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.

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. 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.

Amazon US, Amazon UK Amazon CA Amazon OZ Amazon IN
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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