How to do Guest Posts Like a Boss
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There’s a lot of writing that authors must do that isn’t fiction. We have to construct marketing copy like blurbs to help sell our stories, query letters to find agents and publishers, and newsletters or social media to keep our fans up to date. There’s one more important type of writing you can do to help spread the word and boost your name like a boss: Guest posts.
There are thousands of websites dedicated to books of all genres, and they are hungry for fresh content. (Including Our Write Side! Find out more.) In this article, we’ll take a look at how to find guest writing opportunities, the types of posts you can offer, and strategies for hosting others on your blog when you return the favor.
Image credit: formarkt-kunstdrucke.de
The Benefits of Guest Writing
Even if you never had a mind to write anything but fiction, there are many reasons to step outside your comfort zone. It may feel like it takes time away from your stories, but there are plenty of benefits that come from pursuing guest post opportunities.
Establishing Yourself as an Expert
One of the major reasons I decided to become a regular contributor to this blog is that I wanted to show potential clients that I knew my stuff. Though I edit academic works and write curriculum professionally, I lack the formal credentials of a traditional fiction editor. And though I haven’t published anything yet, that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent years learning what I could about the craft of writing. I knew that I had wisdom to share, and by doing so, I could inspire confidence in others to work with me.
I am also patient and methodical when it comes to both my prose and my strategies. So, I knew it would be a while between finishing my novels and getting them out to the world. If you go the traditional publishing route, it can often take a year or more between acceptance letter and holding your book in your hands. There are many who will council self-pubbers to get as much out as quickly as possible. But there are benefits to looking at the long game. If you are one of these authors, writing guest posts is a great way to start getting your name out there and showing you know what you are doing long before the first book gets published. If you can write intelligently about your genre, setting, history behind your ideas, or the craft of writing, I definitely recommend finding chances to do so at any point in your publishing journey.
Search engines such as Google have to sift through tons of information in order to recommend websites. They are constantly changing their algorithms in order to be more efficient. Knowing how to manipulate these search engines to your benefit is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Any chance you have to get your name in front of potential readers is great, but some areas of any website are more important to the search engines than others.
Titles are the most valuable, followed by headings, and subheadings. Keywords are also a gateway to search engines, so providing your host a list (including your name) is a great step. Guest posts usually list the author’s name and if it is part of a blog tour, then the book title will appear as well. This means that the next time someone searches for either, they are more likely to find websites with relevant information.
When you want to find readers is the only time it’s bad to be a ninja…
Image credit: www.Me.me
Probably the most obvious benefit is getting the information about your name and your book out to the masses. To make sure guest posts help you do this, always provide your host with your sales links, information about any specials you are running, new releases on the horizon, and relevant keywords.
Blog keywords do not need a # like Twitter ones do. And fun fact, search engines like Google actually punish you for having too many keywords. They don’t want people attaching any old word like “Kardashian” just because it’s something people search for. Their job is to provide relevant results, so they are sensitive to people trying to game the system. So, make sure your keywords are targeted and aim for no more than 15.
You don’t need to have “science fiction and fantasy” as one keyword and “science fiction” and “fantasy” as two more. Use only the individual genres and the search engines will be able to find you. Having more relevant keywords rather than the exact thing a person searches for still works. For the same reason, you also don’t need to have “writing,” “tips,” “advice,” “strategies,” “writing tips,” “writing strategies,” and “writing advice” all as keywords. Instead, use “writing,” “tip,” “strategies,” and “advice.”
Did you notice I made “tip” singular? That’s because search engines will show you results for “tips” along with results for “tip” because it is part of that word. Any time adding ‘s’ makes something plural, use the singular as your keyword. “Strategies” is better as a plural if you can only have one keyword related to it. But you could also include “strategy” singular in your list because the spelling is different enough. That way you definitely won’t miss anybody.
Writing can be a solitary experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By working with other writers to provide content for their blogs, you get a chance to make a new connection. This has the potential to go beyond simply “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” You never know when you could find a potential collaborator, beta reader, or cheerleader within the writing community.
