randall Mysteries

9 Months on Amazon's Humor Bestseller list!

Although the normal price is $4.99, this boxed set is only .99 on Amazon right now—for reasons known only to the Mighty Zon. 

Well, that didn't last long. It's back up to $4.99 at Amazon. But hey it's still an amazing deal: three funny mysteries for the price of a Venti Caramel Latte.

So if you've been thinking of taking a look at my loopy, but oh-so-polite sleuth's misadventures, grab this set while it's cheap. I have no idea if the price is down on international sites, because they don't let us see the pricing, but here are the links so you can check it out.

also available on NOOK and may or may not be on Kobo, which my publisher describes as "an enigma wrapped up in a mystery and sealed with superglue."

"The Best Revenge, Ghost Writers in the Sky and Sherwood Limited are hysterical. Anne Allen will keep you laughing throughout, but in the meantime she dabbles her fingers in some topics worth some serious thought: sexism, weightism, lechery, murder, duplicity, homelessness & poverty to name a few. If you love to laugh, you'll like these three books. If you love to think, ponder AND laugh, be ready to fall in love"... C.S. Perryess aka the Wordmonger


Writers' Village International Short Fiction AwardEntry fee £15. This is a biggie. Stories in English up to 3000 words in any genre from anywhere in the world. £3000 First Prize. Judges include iconic mystery author Lawrence Block and Whitbread & Orange short-lister Jill Dawson. £4500 ($7200) in total prizes. The top 50 contestants also get a free critique of their stories. Deadline June 30th.

The 11th Yeovil International Literary Prize now open for entries  Prize categories for novels, short fiction, poetry. Entry fee £11 for novels. 1st prize £1000. Deadline May 31st.

GLIMMER TRAIN FAMILY MATTERS CONTEST $1500 prize, plus publication in Glimmer Train Stories, plus 20 copies. $15 ENTRY FEE. They're looking for stories about families of all configurations. It's fine to draw on real experiences, but the work must read like fiction. Maximum word count: 12,000. Any shorter lengths are welcome. Deadline March 31.

Women Writers:  MSLEXIA SHORT STORY COMPETITION  £10 ENTRY FEE. A competition for unpublished short stories of up to 2,200 words. First prize £2,000 plus two optional extras: a week’s writing retreat at Chawton House Library outside of London, and a day with a Virago editor. Second prize: £500. Third prize: £250. Three other finalists each receive £100.  All winning stories will be published in the Jun/Jul/Aug 2014 edition of Mslexia. Deadline March 17

The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize: now open to UK self-publishers as well as traditional publishers. Fiction Uncovered seeks to promote emerging and deserving British fiction writers of outstanding work, looking beyond the debuts and the bestsellers. Debut works of fiction are not eligible. Be sure to follow the guidelines on the Fiction Uncovered siteDeadline has been extended to March 3rd.

Women on Writing Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.  $10 ENTRY FEE. Judged by literary agent Stephany Evans. WORD COUNT: Maximum: 750, Minimum: 250 The title is not counted in your word count. Any style or genre. Deadline February 28.

Dark Continents Publishing's Guns and Romances anthology. They're looking for previously unpublished short fiction from 3500-9000 words. Any genre as long as there's a tough protagonist, weapons, and... at least one reference to music. Sounds interesting. Payment rate is a one-off of $20 per story plus a percentage of the ebook royalties. Publication estimated in late-2014. More info on the website. Deadline February 28.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now I feel really honored you let me guest here!
Your guidelines are very similar to mine. I want to feature those who know my blog and interact with me already. I know them and I'm comfortable with them.
I know how many spam ones I get, so I can only imagine how many you get.
And those guidelines really are more than that. I've learned the hard way to stick to them no matter what. If I'm the one seeking a guest spot, I know I need to follow the guidelines because it's just courteous.

February 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Sarah Allen said...

Such wonderful advice! I can always count on this blog for directly relevant and practical content. One of my goals for this new year is turning it up on my guest post work, so this will come in very handy.

February 16, 2014 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Trekelny said...

