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.
6) Read the guidelines.
- 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.
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.
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 site
. Deadline 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.