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Guess what? Bloggers – You and Me – Are Publishers, and We Should Act Like It. (So Let’s Not Be Jerks when Someone Sends Us A Guest Post!)

by Kelly Diels and Dave Doolin

In the ancient world of print publications – for example, in any academic or professional journal – when you send an article to the editor, you receive an acknowledgment of receipt.

Scratch that. In any time – past, present, future – professional publications (print and electronic ones) confirm receipt of your piece.

That is, you are going to get an email telling you somebody knows you submitted an article.

In the olden days (you know, like ten whole years ago), you would get a real, physical letter in the mail.

Quaint, sure.

But not hard.

The process isn’t difficult; there are professional standards. You submit your piece.  You get an acknowledgment.  Later, you get notified that you’re accepted for publication, or that revisions may be required, or that the article is denied.  It’s not hard to do or understand.

But in the blogging world, these standards haven’t really developed.  We all know people who’ve submitted pieces to another blogger and heard nothing.

Hell, we are those people.

And that disturbed Dave enough to email Kelly, informing her “I have a huge rant building on guest posts.”

Kelly’s response: “Bad for brand.  Do this, instead: write a piece *encouraging* bloggers to create guest-post submission channels with less friction. That’s useful. Ranting about this isn’t.”

Kelly is right (this time -d).  There are more productive things to rant about.

And while it might not be productive to rant about the guest post process, it’s certainly productive to talk about it. And improve it.

As bloggers, we graze on both sides of the fence – we accept guest posts for our blogs, and we guest post on other blogs.

So all of us know that guest posting can be hard. Hard on your nerves and hell on your courage. But worth it – because it can be a real honour to have your work published on another site, especially a popular, authoritative one.

That’s something both of us hear from our people, again and again: how do you land guest posts on other, bigger blogs? And how do you get the courage to even submit them in the first place?

Well, you just do. You do things to bolster your courage. You do your research.

Like this:

  • you check to see how the other blogger prefers to receive pitches. Does she want to develop a concept, together? Or does he want a finished piece?
  • you read all the recent pieces and poke around in the archives. Where is the gap? What piece do you need to read? Then go write that piece (or pitch).
  • you check to see if the blog you want to submit to has guest post guidelines. That helps you understand what the other blogger wants – so you can deliver it.
  • you check to see if there is a copyright statement – because you want to know who owns the piece after it is published. (Or at least we do. Because we get paid from our hot ‘n sweaty ‘n hopefully profitable content – and you do, too. So this is important.)

Doing all of these things will increase your confidence. You might even get brave enough to, you know, submit it.

To the other blogger. The blogger who will receive, read, and accept or reject your piece. The blogger who will hopefully publish your piece.

(And, being a blogger, sometimes you are that blogger – the one receiving and publishing guest post submissions.)

Since you know how stupid-hard it can be to get the gumption to send a piece in, don’t you want to make it a little easier for others to summon the courage to submit a guest post to you? Don’t you want to honor the submission effort?

Yes. You do. Really, you do.

And so, to that end, this is what you, the publisher, could - and should – do:

  1. have a dedicated e-mail address to which to submit guest posts (and an autoresponse confirming receipt)
  2. have someone checking it and responding regularly
  3. have a submissions guidelines page
  4. have some language about copyright (who gets it?) and guest author expectations (respond to comments, tweet, etc)
  5. have a worksheet to evaluate the guest post and return that worksheet to the guest author so that they’ll know what was working/not working
  6. have incentives such as a dedicated biographical box with a photo and keyword-anchored backlinks, or even better,
  7. allow the guest author to use their own affiliate links or Adense codes.
  8. consistently comment on your guest author’s blogs, consistently promote their articles by retweeting, etc.
  9. if you use a plugin such as CommentLuv, promote your guest post authors before promoting yourself
  10. if your guest author provides a service or has a product of interest to your readers, allow your guest author to pitch congruently to your readers.

And you should do that because receiving guest posts, graciously, is just good business (and relationship-building) practice – not to mention honorable.

In fact, we should all do that because we all know that submitting your best stuff – and it does need to be good – to other blogs is hard.

The whole damn trying-to-get-published process is hard. It can be

hard to create a guest post

hard to part with it

hard to wait for an answer

But most of all, submitting a guest post is hard because you’re risking rejection.

So we – bloggers who publish guests posts – aka “publishers” – need to amp up our game, act like professionals, and honour the submission effort.

And that’s not hard at all.

About the authors: Kelly Diels writes Cleavage, a blog about the three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning. Dave Doolin blogs at Website In A Weekend, where you can learn how to blog. Together they founded the top secret (sssssssh!!!) League of Extraordinary Bloggers where you’ll learn to have writing, blogging and business superpowers.

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Comments

  1. Ed Han says:

    You know, I’ve only recently been a guest blogger and with one exception only, haven’t encountered this phenomenon so I guess I must be lucky that way. And of course, the surest way to end luck like that is to acknowledge it so I’m sure that’ll change shortly.

    But having said that: yes, all bloggers are publishers, and yes, there are certain standards that I think would be sensible to adopt.

