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Guess what? Bloggers – You and Me – Are Publishers, and We Should Act Like It. (So Let’s Not Be Jerks when Someone Sends Us A Guest Post!)

Posted By kellydiels 8th of August 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

by Kelly Diels and Dave Doolin

In the ancient world of print publications – for example, in any academic or professional journal – when you send an article to the editor, you receive an acknowledgment of receipt.

Scratch that. In any time – past, present, future – professional publications (print and electronic ones) confirm receipt of your piece.

That is, you are going to get an email telling you somebody knows you submitted an article.

In the olden days (you know, like ten whole years ago), you would get a real, physical letter in the mail.

Quaint, sure.

But not hard.

The process isn’t difficult; there are professional standards. You submit your piece.  You get an acknowledgment.  Later, you get notified that you’re accepted for publication, or that revisions may be required, or that the article is denied.  It’s not hard to do or understand.

But in the blogging world, these standards haven’t really developed.  We all know people who’ve submitted pieces to another blogger and heard nothing.

Hell, we are those people.

And that disturbed Dave enough to email Kelly, informing her “I have a huge rant building on guest posts.”

Kelly’s response: “Bad for brand.  Do this, instead: write a piece *encouraging* bloggers to create guest-post submission channels with less friction. That’s useful. Ranting about this isn’t.”

Kelly is right (this time -d).  There are more productive things to rant about.

And while it might not be productive to rant about the guest post process, it’s certainly productive to talk about it. And improve it.

As bloggers, we graze on both sides of the fence – we accept guest posts for our blogs, and we guest post on other blogs.

So all of us know that guest posting can be hard. Hard on your nerves and hell on your courage. But worth it – because it can be a real honour to have your work published on another site, especially a popular, authoritative one.

That’s something both of us hear from our people, again and again: how do you land guest posts on other, bigger blogs? And how do you get the courage to even submit them in the first place?

Well, you just do. You do things to bolster your courage. You do your research.

Like this:

  • you check to see how the other blogger prefers to receive pitches. Does she want to develop a concept, together? Or does he want a finished piece?
  • you read all the recent pieces and poke around in the archives. Where is the gap? What piece do you need to read? Then go write that piece (or pitch).
  • you check to see if the blog you want to submit to has guest post guidelines. That helps you understand what the other blogger wants – so you can deliver it.
  • you check to see if there is a copyright statement – because you want to know who owns the piece after it is published. (Or at least we do. Because we get paid from our hot ‘n sweaty ‘n hopefully profitable content – and you do, too. So this is important.)

Doing all of these things will increase your confidence. You might even get brave enough to, you know, submit it.

To the other blogger. The blogger who will receive, read, and accept or reject your piece. The blogger who will hopefully publish your piece.

(And, being a blogger, sometimes you are that blogger – the one receiving and publishing guest post submissions.)

Since you know how stupid-hard it can be to get the gumption to send a piece in, don’t you want to make it a little easier for others to summon the courage to submit a guest post to you? Don’t you want to honor the submission effort?

Yes. You do. Really, you do.

And so, to that end, this is what you, the publisher, could – and should – do:

  1. have a dedicated e-mail address to which to submit guest posts (and an autoresponse confirming receipt)
  2. have someone checking it and responding regularly
  3. have a submissions guidelines page
  4. have some language about copyright (who gets it?) and guest author expectations (respond to comments, tweet, etc)
  5. have a worksheet to evaluate the guest post and return that worksheet to the guest author so that they’ll know what was working/not working
  6. have incentives such as a dedicated biographical box with a photo and keyword-anchored backlinks, or even better,
  7. allow the guest author to use their own affiliate links or Adense codes.
  8. consistently comment on your guest author’s blogs, consistently promote their articles by retweeting, etc.
  9. if you use a plugin such as CommentLuv, promote your guest post authors before promoting yourself
  10. if your guest author provides a service or has a product of interest to your readers, allow your guest author to pitch congruently to your readers.

And you should do that because receiving guest posts, graciously, is just good business (and relationship-building) practice – not to mention honorable.

In fact, we should all do that because we all know that submitting your best stuff – and it does need to be good – to other blogs is hard.

The whole damn trying-to-get-published process is hard. It can be

hard to create a guest post

hard to part with it

hard to wait for an answer

But most of all, submitting a guest post is hard because you’re risking rejection.

So we – bloggers who publish guests posts – aka “publishers” – need to amp up our game, act like professionals, and honour the submission effort.

And that’s not hard at all.