Again? AGAIN! Another brilliant post on a topic I never thought of. I've BEEN blogging, including having guests, and it never crossed my mind. Anne, your blog is my cyber-equivalent of taking vitamins... which I also keep forgetting to do, damn me...
To be honest, with my writing going so slowly this past year, I've come to enjoy the blogging more. The shared site I'm on does more with the just-starting-out, not-yet-famous end of the spectrum than you would see here. More angst, less certainty, steady on the humor.
If an agent queried me for a writing sample (wake up, Will!), I'd probably look over at the mass of tangled, complex epic fantasy I have, and then link to one of my recent blog posts. I've enjoyed them just as much, and the readership is certainly higher. And you yourself have told us, what you blog is part of your body of work too. The posts, guests and comments here have always been fabulous. Thanks Anne!

February 16, 2014 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Anne: Great advice, as usual. Thanks to having known your mom for so many years, I've followed your blog ever since. And, once in a while I quote you on mine, especially your witty one-liners. You make my Sunday.

February 16, 2014 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

Anne, thank you for linking back to those great guest posts you had on your blog. Nice to have all the links grouped together like that.
Hope someday I'll have something valuable to offer as a guest.. :-)

February 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice. I get a lot of requests I have to turn down too. I agonize about all the ones I have to say no to. I agree that people should read the blogs to be sure they have a topic that would fit. And I tend to say no more if the person doesn't have a web presence and if they aren't on some of the basics like Goodreads if they are a published author.

February 16, 2014 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--You were a great guest! The only reason I didn't give your post a shout-out here is that you're getting the spotlight in a post here in March. Congrats on your bestseller! #68 in author rank is amazing! And you're so right that following guidelines is essential.

February 16, 2014 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Trekelny--Isn't it great when you find out you've been doing it right and didn't even know it? Blogging isn't just about sales for your novels. Your blog is indeed part of your body of work. I've been amazed at how much I enjoy it. For most of my life I hated writing any kind of nonfic. It all felt like homework. Now it's way easier than getting into my WIP.

February 16, 2014 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--Always happy to help out a cousin :-) Who knows? Maybe we are related. Guest blogging tends to be overlooked when we talk about book marketing, but it really works. And you don't just have to do it a launch time. Getting your name out there on a regular basis is smart.

February 16, 2014 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--You did so much to help my mom get her books polished and published. Critique groups can provide very special friendships. I'm still missing her every day. I keep wanting to pick up the phone and ask her a question about grammar or word history or share a little triumph. How cool that you're quoting me on your blog. I'll have to go over and check it out.

February 16, 2014 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Happy--I've already quoted you on the blog, so you've already had a little bit of a "guest" spot. I realize I probably should make a list of all our guests and link to them on a separate page. A job for sometime when I'm not so swamped.

February 16, 2014 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Natalie--Literary Rambles is a high profile blog like this one, so I can imagine you get a lot of requests, too. And it is hard to write rejections. But I'm going to agonize a bit less now I know some of the more clueless queries come from spammers. I agree that a querier needs to be pretty far along in their career to be the right fit for a major blog. They need a good web presence and a following.

February 16, 2014 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Linda Adams said...

I'll add one more: Make sure you already have fully established your own blog and have lots of posts. I periodically get requests for guest posts, and it's pretty obvious with most of them that they're responding to a search engine hit that isn't accurate (seriously, a fashion tips post for a blog that's on women in the military?). But with one, it interested me enough to look at her blog. All she had was one post, so it looked like she had no interest in my blog other than what hits I would bring her. Pass.

February 16, 2014 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

All good points. Leaving a comment that proves the person didn't read the post really annoys me. I'm glad some people have had good results with blog tours. The one I paid for was disappointing as the host frequently was too busy for me, even though I paid her and she turned out not to have the best connections.

