Guest Posting for Authors: The Complete Guide
Want to get your writing noticed? Guest posting is one of the best ways to do it. I doubled preorders of Productivity for Writers with just one guest post. One!
But how do you get started guest posting? How do you know whom to guest post for? How should you reach out to them?
The thought of cold emailing someone about writing a guest post used to being me into an almost full-on panic attack. It terrified me. Now, I’ve had work published in The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, The Writing Cooperative, and more.
Well, reaching out still makes me a little nervous. But you just have to do it. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
What if people ignore you?
They probably will.
I’ve been ignored so many times by publications I love to read and would love to be featured in.
But the more you get rejected, the closer you are to getting published.
Just because one place rejects your piece, that doesn’t mean that somewhere else will.
Rejection isn’t always indicative of a piece’s quality—often, it can also be a sign that the audience isn’t quite right, or they’ve just published something similar.
Not hearing back can break your heart. But, over time, it also makes it stronger.
How to get started guest posting
Research your chosen publication
This is a really important part of the guest posting process.
It’s a waste of both your time and the publication’s if you submit something that doesn’t fit their target audience.
For instance, if you want to get published in Entrepreneur, there’s no point pitching a piece about novel writing. A piece on how great copywriting is similar to great novel writing, on the other hand, may appeal to their audience.
The more you’re familiar with the publication’s audience, the better chance you’ve got.
Pick a topic or two
Once you know their audience and the type of content they publish, pick a couple of topics.
Unless they specifically ask for a finished piece, DO NOT submit a finished piece. Just submit the idea instead.
Writing a finished piece when nobody has asked for one is a huge waste of your time. If nobody ever picks up your idea (which could happen, sadly), then you’ve wasted your time writing something that nobody wants to read.
Write a brief email
Write a brief email about who you are and what you want to write about.
Ignore templates that tell you to include this compliment or that compliment unless your compliment is genuine. Don’t make it half-ass; do it properly or not at all.
Keep your title to the point, too. I’ve had the most success when my email title has been ‘Content for [publication name here]’.
However, Janet Murray suggests using your email subject to sell the story. If you’re awesome at writing titles, this is definitely worth giving a go.
Be sure to include the first name of the person you’re contacting in your email, if you can find it. This shows that you’ve done your research and makes them more likely to pay attention.
Keep the tone of your email casual, too. Say ‘hi’ or ‘hey’, followed by their first name. Do not use ‘Dear sir/madam’.
Asking to guest post for someone should not be treated in the same way that a job application should. You want to include some of your personality in your email so that you stand out.
Try to include something memorable in your email, too. I like to sign my emails off with something like, ‘Stay awesome’ rather than the typical ‘regards’. ‘Keep up the great work’, is another one. These come across much more genuinely than transparent compliments that you’ve only included because a template told you to.
Proofreading is important, and emails are no exception.
Check for typos, broken links, etc.
Also don’t send attachments. A total stranger is going to be very cautious about opening an email attachment from someone they don’t know.
Don’t wait around. Don’t chicken out. Just hit send!
Now the boring part—waiting.
I’ve found that if someone is that interested in your piece, you’ll usually hear back within 24 hours. If they’re in the same timezone as you, you may hear back much faster.
If you don’t hear back
Reach out to them again
If you haven’t heard back after a week, reach out to them again—they may have missed your email.
Move on to somewhere else
If you’ve chased them once or twice and still haven’t heard back, it’s time to move on and pitch your ideas somewhere else.
If you do hear back
Congrats! Now it’s time for the hard work to really begin!
Write your piece following their guidelines
Write your piece and for the love of everything, don’t screw it up now by ignoring their guidelines.
Publications have guidelines for a reason. Follow them!
If your brain has suddenly turned to mush and you’ve forgotten how to write, plan your post out first.
Check it, and check it again
Edit, proofread, edit, keep editing…you can never edit enough.
Don’t forget to keep your paragraphs short for readability (particularly on mobile), and get to the point. Don’t babble.
Include imagery if applicable
Some places like you to include imagery, others don’t. It should be in their guidelines about whether they want you to include them or not.
Be sure to cite your image sources too, as, if the image is in breach of copyright, it’s the publication that will get into trouble, not you.
Don’t get your images from Google. Get them from somewhere like Unsplash, which has a library of free—and royalty-free—imagery.
Check it some more
One last proofread…
You’re all done! It’s time to hit send!
Now it’s time to celebrate. All your hard work is done!
Share when it goes live
It could be days, weeks, or even months before your guest post is live. Some sites work several weeks or months in advance, so don’t let that put you off.
Once it’s live, share it like CRAZY. After all, if your piece does well, they’re more likely to accept another one in the future 😉
Ask friends and family to share—or better yet, interact
Get your friends and family to share your post, too.
Better yet, get them to leave a comment on the post. Comments on posts show the publication that you’re popular and you’ve written a great piece, making them more likely to accept guest posts from you in the future.
Keep writing for them
Once you’ve started to form a relationship with a publication, it’s much easier to get future posts published in there.
Keep coming up with great ideas that can be shared with their audience.
Don’t suddenly start submitting half-ass ideas just so that you can get more coverage, though. Always put their readers before yourself. If your main goal of guest posting isn’t to help or entertain, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.
Pitch for someone else, and mention where you’ve just been published
The more places you guest post for, the better at it you get, and the easier it becomes.
When you’ve been published in one big-named publication, the others are more likely to say yes.
Once you’ve found an email template that works, reuse it for future submissions. This will save you heaps of time. Be sure to double-check names first, though!
Want to guest post for The Writer’s Cookbook?
If you’ve got a writing-related story to share, we want to know!
Check out our guest posting guidelines for more information.
Over to You
What are the best pieces of advice you’ve been given when it comes to guest posting? Where have you had guest posts published? Share your success stories in the comments and let’s inspire each other 🙂