About the authors: Kelly Diels writes Cleavage, a blog about the three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning. Dave Doolin blogs at Website In A Weekend, where you can learn how to blog. Together they founded the top secret (sssssssh!!!) League of Extraordinary Bloggers where you’ll learn to have writing, blogging and business superpowers.

  1. Hey Dave & Keily,

    Super-awesome Post.
    Guest Post is just much more than getting traffic…

    I think the hard part is waiting for an answer…!!

    Anyways, Thanks for sharing this awesome Post. Keep up the good work.


  2. Great post, I get asked to look at plenty of guest posts and I feel it’s only right to respond to them, they put in lots of time and effort into them and at the very least deserve and acknowledgement

    I’ve sent off guest posts and never heard anything back, it’s really annoying because you want to see if you can publish it somewhere else but if your not told whether or not it’s accepted it’s hard to do this

  3. I’ve received requests for guest blogs for two of my blogs. One author wrote humorous pieces, which worked out fine for my blog on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Web site. For my other blog, I received several requests for guest posts. However, the topics were way off the mark for my blog. I write for baby boomer consumers. One topic was about a radiology school and the other was about a specific rehabilition facility.

    My suggestion is that if you want to do a guest post, look at the blog and write something general and helpful that fits with it. Don’t bother the blogger with a post to promote your website or blog.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  4. Hi,

    Excellent points. I agree. Guest blogging should be made more easier for the people submitting them.

    You provided great advice on how this can be achieved. And I agree with each and every point.


  5. @Dev – yes, guest posting is definitely for more than “getting traffic.” It’s also excellent feedback on where you are as a blogger, how well tuned in you are.

    @Rita – when I get impersonal proposals I usually just delete them. It’s easy to tell when someone is sending out a form letter.

    @Nabeel – Blogging is still a very, very young medium, and most bloggers don’t have much experience in “real” publishing. That’s changing very quickly as “real” publishers invade the blogging space, and as bloggers get more experience in “real” publishing.

  6. I think that most bloggers are pretty courteous when receiving guest posts. I know that the ones that I have dealt with, whether they accepted them or not, have all been quite gracious.

  7. @jason I’m had mixed experiences; people have been enthusiastic, and welcoming…or there’s been no response at all.

    And I don’t think that’s because people don’t *want* to be gracious. I think it is a function of overwhelm. Inboxes are flooded with requests, and responding to everyone is a challenge.

    I’m in the same boat: I have not always followed all of my own advice here – though this piece is a personal challenge to myself to do better – because e-mail is starting to represent more of my workload than paying work. (And that’s hard to explain to the bank, the grocery store, the good folks at Visa, none of whom accept a clear inbox as payment.)

    So, light-hearted title aside, I don’t think any bloggers who accept guest posts but don’t always respond in a timely manner are actually being “jerks” or ungracious. I just think they/we are busy and overwhelmed…and maybe don’t have a lot of experience being publishers.

    And that’s why Dave and I wrote the piece – for all of us struggling to find ‘the right way’ to take care of submissions and the people who care enough to offer them.

  8. Hi Kelly and Dave,
    I like your suggestions especially since you offered direction to both guest post senders and receivers.

    For what it is worth, I wrote for a local paper for 2 years before I started publishing online. When I first connected with the paper (the north shore news) I did my research and contacted the editor to find out what her guidelines were. We had a chat about topics so before I made a submission I knew I would not be wasting her time when she received my article. I also asked important issues like copyright, article length, byline guidelines …

    I believe that when I take the time to write a guest post I will apply a similar approach with some of your suggestions included too.

    When I am on the receiving end I will create guidelines like you suggested to make it easier for people who want to make a submission.

    Good tips, great reminders



  9. Hi Darren,

    I agree with the publisher making it easier to publish content. Also giving the guest blogger so incentives to publish on your blog is an added bonus.

    Relationships are important for business and making things as streamline as possible is very important.

    I’ll apply all these tips on my new blog.

    Thanks very much.

  10. Great post! One of the first steps to your 31 Days to a Better Blog is requesting another blogger in your niche to publish or use your material in one of their posts. Not exactly the same as guest posting but close. I had to get the courage to send a request over to another blogger and the response went well. I will be featured in an upcoming post. Great for boosting courage.

    Next step will be taking an article of mine, rewriting it and asking to be a guest blogger on a much larger blog in my niche. I’m not typically nervous about much but any rejection would hurt the self esteem a little. Hoping for the best.

  11. I just opened up guest posting on my blog. What do you think about auto-responders? Is that a bad approach or do you think hand writing (or shall I say typed) responses be worth it?

  12. I applaud Darren for publishing this post.

    I think that if bloggers are going to publish guest posts and therefore benefit from them, they should *also* make the effort to get back to the person submitting in a *timely fashion*.