February 16, 2014 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Anne, this is another VERY valuable post. Bookmarking it! So many things to consider when guest posting. Think for me reading the blog and commenting regularly and knowing the blog's audience are fundamentally important. In your reply to Trekelny, you said something that really hit home: "For most of my life I hated writing any kind of nonfic. It all felt like homework. Now it's way easier than getting into my WIP." And if I could add to this, I think there's a lot of crossover from writing about writing (nonfiction) to our creating characters and fictional worlds. If anything nonfic gives us a break from our WIP so when we return to it, we have a fresh perspective from analyzing HOW we approach writing. (Could be me talking thru my hat), but I find whenever I guest post, I have to think of my work in an entirely different way; structure, theme, outlining, research, etc. and in some ways I come away understanding my stories more clearly. Thanks again for such wonderful tips. I'm using them for sure.

February 16, 2014 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Marie Ann Bailey said...

Another great post! I've been a guest on other blogs, but only when the blogger was taking some time off and asked for guest posts. So, of course, then I was also very familiar with the blog and already on friendly terms with the blogger. The few times I've done this I have tried to write a post that would be well-suited to the blog, something that was my own but yet reflected the purpose and intent of the blog itself. It makes writing guest posts a fun challenge.

February 16, 2014 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

Thanks for mentioning my site, Anne!

For me, a successful guest post revolves around the comments. We've all seen a guest post that's up for a few days but gets only 2 to 3 comments. And let's not even dredge up those that get none.

The more comments your guest post receives, the more engaged your audience is. And that's really something - after all, they're not really your audience, are they? So you have to work a little extra, write in a more engaging way that elicits and doesn't just tell, and be there.

Woody Allen said 70% of success is just showing up, yet how many of us have seen guest posts where the guest poster vanishes and doesn't comment at all, not even to a question? Oh, this drives me crazy! For some I think guest posts might do more harm than good in that regard.

Like you said, homework is key, and I couldn't even imagine putting in a request for a guest post if I hadn't been to the site.

February 16, 2014 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Absolutely! If you don't have a bunch of guest blog posts to link to, you'd better have some on your own blog. Fashion tips for soldiers? That would be interesting. Kinda like the sunglasses people who keep asking to sell to a bunch of writers who mostly live inside, chained to their keyboards. There has to be a list of blogs with stats but no other info somewhere and all these people are using it.

February 16, 2014 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--I'm not a huge fan of blog tours, but I've heard from authors new to the blogosphere who said they helped a lot. But they're not created equal, which is why I was so glad to find Gred Strandberg's post vetting some of them, with price comparisons.

February 16, 2014 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Excellent point. Yes, I think my fiction writing has improved with my nonfiction skills. It's helped me write faster and more clearly, no matter what the subject matter. And blogging makes a great break when the old WIP isn't working.

February 16, 2014 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Marie--That's the best kind of guest post: when the blogger wants a rest and invites some of the regulars to take over. If you know the community on that particular blog, it's so much easier to write for them.

I forgot to mention in the post that my own blog took off after I guest blogged for Nathan Bransford. He had a contest for guest bloggers. Maybe I should try that sometime...

February 16, 2014 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--REALLY good point. I always ask my guest posters to check and respond to the comments for a couple of days after the post goes up.

I panicked when I had to make an emergency dental apt this week and the only day they had is the one when I'm guesting at the Insecure Writers Support Group blog. I think Alex will be able to cover for me when I'm off getting tortured in the dental chair, but I prefer to be available.

You do kind of wonder what these people are thinking who ask for a spot on a blog they haven't read. But if they're spammers, they probably aren't thinking much. I've never understood how spam does anybody any good. Are there really that many people out there who still believe a Nigerian prince has left them his fortune?

February 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

And what a thrill that was - to be quoted on your blog! Thank you again for that.

February 16, 2014 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Jessica L Buike (AuthorJess and Operation Relax) said...

Fantastic advice! :) I personally don't do a lot of guest blogging anymore, but I definitely understand the value of it and am very careful about what gets posted to my blog. I posted a link to this discussion on my blog today, hope you don't mind: http://authorjess.blogspot.com/2014/02/snooping-around-sunday-blog-lovin.html

February 16, 2014 at 2:36 PM  
OpenID pruebatten said...

