By Becca Puglisi
Guest posting can be a great idea for a number of reasons. First, you’re helping a fellow blogger by providing valuable content that they don’t have to write themselves. Most bloggers are crazy busy, so having someone write a relevant, quality post for them is usually a godsend. At the same time, you’re providing that valuable content to potential followers who aren’t part of your regular audience—people who just might traipse on over to your blog and find out more about you and your books.
Angela and I love to host quality guest posters at our blog, but the process of finding those people can be frustrating. We have to turn away many more potential posters than we accept—usually for superficial reasons that can easily be avoided.
So if you’re a writer who’s interested in guest posting (or podcasting, being interviewed on a radio show, etc.), read on through today’s therapy session as I work through my angst about common pitfalls in this area.
To maximize your chances for success, here’s what you should do…
When You’re Requesting to Guest Post
Follow the Blogger’s Preferred Procedures for Guest Posting
Bloggers have different ways of signing people up to post at their site. And if the blog you’re interested in is sizable, chances are, you’re not the first person to ask about writing for them. To simplify their lives, bloggers will typically create guidelines that provide the important details so they don’t have to answer the same questions over and over.
A cursory search of the blog’s menu bar will usually show you those guidelines. If you can’t find them, try the search bar. If you’re still unable to unearth them, send a quick message to the blog owner letting them know that you’re interested in providing a guest post but you were unable to find their guidelines, and asking them to point you in the right direction. This tells the owner that you’re willing to follow any parameters they have for submitting a post. Believe me: they’ll be happy to hear that you’ve made an attempt in this area.
Offer Content That Hasn’t Been Done to Death
While posting at someone else’s blog can absolutely benefit the writer, it only works because if it also benefits the host. And it only benefits the host when your post offers new or fresh material for their readers.
So before you pitch an idea, look at what’s already been posted there. Most blogs have a Category function that groups content according to its kind. Look up the categories that fit your idea, and read those posts. (You can also use the search bar if you can’t find a breakdown of categories.) If there are already a few posts covering your topic, or one was just posted a few weeks prior, that blog may not be the best fit for your idea.
BECCA’S PET PEEVE: Refrain from asking the host which topics they’d like you to write about. This sounds like a thoughtful thing to do, but it actually creates more work for the blogger as they have to look back and see what hasn’t been covered—essentially doing what you, the potential poster, could have done on your own. Remember: one of your goals in obtaining a guest post should be to make things easier for your host. So do your own homework here and you’ll likely get a better reception.
Offer More than One Topic
If you have multiple post ideas (and you’ve checked to be sure they haven’t been covered too much at the blog), give the host a choice. Our blog has been around in one form or another since 2008. That’s a lot of blog posts and finding new topics that we haven’t just pummeled into the ground can be a challenge. I LOVE when a guest poster provides options because it increases the likelihood that at least one of them will be a viable possibility.
Proofread Your Request before Submitting It
This should go without saying, but…it needs to be said. Your guest post request is kind of like the query letter for your book: it’s the host’s introduction to you and your work. If your submission is wordy, rambling, filled with mistakes, doesn’t provide the requested information, or otherwise needs more work, the host will know that your post is going to be more of the same. So read your request over carefully before sending it.
BECCA’s PET PEEVE: Include your contact information. And make sure that email address doesn’t have typos. /facepalm
When You’re Writing the Guest Post
Follow the Host’s Guidelines
By the time you’re given the green light for your idea, you’ve likely been provided with all the info you need to write it. The person you corresponded with (or maybe the guidelines themselves) will have told you the target word count, how much promotion is allowed, what kind of rating is preferred in terms of language, and other blog-specific dos and don’ts. If you have questions, just ask. Again, bloggers want you to have the information you need before you provide the post because it cuts down on the work that has to be done once the post comes in.
Take It Easy with the Promo
Whether you’re reading a blog post, participating in a Facebook group, or engaging with someone on Twitter, one thing remains true about self-promotion: too much is a turn-off. This is especially true in a blog post, because the purpose is supposed to be providing practical information to the reader. If every other paragraph contains a plug for the author’s book, product, or service, it starts to get old.
This became such a problem for Angela and me that we decided to restrict promotion to the poster’s bio. This doesn’t have to be your rule; many bloggers offer more latitude in this area. But the principle remains: too much promotion defeats your purpose of helping the host and their audience. So keep it to a minimum.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
There comes a point when the effort to edit a guest post just isn’t worth the host’s time. Like your manuscript when you start sending it out, your efforts are much more likely to be rewarded if your post is clean, practical, and concise.
