Monday, March 03, 2008

How To Be a Great Guest Blogger

by Nancy Martin, whose book is published today!

Keeping a successful group author blog running can be a real drain on creativity--the creativity perhaps best kept for writing the books we write for a living. So now and then, group blogs supplement the work of "the regulars" by inviting guests authors or experts to provide content.

Truth is, some guest bloggers are like the house guests you wish you'd never invited for the weekend. You know who I mean--the ones who drop wet towels on the bathroom floor, eat all the food and leave dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe they even insult the neighbors while they're at it.

A good house guest brings a hostess gift, plays the role of raconteur at the dinner table, pitches in with the dishes and leave the bathroom tidy.

A good guest blogger? Well, if you want to be invited back, here are my suggestions:

1. Bring eyeballs. Email your friends, colleagues, listserves and fans to alert them you'll be a guest. Ask them to drop by. (Provide a link!) A guest blogger who brings new people to our audience is guaranteed another invitation. On a daily basis, we're trying to build our readership, and you can help. But if you use our blog simply to tap into our audience, what's in it for us? Don't expect another invitation.

2. Respond to comments. Our blog's purpose is to create a community of readers who will buy our books when the time comes. In the meantime, we want to keep them entertained and connected. To do that, we facilitate "the backblog." On the days we blog for ourselves, we keep the conversational ball in the air. If you drop our ball, it takes a while to regain the readers who have gone off to join somebody who's more interactive. So find ways to plant multiple questions in your piece so the audience feels moved to respond.

3. Entertain. This should go without saying, but you might be surprised how boring some fiction writers can be when they try their hand at a short personal essay. Send us your most sparkling prose, your wittiest ideas, your most thought-proviking material. If you're boring or muddled or repetitive (the most common error) our audience isn't going to remember you, or worse--they'll actively avoid you in the future. It helps if you read our blog for a few days to understand what our perspective is, too, so you're not lecturing about something we've already covered ages ago or bringing up one of our forbidden topics. (Diets, for instance.) If you can't be funny, be very personal. Or educational. Or try to sway your audience with a clearly argued personal opinion. Be that scintillating dinner guest who knows he's supposed to sing for his supper.

4. It bears repeating: Entertain! Don't use our blog as a billboard for your book. We don't blatantly advertise our own books because we've discovered obvious promotion turns off our audience. Buy ads in magazines or online book review sites if that's what you want to do. Or do an online interview with someone who promotes books. But for us? Write something entertaining.

5. That said, we know you're guest blogging to plug your book, and we don't really mind. (Heck, it's why we created our blog in the first place!) But be subtle. Write about a topic that's tangential to your book. Provide links to your website and to bookstores that stock your book. Why not link to some reviews, too? Provide a short bio we can include at the beginning or end of your post. Make it lively--not the same bio you send everywhere else. Include an amusing tidbit about yourself. Or an outright lie!--As longs as it's entertaining. That's as much advertising as our audience can stand.

6. Keep it short. If you check our posts, you'll get a feel for how long a blog should be. An ideal guest blog for us is 600 words of pithy, witty, orginal ideas. (We don't post material that's been seen elsewhere on the internet, by the way.) Some blogs write much shorter. If you drone on for 1500 words, you lose your audience. Believe me, I learned this the hard way--by experience.

7. Have I mentioned bringing eyeballs? Help us help you. We'll share out audience with you if you reciprocate. Nobody succeeds in the blog world by snubbing everyone else. If you don't link to others, how can you expect to build your audience? Online networking is the key to reaching readers and growing the number of people who get to know you and your books.

I know there are more points I could be making here, but I suspect you know them as well as I do. What kind of blogs do you enjoy? How do they keep you coming back? And does blatant adertising work for you? Or turn you off?

Nancy Martin is the author of MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH (in stores today!) She's also one of the Book Tarts who blog at The Lipstick Chronicles.


Anonymous said...

Talking about diets is forbidden?

Speaking of which, I saw your latest at Mystery Lovers' Bookstore last night. I can't wait to get my copy at your book party on Sunday! AND experience the chocolate fountain. (Hmmm. I guess you're right about the "no diet talk" part.)

Joyce Tremel said...

Good advice. We've had GREAT guest bloggers here on the Stiffs. They've been highly entertaining and I love hearing how their books come together and the joys and pitfalls of making that happen. We have some good guests coming up in the next month, too.

Anonymous said...

Tory, the chocolate fountain is truly an experience!

Joyce, we've been lucky here at Working Stiffs.---Great guests, all!

Since it's my pub date, I'll be really busy.--But I'll check back when I can!

Anonymous said...

I'm also looking forward to that chocolate fount-- I mean, your new book. Seriously, Nancy, I love your Blackbird Sisters series. I can't wait to see what Nora and Mick are up to next.

Anonymous said...

No diets? And I had a blog post all worked out - inspired by the fact that I've been on a diet - about how different kinds of books are like different kinds of food. Boo-hoo!

Great post, Nancy! And congrats on the big day. I'm on my way to the bookstore. :-)

Annette said...

I missed the no diet memo, too.

I agree, we've had terrific guests here.

As for what other blogs I enjoy, I don't visit all that many on a REGULAR basis. Not enough hours in the day. But one that I do check on is the Burgh Blog. The posts are short and hysterical. So if I have a few minutes, I pop in to see what's up. And then there are days like yesterday (102 mil for playing a game? Way to go, Benny) when I HAVE to click over there just to get Pitt Girl's take on the latest news.

Joyce Tremel said...

I visit too many blogs on a regular basis--probably why I don't get anything done!

I love The Burgh Blog. If you haven't checked it out, make sure you have no liquid in your mouth before you read.

CJ Lyons said...

I have to say that as a recent guest here at Working Stiffs that it also helps to have wonderful and gracious hosts!!!

Not sure I was able to bring many new eyeballs (being a newbie), but I tried. And I sure had a great time with the conversation we started!

Happy release day, Nancy!

And thanks again for inviting me, Joyce!

Anonymous said...

Nancy, congrats on the book release - Sunday sounds like fun, and I can't wait to get my copy!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the book release, Nancy! I'm sending good sale vibes to you today.

Great blog. I agree that the guests here at Working Stiffs have been top notch.

Lee Lofland said...

This is a fun blog to visit. In fact, it's the first one I read every day.

Now, where did I leave that towel?

Anonymous said...

For you, Lee, we'll pick up the towels, wash them and give 'em back for more of the same. But you're too good a guest to leave a mess behind--only goodwill.

Jordan Dane said...

As long as Lee didn't leave the toilet seat up, we're probably okay.