As usual Anne, fundamental and simple advice. The importance of guest blogging is something I have let slide in the marketing of my books and brand. I do guest blog occasionally and have two or three favourite blogs which are happy to let me meander through their excellent content. Whether it generates interest in my books or me is a moot point however. I tend to do it because it takes me out of whatever ms. I am working and allows me to be completely non-me, just for a moment. What is non-me, you may ask? Aha, maybe that's a blog post at some point, on mine or another's blog.

My own blog has changed over the years. Only rarely now do I blog about the writing process and in particular historical fiction or historical fantasy - because there are knowledgeable people who do it better than I can (eg: Anne Allen and Ruth Harris) I tend to take aspects of my real life and photograph them to give people a break from words, words, words. Comments are rare but there is a steady and cosy hit rate. The blog is just another part of Brand Author after all, isn't it?

But thanks so much for giving me food for thought on this latest. Your blog doesn't get awards for nothing, that's for sure. Quality all the way. Cheers and best.

February 16, 2014 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 16, 2014 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger Kennedy Ryan said...

This is really timely. I'm a nobody, no name tasked with launching my first book in June. LOL! And I've been considering possibly guesting on a few blogs I follow closely. These are great things to keep in mind. Your advice often keeps me from looking like an idiot in a landscape I'm still learning to negotiate. Thank you! :-)

February 16, 2014 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jess--Thanks much for the back-links. We love those! I've reached the point where I reach a lot more readers with this blog than others I visit, but I still try to guest at least once a month, to reach a different group of readers. Things tend to get a little samey when you're blogging for the same audience every week.

February 16, 2014 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Prue--If you don't feel like guest blogging for a while, don't. I think it's especially useful to guest when you're establishing a career, but you have a core of readers now who may do more than anything else to get the word out about your books.

I love your blog and always visit, although I don't usually comment. But do know that your lovely photos are always appreciated. It's so amazing to see what's going on in Tasmania, on the other side of the planet. You give us a window into another world.

And you're absolutely right you don't need to blog about your writing process. Way too many bloggers doing that already. Your blog is uniquely YOU and that it as it should be.

February 16, 2014 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kennedy--We all started out as nobody/no-name writers. This is the right time to be going around to blogs and getting to know people. (You can even mention your book title sometimes. Most bloggers don't mind. Just don't link to a buy page.)

I sure have put in my time looking like an idiot. Back before the Internet, it was so hard to figure out the ropes. (Maybe sometime I should write about the 10 stupidest things I did trying to launch my writing career.) But I hope some of my embarrassing moments will help new writers from having to go through them too.

February 16, 2014 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Debra Eve | Later Bloomer said...

It's amazing how that Alexa ranking attracts all sorts of riff-raff :). Mine recently went down and the some of the requests I got were hilarious (the vital importance of organic manure, anyone?). "Don't target just book blogs" is fantastic advice, especially for nonfiction writers and something I really need to look into. Thanks again, Anne!

February 16, 2014 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Debra---Organic manure! LOL.That is too funny. They just saw "Bloomer" in "Later Bloomer" and figured it was a gardening blog. READ THE BLOG, PEOPLE! They also pay way too much attention to Alexa ratings. Most authors don't even know what they are, but the spammers sure do. Yeah. You need to target some "active Boomers" blogs.

February 16, 2014 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Great advice, Anne! I've guest posted and had guests on my blog. I always try to remember one rule: provide value.

February 16, 2014 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Denise Covey said...

Hi Anne.
Interesting post as always. I do regularly read your blog and often bookmark it when it's really something I want to improve on. Thanks for your opportunities section also. So I don't always comment, as i get the feeling that you are only into 'high-profile' people, not little old unpublished bloggers who in a post awhile ago, you said probably shouldn't even waste their time blogging. Hmm. I found that very motivating! However, I usually share your posts and mention excerpts on my blog. I have actually read one of your books, too, - No Place Like Home, and yes, you do have a quirky style.
And you know what, I'm not asking you for anything!

Keep up the good work.


