How To Be A Good Guest Blogger

10 Dec

The road to guest posting on other bloggers’ blogs is paved with both opportunity and land mines. It seems like a simple thing: you find a blogger you like, you drop them a line asking them if they’d like one less blog post to write next week and then you put in a stint as a special guest star on their blog. The blogger gets a break and hopefully some fresh content for their blog, and you get to introduce you and your titles to a whole new audience, some of whom might even become regular readers of your blog. In reality though, these transactions are an invitation to misstep, to indulge (perhaps unwittingly) in an awful blogger faux-pas (or ten). You may never get invited back again.

So what can you do to ensure that you’ll be a great guest blogger, and that each and every one of your guest hosts would only be too delighted to have you back again? Here are my tips…

IMG_2473

I realize this picture has only the most tenuous of links to the subject of this blog post, but look how pretty! From Papyrus. 

Follow the rules

I clearly state on my Contact page that guest posts are by invite only, but I constantly find messages in my inbox that begin ‘I’m wondering if you would be interested in a guest post…’ Half the time the other half of that sentence describes a post that has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve ever talked about on my blog. The one I got this morning was about stocks and shares. Stocks and shares, people!

This happens because people just don’t pay attention to the information bloggers supply, and whenever they ignore it they are saying ‘I don’t have time to read this helpful stuff you’ve written, I only have time to ask you for a favor’. They may also think ‘Well, I know she doesn’t accept guest posts… but she’ll definitely want my one!’

The least you can do before you ask someone to take a guest post from you is to read their site. I sincerely hope you’re doing that already, but maybe now take the time to study their guest posts instructions too.

Write a good guest post—for you

A guest post, especially one that’s part of a blog tour or some other organized activity that aims to launch or promote your book, is kinda like a profile on an online dating site. It’s not just about what you’ve written, but what it reveals about you: as a blogger, as a writer and as an entertainer of the internet at large. The ideal guest post would:

  • get most people who read it commenting and/or clicking the “like” button
  • get a significant number of people who read it sharing it online, e.g. tweeting a link
  • get a good number of people clicking the link to your blog and having a look around
  • get a handful of people to subscribe to your blog, or start to follow you on Twitter
  • get at least one person to go to Amazon and look  at (or, heck, even buy!) your book.

And can we just be blatantly honest about guest posts for a second? Sometimes, people don’t read them at all. They don’t read them because, hey, they were tuning in to see a rugby game, and it’s not on because rain in Brazil made the Formula 1 qualifying session run long. So their eyes may skim the guest post but really, they’re waiting for tomorrow when the actual blogger will be back. So you have to get them to read your guest post. You have to convince them to stop and take it in. Otherwise, what’s the point? There isn’t one, and that goes for you and your host.

My personal checklist for a guest post goes something like this:

  • Would this be something I’d post on my own blog (or am I just half-assing it because it’s going on someone else’s)?
  • Is this really “me”? Am I recognisable? (Or am I trying to emulate my host too much?)
  • Is it entertaining?
  • Is it informative?
  • Is it an invitation to check out more stuff by me? (And by invitation I really mean a reason, not a long list of links the readers of my host blog won’t be clicking on.)

Write a good guest post—for your host

Don’t try to beat the blogger at their own game. It won’t appeal to the host’s regular blog readers, and you’ll look like a jerk. The worst cases of it I’ve seen have been practically rude, e.g. an advice blog where the guest blogger gave their own advice in the same style as their host, but contradicted the host’s most oft-repeated suggestions. I imagine she was gritting her teeth when she was setting that post up to publish. There’s a very fine line between tailoring your post to appeal to the blog’s loyal readers and doing a bad imitation of your host.

Let’s say that you’ve written a book of movie reviews, and you find a blog that writes hilariously sarcastic reviews of romantic comedies. That’s what the blogger is famous for, and that’s what all his readers show up to his blog to enjoy. Should you attempt to write a hilariously sarcastic review of The Notebook? No, I wouldn’t advise it. You probably won’t do it as well as your host, and the whole thing might come off as as unfunny joke, leaving everyone feeling awkward and embarrassed for you.

Don’t attempt a takeover. Just be a good guest.

Don’t be a diva

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for your host to print a little bio at the end of your text, with links to your website, Twitter account, etc. It’s nice to provide photographs that the blogger can use, maybe one of you and one of your book cover. And as long as you’re not demanding about it, it’s fine to ask for the guest post to be published on a specific date, although I would recommend asking that in plenty of time and being prepared to allow some leeway.

Anything else though, and you risk being annoying. Don’t send eight or nine photos to accompany a 800-word blog post—especially if your host only ever includes one or two images, because that’ll just lead him or her to believe that you never actually read their blog. Don’t send six different Amazon links. One is enough, and actually I prefer just to link to your website because it’s neater and simpler and you should have all your Amazon links there. Don’t demand publication at 8:01 am Eastern Standard Time when the moon is in Gemini. And don’t suggest that the flow of traffic will be from your site to theirs, even if you think it might be. The host blogger is doing you a favor, not the other way around.

Make things easy for your host

Your host is going to copy and paste the text of your guest post into their own blog, so make things as easy as possible for them. Don’t type it in an e-mail; put in a Microsoft Word document. No fancy fonts, no weird paragraph alignments, no superfluous formatting. Make your links live and embed them in the text. Attach it to your e-mail message.

If you want to be really good, type your text into your own blog (in a draft), switch to HTML view and copy and paste that. In my book this puts you straight on my Nice list.

If you’re including photos, label them. File names like DSC00023 aren’t going to help anyone. Try ‘authorpic.jpg’ or ‘novelcover.jpg’ instead.