Even more importantly, guest posts are a way to connect to readers. When you write a guest post, always make sure to include your social media information, website, and links to your Amazon or Goodreads author page. I keep a Google Doc with all of my information in one in big block with the links already embedded. So, with a simple copy/paste I can add it to any guest post. No muss, no fuss.
Image credit: Mon.gov.ua
Practice, Practice, Practice
Even if it isn’t fiction, every opportunity to write is chance to get better. This can take the form of simply helping your typing skills improve. It also gives you a chance to cultivate and experiment with your style (or “voice”). And practicing how to get your thoughts in order and expressing yourself clearly is always a good thing.
A Treatment for Writer’s Block
If you go into a forum and ask writers what to do when you are feeling blocked, you will often see the advice to put the problem piece aside and write something else. It can be hard to think about diving into a whole other novel or short story, but a blog post can be just what the doctor ordered. They are usually only a few thousand words long (if that). And they are a way to keep your fingers moving even if your brain feels stuck with your fiction.
Seeing words appear on the page is also a good reminder that your blockage probably has nothing to do with you as a writer. It is a product of needing to think something through. Your brain can be working on the problem in the background while you focus on what is in front of you. Epiphany can strike at any moment, and I find it is often when I am not looking directly at the problem.
Finding Opportunities to be a Guest Writer
It’s surprisingly easy to find websites looking for content. With so much competition for readers and so little time, there are plenty of sites that would be happy to host your post.
Create a Blog Tour
A blog tour is like a PR tour for an author, but they never have to get out of their PJ’s. They are often done as part of launching a new book. Though really, no there’s no bad time organize one. If you already published, choosing something like the anniversary of the publication works, but you don’t need a reason besides you feel getting your name out in front of people.
Tours can last anywhere from a week to a couple of months, and can have a stop per day or a stop her week. Choose your strategy based on what kinds of posts you are willing to do and the amount of lead time you have before you want the tour to begin. Several blogs could post your release announcement, for instance, and you only have to write that once. Each guest post on a different subject is going to take a couple of hours to write, so you may want to limit how many you offer to do. There are services that will organize one for you, or you can do it yourself.
(Pssst! Did you Our Write Side has a class about running a blog tour? When you enroll, you receive access to an amazing spreadsheet chock-full of blogs and their contact information. This resource alone is worth the price of the class, but there is a ton of additional information that applies to writing guest posts, too. Check it out. And if taking more than one class we offer appeals to you, we’re running a special for people enrolling between now and August 22.)
The most obvious avenue to guest writing for authors will be book lovers. They tend to post news, reviews, and author interviews in order to help others find their next read. They won’t all be suitable for your genre or style, but chances are there are dozens of options no matter your favorite area. The important thing is to make sure you look at the kinds of posts they already do. And check if they have preferences before you waste either of your time. They often have forms on their websites, or you may need to email them directly.
If you have a new release, sending in a press release is a great strategy. In addition to sending your book to the bloggers to review, offering to review other books people’s books on their behalf might also appeal. And interviews may look like a one-on-one conversations between the blogger and the author. But as often as not they were written by the authors themselves. Though it may seem a little underhanded, it saves the blogger some time and it allows the author to ensure they get to say and promote exactly what they want.
Other Writers’ Blogs
Like book bloggers, writers are also likely to host the same kinds of posts. Likewise, they may have genre restrictions. In addition, some authors like to post character profiles and interviews. They could also be interested in wider-reaching themes, such as how to research a certain subject or countdowns of mythological beasts. Or, they may not know what kind of content they are willing to post until you make a suggestion.
Check to see if they have a form on their blog, or you can often find opportunities by being part of the larger writing community through social media. Bloggers sometimes come right out and ask for guest writers. Or you can put it out into the web-o-sphere that you are interested in writing them and let people find you. If there are other indie writers you follow on social media, it never hurts to reach out and see if they are interested in hosting guest content. This is especially true if you offer to return the favor.
