No matter what publishers may tell you, not everyone needs a blog.
But you all should be on blogs.
Here’s the difference: keeping up your own blog is a lot of work, and depending on your genre of writing, it may be difficult to write a blog that will naturally attract and retain visitors.
It’s much less work to write posts on blogs that are already up and running. As my agent Chip MacGregor likes to say, “the secret to good marketing is figuring out where people already are and go and stand in front of them.”
Rather than creating your own blog where you try to catch people’s attention, write on someone else’s blog who has already captured that attention. It’s a lot easier!
I write a large blog in the Christian marriage and sex niche, and I have a lot of people guest posting for me. There’s a big difference, though, between the guest posts that actually work for the authors and those that don’t really reap very many benefits for those authors. Here’s how to get the most benefit for all your work crafting a great guest post.
1: Know What Your Aim Is
It’s very difficult to sell a book directly from a guest post, especially if you’re a novelist. Before people buy the book they often have to hear about you several times. That’s why your aim, when you are guest posting, should not be to sell your book. It should be to get more readers onto your newsletter list.
That’s right–you need a newsletter! I have a blog that gets over 40,000 people on it a day, but I can tell you that the vast majority of my book sales come from emails, not from blog posts. It’s the people who get an email from me in their inbox who become loyal followers.
You can have a newsletter without having a blog (perhaps I’ll write a post on this one later, too!). I use MailChimp, which allows you to send newsletters for free up to 2000 subscribers. Sign up here.
2: Plan Your Hook
You want people on your newsletter list, but how are you going to get them there?
You offer a freebie that people want! When I guest post, in the bio I always say, “Get Sheila’s ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage, right here!” Then I link to my newsletter sign up page.
When people guest post on my site and offer a freebie, they get about ten times as many links to their websites as the guest posters who don’t offer a freebie. And they capture those people on their newsletter lists!
What should your freebie be? Something that goes along with your book. If you’re a fiction writer, that can be trickier. But you can still offer something like, “20 Books that will change your life right now”, or “10 recipes from the Pioneer Days”, or whatever may entice people.
3: Find a Blog
If you’re going to go to all the work of writing a guest post, you may as well get that guest post up on a blog that’s drawing lots of eyeballs! First, create a list of blogs in your niche. Then go to Alexa and type in the blog’s address. That will give you an idea of how popular the blog is. I tend to only guest post on blogs that are rated less than 100,000 in the U.S. on Alexa. To give perspective, Facebook and Google are in the top 10. So the lower the number, the more traffic the blog has.
4: Check their Submission Guidelines
Most big blogs have submission guidelines somewhere on their menu. Read them and follow them to a tee. Some blogs will want you to submit graphics with your post; some would rather create them themselves (I’m in the latter category, for instance). Follow the instructions for word count, especially. Check out some recent posts and see: how short are the paragraphs? How many headings to they use?
5: Include Links Back to Your Website (or Blog) in Your Post
When you’re writing your post, most blogs welcome you putting between 2-3 links back to your website within your post. If you do have a blog, this is a great way to get traffic, but even if you only have a regular website, it’s a great way to make Google notice you. I have a popular post on 2-player board games to play with your spouse, for instance, and I want Google to keep thinking, “this is a great resource for 2-player board games!”. That way when people search for that, my post will come up. And here’s how Google works: the more sites link to your site using those keywords, the higher you’ll rank in the search engine.
So if you’re trying to rank for “western romances” or “Christian teen” or something else, make sure you use those words and link back to key pages or posts on your website.
(Notice how up above I linked “Christian marriage and sex” to my blog, too? That was deliberate! Hi, Google!)
6. Write a Bio
You’re going to need an enticing bio at the end of your post that will make people want to click through to your website. Here’s my friend Rajdeep Paulus’ bio that she uses when she guest posts for me:
Rajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor, during which she married her best friend from Chicago whom she then followed to the island of Dominica where he began medical school. Fourteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York later, she now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She blogs at www.insearchofwaterfalls.com and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that functions under water.
When Raj guest posts about sex, we always use this as the first sentence: Rajdeep Paulus seriously hopes her mother isn’t reading this blog. Raj studied English literature…
That way we get some laughs right off the bat!
Also, be sure to send along a headshot and pictures of your book covers. Yes, you want to mention your books and promote them. But the main thing you’re going to get is people signing up for your newsletter.
7: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Here’s the hard part: keep doing this. Over and over again. Set a goal to submit one guest post every two weeks, or however often you think you can manage it. Then start sending out your newsletter regularly. And you just may find that you’re creating that ready-made audience who is eager to buy your book!
Sheila Wray Gregoire writes so much about marriage and sex that she’s scared what random strangers think of when they meet her. But she spends most of her time with her
husband in an RV, traveling around the United States speaking and birdwatching, which is not nearly as glamorous as people may think. If people think birdwatching is glamorous, that is. She has two adult daughters and one new son-in-law. She’s the author of seven books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.
Get her ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage, for free right here! (ha, you knew I’d include that in the bio, didn’t you?)