Part of The Writer’s Life Series
JH: Guest blogging is a fun and easy way to get your name out there without pestering your fans or scaring off potential readers. Anne R. Allen visits the lecture hall today, to share tips on the benefits of guest blogging for authors.
Anne R. Allen is an award-winning blogger and the author of 13 books, including the hilarious Camilla Randall Mysteries, and the Amazon #1 bestseller The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors, named one of the “99 Best Blogging Books of All Time” by Book Authority. She’s also co-author, with Catherine Ryan Hyde, of How to be a Writer in the E-Age. Anne blogs with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris at Annerallen.com.
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Take it away Anne…
I’m constantly hearing from new and even pre-published novelists who are spending their time obsessing about building an email list and sending out weekly (or daily or hourly) newsletters to their “fans.”
I know they’re following the hot, trendy advice. But I think the newsletter fad has got way out of control. Newsletters can be helpful—for established novelists with a big readership.
But a novelist needs to get established first.
I think new fiction writers should spend their time writing fiction. Developing your creativity muscles, writing and publishing short stories, and learning the nuances of storytelling will help your career a great deal more than obsessing about marketing too soon.
But there’s one thing you can do at any stage that will get your name into search engines and start building an audience —without taking over all your writing time.
It’s guest blogging.
Guest posting on blogs increases your authority, builds platform, and can even add to that list of email subscribers the marketing gurus are hammering you about. Yes, it involves writing nonfiction. But one guest post can reach thousands—or tens of thousands—more readers than all those newsletters you’re sending to your “fans”, which so far consist of your best friend, your cat, and that kind of stalkery guy from Starbucks.
You don’t need to be a published author to benefit from guest blogging. It’s a great way to get “clips” if you’re freelancing, and if you’re querying, it can add some serious cred to your bio.
Plus it's FREE!
Some blogs even pay their guests. You can find a great list of blogs that pay writers at Erica Verrillo's fantastic blog, "Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity."
But you don’t need to guest on major blogs to benefit from guest blogging. Every guest blog post puts you on Google’s radar and helps you network with potential readers and reviewers.
1. Think “Micro-Niche” to Target the Right Blog Audience.
Start by thinking about where a guest post might reach the most potential buyers for the kind of books you’re writing. Where are your readers likely to be?
Genre is all-important.
Write Romance? You'll reach a lot more romance readers at "Romance University" or "Romance Divas" than a general writing blog. You’ll do even better if you target blogs of authors in your genre with a good reader following. (I’d so much rather call them “readers” than “fans.” We’re writers, not Kardashians. Sigh.)
Visits to a few smaller blogs of Romance writers with a devoted readership can sell more Romance novels than guest posting on major blogs that target the general public.
Use your protagonist’s hobbies, interests, or profession.
Orna Ross of the Alliance for Independent Authors says the secret to writing success right now is “micro-niching.” That means targeting your audience with surgical precision.
- Maybe you write mysteries and your sleuth is a real estate agent. Why not query a real estate site? You could reach people who'd never buy a mystery otherwise. That's pure gold. Try a pitch to an in-house blog for a real estate network about a particular home sale problem your sleuth runs up against.
- Have a protagonist who's caring for an aging parent? Try reaching out to caregiver blogs.
- Have a military memoir? Look for blogs about military collectibles or recent military history.
- Writing about a character with a disability? Reach out to bloggers who have that disability and network with others for support and exchange of information. Maybe you’ll find some savvy beta readers as well.
- Have a novel set in wine country? Lots of wineries have blogs. You can pitch a piece about some of the research you’ve done on the history of wine making. (And maybe you’ll get a free wine tasting out of it.)
Setting can provide a goldmine of opportunities.
If your book is set in a particular place, reach out to travel blogs interested in the area of your setting. People planning vacations buy more fiction than people arguing about prologues or Oxford commas.
Do a search on your geographical setting and start clicking.
2. Visit Each Blog Before You Query.
Read more than the one article that comes up when you Google a subject. Visit the blog and read several posts.
And read the guest post guidelines if there are any. (This is really important!)
Also read the comments to see if that blog attracts people who really might be interested in your book. Leave a comment on a post you enjoy.