Outside of the Book-o-Sphere
That’s right. There are blogs that have nothing to do with books that could be interested in your content. I found this extensive listing, and there are certainly others out there. You never know when or where you will find potential readers, and any guest post you do helps boost your SEO.
The Benefits of Hosting Guest Writers
“The rising tide lifts all boats” is an expression that definitely applies to authors. You can view other writers as your competition, or you can decide you’re all in the same boat and should help each other out. But beyond being a team player, there are other benefits to you as a host.
Driving Traffic to your Site
Whenever someone writes a guest post, they will want to promote it. This means sharing in their newsletters and social media, as well as telling family and friends. In addition to your own regular readers, you should see a wider audience visiting your blog. This raises the chances that they will click on other posts or read about you. And they may subscribe if they like what they see. This may be a one-time boost, or this writer could take off at some point in the future and then more people will be searching for them.
Taking Pressure Off of You
You’re busy. Who isn’t? So, it can be hard to create a continuous stream of content to keep your readers happy. If there’s a big gap, the fickle public may move on to something else. But if you can find ways to provide interesting content related to your core reader interests, they won’t mind if you didn’t write it yourself. Especially if you know you are heading into a period when you won’t be able to blog as much, lining up guest writers is a great way to keep the content flowing. If you are about to move to a new city, add a member to your family, take care of an ailing loved one, or head off on a European adventure, asking for guest writers is a great strategy for filling the gaps and leaving you breathing room in the process.
The 80/20 Rule
Have you ever decided to unsubscribe to something or unfriend an acquaintance because it was always “me, me, me” all the time? Marketing wisdom dictates that only 20% of what you put out on social media (which includes your blog) should be dedicated to your brand or sales. That leaves a whopping 80% of your content that has to come from somewhere else. Hosting guest posts is a wonderful way to help you reach that quota.
Finding Opportunities to Host Guest Writers
Once you know about all the benefits of guest writing above, it’s easy to see why someone might want to do a guest post for you. But how do you find these wordsmiths and do you do once you have?
Ask and You Shall Receive
That’s right, folks. Often, all you have to do is ask people! If you make a “Submissions” section of your website and add it to your menus, that tells people you’re in the market to host. Then, you can start posting a link to your submissions page through your social media to get the word out. Plus, you probably have writer friends who would love to write you a post or swap articles. But you won’t know until you ask. The worst they can say is, “No thanks.”
Blog Tour Stops
I mentioned running a blog tour when it comes to being a guest blogger, but it works for being a host, too. If you keep your eyes open for people advertising blog tours, signing up is a great way to become a host. You can ask for a guest post or interview and you’re golden. You get the traffic from being part of the tour, and the writer gets some exposure. Everyone wins! Usually, you don’t even have to take time to read the book. Though getting free books to review is also awesome, of course! Just make sure you actually follow through and write the review.
If you are interested in giving a blog tour a try, Our Write Side is currently recruiting folks to be part of the one for Scath Oran, a poetry anthology by Stacy Overby. Sign up now. Is an epic adventure that pits angels vs. demons more your style? Sign up for the Angelborn tour.
Being a Gracious Host
Before you invite someone over, make sure your “house” is in order. If you create a “Submissions” page, be clear about your expectations and the kinds of posts you are interested in hosting. If you follow best practices for blogging, let them know if you have parameters for formatting and image sizes. And after someone writes a post for you, always make sure to thank them. Not just with words, but by promoting their post with the rest of your social media activities. The writing community is both vast and tiny at the same time. Being polite and will never go amiss.
Do you write guest posts? Have any more tips? Share in the comments to keep the conversation going!
Phoebe has been an avid blogger since 2013 and has contributed to dozens of websites. As an editor for SteampunkJournal.org, she heads up the guest writing side of things and loves working with occasional contributors to polish their book reviews, convention reports, and essays about the history of the steam era.
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