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The Why and How of Guest Posts

Last week I created the Great Guest Post Exchange. I got some emails and I’ve already agreed to work with a couple people. You being writers and all, I don’t think there’s a lack of interest–I think it’s a lack of confidence. Or perhaps you don’t understand how guest posts can be beneficial to you. So I decided to discuss why and how to pitch a guest post.

So, why write a guest post?

  • Writing a guest post puts you in front of a new audience.
  • Guest posts also help you build relationships with awesome bloggers.
  • Being featured by these bloggers lends your name credibility.
  • Accepting guest posts brings fresh perspective to your blog–it also brings you a new audience and lightens your work load.

On a more personal level, many famous bloggers attribute their fame to guest posts, and the guest posts I’ve written have definitely increased my traffic. Every time I feature an author on my blog, whether it’s through an interview or through a guest post, I get some new visitors, and quite often those visitors stick around. I also make a friend and send a few of my readers their way. It’s a win win for everyone.

So, are you sold on the idea of guest posts but have no idea where to get started? An entire book could be written about how to pitch and write a guest post, but by keeping a few simple rules in mind you can greatly increase your chance of being featured on someone else’s blog.

How do you land a guest post?

  • Do your research— Before you email a blogger to pitch a guest post, first make sure that they accept guest posts. Check their guidelines and read a few pre-existing guest posts to figure out what they want. You also want to make sure the blog will have a similar audience to yours and is likely both to work with the topic you’d like to write about and to bring you loyal readers.
  • Create multiple ideas–Brainstorm ideas around the themes of the blog you’ve chosen to pitch a post to. The more ideas you have, the more likely it is that one of them will get selected by the blog.
  • Outline your ideas–Outline your three favourite ideas. This way you have three posts prepared in case they don’t like your first one.
  • Remember the guidelines–If they want a full post, by all means write and send them a full post. Many blogs would prefer you to pitch an idea. Pitching two or three ideas that you’ve fleshed out pretty well often gives you a better chance, unless the guidelines specify to only discuss one idea at a time.
  • Be polite–Start your email with “Dear ____”. Always know the person’s name. Say thank you to them for the time it takes them to read your email. Let them know why you want to blog for them and why their readers will like reading your post. Don’t be pushy. Thank them for their time.

Following these rules won’t guarantee that your guest post will be accepted, but it does mean that you’re giving it the best chance possible, which is all we can ever do as writers. Put your best foot forward and don’t be afraid: bloggers are nice people, and if you follow these rules, they won’t spit in your face. They might not be interested in the post, but as writers, we have to accept that other people won’t always be interested in our work. Bloggers, at least, are other writers and will generally make an effort to be nice about it when rejecting your post.

Personally, my goal is to help all of you become better writers and achieve your writing dreams, so if you’ve been thinking about pitching a guest post to me–whether or not you’d like to do a proper exchange–don’t be afraid. I will not only be friendly and professional, but if a post has potential I will also edit it with you and help you shape it into something awesome. And if you’re looking to send a guest post somewhere else, send me the pitch and I’ll give you some feedback to help you move forward with your writing career.

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The Great Guest Post Exchange

One of my goals for this year is to write twelve guest posts(my first one went up here last Friday). I also recently decided that I’d like to accept more guest posts here.

I put quite a bit of effort into figuring out how to accomplish these goals when I realized the answer was right in front of me. So, after some careful thought and planning, here is the solution:

The Great Guest Post Exchange

Here’s how this is going to work: I’m going to write a guest post for your blog and in return you’ll write a guest post for my blog. We’re going to commit to giving each other high quality pieces because we don’t want to ruin each other’s reputation. We’re not going to set strict deadlines because these aren’t paid pieces and life gets in the way, but we’re going to get these posts to each other within a month of making the commitment. If for any reason one of us can’t finish their post within that month, we’ll talk about it and create a new deadline.

We are going to post on each other’s blogs and promote our respective posts. We are going to respond to all the comments on our respective blog posts because that’s what professionals do.

Here’s how this won’t work: I will not automatically accept your post because it is there, and I won’t expect you to accept my post just because it’s there either. I will not publish substandard posts or posts that don’t help my readers in some way, and I hope you will follow the same standards on your blog. You will not re-publish your guest post for 30 days after it goes live on my blog, preferably not at all. I will not re-publish my guest post to your blog for the same amount of time, and if you’d like to feel exclusive I won’t re-publish it at all.

I am your colleague, not just a publicity outlet.

All that being said, to participate in the Great Guest Post Exchange, please either email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com with your proposal OR leave your email in the comments below. Feel free to also ask any questions or raise any concerns you might have about the Great Guest Post Exchange.

The Real Deal by S.S. Hampton

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There is an old maxim—“Write what you know.”

True enough, but sooner or later you might want to write about something you do not know anything about. Then what? Give up on the idea? File it away in a dusty filing cabinet with the farewell thought, “Someday”? Or maybe you grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground and command (as a writer friend of mine once said), “You will conform to my wishes!”