Be nice

It’s only common courtesy to come back on the day the post is published and respond to any comments you see, and perhaps write a little comment thanking the host for having you. You should also make it your business to promote the guest post through whatever avenues you can, such as your own blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc… BUT please don’t imply that you’ll be sending traffic to your host, i.e. more traffic than ususal. That’s a bit of an iffy statement on the annoyance scale.

Also, ask yourself. Don’t get someone who says they’re your assistant (um, oh-kay…) to e-mail and ask.

In all things, be nice.

Have you had guest posts on your blog? What could guest bloggers do to make it easier for you? Or do you have any tips for being a good guest blogger yourself? Or do you have some tales that go in the other direction, i.e. guest blogger horror stories? Let me know in the comments below… 

18 Responses to “How To Be A Good Guest Blogger”

  1. Misha Crews December 10, 2013 at 12:53 #

    Excellent post; I especially like the personal checklist and the objectives you set out in the “Write a good post for you” section. I have to admit I’d never really looked at guest blogging beyond the vague notion of “getting my name out there.” Guess I get the “not the brightest penny in the fountain” award, lol!

    Thanks very much for the good info. :-)

  2. lblivingbetter December 10, 2013 at 13:04 #

    I love posts on blog or “social media” faux pas! I really had not idea about guest posting, so thanks. I was blasted the other day for not “liking” a facebook page with my profile (I “liked” it with my fan page) as it did not count as a like in the person’s numbers….

  3. Deborah Nam-Krane December 10, 2013 at 13:13 #

    Oh can I go on about this!

    I have no problem putting up people’s links to their books and photos of their most recent book and their author picture. But please please please, don’t send me a bunch of urls; embed those in text so the hyperlink is easier on the eyes. That’s easily my biggest pet peeve.

    I also want to put in a word for preformatted HTML. That makes life so much easier for your blog host- just copy and paste, no formatting required on my part (assuming you did your job and properly formatted it in the first place).

    As for the post itself, write it well. It amazes me when I get posts from other authors *to promote their books* that have typos or grammatical errors or just aren’t well written and go nowhere. Pretend this is something your freshman English teacher has to approve of, you know?

  4. bridget whelan December 10, 2013 at 13:18 #

    Good subject – not one I’ve seen covered anywhere else. I’ve just been doing a stint of guest blogs and was almost scared to click on the link bringing me here in case I’d been doing something terribly wrong. Think I’m kinda of ok but the first guest stint I did my article was far, far too long. Luckily my host was far more savvy than me & suggested cutting it in two and posting it on consecutive days with lots of “Come back tomorrow to see what Bridget has to say about…” But it’s not something I would recommend stick to your host word counts! He or she knows her readership and what they will expect.. I find I spent a lot more time on guest posts than I do on own – my advice is treat like you had been given the chance to write an article for a local newspaper. You would want that to be as good as you can make it, wouldn’t you?

    • Rhoda Baxter December 10, 2013 at 14:17 #

      I get to see this from both sides. I have a regular guest spot on my own blog and I like to do posts on other people’s blogs, if they’ll have me.

      The only thing I’d add for your ‘how to be a good guest’ list is – follow guidelines. Pleeease. A surprising number of people don’t. Oh, and lots of people forget to come back and respond to comments (although this has improved over the past year, so maybe people are learning).

      The best guest bloggers I’ve had sound entertaining and authentic, even within the constraints of the format. I often go out and buy their books myself. If I like their voice, chances are, I’ll like their book too.

      I love writing guest posts for other people, especially if it’s in Q & A format. Like Bridget said, I find these take a lot more time to write than posts for my own blog because I am more aware of the need to entertain. On my blog, I can have a rant or whatever because it’s my blog and my readers are used to me. I have to assume that the people reading someone else’s blog have never heard of me and my sense of humour and the post has is convince them that I’m worth a second look. That’s a bit responsibility for a 500-800 word piece of writing.

      A great post. Thank you!
      (I hope this works. The comments box keeps disappearing and reappearing…)

  5. louisewise December 10, 2013 at 13:51 #

    Thanks to Deb for sharing this post with me. It’s awesome! There are lots of groups for authors to discuss their writing woes but none for bloggers, so to read that someone is having the exact same problems as me is eye-opening.

    I honestly thought I was the only one to receive emails from authors’ assistants. :o

    I have my monthly themes stated in the side bar, but is that read? Is it heck!

    I’m getting tougher though. I’ve started saying ‘no’.

  6. Charlotte Gerber, Mystery Author December 10, 2013 at 19:30 #

    Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber.

  7. belindambrock December 11, 2013 at 06:50 #

    Thanks for sharing, Catherine. I found this an excellent, informative post. I especially liked your tip about sending the guest post in HTML text. Btw, the host blogger should carefully read the blog of the person wanting to guest post. Their writing might not be something the host would be comfortable featuring on her blog.

  8. Roy McCarthy December 11, 2013 at 07:55 #

    Thanks for this helpful stuff Catherine – very timely for me and hopefully I’ll make a better job of my first guest blog now.

  9. Ayesha (Miss Spicy Hat n' Sugar Socks) December 11, 2013 at 14:35 #

    Great ideas, thankyou for sharing!

  10. Dara @WiseInk December 14, 2013 at 17:23 #

    Bravo Catherine! We get similar requests all the time. These tips are phenomenal and we’ll be sharing!

  11. davidprosser December 16, 2013 at 06:05 #

    In return for the great advice…

    http://barsetshirediaries.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/we-interrupt-this-programme/

    Hugs

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