The best place to start querying is a blog you read regularly because you genuinely like it and have an interest in the topics it addresses. If you're a regular reader and commenter on a blog, you're much more likely to get a spot.
Mirroring the tone of the blog really helps. Our blog has a light, humorous tone. When I got a query from the brilliant Melodie Campbell, “Canada’s Queen of Comedy” I gave her a permanent annual spot. She showed me immediately that she was perfect for our readership.
3. Learn How to Write Blog Content.
If you don’t have a blog of your own you may have to work a bit on blogging skills. (I do recommend new authors start a blog, but I suggest “slow blogging” so you can make your WIP a top priority.)
Writing for a blog means using sub-headers, lists, bullet points, bolding, and lots of white space. Forget what you learned in school about paragraphing. Writing in the digital age means forgetting a lot of those writing rules you learned in high school.
4. Send a Professional Query to the Blogger via Email
A blog query should start with a sentence explaining why you want a spot on that particular blog. Write a note with proper paragraphing, punctuation, capitalization and spelling. This is true whether you’re asking for a review, interview, spotlight, or guest post spot. Be businesslike, concise, respectful, and don't lie.
Seriously. Honesty will put you head and shoulders above 99% of the people who query our blog. The rest of them seem to have read the Bad Guest Blogger Handbook.
“Hey Blogger” doesn’t land you a guest blog spot any more than “Yo Agent!” gets you literary representation.
And don’t mass-query. Mass queries are self-rejecting. They brand you as lazy and clueless. Take the time to impress a blogger with your knowledge and professionalism and you’ll stand out from the crowd.
5. Write a Short, Compelling Pitch
A guest post query can have one pitch or several. As a blogger, I prefer several, so I can choose. Sometimes a great potential guest may have a wonderful idea, but we're running a post on that subject next week, so I'll want to see what else they've got.
Pitches don't have to be elaborate. Just list your possible topics with a few sentences after each about your angle and why you're qualified to write about it. A bulleted list works fine.
- How to Market Books on Snapchat. I've boosted my sales by 25% with this method. I'll provide a step-by-step how-to.
- The Growing Romance Market in India. Amazon's push into the Indian market has opened up a huge market for romance authors. I offer some do's and don'ts for authors writing for Indian readers.
- 10 Cures for Writer's Block. New research shows the burned-out brain can be reset into creative mode. I give 10 tips for getting your mojo back.
On the other hand, if you're passionate about one subject and you have unique knowledge, write a longer pitch about that.
If you're querying the folks at the Big Name Real Estate blog to promote your new cozy, Murder in Escrow, you might pitch a topic especially for them:
- How to Market a "Haunted" House. I have been a real estate agent for nearly twenty years, so I've sold my share of houses where someone has died. After seeing some "death" houses sell for way under value, I've discovered how to turn things around. I've found it's best to turn your "defect" into an asset. I can list ten steps for drawing the kind of client who will actually compete to buy a "haunted" house. I'll explain how I got 10% over asking on my last sale using this advertising technique.
A Guest Blogpost is the Promotion that Keeps on Promoting.
A guest blogpost only has to take a few hours to write (and maybe a few more to respond to comments.) But you’ll benefit whether you guest once a month or once a year.
Best of all, Google will remember you, and promote that post for years.
I wrote a guest post on “Bag Lady Syndrome” for a readers’ blog to promote my mystery No Place Like Home when it launched several years ago. Three years later, I got a call from a major women’s magazine, wanting to interview me about bag lady fears. It seems that guest post was the first thing that came up in a Google search on the subject.
I gave the interview and got my book promoted in the pages of a slick magazine that catered to my target audience. A small ad in that magazine would have cost me thousands, but this big splash cost me nothing.
That is never going to happen with those newsletters you’re writing to Fluffy, Buffy and that Starbuck’s guy. So save the newsletter anxiety for later and start guest blogging.
Have you used guest blogging to promote your work? Do you blog and get queries from clueless wannabe guests? How do you handle them? What good/bad experiences have you had with guest blogging?
About The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors
An author blog doesn’t have to follow the rules that monetized business blogs do. This book teaches the secrets that made Anne R. Allen a multi-award-winning blogger and one of the top author-bloggers in the industry.
And you’ll learn why having a successful author blog is easier than you think.
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