After the Post is Published
Respond to Comments
DO NOT skip this one. It’s one of the best ways to gain new followers. Continue the conversation. Make real connections. Provide more help by answering commenters’ questions or pointing them toward people and resources that can. Even a simple Thanks so much for reading, or I’m so glad the post was useful can make a lasting impression.
Promote the Post on Social Media
Again, the guest posting opportunity is all about quid pro quo. A great way to help out your host is to share your post on your own channels, encouraging your followers to head over and check it out. Sure, they’re going to be reading your post, but they’re also visiting the host’s blog. It would be great for the blogger who gave you this opportunity to pick up a few followers they didn’t have before.
Now, maybe you don’t see this as a good thing. Maybe you’re concerned that turning your readers on to other blogs will pull them away from yours. In all honestly, this is not something to worry about. As a writer, how many bloggers do you follow? Don’t you have different go-to people, depending on what information or specific experience you’re looking for? Writers benefit from helping other writers. They just do. So get out there and share the love.
And get moving on those guest post requests! Everyone has something to say, knowledge to share from their own unique perspective. Put these tips to use, expand your audience, and help out a fellow writer at the same time.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Kenneth Strange says
This is such a timely and informative blog. I’m a middle age writer, really just starting out although I’ve been writing off and on since I was a child. In 2019, I published my first book, a travel/adventure/spirituality story (It’s Your Camino) of hiking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain with my wife followed with a translation to Spanish the following year. I’m working on a law enforcement memoir (Im a former FBI agent and current PI) which I hope to have out by the end of this year. I was directed to your site by blogster Anne R. Allen who had kind words about your site.
I’ve never done a guest blog so I thought now’s as good a time as any to learn the ropes.
Thanks for sharing your blog.
Kristin Lenz says
This is great, Becca! I wrote a similar post when I “retired” as editor of the SCBWI-MI blog.
Submission guidelines contain so much useful information, I was always surprised by how many writers clearly hadn’t taken that first step.
BECCA PUGLISI says
I’m thinking that people who are really new to guest posting may not know that guidelines are somewhat standard and if they poke around, they can find them. Then, of course, there are the content marketers who don’t pay attention to the guidelines, anyway (I can provide great post on interior design for you!). Ugh.
Lisa Hall-Wilson says
I have built an email list almost exclusively by guest blogging for bigger blogs. If you make the host’s life easier, if your content resonates with their readers, if you can produce clean content, you often get asked back. The last two years have been really really hard on my mental health, but hoping things improve over the spring and summer.
BECCA PUGLISI says
Yes! It’s totally a two-way street, and I think a lot of people who would like to get into guest posting miss this. They see it as an opportunity for them but don’t recognize that for the partnership to work, it has to be a payoff for the host, too. Your insight and unique perspective have allowed you to share information with our readers that they wouldn’t have gotten from Angela or me, so your coaching posts have definitely been a help to us!
Mindy Alyse Weiss says
I love having all these helpful guest blogging tips in one place. Thanks, Becca!
Thanks for saying to include the correct contact info. It’s especially important if they’re using a form and have the wrong e-mail or forget to share their name.
Mona Alvarado Frazier says
The reminder to read the guidelines reminds me of the “read the memo” meme. This post is helpful, especially the tip of offering more than one topic (after you’ve searched for the existing subject matter). Often, I skip a post if the topic’s been done to death elsewhere.
BECCA PUGLISI says
Right? Readers have limited time, and they’re not going to read posts that have already been done. Offering new content, or existing content from a new perspective, is super important.
Ted Atchley says
Please consider doing a post similar to this one on the topic of getting booked as a guest on a podcast.
BECCA PUGLISI says
This is a good idea. I’ve done a lot of podcasts but haven’t submitted requests for participating in them, so I’m not the best person to write this post. But I’ll see if any of our resident writing coaches might be up for it. Thanks for reading, Ted.
Lisa Hall-Wilson says
Podcasts are definitely on my radar for this fall as well. Have been asked on a couple but never pitched.
Kristin Lenz says
Ted: On the SCBWI-MI blog, author/publisher Maria Dismondy wrote a post about pitching podcasts: