Everyone says you should start a blog to reach more readers, the trouble is it can be hard to know what you should blog about, finding the time to blog can be challenging and you’re not convinced it will actually help you sell books. So, to blog or not to blog? My answer is usually yes, you should blog, but not necessarily on your own blog. Guest blogging can be more effective.
Let’s dig into what I mean by that and how to do it.
Guest blogging where readers can find you
I'm a huge fan of outreach as a way of growing your author platform. Outreach is where you leverage other people's audiences to grow your own. That includes guest blogging. Outreach can be one of the fastest and most effective ways of growing your own online platform because you're leveraging somebody else's existing audience rather than trying to build your own from scratch.
The problem a lot of people have with blogging is that when they're blogging on their own site, nobody knows it exists. So nobody finds it. You might post about a new blog post on social media, but if you don't have a huge social media following then that still doesn't drive very much traffic.
So my preferred method is to write guest posts, or blog on somebody else's blog where they already have an audience. You can mention your reader magnet at the end in your bio and that will drive people back to your website to sign up for your mailing list. Once you have people on your mailing list and you're blogging on your own site, you can tell your mailing list to check out your new blog. And that will start driving traffic to it.
If you have done your homework on who your ideal readers are and know where they are hanging out online and the content they are consuming, you can head straight for those blogs to pitch yourself as a guest writer.
If you don’t yet know where you should be guest posting, a little bit of research can go a long way.
Research blogs to pitch
There are a couple of things to consider when looking for the right blogs to guest post for. First, you want to look for blogs where your ideal readers are consuming content. Your goal, after all, is to find new people who will love your books. Second, you need to look for blogs that accept guest posts and have a decent following, to make sure it’s worth your time pitching them. Bear in mind that if you’re just starting out you don’t want to just pitch authority blogs as they are much harder to land posts on.
It's often easier for nonfiction authors to find relevant blogs. You’ll simply look for other blogs that talk about your topic, or a related topic. For example, if you write about the mindset for professional athletes, you could guest post for a blog that covers nutrition for competitive athletes. Your post may talk about the effects different foods have on your state of mind.
Fiction readers are everywhere
Fiction writers may pitch other authors’ blogs. You could offer a review of another book in your genre, talk about your writing routines, or even share an interesting research trip you took. Alternatively, you can also pitch nonfiction blogs. For instance, you could pitch fitness blogs with a post about how to fit in exercise when you write all day, or how to avoid wrist pain when you type a lot. You could pitch time management or productivity blogs, personal development blogs or business blogs that want to know how you fit an author business around a day job or what you look for in a virtual assistant.
These blogs may not be a perfect fit – the readers won’t all have an interest in your books – but fiction readers are everywhere, not only reading blogs about their type of fiction. If you get yourself in front of enough people, some of them are going to be your ideal readers.
Now you have some topic ideas in mind for blogs, you can use Google to find blogs that accept guest posts. Try searching [Your Topic] + [Guest Post] or [Your Topic] + [Write For Us].
If you already know some blogs you want to try, search for guidelines for submitting guest posts or contact details for the blogger or an editor. Some sites won’t have a ‘Write For Us’ page, so have a look to see if they publish guest writers. If they do, it’s worth sending them a pitch.
FREE Pitch Template
Stop overthinking your pitches & start getting publicity!
Guest blogging pitch tips
Once you have found some blogs you want to write for, you want to think of posts that would be a good fit for them. Have a look at the kind of content they have published already, especially which posts are most popular with readers. Some blogs list their most popular content, while others you can figure out by looking at how many shares and comments a post got.
Advanced tip: you can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find out what is the most popular content on a particular site and how much engagement it has had on different platforms.
If you’re struggling to come up with content ideas, go back to your ideal reader avatar. What problems do they have that you can help solve? Most importantly for fiction writers, use your storytelling skills. Storytelling is important in nonfiction writing to keep an audience engaged, so show off what you can do. If people enjoy what you write, they are more likely to check out your fiction, even if you have written a ‘how to’ post.