    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t get angry at bloggers who take forever to get back to me after I submit a post.

    At the same time, though, that doesn’t stop me from acknowledging that this can be a real problem. And it won’t get fixed by ignoring it which is why I appreciate that Kelly and David wrote this post. Thank you, guys.

    If you’re a blog and you’re going to accept guest posts from other bloggers, then you are obligated to get back to those who submit within a reasonable time frame.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  13. @jason – what Kelly said: it’s the overwhelm, and with the recent emphasis on guest posting, it might get worse before it gets better. Example: I’m pretty good at turning around a guest post for acceptance… but not as good as getting them to press. So this is a challenge for me to do better as well.

  14. Another timely and informative post, thank you.
    Those of us still in the early formative stages of blogging and eager to learn more and different avenues to explore are appreciative of the assists. I have learned several key things from this blog alone. Courtesy costs nothing. I welcome guest bloggers, yet am not yet in a ballpark number of followers to have many taking me up on my welcome mat. That will happen, and thanks to you guys and the information you so kindly provide, I will be ready to act with professionalism when the guests start knocking on or hopefully knocking down my door.
    Bravo folks.

  15. First of all thanks to Kelly and Dave for this wonderful post.Recently t I written one guest post for one of the reputed blog in the blogosphere(not published ).Actually that guy not published my guest post even he not given any replay for rejection . with in couple of days I seen my ideas and my topic published on the same blog with some addition to my guest post.I tried several times to contact that guy over mail but he is not responding.

    what the zzzz I do ?.No way thats it…

    Thanks again Kelly and Dave for showing the reality that happening behind.

  16. I am currently looking at a guest post that was submitted to me nine days ago. The author sent an email with a suggestion of a relevant topic, and it sounded great. What I got is a confusing mish-mash, poorly written, and will take at least an hour to edit into publishable form.

    I hate it when this happens. This young man is, I’m sure, waiting to hear from me, and I’m not sure what to say. He sent me two links of other articles at a website he writes for, and the writing quality of those is far better than this.

    I don’t have time to do a near re-write, but I’m so soft-hearted that I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I’m ashamed to say that other than encouraging him to submit something, I haven’t yet responded. He did take the time to become familiar with my blog’s content, and I appreciated that, which is why I haven’t just sent it back with a “Rejected” note.


  17. Great post. Let’s not forget that a guest blogger can really add value to your blog AND possibly bring with him/her a new community segment.

  18. I agree with this post and think that someone sending you a guest post should be taken as a compliment.

  19. @Lisa What a tough situation to have to deal with! It may be in his other guest posts, he had an “editor” that was willing to go through the rework. That definitely isn’t something he should expect though, and wouldn’t fly for a second in traditional publishing either. Perhaps you could send it back to him, give some editing suggestions, and tell him he’s welcome to resubmit it after he’s reworked it? That way you can feel good about it, and he’s gotten some valuable feedback.

  20. Kat Eden says: 08/08/2010 at 3:28 pm

    Very helpful and heart-warming article (the sentiment). Unfortunately a little hard to take seriously after having had my nervously submitted pitch email to one of this posts authors completely ignored some months back!

  21. Kelly, Dave – You brought up a pretty valid point.

    We, as bloggers, need to be more sensitive to guest blogging – and what it means for guest bloggers submitting their posts.

    At the end of the day, every blog is different, and every guest blogger is be different. What helps though, is being transparent and approachable. Setting consistent, unbiased standards for ourselves – especially in terms of responsiveness – is also very important.

    Another trait to mention here is tolerance. Dealing with guest blogging needs a high level of patience – and tolerance. And is we’re not ready to display a high degree of patience and tolerance, it might just help turning off the guest blogging switch for a while.

  22. I think guest posting etiquette is required on both sides, hosts should be more specific about guest posting requirements and potential guest post check to see what is blog looking for before sending any random self serving requirement.

  23. @Jimmy agree with you it should be taken as a compliment. Blogger submits an article to you because he/she finds your site admirable perhaps or whatever reasons he/she has, it is still a complement. There are hundreds of thousand of blogs out there and yours is chosen. Don’t make it hard for them, revisions are okay but totally ignoring them, that’s a different thing, who knows if that person may write something negative about you. Just a thought.

  24. Hi Dave and Kelly
    I agree with your point. Yup , guest or owners, we are both bloggers. It is important to build a mutual relationship that would benefit both parties in a short and long run. Sometime, owners forgot the importance of “appreciating” the post they received, whether it will be published or not. Thanks for the tip guys !

