Guest Posting 101 — How to Be Read by the Masses
Do you ever dream of making it big as a writer one day?
Would you like to see your book become a New York Times Bestseller?
I would, too!
We all have our favorite celebrities. Comedians get their big break when they appear on the Tonight Show. Musicians get exposure when they’re a guest on Saturday Night Live. If you’re a business writer, you want your work in Forbes.
Do this kind of thing often enough and people will start remembering you and following you.
What publications want from you
Publications are businesses. So are websites. They have costs they want to cover, but more than that they want to make a profit.
They don’t do that by taking stupid risks.
It’s hard to build a following. Chances are the founder of the publication you want to be in got on some bigger stages along the way. Maybe she worked at another magazine and learned the ropes there. Whatever the case, she won’t publish just anyone.
So you’ve got to make an appealing pitch.
Here are a few things you must remember:
Make sure your message aligns with theirs.
It’s not all about you.
You’re given the spotlight so you can shine a light on the mission, advance the cause, and stand beside the heroes the publication celebrates.
If you play your hand wisely, you’ll become a hero, too.
I’ve had people send me inquiries to my blog asking to write about consumer products, how to get a better job, even furniture.
I reject them all.
The first thing I ask myself is, “Did they even read any of the posts? Can’t they see the tagline? We write about writing here. Our mission is to help writers engage readers, sell their ideas, and build their tribes. What the hell does furniture have to do with that?”
Don’t send short stories to a productivity website. Unless they’re about productivity. Don’t ask to write about romance on a site that features lawn equipment.
When you align with the same mission, your writing will sing the same tune.
Follow the guidelines.
I’m okay with breaking rules where it makes sense.
It doesn’t make sense to knock on a publisher’s door and offer them a case of spam.
Don’t write 1000 words when they want 500.
Don’t send them an email draft when they want a Word document.
If you break the rules from the outset, they know you’ll be trouble later. It’s better in that case to just say no and not bother with the drama.
Editors are people. Give them what they want. Follow the guidelines happily. Deliver your very best, tightest work.
And do it in the format they already use.
The easier you make it for them to say yes, the sooner they will.
If the publication is here on Medium, send a draft. Don’t hit publish. Let them do it. Just add your tags, add the draft to a publication, and then submit.
Make them look good.
If you want a friend, be friendly.
Help the editor carry out her mission when you write a piece. You don’t have to say the same thing as every other writer. But you do have to support the big idea. Otherwise, why are you here?
Do your research if you’re not familiar with the publication. Read the posts. Find out more about the writers. Pay attention to the style of writing.
Then put your own spin on it.
If you write something people rave about, you’ll be asked to write more.
Remember the publication belongs to them.
It’s exciting to see your name in lights.
It’s cool to have your headline on the publication home page. You want to share it with everyone you know, and some you don’t know. You hope that some of them will get so excited by your piece that they’ll tell all their friends, too.
Then maybe, your work will go viral.
It all starts when one person passes your idea to another. The more this happens, the more chance you have of being known.
Give people something worth sharing. In fact, give them something they’ll rave about. To do that, you have to know your audience as well as you know yourself. Talk to some of them. Ask them to coffee. Find out what their lives are like, what they dream about, and what they struggle with.
Then you’ll know how to reach them with something awesome.
Guest posting is a great opportunity. So don’t pester the editor day after day. Make changes when they ask for them. Don’t fret when they revise your work a little so it fits better. You have no idea what else they have on their desk to deal with. Be patient. Your day will come.
Choose yourself. Make the first move.
This article would be incomplete without me telling you one thing.
If you want to get on the big stage, be willing to ask for the chance.
Sure, a publication may come to you. But don’t count on it, at least not early in the game. Be bold. Make the ask. Expect a yes, but understand some will say no. It’s okay. Press on.
Choose yourself. Your growth is up to you. Make some pitches. Write all you can. Every day if possible.
There’s no growth in the comfort zone. So put yourself out there where you can be seen.
Publications are partners. Help them and they’ll help you.
Maybe soon I’ll see you on the front page of your favorite publication.