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Monday, March 21, 2011

How to Get Invited

Libby asked a question in the comments recently on how I go about asking for invitations to guest blog.

Nowadays I don't have to ask other than in the most informal manner of nudging someone and saying, "Hey, can you help a pal out?" For this particular blog tour coming up, most of the dates were promised last year when I learned I had a contract.

But in the early days (circa 2008), I had to ask formally and with hat in hand. I hardly knew anyone in the blogosphere, and even less people knew me. I was virtually friendless.

So off I went, cold calling (or in this case, cold emailing) prospective blog hosts and asking if they'd let me visit their blogs. Most were absolutely wonderful, gracious people who welcomed me like they'd known me for years. They had no idea if I'd be a good guest, but I'd like to think it was the thoughtful comments I'd left on their blogs that gave me an edge.

There's a dark side to guest blogging too. I've had two instances with my first book Touch Of Fire where I was unceremoniously snubbed by traditionally published authors because they felt digital was, shall we say, not validated by the writing community.

And that was their first mistake. Not that they looked down on digital--everyone is entitled to an opinion. It's that they forgot we write for readers--not for other writers.

I guarantee you, readers (who are not writers) don't care who's doing the publishing. Most aren't even aware of the dichotomy between traditional and digital. All they want is a good story.

Out of curiosity, I went back to check on the two bloggers who slighted me way back when. The first one I could no longer find. Of the two, he was the more elitist when he realized Touch Of Fire was a digital book. He dumped me like a bad date when he asked me who my publisher was--he asked this after he extended the invitation. You'd think I was a leper for as fast as he back-peddled his regrets.

The second was a community blog. It still exists, but if comments reflect traffic, they are nearly invisible. I've also noticed that they've changed their criteria on what qualifies as legitimate publishing.

:yeah, whatever:

Just be aware that you could run into various forms of prejudice. Strike them off your list and move on to people who'll appreciate you.

Here are some tips for guest blogging:

• Read the blog where you want to appear to make sure it's a good fit for each of you.

• Comment on the blog regularly. While I commented on the blogs where I asked for an invitation, I was too new to be much more than a blip on their radar. But it all counts. It means I wasn't pandering; I truly had an interest in their blogs.

• Ask nicely. If someone comes at me like a rabid hyena telling me how great he is without at least complimenting my blog or why my readers would like him, I am unlikely to extend an invitation.

• Write a thoughtful post. An all-promo post is bad juju--especially here. I want my readers to be entertained, informed or enlightened. I don't mind if the guest finishes with a blurb and links, but no shilling. That's what your blog is for.

• Respond to people who comment on your guest post. I know not everyone does this. But it'll make readers feel like their comments were important to you. When you're starting out, you want to muster all the goodwill you can.

• Ask friends for their advice on worthwhile blogs. I did this several times. Some of my friends even introduced me so I didn't come off like a total stalker. Not only did I find some good blogs, but eventually good friends too.

Prospective hosts: If you're interested in hosting someone on your blog this summer, Krista D. Ball wants to stop by. She's looking for a few blogs to visit and chat. Go to this link for more info.

I've had small press, self-pub'd, and traditionally published authors on my blog. I treat everyone the same. I don't invite a lot of guest bloggers because this blog runs on a specific format, but I will occasionally--especially if they've been kind to me. 

Karma does come back to repay you--often when you least expect it.

Have you had any experiences with guest blogging that surprised you--as a reader or as a blogger?


Darke Conteur said...

I've seen it done other blogs, and it does look like fun, but I'm afraid I'm not quite sure about my own writing, to risk posting something on someone elses. Maybe when I'm a little more sure of myself.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: The best advice I can give you is to be yourself. As writers we write for many different kinds of audiences. But if we write like ourselves, we'll attract the audience who like us for what we bring to the party.

Rula Sinara said...

Well said, Maria. Man, turning you down...especially after the invite...that's bad. Good thing about karma ;). It's terrible how prejudice and snobbery extends into blogging.

Mason Canyon said...

From a reader's viewpoint, as well as a blogger who hosts authors, I don't think a publisher should ever be an issue. What the book is about should be the focus. To me that's one of the fun parts of blogging, you get to meet new authors you've never heard about and find great new books to read.

Thoughts in Progress

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

ooh good post. And what's up with the snubbing? I mean, even if you feel that way, maybe you should keep it to yourself? Try not to burn some bridges? But maybe that's just me

Joanne said...

I've had several guest bloggers and with the exception of one whose post content I didn't appreciate and didn't use, all were gracious and a pleasure to work with. I'll usually prompt the guest with a question relevant to my blog theme, or ask that they keep their post somehow related to what Whole Latte Life is all about, and it always works out well, giving the reader what they expect.

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: What was ironic was that when I asked, I gave him the book's name and publisher the first time I contacted him. He just didn't make the connection until too late.

Mason: An excellent point. But to each his own. I don't mind if someone wants to host only traditionally published authors, but as a reader (and I read a lot of review blogs) I might be less likely to visit a blog that limited.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Today, most blogs with a focus on reviews and interviews will state in plain sight what they will and will not accept, but that isn't the case of blogs that only occasionally host authors. The only way to find out is to ask. If they do limit what sort of authors they'll host, it's best to have a nice, non-hostile response. It doesn't have to get ugly. Everyone is entitled to run his blog the way he sees fit.

Joanne: I had a contest last year where I introduced a bunch of new blogs, but one had to be excluded because even the title was too vulgar and the content was hateful.

When you're guest blogging, it's like being in someone's house. You have to be respectful and good humored. Otherwise, you won't get another invitation. :)

I like that you bring it back to your theme. That's why people show up. It's a nice way to bring it back full circle.