  25. It’s a difficult topic. I’m in a similar situation to Lisa (above). Most of the guest posts I receive are pretty bad. They’re generic, boring advice with no personal stories or real emotions.

    I admit to not responding to most of these because I couldn’t stomach dealing with the inevitable response I’d get. Me: “No, I’m sorry.” Them: “Can I do something else? How about this one?” etc.

    I know how it feels to be rejected and I’m not good at saying “no”, especially when some of these folks really do believe it’s their best work. I’m in a difficult situation.


  26. OK, I am one of those on both sides of the fence sort of. I submitted an awesome piece of work for a major blog in my personal niche and didn’t hear anything. I sent a follow up email and still didn’t hear anything. I sent a retraction so that I could post it somewhere else. Now then, I had never commented on the blog site I was submitting to. After I did, I developed a heck of a dialog with the blog author.

    A little off topic but not too far I think. I had a rant experience this past month. I called to ask if I could interview and photograph a particular ‘show’ that I was attending and the person running the show flat out refused. People told me I should post about what an unkind person the individual was etc. I didn’t, I posted honestly and the individual read the post and actually contacted me asking if I would please come to the next show with the compliments of an all access Press Pass. I didn’t dress up the piece in order to get anything I was actually just honest. So, be careful about your rant it may end up backfiring as was mentioned. Thanks for the great posts and tips!

  27. How about guest posting for blogger blogs? Is it even a good idea given that google can just shut down your bloggger blog in case of duplicate content? If yes, are there any counter-measures to prevent duplicate contents?

  28. This is very true to all bloggers and internet marketers. Blogging is a common internet hobby or “online job” by a lot of people. Blogging is not simply writing something about you know and publishing it online. It is true that there are a lot of jerky bloggers online that jerks off most of the time and doesn’t only destroys their own reputation but the reputation of all bloggers. Publishing an article is not a simple thing to do because people or bloggers should realize that the things they write will be read by the public.

    Thanks for sharing this!


  29. I used to feel so blah when people didn’t reply to an email with a guest post I’d written specially for them. Then blah turned to annoyance, anger and finally acceptance. This would take three months or so and just when I’d accepted it and was ready to move on they’d email me saying they’d just published it! Mind games:)

    Now I’m starting to get silly numbers of people requesting a guest post on my blog I’m starting to appreciate the problems and understand why the big bloggers don’t reply. It is hard to manage guest posts. It’s hard to say no. It’s hard to say yes if they then go on to ask 20 follow up questions:)

    Darren is very good though:) Yeah, I should send him another guest post soon. Well done Kelly and Dave for getting in there and writing about this…. and for making it a (nearly) rant free zone.

  30. Great post with good ideas. I have posted as a guest on others’ blogs and always look for that acknowledgement. Without it, I am in the dark.

  31. I’m still wondering why it’s harder to be a guest blogger when bigger websites accept my submissions. So instead of submitting to weblogs, I submit to websites. And anyway, Google isn’t interested in guest blogging.

  32. @KatEden – It HAD to have been me because that’s one of the reasons Dave and I wrote this piece. Dave’s frustrated with not getting replies to his submissions, and I’m frustrated with myself because, like Annabel Candy, I’m struggling to keep up with my e-mail and offers from other bloggers. AND I don’t publish guest posts on Cleavage. I sent you an e-mail. I’d like to make it up to you.

  33. @AnnabelCandy – seems like you’ve just outlined a cycle of emotion for bloggers (My bloggy sense is tingling – I feel a new blog post! You write it, ok?).

  34. @Patrick – great point! A couple of my blogging buddies have told me that their highest traffic days have been when they HOST a guest post from another author. The author and her people promote the piece, and they all stop by to comment…so you’re very right. Publishing guest posts isn’t a benevolent activity – it is really good for your site, too.

  35. Awesome guys – I’m a huge fan of guest posts – actually it’s somewhat the lifeblood of my blogging model (collective citizen storytelling) – so thank you for some additional suggestions! I had always been connecting with people via word of mouth or referral so I think I’m ready to take the next step with submission guidelines and a more formal process, which I think helps everyone involved. Love it and thank you for being so proactive in addressing a topic I know many of us think about often!

  36. @Erica – yes, you’re right, you ARE in a difficult situation. I’ve thought about this situation in dating, too. Is it easier to be the rejectee or the rejector?

    Both suck, really. But for those of us with tender hearts, it IS really hard to tell someone the piece isn’t quite where it needs to be.

    Maybe the solution is to tell people making pitches or offering submissions that yes, you’ll *look* at the piece. That way you’re not committing to running it sight unseen.