February 16, 2014 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--You're so right. It's really all about being real. So much of marketing is phony. I think as long as you're honest and real, your content will have value.

February 16, 2014 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Denise--I'm so sad you think I'm into "high profile" people. Nothing is farther from the truth. You were one of my first blogfriends, since the days when you only identified as "L'Aussie". Your blog has always had interesting insights and good content.

I want to motivate all bloggers to write and all writers to blog. It's not a zero-sum game. There's room for all of us.

How very cool that you read No Place Like Home. As you saw, I try to show how the "rich" can sometimes be the poorest among us and sometimes the most noble people are the "invisible" poor and homeless.

I really appreciate your comments. And if you have questions, I always welcome emails too. Ruth and I really do want to help our fellow writers to benefit from our mistakes. Of which we have a full collection. :-)

February 16, 2014 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Denise Covey said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Anne. I loved how you highlighted the plight of the homeless in NPLH and how the mighty can fall, often through no fault of their own. You captured that so well.

February 16, 2014 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

So Anne, are you suggesting we should actually read a blog before asking to contribute to it? Ouch. Isn't it astounding how me-centric we humans can be? Isn't it frightening that you even have to say that? Thanks, though, for saying it -- it needs to be heard. Thanks for another fine post.

February 16, 2014 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

I think most people outside of the US don't know how hard it is here for the poor--or that half our homeless population are children. We have a greed-based health care system that discriminates against anybody who doesn't work for a huge corporation. Things are starting to change, but change is slow and resistance is fierce. I'm glad you understood the message of my book.

February 16, 2014 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--I fear the Internet culture is a culture of prolonged adolescence. It will grow up someday, but right now people are being taught that behaving like self-absorbed children will be rewarded. It won't, but people are going to be following bad information for a while yet.

February 16, 2014 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Kennedy Ryan said...

10 Stupidest Things blog would be helpful, though you may be a little late and I may have already done half of them! LOL. Any and all help appreciated. Thanks again. Have a great one.

February 17, 2014 at 5:11 AM  
Blogger Kittie Howard said...

Hmm, I kinda agree with Denise. There was a time when I commented regularly, only to realize the knife didn't cut both ways. So . . . hmmm. . .

February 17, 2014 at 5:43 AM  
OpenID characterfulwriter said...

Readers, do take note of this advice. It won't do your literary fiction any good to be promoted amongst dystopia and vampires. Equally, your cookery manual won't be attracting attention from the blog about horror fiction. As Anne advises, do read the blog first. There may be attitudes, adverts or obligations that you're not happy about.

February 17, 2014 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

GREAT advice. I was so try to do #4 a lot, but have mostly been asked to guest blog on writerly sites, which is fun and exciting. I usually do one paragraph on my blog and link to the "guest blog." It appears to boost traffic on both blogs.

I've yet to land a "big" guest blog spot, but will keep plugging away. Thank you for the good advice. I will work on some of the other ideas you've suggested.

I also LOVE reading the comments on most blog, but yours especially. Thank you!

February 17, 2014 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, I absolutely love this. You've given me some great ideas to expand on my Flash Fiction feature. Glad I came in like a Johnny Later because I can agree with so much said and with Tam Francis above me.

Thanks as always for a great post :)

February 17, 2014 at 7:09 AM  
Blogger Michael Kelberer said...

Mindprinter - another crossover point: "outtakes" from our research for our novel not only makes good post fodder, having to take the research and explain it to the blog reader can be a great way of generating ideas for how it might work into our fiction. I always find I learn a lot more about a subject once I start trying to explain it to someone else.

February 17, 2014 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Michael Kelberer said...

Reading and getting to know the blog before you query to guest post is pretty similar to getting to know publishers and agents very well before you decide who to query. A little bit of extra work on the front end saves everyone a lot of time on the back.

February 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've guest blogged on a few blogs but I'm usually offered the spot. I don't think I've ever requested it. I've had guests now and then but usually they want to promote a new book release. I asked them to make it more than that, to share something useful to my readers. I wish my blog was so popular that I received daily requests to be on it.