Everyone has their own style of research; my style may not be yours, but as long our style works for us that is all that matters.

Okay, let us say you want to write a story about a chimney sweep. Sounds simple, but to make your character and story believable, what exactly does a chimney sweep do? How does the sweep do it? Time to check Wikipedia. Check YouTube. Just Google “chimney sweep” and see what crops up. You will start to develop a database. In the process you will probably uncover details that might have an impact on the plot of your story that you had not foreseen before. And then, it is time for the moment of truth. Go find a real chimney sweep and interview him or her.

Be sure to bring a digital recorder with a lapel microphone—a backup for each is a good idea too. And a pad of paper and working pens.

Preparation for an interview is crucial. After your initial research you now have a far better idea of what questions to ask. Start off with the basics—age, education, hometown, what did the parents do, etc. Married? For how long and what does the spouse think of the chosen vocation? In the early 21st century how does a chimney sweep find work? Internet? Yellow pages? Post notices at rural feed & seed stores? The clothing worn—is that something of a “chimney sweep uniform” or just the person’s chosen clothing?

As the interview progresses do not hesitate to pounce upon an interesting remark or ask the person to clarify a remark. You never know when a stray comment may lead into unexpected and fertile research territory. Be sure to keep your interview to 30-45 minutes, no more than an hour.

And you have it. You conducted your initial research, learned enough to frame proper questions like an old pro, and you conducted an interview. You can now add factual, believable information to your character, to your story.

It will be easier than you think. Tell a person why you want to interview them, buy them a cup of coffee and a slice of pie, and you will discover that people enjoy talking about themselves and their jobs. Your job is to listen.

So, good luck, good research and writing, and enjoy!

PS: You may wonder why I chose a chimney sweep as an example. I read an article in a Colorado Springs newspaper many years ago and was surprised to find such professionals were still around. Since then I have always wanted to include the character of a chimney sweep in one of my stories.

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He has served in the Army National Guard since October 2004, and holds the rank of staff sergeant. He is a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, he became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can purchase his books here.

Writing The Feature Story by Jordan Clary

Today’s guest poster is a freelancer who originally emailed me asking for more information about the work I did as a social media manager earlier this year. I was thrilled to make the connection and happily invited her to post something for all of you–I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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Feature stories are a mainstay of nearly every type of publication. They balance out informational articles with texture, color and depth. Feature stories give the writer, and reader, a chance to explore a subject and look at it from different perspectives. Unlike news stories, which generally follow the inverted pyramid style, where the reporter makes the main point right away and the most important sub-points in the first paragraph or two, with a feature story a writer can develop the storyline in a number of ways.

Although, features must still follow the journalistic rules of fairness and accuracy, the writer can be more creative with a feature story by adding descriptions, impressions and other details that might be overlooked in a news report.

Feature stories can be found anywhere.

As a freelance journalist, and more recently, as a writer for a weekly newspaper, I’ve written hundreds of feature stories. Just in the past couple weeks I’ve written features about a woman who saves greyhounds, a rancher who self-published his memoir, a homework club for English as a second language learners and a small band of Paiutes who are reclaiming their ancestral homeland.

What types of subjects make up feature stories? Nearly anything.

Many features are profiles of an interesting person. Trade magazines might be interested in a profile on someone who is a master at the trade or a behind-the-scenes look at a particular industry. Business magazines like profiles of successful business people. When writing a profile of a person, however, it’s important to focus on just the parts that are relevant to the topic you are writing about. Don’t try to cover their entire autobiography.

Human interest stories are one of the most popular types of features. Similar to profiles, they give the reader a chance to understand issues through the experiences of another. I live in a rural area where one of the big issues between ranchers and environmentalists is water rights. There is a movement to restore some barren areas to their original lushness through stream and meadow restoration projects. Some ranchers feel this is taking water away from their cattle. Last spring I wrote several features trying to present the different sides to the issue, including a profile of a rancher who began to support the restoration project once he understood its long range impact on the area. History can make for a good feature story. For Veterans Day you might write about a particular battle or interview a veteran. You could write about how traditions evolved during a particular holiday. And don’t forget the lesser known holidays. Does anyone really know the origins of Groundhog Day?

Seasonal themes can also be developed. These can be themes about the four seasons or they can follow other seasonal ideas: baseball season, opera season, cultural events, a business’ cycle.

Mastering the art of feature stories can provide a door into a number of different publications, including both internet and traditional print media.

Newspapers and magazines like features because of their engaging nature, and many of these venues are printing more features as a way to keep their readers interested.

If you’re a copywriter or business writer, you’ll find many opportunities for feature writing. Company newsletters often contain feature stories that highlight a particular employee’s achievements or of someone who has done something relevant for the industry. Public relations professionals often write short features as press releases.

Broadcast journalists for both television and radio love human interest stories. These behind-the-scenes profiles are often what keep viewers or listeners coming back for more.

If you’re a blogger, you already know, many posts are simply short profiles on a particular topic.

