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How to guest post successfully: 6 tips for authors

How to guest post successfully
Posted on June 16, 2020
With publications closing and book review sections of newspapers and magazines getting smaller and smaller, authors need to work very hard to find publicity opportunities for their books these days.

Whether traditionally- or indie-published, authors must seek out new and different ways to get their books in front of readers.

Fortunately, in a world where so much has moved online, authors are lucky enough, by their very nature, to have a hugely effective weapon in their publicity arsenal: words.

Having your own author blog and building an engaged community is one way to use your words effectively (and I’ve written about this herehere and here).

But another approach is simply to borrow someone else’s blog or website.

Guest posting 101 for authors

Guest posting is where you write a post or article for someone else’s blog or website, thereby drawing their audience’s attention to you and your work. Sounds simple, right?

Yes, and no. There are a few hurdles to jump between ‘I’d like to use guest posting as an author marketing strategy’ and ‘oh, look, there’s my post being shared widely on that established blog’.

Firstly, you need to know which blog might be interested in your post.

Secondly, you need to reach out to that blogger and actively pitch your work (it’s a rare occasion where a blogger will contact you and say ‘I see you have a new book out, please publicise it on my blog’)

Thirdly, you need to know what it is you intend to write about AND how this post will help to showcase your new book.

But more about that lately.

Let’s look at the first point.

Where to put your words

There are several ways to find bloggers/websites to pitch for guest posting. You could try the scattergun approach, whereby you just google ‘writing websites’ or ‘author blogs’ and work your way down the list.

Or you could just decide you’ll only target blogs or authors that have minimum 10K followers on Facebook – or some other arbitrary system you come up with.

You could do that. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you have a lot of time to spare, then go for it.

Instead, look at your own communities. Look at the websites you follow, the authors you like, the Facebook groups you like to be part of, the people you like to engage with.

Who are they? What do they have in common? Are they sharing links from particular websites over and over?

Make a list.

Now look at your list and ask yourself this question: if I write a post for this blog, will the audience be potential readers for my book?

This is a really important question. Lots of new authors will look at guest posting on blogs where they can write about a subject dear to their hearts: writing. Which is great. There’s no doubt you’ll probably come up with a cracking post.

But the people reading that post will be WRITERS.

And while most writers are also readers, what percentage of them will want to read your book after gleaning all they can from your pearls of wisdom about writing?

With that in mind, have another look at your list of potential bloggers/websites.

And then make another list about the kinds of websites/blogs you think the ideal reader of your book* would visit.

That’s your actual list.

You’ll note there’s a * on that description and it’s this: if you are writing for children, for the most part you’ll need to be looking for the ideal buyer or recommender of your book. You’re looking for parents/teachers/librarians and the other adults who putting books into the hands of your ideal reader.

Who are you writing your guest post for?

Guest posting takes work. Sorry, but it’s true. Now that you have your list of potential blogs/websites, it’s time to take a very close look at each of them.

First question, does that blog/website take guest posts? Is there any evidence that other guest posters have paved the way for you?

If yes, then great. If no, chances are that you don’t need to waste your time.

Next, read through the last eight to ten blog posts/articles on the site. Even if you’re a regular visitor, don’t rely on your memory. The tone and flavour of blogs can change from month to month as the blogger’s circumstances or focus changes, so a guest post idea that might have worked three months ago may not work now.

As you read through, make a note of the tone or flavour of the posts. Try to get an idea of who the blogger is writing for – what’s their audience?

Have a look at any associated social media – what kinds of things is the blogger sharing on Facebook? What kinds of comments are they getting? What posts are really working for them on Instagram? Who’s engaging?

Once you’ve got a clear picture, it’s time to brain storm some ideas for THAT blog. Pitching is precise.

The key to a successful guest post

A successful guest post is one that provides the blog or website host with valuable content, while ALSO promoting the author’s book in a meaningful way.

You can write about similar subject matter for five different blogs or websites, but the ANGLE of each post/article needs to be honed differently for each blog or site you’re pitching.

As an example, say I was going to write a post about how to keep 13-year-old boys interested in reading, because my next book is an adventure story for 13-year-old boys. I might pitch three different stories thus:

  1. 15 exciting adventure stories 13-year-old boys will love
  2. The secret to getting tween boys back into reading
  3. The reason 13-year-old boys give up on books (and it’s not what you think)

These are obviously all ideas for blogs or websites that have an adult audience.

If I was pitching the same idea for a website that caters TO 13-year-old boys, I might go with something like:

The 10 best books you’ve never read

“But where is your book in all this Allison?” I hear you ask.

Oh, my book is in there. If it’s a book list, my book is on that list. If it’s a blog post aimed at adults about why boys don’t read, it’s got all of my experiences with my own sons and why they inform the brand-new exciting adventure story I’ve written.

In fact, that’s a tip for new guest posters – do NOT forget to put your book in to the text. Don’t just rely on the bio at the end, because readers may not get that far. Instead, start with “When I was writing [my book], with its themes of action and adventure, it reminded me of 10 classic adventure stories that kids today will love… As with [my book], these are books with [insert characteristics] etc etc”

Get your book upfront! And in the middle! And at the end!

But in a natural way.

Now for the pitch

Once you’ve brainstormed all of your ideas and worked out which is the best fit for each particular blog or website, it’s time to reach out via email.

Keep your pitch concise, covering who you are, the guest post topic you are proposing, how it fits into their site (if they have different series or post types, flag which one you are targeting), whether you can supply images (hint, bloggers really like it if you can) and when you’d be able to get them the post.

If they don’t have guest posts regularly, with a standard template for credits, let them know what kind of info/links you will supply along with the main article (eg, I’ll send links to my website and book info, along with a 100 word bio and a book cover), to show them your expectations around crediting. You might as well be upfront about this, otherwise you might end up writing an 800-word article for one link buried deep in the middle of the text.

Then cross your fingers.

Be warned that popular bloggers and websites are often inundated with guest post pitches, and you may not even hear back from them unless they’re keen to take up your pitch. Wait a week or two, then send a polite follow up.

As someone who receives a lot of pitches myself, I can tell you that the ones that really spark my interest are the ones where its clear the author has really thought about my audience. If you can tell me quite clearly what’s in your guest post for me, I’m much more likely to look closely at it.

As a hint, proposing that I do a Q&A with you about your book is probably not going to get you over the line.

After your guest post is published

I’ve got one word for you: share. Share. Share. Share.

Yes, you’ve written the post to effectively borrow someone else’s various platforms, but extend the reach of that post by sharing on your own as well.

Some of you are probably thinking ‘but, of course’, but, and trust me on this, I’ve seen many instances where it hasn’t happened.

Guest posting, as with most things on the internet, is best if it’s a two-way street. And, remember, if your guest post does well, your relationship with that blogger is strengthened – and chances are, you’re going to have more books to promote down the track!

When to start guest posting

As with most things to do with book promotion and marketing, the answer to this is NOW.

Even if your book is not out for six months, start researching potential blogs and websites now. Begin establishing connections, start to make a big list of potential ideas. You could even write some posts that will start to build your name in that blogger’s community.

Six weeks out from publication, start pitching, giving the blogger a time frame for the post. “My book is out on 1 August 2020, so ideally this post would run that week.”

Don’t overcommit yourself – remember you have to write all the posts you’re pitching and you need to do a quality job on each and every one of them. You’re better to send out six highly strategic and well-thought-out guest posts than 13 that you’ve dashed off for anyone who will have you.

Good luck!

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