February 17, 2014 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Gay Degani said...

Hey thanks so much for this article on guest blogging. I'm a fairly inconsistent blogger myself--my focus on writing fiction--but always interested in making connections beyond my circle of writer friends on line. We often get caught up in our own communities and fail to stretch farther which can give us tunnel-vision. We appreciate each other and want to remain a community, but it's at the sacrifice of a realistic view of our own work. I'm looking to go beyond my little on-line world and this gives me some ideas about how to go about doing that.

February 17, 2014 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kittie--It is hard when you have 40,000 people reading the blog every month to read all of their blogs as well. I wouldn't have time to sleep much less write novels. But I do pop in and out whenever I have time. I've always enjoyed your blog.

February 17, 2014 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

characterful--It's amazing how few marketers understand this. They think it's all about spreading advertising indiscriminately. But targeting the right audience is a way to work smarter, not harder. And yes, who wants to guest on a blog that may have ads for vanity presses or fake agents who charge fees. It could end up backfiring.

February 17, 2014 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--I agree that blog comments are incredibly valuable. Both for getting your name recognized and for finding out what people are interested in. I'll be exploring that more in another post.

Using the guest post on your own blog as a teaser with a link is good idea. It will get your regulars over to the host blog. Some big blogs, like Jane Friedman's post 90% guest blogs, so that's a good one to query.

February 17, 2014 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Fois--So glad you've found this inspiring. Tam's point is a good one. And remember that just commenting on a high-profile blog raises your rank in the search engines.

February 17, 2014 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michael--Excellent point. It's exactly the same as visiting an agent's website to find out if she still reps paranormal or what her guidelines are. Doing your homework saves a lot of time and grief in the long run. People who don't check guidelines sometimes seem to be aiming to fail. Failing means you don't have to move out of familiar territory.

February 17, 2014 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--Guesting by invitation is definitely the nicest way to go. And if you're visiting lots of blogs and getting to know people, those invites will come. Finding guests who have something to offer besides "buy my book" is tough. As for the daily requests--actually I wouldn't miss them one bit :-)

February 17, 2014 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gay--Writer communities can definitely become inbred. We all need to step out of our comfort zones once in a while, both for blogging and our fiction work.

Commenting on a blog that has a big audience is a great way to get to know new people. When I started out, I commented every day on Nathan Bransford's blog and got to know a great group of new writers. But I needed to branch beyond them to get my own blog to grow. Good luck!

February 17, 2014 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

I'm concerned that you think I tried to discourage unpublished authors from blogging. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I may have told an author to start by writing books--and not worry about 'Platform" until he had something else written. I did have one young man who said he was thinking about writing his first short story and worried that he should build platform first. I thought that was putting the cart before the horse. But all writers benefit from writing as much as possible, and blogging is a way to do that and build platform and community at the same time. I think blogging is the best use of social media for writers at all stages of their careers.

February 17, 2014 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Gay Degani said...

Hey thanks!!! I used to follow Nathan too but if I remember correctly he moved his site or stopped. It's been a while. Anyway, always nice to discover new people!

February 17, 2014 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gay--Nathan Bransford is not only in the same spot in the blogosphere, but he's got a new book out on How to Write a Novel! It's great. He still has his forums and everything. He's moved his physical self from San Francisco to New York, but he's still with us in the blogosphere. He got beat up by some nasty cyber-bullies for standing up for authors, and they probably did damage to his book sales, but he's still giving great info for free on his orange blog. :-)

February 17, 2014 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Susannah Cyrus said...

Thank you so much Anne! The value of the kind of honesty you exhibit here helps quell my overwhelm about the guest blogging process. I really appreciate that you don't knock it as a potentially mutually beneficial form of marketing when it is practiced with a modicum of discernment, humility and respect. I thank my spirit guides for the great fortune I had to stumble upon your blog BEFORE I jumped into guest blogging or any other type of blogging all willy nilly and underprepared.

I am especially encouraged that you don't think I absolutely need to craft a monumental blog of my own before attempting to join conversations, participate in communities and query some people if I really have something to help their readers.

