Several months ago I began opening up my Saturday spots to guest writers. I didn't have any rules really, just write about whatever floats your boat and send it to me. I've hosted people who wanted to promote their books, tell a funny or sad story, and even people who have never written for others before. That one I really enjoyed because I know how scared I was to send that first piece out. I just wanted someone to give me a chance and to see my words in print somewhere. Anywhere. I think part of our journey is to help others reach their dreams if we can and I see giving these writers a chance to do just that.
At first, I took whatever people sent me, but after a few headaches reformatting and some of the bizarre ways people sent their posts to me, I had to create some rules. Some were basic, such as no fancy fonts and text sizes, don’t embed your pictures in the document (Blogger hates that), and save the books for an actual book, just send smaller essays. I also discovered I needed a certain amount of time to do it all right and that my schedule is pretty chaotic at times with my size family, so I requested it to be emailed to me by the Wednesday before. All of these seemed simple to me. Apparently, I needed to be more specific, so what follows is a few bits of advice that I offer to help you keep and maintain decent, professional relationships with your fellow bloggers. Please note that I in no way claim to be the Go-To-Man on how to succeed in this area. However, most of these seem to be common sense to me and I find it surprising that they aren’t as common as I had originally thought.
First, be prompt. If you say you'll have a piece in at a certain time then make sure you're on time if not early. Being on time shows you're professional and someone worth working with. The more work you are to deal with, then the less likely the host will want you back. I don’t mind being accommodating to a degree, but there are limits that should not be pushed. I’ve even had writers approach me to be on the Mess and then when I gave them a date, they never showed up. Word of mouth is a valuable tool for references and if you blow it, you’ve ruined your forward progress.
You want to put your best foot forward, so please edit your piece before sending it. Your host should not have to correct your grammar or misspellings. Now, I know that sometimes we are in a rush and things slip through the cracks, so my advice is don’t rush. If you do not have the time to do it right, then be honest and decline. I would much rather a person send me notice that they just cannot meet a deadline, then to send me something I either have to send back or spend hours fixing.
Furthermore, don't assume that just because you were on once that you'll be on again. There may be several reasons why you will not be returning to a particular blog. A simple and plausible reason may be that you were just on. It's your host's blog, not yours, so don't try to take over. Be thoughtful to the frequency of your requests and pick and choose wisely where to gain the best return for your time.
And another thing, always ask, never demand. Don't tell the host when you'll be on and expect to be granted your heart’s desire. I’m pretty much a rebel there. I do not care to be told what to do and when. Ask the girls. The minute someone says, “You will do this,” my first response is ‘Oh, no, I won’t.” You are better served if you ask if a certain date is available and if you can appear then. Most bloggers I know are willing to work with you, if you approach it properly. What’s the old saying? You will get more with honey than vinegar.
Share and promote the post just as if you were sharing your own blog. After all, it is your writing that you are pushing and more than likely a book or other product. The idea is to drive traffic to both of your sites, so make sure to pitch in. I’ve had people that I never heard from again once they sent the post. I almost wondered if they would even know if I didn’t post it. Tweet, LIKE, Pin, Link, Stumble, whatever social media you use, put it there and share it with your followers. It’ll benefit you more than you know.
If they have guidelines, stick to them. This also shows you're a professional. You wouldn't send crazy fonts and various sized letters to a magazine editor. Don't do it to a blog host unless they say it's okay. What you do on your own site is fine, because it’s yours. However, when visiting someone else’s home, you do things their way and not muddy their floor. They will enjoy working with you and be willing to do it again.
As a final gesture, offer to host them on your site. It benefits you just as much as you being on their site does and will also sweeten the relationship for future pairings. You want to leave a good taste in their mouth, so they will have you back when you need to promote that next book. Most of us in the indie writing world need those extra boosts to talk about our writings and to venture into new doors. I do have people ask me about other writers I have worked with and what my thoughts were on working with them. I won’t hesitate to give a bad word of mouth if the person was unprofessional, because in my opinion there are enough people who are hurting the reputation of indies that we do not need more of them out there. However, likewise, if I think someone was great to work with I will give them the highest recommendation and even offer their names to other bloggers without their knowing. We need to help each other, but we also need to assist others in helping us, and we cannot do that if we are hard to work with and unreliable. Be professional at all times and you’ll be surprised the doors that open up to you. Fail to do it and those same doors can slam shut.
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