Fiction writers need to be prepared to seize guest blogging opportunities by thinking outside the box. I had a client who managed to land a guest post about when is it time to stop driving the day after the UK’s Prince Philip (97) had a car crash. This tied in with my client’s book in which he wrote about a hair-raising road trip with an older relative at the wheel. My client had no idea that opportunity would come up, but he was ready when it did!
Follow the guidelines & personalize your pitch
Once you know what you want to write, put together your pitch. Start by following the blog submission guidelines. If none are listed, send a short pitch by email including your topic ideas and/or headline. Include a link or two to any previous posts you've written that had lots of engagement. If you’re just getting started (or if requested), you may want to send your full post so they can get a sense of your writing.
I have a free Pitch Template you can download to help get you started.
Most importantly, personalize your email and include something that shows you are familiar with their blog. Remember, it’s not about you. The blogger wants to know what you can offer their audience, not how a post on their site will help you sell more books.
You did your research, came up with a great post idea and sent off your pitch. It’s been more than 20 minutes, so what should you do now?
It can be exciting sending off your first pitches, quickly turning to nerve-wracking and then despairing if you don’t hear back. But relax, bloggers are busy. Give it a week and then send a short follow-up email asking if they received your pitch and if they have had a chance to give it some thought. Often that’s all that’s needed to prompt someone into action and come back to you with a response – even if it’s to say they haven’t had time to look at it yet.
Depending on who you listen to, you may decide to follow up more than once. It’s up to you. Some say that it’s worth following up every week until you get a yes. Others say only follow-up once. I say do what feels right to you, but always follow up AT LEAST once. It’s not rude or frowned upon to check that your email arrived. Too many people give up when they hear nothing back after their pitch, assuming it means the pitch wasn’t accepted. In fact, it usually means that the recipient was busy and swamped with email (who isn’t?), so the email went unnoticed. It’s the writers that follow up that land the guest blogging opportunities.
Write a great post
Woohoo, your pitch got accepted! Now to write an awesome post. Be sure to focus on value and quality content. That means it should do one of three things; persuade, inform or entertain. Your post should have a purpose, but that purpose shouldn’t be to sell your book. That may be your end goal, of course, but the post itself should serve the readers. For some top tips on writing a strong post, visit Copyblogger’s The Ultimate Blogger Writing Guide. The post may be more than 10 years old, but the advice is timeless.
Writing a great article is crucial for two reasons: 1) You want the blog host to be pleased with your content so they invite you back or recommend you to other bloggers. 2) You want the audience to love your content so they feel compelled to check out your website, books and/or reader magnet.
Include a compelling bio
Keep your bio short and succinct. You can usually have one link, and possibly a social media link, in your bio. I recommend including a link to your reader magnet, rather than your book page on Amazon, for example. Your goal is to use guest blogging to grow your author platform and specifically your email list. If you send them to Amazon, they may not buy your book anyway and then you have no way of ever contacting them again.
Promote your guest post
When your post goes live the blogger will normally send you the link. You want to share your post with all your networks (social channels and email list) to let your existing fans know it’s there. The blog host will appreciate your help promoting their site and sending traffic to your post; your fans will appreciate the valuable content you have created and can help share it, which helps you get in front of more people and look good in front of the blog host. It’s a win/win/win and a vital part of the guest blogging process, so don’t skip it.
Reply to reader comments
When your post goes live and for a few days after, keep an eye on your post and respond to any comments. This shows the blog host that you are engaging with readers and is a great way to start building relationships with your ideal readers.
Thank the blogger
Finally, a few days after your post has been published send a thank you to the blogger who gave you the guest opportunity. This should be genuine thanks, but it doesn’t hurt to also let them know that you’d love to write something else for them if they’d like to have you back.
Get your pitch template
So those are my top tips for guest blogging. If you have any more tips, please do leave them in the comments below, and don't forget to grab your free pitch template so when you're pitching those first guest posts you have something to help you get started. And don't forget to let me know when you get your first guest post accepted, and when your posts go live. I would love to hear about them and check them out!