I’ve been invited to do a guest post a time or two and really struggled with what to say that would both be welcome and encourage new readers to check me out. A short bio is hard enough, but a good guest post has proved to be even harder. Since I suspect I’m not alone in this, I’ve put together some thoughts to help with the process. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments so we can all learn how to do this better.
The purpose of a guest post is to introduce yourself to a new group of readers. As such, it’s important for the post to be a standalone article and enticing. The blog visitors will not be aware of you and so have no reason to pursue a further interest. You want them to check out your book and your website. That’s the point of doing a guest post, after all. This isn’t going to happen because you tell them to do so, but if you offer a teaser of some sort that makes them want to know more, it very well could.
Consider a guest post the equivalent of being invited to someone else’s party by a friend. When you would normally ask what you can bring to thank these friends of a friend for including you, in the case of a guest post, you are supposed to bring some entertainment. That’s what a good guest post provides: something to entertain, amuse, or intrigue the blog visitors enough that the blogger is happy to have you and the visitors are interested enough to seek you out for more.
It sounds simple, and in principle it is, but when you’re staring at a blank page, the task can be overwhelming. Some bloggers make it easy by requesting an interview (of yourself or your characters) but often enough, it’s up to you to create the content blind. I’ve included some idea prompts below that might spark something to fill that blank page and your greater purpose.
1) What aspects of your process or your book will have a broad appeal outside of your existing readership?
- Readers are often intrigued by a glimpse behind the curtain of book creation. Your process, inspirations, and creativity all offer potential topics.
- Interesting tidbits uncovered during book research is another fun one to explore.
- You can share a glimpse of one of your characters that does not require any background to be enjoyed, but ideally, makes the reader want to know more.
- Philosophy or approach essays such as why this genre, level of violence/sex used, or choice of audience may appeal, especially if the blog has a more philosophical theme.
One caution here: avoid saying how your genre lacked a specific element that you were compelled to supply unless you’ve read every book out there. It usually comes across as arrogant rather than encouraging, making readers want to contest the statement rather than see what you’ve created.
2) What part of your life or experience ties into your novel that you can talk about in an interesting way?
- A funny mini-memoir from your life that inspired a character, plot, or theme in your book can prove welcome.
- Something that happened at your work, with names and details changed to protect those involved, can be shared for how it inspired you to write a book tied (however loosely) to your career, even if it only brought one scene to life.
- For a specific example, my sister tells a story about when she was an EMT and a car was blocking a fire truck as it headed to a fire with lights and sirens. The driver got to the fire first… It was his house. If you were my sister and wrote a book containing fire fighters or even one with an ironic twist, you could tell this story, and use it to tell people about your book and how it ties in.
3) Would an interview make for a good post?
- Do you have a character who would like to chat about something that doesn’t give spoilers, but would be interesting and/or amusing? Can such an interview shed light on an intriguing aspect of the book’s backstory?
- Is there someone you went to for critical research who might be willing to do a short interview?
- How about a self-interview? Can you think of at least five questions you can answer that would do a good job of introducing you and your writing style?
So now I hope you have an idea in mind, and you’re pretty sure it’s a good one. These next questions help to evaluate the quality of your idea for this purpose before you spend time on something that might not appeal to bloggers as much as you hope it will.
Note that some ideas may turn out to be better material for your own blog than for another’s so the work is not wasted as we all need more of those, right?
1) Will this article be of interest to someone else’s readership who do not know or care about you?
2) Is this intriguing enough to make strangers trust you to have published something they’d like and so feel inclined to track down your work?
3) Does this article adequately represent the style of your book? (Don’t write a comedy article then send them to a grim dark novel, for example, as that would undermine any trust you’ve earned. This is easier than it sounds because your non-fiction voice might be very different…mine is.)
If you have some other suggestions for either category, I’d be happy to add them. Just drop a note in the comments along with your preferred attribution (and website address if you’d like).
I hope this helps give you some pointers when planning how to spread the word about your novels. It’s important to remember, while your goal is to have a broader reach, you are asking the bloggers to risk their reputations with their readerships, often when they haven’t had the chance to read your book. As with most situations, you are more likely to get something if you give something in return. I’m not talking about paying for a slot or doing an exchange of posts. It’s both easier and more complicated than that.
Respect the bloggers and their audiences as so much more than a bulletin board read by eager readers. Your post needs to be both an introduction, and something of value in and of itself to make the exchange a happy one for all involved.
Good luck with your release and catching the attention of readers far and wide.