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 PhoebeDarqueling.com! The World-building Showcase interview series and Fairy Tale Fridays are open to guest posts. Comment on this post if you’d like to be contacted.) In this series, 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 a platform 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 because I changed career trajectories. 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 and business of fiction. 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 and get results back as quickly as possible. 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…
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 because 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. 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, you can just 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.
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 hundred words long, and they are a way to keep your fingers moving even if your brain feels stuck with your fiction. This post is about 1300 words, but the average blog post is between 300-500 words.
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.
Those are the six reasons I’ve identified for being a guest writer, but I am sure there are more! Share your thoughts in the comments, and if you’d like to find out about being a guest writer for PhoebeDarqueling.com or SteampunkJournal.org, you can put that in the comments, too.
In my next post about being a guest writer, I’ll give you some tips for where to look for opportunities. Until then, stay splendid out there!