  2. You know, I never really considered letting others post on my blog, as I have always taken the approach of “reaching outward”. I guess I have felt like I am trying to become more noticed on the web, and it didn’t occur to me that the community is a give and take scenario, meaning I should allow others into my home, as it were. I think my biggest fear letting people guest post is spam. Am I just being paranoid? Suggestions?

  3. David Doolin says:

    My goodness. I have some catching up to do here…

    @Michael Terry: the hard part, and what prompted the piece, is sending something into a black hole. It turns out Kelly and I wrote this piece back in April, then sat on it for a while (ok months). I’m currently in Annabel’s space now: write the piece, send it off, and let go of it emotionally. It helps me to hold off on sending the piece for a couple of weeks; once I “forget” about it, I don’t care about rejection. Also, I’ve been through the academic mill, so maybe I’m just used to it.

    @aaron: I would recommend evaluating a piece rapidly, then personally answering “yes” or “no.” If you’re running a large site, by all means automate, but you will need a control to make sure someone actually looks at the article.

    @suzannah: recruit them! I harvested at least a dozen guest posts from comments!

    @madav: You have no choice but to grin and bear it. But you need not submit an article there in the future.

    @Lisa: Tough spot. My advice, just lay out exactly where it doesn’t work, make your critique professional rather than personal, and get it over with. Easier said than done…

  4. David Doolin says:

    @kat: Take Kelly up on her offer! She is an amazingly warm-hearted person, she will make it right for you.

    @kapil: it *does* take an amazing amount of patience!

    @Jimmy, Teena: viewing it as a compliment is definitely the right way; having too many blog posts submitted is “champagne problem.”

    @Erica: High quality problem. Treat it like a customer support issue. The submitted guest post is a support ticket. create a process for handling support tickets. Then handle the ticket, not the guest post. Problem solved! (And I *know* you can do this.)

    @gameblogger: I have no idea. Find out, write it up!

    @Annabel: Since this piece was written (April? May?) I’ve come accept that submitting a guest post is pretty much like shooting it into a black hole. If I get anything back at all, it’s a bonus. There’s an associated head set with this, an assumption of riches: there’s more words where those came from. Channeling a little Bukowski I suppose.

    @Dave T: Thanks! Which reminds me… I need to prep your next article…

  5. David Doolin says:

    @Andy: I’ll defer to your experience as I have none outside of academic publishing. And with that, I’m biased to science and engineering publishing. But I have never had anything completely ignored. (I’ve been harshed up pretty good, but that’s a different story.) That being said, the academic publishing model would be a very good one for bloggers to draw from. On average, it turns out to be very fair to authors, and it rewards merit: good pieces get published. (Getting cited is a totally different thing, not going to talk about that here.)

    @Ralph: the blogging medium is very young. We have a chance to shape the culture.

    @Sonia: I’m sure we wrote this before we sent you whatever it is you say we sent you… we did, didn’t we, Kelly? (I’m not sure which piece we sent; we’ve been sitting on several for weeks.) But yeah, it’s tough without a process, as Erica (above) can attest. I’d love to see this corner of the blogging world take the lead on creating that process, one that’s fair to both authors and editors. As with Andy, I’ll defer to your experience with non-engineering publishing. Collectively, we have the opportunity to do better, and that’s really cool.

    @John B: I like to notify guest authors a few days in advance when their articles are going to publish. I don’t always succeed. It turns out there are a lot more factors to running an article than simply having an open slot. But that’s the subject of another blog post. If not a semester of upper class journalism.

  6. Mike Roberts says:

    I’ve never submitted a guest post although, I’m feeling like now is the time to get started. I will definitely want to do some research on the bloggers I’m going to submit to and make sure that everyone involved comes out ahead. I will also try to hopefully write something that doesn’t suck :)

  7. Now that my site has risen fairly high in the Alexa rankings, I’m getting a lot of requests to submit guest posts from people who have an obvious ax to grind. They’re coming from commercial sites — a company’s name is in the blog title. Some remark, in their query, that you won’t even have to edit the post (o lucky you!), because they’ll take care of that.

    IMHO this is a type of spam. I’ve taken to responding with a polite suggestion that they pay for the space on my increasingly visible site, and attaching a rate sheet. Seems to me that if a company, a P.R. writer, or an SEO specialist wants to use your site to enhance another site’s visibility or to publish what is effectively an advertorial, they should pay for the privilege. In the analog world, companies pay richly for publication of advertorials.

    One of the reasons blogging isn’t very profitable for most of us is that we don’t act like publishers.

  8. I was receiving a guest post created by someone, but I refused it, and now I realized that the post was awesome, how stupid I am :(

  9. nick says:

    Excellent points. I agree. Guest blogging should be made more easier for the people submitting them.

    You provided great advice on how this can be achieved. And I agree with each and every point.
    This is a very encouraging post because it seeks to set up a positive relationship between potential guest bloggers and potential publishers who, in fact, need each other but don’t act that way.

    nice blog thanks for sharing…

  10. Joseph says:

    Your absolutely right. We shouldn’t shoot ourselves in the foot by trashing the guests. Great post

  11. Posting an article is not a simple thing to do because bloggers write things that will be read by the public. It should be an important issue to take into acconut for all bloggers.
    Regards,
    Sandra