    And if a piece needs to be rewritten, or needs a little more spice, specificity or personality, you’re probably doing the person a favour by telling them so. We don’t get better if people don’t tell us what’s wrong…

    Dave is an amazing editor and publisher. He’ll get in the trenches and work with guest posters to polish and improve their pieces. He’ll ask me to review the piece, he’ll teleconference on Skype, he’ll give point-by-point instructions on how to improve the piece.

    How he has the capacity to do that escapes me. But his guest posters benefit and improve from it, so guest posting for his site is an incredible learning opportunity.

    But that doesn’t help with your problem, which is a problem I share with you: how to say no, or how to say the hard things, like this isn’t quite good enough. No easy answers except that I really do have to woman up and do it. Rejection is part of life, career and business and learning to handle both sides of it is an essential skill.

    (I’m not lecturing you. I’m lecturing ME.)


  37. Hey Dave – superb to see you on the problogger roster. I heard you were due an appearance here, and all the better with such a stellar post in the bag.

    As one of Doolin’s star guest authors I take it upon myself to be conscientious of the needs of all audience communities perpetuating his site. It’s quite a balance – like making a pizza with all the toppings from the deli and still knocking out a tasty treat.

    I think the most important thing of all is being in flow and sync with the blog you’re guest authoring for. All too often in my experience the contributor is a touch naive and just doesn’t ‘get’ either your manifesto or your audience community’s reason for being there.

    Solid job, Doolin!

  38. Hi,

    Excellent points. I agree. Guest blogging should be made more easier for the people submitting them.

    You provided great advice on how this can be achieved. And I agree with each and every point.

  39. Excellent post! I’m going to draft my own guest blogging policy now.



  40. “when you send an article to the editor, you receive an acknowledgment of receipt.”

    Unfortunately, even in the world of traditional publishing, this is NOT always true.

  41. If someone sent me a guest post I’d bite their hand off to publish it!

  42. Dave and Kelly,
    This is a very encouraging post because it seeks to set up a positive relationship between potential guest bloggers and potential publishers who, in fact, need each other but don’t act that way. It id a sign of the maturing of the blogging community to have this kind of post pointing us to the future – a better future than our linear progression would suggest.

  43. Since I’m the Really Bad Editor who didn’t get back to Dave and Kelly, I guess I should weigh in, huh? (Truly, I am very sorry, guys. No disrespect was intended.)

    Brian and I both thought these were really useful suggestions, and I have a feeling we’ll be implementing them soon. The trick, of course, is sifting through the 95% of posts that don’t work to find those wonderful 5% of writers who we do love and publish regularly.

    As someone who’s submitted a lot for physical print, I can echo Andy’s comment — it’s very common with traditional publishers to send something over the transom that you worked on for a year, wait 8 or 10 months, then get a photocopied letter from an editorial assistant who didn’t actually read it, but needed to clear off her desk and send a bunch of manuscripts back. That’s why book agents exist, and wouldn’t it be lovely if they existed in the blogging world as well.

  44. Sound advice. We’ve always been aware of issues surrounding guest posts. You’ve given us ideas worthy of consideration in the development of our blog policies.

  45. Nice! I think bloggers should really take time to acknowledge their readers’ comments. Give them credit for taking the time to read your posts. If they send you a comment, reply to it. It will only take a minute. Someone commenting on your post means that it is interesting.

  46. I can’t see a problem with guest posts as long as they are good quality.

  47. I´ve had this issue and all i wanted to know was is my post going to be put up? if its not what did i do that you didn´t like. It wouldn´t be to hard to do. This was a post that needed to be written so thank you

  48. its true but i don’t there is anything wrong with guest post

  49. As someone who just managed to land an awesome guest post on socialmediaexaminer I can testify (lol) that everything in this article is right on the money.

    Also, SME guys were very professional and DID follow these guidelines.

    I’ve had few guest posts on my own blog and I must admit that while I promote the shit out of guest-posts the procedure is very ad-hoc. I guess its ok for now, but I think I will be using these suggestions to make a more streamlined process for submitting guest posts.

    Thnx guys, awesome article. Loved it.

  50. My goal this summer was to write as many guest posts as I could. I had one published by a larger blog and they left off my bio. I emailed because I was getting no traffic from this post. She couldn’t add my bio. My name was linked as the author, but without the bio, no one clicked. Why would they? There was no sign that I had a blog or anything else to offer. It was very disappointing. And enlightening.

    The bio is much more important than I ever realized. Make sure yours will be included. And make sure that you include the bios of people who guest post on your blog.

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