Has co-authoring a blog with Ruth made it easier to generate this consistently stellar content?

February 18, 2014 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susannah--No way could I have done this without Ruth Harris! She took over one week a month in the summer of 2011, and that allowed me to keep blogging AND put out 8 books in two and a half years. Our fabulous guests helped too. We try to provide consistently informative content, but we don't push ourselves beyond one post a week. You don't absolutely need to have your own blog, although I do advise it if you don't have a website. Any potential agent, editor or blog host will Google you. But If you can get some guest posts on your writing friends' blogs, that's a great first step. Even if they don't have much of a readership now, that content is forever.

February 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Frank said...

It's my first time here on your blog, and I must admit that when I read the first paragraph of this post I was about to push Ctrl+f+Shift+2 for you email or any contact information to ask for a guest blogging opportunity, in hope to raise my ranking for local search in Arizona. I'm so glad I decided to continue reading. Frankly speaking, I haven't tried guest blogging before; it's for the same reason why I found your blog. But I'm proud to say that I did read the entirety of this article, I learned a lot, not just about guest blogging but also about online etiquette. Thank you.

February 18, 2014 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger AD Starrling said...

Another timely post and excellent advice as always. I elected not to blog when I started self-publishing two years ago, although I do have an active News section on my website which kind of serves like one :)

I do however follow, read, and comment on a lot of great blogs (like yours!). It always amazes me how friendly and helpful authors are to each other and I have met some truly amazing people over the last two years. Although I did guest blog on several reviewer blogs last year as part of two blog tours, I did successfully approach two authors I had gotten to know well for guest posts.

I have just been invited to guest post on a popular blog that I again truly admire next week (Crime Fiction Collective) and I am thrilled to bits that this came about through commenting and interacting with the authors that make up the blog.

February 19, 2014 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--Welcome to the blog! Yes, this isn't the spot for a first time blogger, but there are plenty of places that are. Just start commenting on blogs of other authors in your genre and make friends. Starting your own blog at the same time makes it easier, even if you only blog once a month.

February 19, 2014 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

AD--Thanks for being a perfect example of what I'm saying here. Commenting on blogs is your secret weapon in social media--it's a two-bird stone. It gets your name in the search engines and helps you make the friends who can help you in your career. I look forward to your piece at Crime Fiction Collective!

February 19, 2014 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This is a comment from Dennis Miller, which came in on a different page, but I think belongs here:

"I read the most recent Blog (Guest Blogging) with interest because I know that you know your stuff, but I have a question...or two:

And I don't intend this response to come of as the least bit contentious. I am truly asking these questions- as follows...

You say to blog to raise our profiles and after blogging and reading other folks' blogs to comment intelligently. In these ways we might raise our profiles enough to be asked to guest blog. Which raises our profiles even more. Yeah.

I'm reminded of the Seinfeld show, in which, for the first few years at least, no one had a job. There was this incredible wealth of free time. So I guess my question is: How do you find time to do all this? -Presupposing that we are not part of the Seinfeld cast and we have jobs, families, outside interests with friends et al...? I don't feel that I waste that much time or prioritize that poorly that if I were just to make myself more effecient I could carve out an hour a day or more for these endeavors.

Are we, as writers even supposed to have a life outside the faint glare of our computer monitors?

Then there's the other consideration. In my case, I used to be prolific as heck; thousands of words a day. I had so many ideas I hadn't the time to write them down.Well, the second half of 2013 kicked me in the behind so badly (personal set backs, etc.), I'm lucky to crank out a hundred words a day. I'm still reeling from the events, then. So where do my ideas come from to write a blog- when I'm having difficulty with my core raison d'etre? How do I justify the time to research, and fact check when I am only just barely able to move forward in my own endeavors?
And if I don't it's a Catch 22 in which I don't move forward as a writer and can consign my stories to be tucked neatly away into my casket when I'm planted in some days, week, months, hence.

