Writing a guest blog post is a great way to build your author profile and introduce your book to a wider audience. It's a win-win where the blog gets extra content from a variety of voices, and the author reaches a new audience, increases their authority, and drives traffic to their website or social media.
However, there are some basic mistakes that many writers make when writing a guest post. You can avoid most of them by considering the three most important people who will benefit from your post: your reader, the blog, and yourself. A guest post has three jobs: to inform the reader, provide the blog owner with good content, and direct readers to your own book or product.
Here are the top six mistakes to avoid when writing a guest blog post.
Mistake #1 You write on a topic unrelated to your book
If you have a lot of interests, it's easy to fall into the trap of writing about one that's unrelated to your current book. When you're building your author profile, you need to make sure you write an article that's relevant to the book that you're promoting.
For example, you can write an excellent, engaging, informative article about homeschooling. But if your latest book is a crime thriller, it's not really relevant.
The point of a guest post is to make your readers so interested in your article that they want to read your book. It needs to be related in some way.
So for your crime novel, you could write an article like, “Seven things about serial killers you never knew.” In it, you could include the things you learned while researching serial killers for your novel.
If you're not sure how to write an article that connects to your book, you can always write about writing. People love to read the stories behind stories. They're fascinated with how books are written.
Mistake #2 You do not refer to your book in the post
Once you've written your fabulous article which relates to your book, don't forget to actually mention your book!
A guest post is an opportunity to promote yourself. Many authors find self-promotion difficult, but there’s no reason to stress about it. It doesn't have to be overt. You don't want to slam your readers with “Buy me! Buy me!” messages. But they do expect you to mention your book in your article. They want to know who you are and why you are the right person to write this article.
If you've written a picture book, you could write an article like “Top tips for working with an illustrator for the first time.” Then within the body of your article, you could have a sentence like, “when I was editing my debut picture book Princess Peabody's Potty, I discovered…”
As you can see, you're not writing an ad. Most of your article should be providing information that your readers will find interesting. But you need to refer to your book at least once in a natural and unobtrusive way.
Mistake #3 You do not look at the style of the target publication or blog
So you've written an interesting article that readers will love. The blog post topic is related to your book's themes and you've mentioned your book. But don't forget the final important person that you're writing for: the editor of the website!
It is so easy to find a website's guidelines, and yet many writers neglect this step. Don't neglect this step! Always check the website's guidelines and follow them. If there aren't specific guidelines, check out at least a dozen posts on the site.
If they tend to publish Q&A style posts with 200-word answers for each question, follow that style. Don’t just write one-sentence answers. If most posts are around 1200 words and include three or four subheadings, try to write something similar.
Mistake #4 You fail to provide a bio
The next question to ask yourself is what does the website need to publish your guest post? It's actually not enough to simply send them your article. Look at the bottom of each post; there's usually an author bio. So make sure you supply one as well.
Sometimes authors send through a link to the bio on their website, or paste their whole bio into the email. But keep in mind that most websites won't publish a bio that's several hundred words long. They want a short bio with just the essentials. If you leave it to the website to summarise it for you, you're at their mercy. Write your own bio and then you know exactly how you're going to be represented.
Lots of writers struggle with writing their own bio. “I can write about anything except myself!” If you fall into this category, then ask a fellow writer to help you out. The goal is to send through a pithy short version of your bio that is 100% ready to be published on the guest site.
Also make sure that it's crafted to suit the audience of both the site and the book readers you're trying to attract. If you write in more than one genre, make the relevant one prominent in your bio.
Mistake #5 You do not provide an image of yourself or your book
Again, think about what the guest website needs to be able to publish your article. Chances are they want at least one or two pictures of you and your book.
You might think, well, they can find one online or on my website. But they don't know which ones are the most up to date, which ones are free of copyright restrictions, which ones are high resolution. You know all that information (or you should!).
Think about it this way: you can have a back and forth conversation involving eight emails where the editor asks for this, that, and the other thing, trying to pull together all the bits and pieces they need to publish your article. Or you can send one email which has your article, your short bio, and your photos. Which experience will the editor prefer? Which experience will you prefer?
Mistake #6 You ramble or write something without any purpose
Finally, if you want your guest post to be successful, it has to be interesting to the readers. If you write on a stream of consciousness or blurt out whatever comes into your head, your article won't have a point. It has to have a point!
What will readers learn by the time they reach the end? Is there a key takeaway that they will feel compelled to highlight or share on social media? If your article is just an anecdote or a loose collection of thoughts, it simply won't be interesting. Save that for your own blog.
Remember that one of the jobs of a guest post is to inform the reader about a subject that they're interested in, or a brand new topic they've never heard of before. What questions are you answering for them about that topic? That is your purpose.
The other purpose is to get them interested in your book. You want to make sure your article is interesting and that it fits into the themes of the guest website. That way, when visitors read your post, they'll want to find out more about you and your books – and hopefully buy them!