Krista D. Ball said...

Hey Maria - thanks for the shout out!

I've only been turned down a few times for blog posting and mostly it was because of my choice to include LGBT folks in my work. I'm not talking M/M erotica; I'm just talking about them as characters in the book. Rather disappointing, but I figure their readers aren't really folks who'd probably enjoy my work anyway :)

Krista D. Ball said...

hmm weird, my post was cut...

I said something touchy feely like most folks have been very happy to let me visit their blogs. It's great for both sides, since my readers visit other blogs, and their readers find out about a new writer. It works for both sides.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: You're welcome!

Fitting in is key. But the most important thing is to understand that guest blogging is a reciprocal relationship with the host.

Done right, it's a win-win situation.

Krista D. Ball said...

In my very first blog tour, I had no idea how much work it would be. It was pretty overwhelming, especially since I was attending 2 conventions plus a LARP the same month!

Definitely won't do that again.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: I can commiserate. I learned my lesson the hard way. That's why all my posts are done a month before they appear so I'm not scrambling at the last minute.

Angelina Rain said...

Maria, I learn so much from you and your blog. Thanks for all the lessons. I can’t wait for your blog tour. My first blog tour was inspired by your “True Believers” tour. I really liked it that all your posts were personal instead of just talking about your book. I tried to copy that (imitation is a form of flattery). On my blog tour, all the people who I asked to host me welcomed me with open arms. I was very fortunate.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Although my baby blog following keeps me from inviting guests at this point (figuring most guests would like a larger audience for their time), to refuse or snub a offer is beyond rude. To withdraw an invitation is unthinkable.

Kay Theodoratus said...

I barely get my own blog written twice a week.

The thought of guest blogging -- even though I have a pub coming out midyear -- makes me want to crawl back to my corner.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: That is so sweet. Thank you. I've learned a few things from you too.

Linda: I don't blame people if they don't want certain authors. It's their blogs. They can do what they like. But if they host authors regularly (which these two did), they should post criteria that states who gets in and who doesn't. That way no one is put in a ticklish situation.

Kay: Oh, darlin'. You gotta do it--at least once. It's like a rite of passage. LOL. It's not as bad as it sounds. But it does take planning.

Ellie said...

Great adive for when I want to plan a book tour - thank you!

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I'm not big enough yet to be a guest or host a guest. ^_^ I look forward to both some day.

Maria Zannini said...

Ellie: You're welcome.

Barbara: It'll happen. :-)

Misha said...

It's a lot easier to be a more established presence in the blogging world, because you'll be linking your followers to the blog you're posting on. => Everyone wins.

I think I might be collecting some serious brownie points, although that is not why I visit blogs or give my Fridays to other bloggers.

And that's the thing: Best way to make friends and influence people is to be nice to them even though you don't expect anything in return. Because the fact is that at least one person will repay the favor - even if it wasn't what you had in mind when you helped the person out.


Angela Felsted said...

That must have been hard to "cold call" your first novel like that. How great that you had the courage to do it, though.

Cate Masters said...

Unbelievable that you were snubbed Maria. You're always welcome on my blog. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Misha: Bingo! You hit it right on the nose. And it doesn't cost anything to be nice.

Angela: In today's industry, you have to do it. Everyone is new at this at some point in their lives. I think that's why I have such a soft spot for first timers. It's scary out there, but it doesn't have to be.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: Ha! Thank you, sweetie!

I was REALLY a nobody though, so I don't blame them for turning a cold shoulder on me. If I had been with a traditional publisher they might've cut me some slack to show solidarity among their ranks, but since I wasn't, they politely asked me not to darken their doors again. LOL.

Since it was my first time, all I could do was soldier on.

taio said...


Melissa McClone said...

Very interesting post today. Not that they aren't usually :-) But there's lots to take away and think about!

I had Goddess Fish set up my blog tour in February. I had no idea how to do it myself. Plus with trying to juggle so much I had to weigh the time vs. money thing since I was on deadline for another ms.

Also as you say and I think this is key, it makes a difference if you have a presence in the blog-o-sphere and are known at certain places.

I blog about whatever but it pertains to me. A limited audience, but loyal one. I read many more blogs than I comment on. Those that I do comment are limited to just a handful. So for someone like me it's much easier paying someone else to introduce me to blog hosts than trying to do it myself!

I agree with you on the topics you write about too. I must admit I had the most fun when the blogs were something different and just not plain PR. One I didn't even mention my book that was out! It was all about a trip I took at age 21, yet I ended up with so many people coming to my blog that day!

Maria Zannini said...

taio: Bienvenidos

Melissa: Ref: Goddess Fish is a lifesaver.

Ref: It was all about a trip I took at age 21, yet I ended up with so many people coming to my blog that day!

I remember that post! It was a great story.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

I've used Goddess Fish, and they were great. I'd do it again too. As for cold calling, I don't think so. :)

Interesting Post. :)

Abigail Sharpe said...

Guest blogging is stressful, too! What if no one comments? What if I think I'm being funny and I'm really not? What if I'm writing like a first grader and no one has the heart to tell me???

Okay, and it's also fun.

Maria Zannini said...

Suzanne: In the beginning I didn't know there were places that could help you find hosts. I was such a virgin! If you don't feel you can cold-call, Goddess Fish is ideal.

Abigail: Oh, boy. You said it. So much hangs in the balance. What if people don't like your post? What if they don't like to comment to strangers? What if the host doesn't have many readers?

It's enough to turn you gray before your time. ;)