Feature stories are all around us. Do you know someone who has overcome a serious illness? As more and more businesses fold, a profile on what happens to a worker suddenly out of a job can be a valid feature. Who, in your community, is volunteering for animal welfare, assisting battered women, feeding the homeless or helping raise the awareness about foster children? A casual conversation in a grocery line can lead to a feature, as it did for me recently when the cashier mentioned they were holding a birthday party for a customer who turned 100 years old.

Informational articles may give you ideas on how to expand to a feature.

Keep a notebook to jot down ideas and contact information when something comes your way. You’ll soon find you have more ideas than you can possibly bring to fruition. And if you work locally, you may very well find people coming to you for feature stories.

Bio: Jordan Clary lives in northern California and works as a writer and photographer for a rural weekly newspaper. She continues to freelance on the side.

Blogs that Pay for Guest Posts

Today, as I’ve spent the last week and a half frantically looking for freelance writing jobs in light of a recent decision to move in with my boyfriend, I’ve decided to break from the norm and mention three blogs that pay for guest posts. Most of the blogs I’ve found that pay for guest posts are in the computer programming/website design/gadgetry fields. Here are three that aren’t:

Make a Living Writing pays $50 per guest post and is looking for posts about writing.

Read Learn Write also pays $50/post and is looking for blogs on the topics of reading, writing and learning.

Writers’ Weekly pays $60/post. When writing a blog post, think ‘is this blog post going to help writers make money’? If the answer is yes, odds are that they want it.

Hopefully this post will help you think up some new ways to make money with your writing. I know I’ll be sending posts out to these sites when I’ve got good ideas for them.

If you know of any other blogs that pay for guest posts, please let me know so I can feature them next time.

Writing for Blogs Not Your Own

I dream of someday making a living from my fiction. This blog is about that dream and how I’m going to reach it. Unfortunately, there are a hundred writers for every fiction market, and so far, my fiction hasn’t seen the light of day. Instead, I’ve found my early successes in the realm of non-fiction: from September to December I worked as a youth blogger for Now Hear This, I’ve written articles and interviewed authors for Penumbra during my internship, and just this Friday I had my first real guest post(as in the first one I queried myself) published at My Name is Not Bob.

All of these non-fiction experiences have been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned something from each of them. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I do have what it takes to write for other people. I might not have found someone who loves my fiction yet, but each non-fiction sale boosts my confidence. Each non-fiction sale tells me that I write well, that I have a place in the writing world, and that someday, people will read my fiction, too.

So how do you find these same opportunities? Well, think of the places where you like to get your information from. Who are your favourite bloggers? Do they accept guest posts? Do you have something to contribute to their conversation?

My Name is Not Bob is the blog of Robert Brewer, editor of Writer’s Market and a fiction writer on the side. His blog includes inspiring life stories, personal anecdotes and advice for writers. I enjoy his conversational tone and easy-to-read blog layout. So when I discovered that he was accepting guest posts, I decided I’d love to work with him.

But what did I have to contribute to the conversation? I had some pretty awesome advice for writers: How Writers Can Benefit from Publishing Internships, and how writers can get–and keep–those internships.

So, while my Now Hear This job sort of fell into my lap and my articles for Penumbra are all a part of the internship, I decided to query Robert with my ideas. Familiarity with the blog and with Robert’s tone helped a lot. From his posts he seemed friendly, so I wasn’t too nervous sending him a polite email asking if he would be interested in a couple guest posts about internships.

He said he’d be thrilled to have them, so I wrote up my two guest posts, edited them a little here and there, and sent them off. Of course, even with him already showing interest, I was still a little nervous when I sent them off. Thanks to Penumbra, I’ve sat on both ends of this thing–and I’ve had to tell authors who I invited to post on the blog that their post wasn’t approved. Let me tell you, it really does feel bad on both sides.

If you’re working on a guest post for somebody, make sure you’re familiar with their tone. Your voice should still stand out as different, but you want a similar tone. If the blog is PG-13, even if you’re an erotica writer by trade, follow that PG-13 guideline. If the blog tends to use very simple or sophisticated language, alter your own style to be just a little closer to theirs. Generally, the better your post fits with everything else on the site, the more likely it is to actually get posted.

Remember to be polite when dealing with anyone you want to work with and to follow their guidelines. Some bloggers have very loose guidelines for guest posts and others are very specific. If they want you to query, query first. If they just want you to send them a post, send them a post. Send it in the format they want it in. If you know what kind of coding they use, try to code it so it’s already formatted for maximum convenience.

Basically, when you’re sending another blogger your work, you want to make sure that it’s something they’ll find interesting and actually want to put on their blog, that you give them your best work, that it fits with their blogging topic, and that you’re polite. It may sound like a lot, but really, it’s easy–and I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who used to be afraid to query blogs I liked.

Odds are–and this is the best part–that if you really like a blogger and their work, and you present yourself well, they’ll really like you too. I mean, you already know you have one thing in common, right?

If you’d like to see the guest post that inspired this post, click here.

Have you tried writing for somebody else’s blog before?