And finally, I wondered this same thing aloud last year at the CCWC, when I was still writing and mentally "healthy". At that point in time , my problem was still a dearth of time to pursue other interests, because I was so busy WRITING, and trying to build enough stories to fuel Smoke and Mirrors and to build a bit of a "catalog"...

How do others schedule time/ How do you schedule time?

What are your thoughts regarding ideas with which to contribute to a discussion online? I mean: how do ya get 'em?

Stay well
Dennis Miller/ Zaslow Crane

February 19, 2014 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dennis/Zaslow--This is definitely the biggest question confronting all writers in the e-age. I can't give a complete answer here, because I'd have to write a book.

Well, actually, I have--I wrote it with Catherine Ryan Hyde, who is so good at this stuff that she's the #1 author on Amazon. Our book is called HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE: A Self Help Guide. The new version was supposed to be out in January, but some hang-up at the Zon has had it in limbo for over a month. (Something else to add to the crazy-busy soup of the writing life when you do get published.)

How do you find time to work social media and write books? For me, the answer is scheduling. I have blog writing time, blog visiting, Tweeting and FB time, and WIP time. I have to be rigid in enforcing it. For a newbie to the blogosphere, the best thing to do is pop around to lots of blogs and leave a comment here and there where you find simpatico folks. People who write in your genre are a good start. I'd recommend Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog and his "Insecure Writer Support Group". Very friendly people and totally troll free.

I'd also recommend reading the top blogs in the business. If you want some names look at my fellow nominees for "Best Writers Resources".

I get my ideas for blogposts from reading comments--both on my own blog and others. If I find myself with a rant coming on, I skip the comment and come over here and write the comment as a post for this blog.

But everybody''s different. Blogging may not call to you. You may not want to have your own blog, and guest blogging may not be for you. But simply commenting on a high profile blog like this gets your name in front of 40,000 sets of eyeballs. That's a great way to get your name out fairly painlessly.

If you have trouble finding where to comment, usually at the end of a piece there will be something that says "65 (or whatever) comments" That will be a live link that will open up the comment thread.

Hope that helps.

February 19, 2014 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Southpaw said...

I've never had a guest host, but I'm not against it. I'll admit when I see the words "guest host" I cringe a little. More often than not it's a book ad. Or a paragraph or a 1/4 of the post about something and then the rest is the book ad.

February 20, 2014 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Southpaw--I admit to a little of that feeling too, since we've had so many unsuitable people ask to guest. Most authors just want to blurb their own books and it never occurs to them to offer content with value. And I just got one in the inbox offering to post about "Japanese love". Uh-huh. we're going to turn our blog over to Anime porn. Just the ticket for writers looking for info about the publishing industry. You gotta wonder what these people are thinking. Or if they think at all....But every so often there's a gem. And they make all the rest worth wading through. Some of my favorite people have been guests here. So don't delete without reading, no matter how itchy your delete finger is.

February 20, 2014 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger laurawkelly said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 21, 2014 at 1:55 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Thanks Anne, this is super helpful! Love the point about the spam bots - they really have started to lurk in demented places, haven't they? Apparently some people have had problem with the AdSense add ons on their blogs because of the content that's been advertised there, too. Yeuch!

February 21, 2014 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Charley--I've heard about AdSense and some of the others. The ads can be very inappropriate for the site. And the ads for bogus agents and scammy publishing companies on writing blogs are very bad for your reputation. Unfortunately they're everywhere.

nd right above you in this thread somebody was trying to sell something, with a bunch of random meaningless words. No idea how that was going to sell anything to anybody, even if I hadn't deleted it.

February 21, 2014 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger talkcarinsurance said...

I think you should target the bloggers who are willing to promote each other as well. Otherwise, you may be writing to a blogger who will ignore your request regardless of how good your contribution would be.

February 22, 2014 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cartalk--It's way better to guest with a blogger who promotes the blog. Most bloggers tweet and share their blogposts often, as we do here, but you're right that it's wise to make sure the blogger does regular promotion of posts, no matter who writes them.

February 22, 2014 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Shiela aguado said...

Great tips.

May 10, 2014 at 4:26 AM  

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