One of the things some authors do to promote their book is a “blog tour” which I’ve heard described as the modern day or indie equivalent of hitting the road for signings at book stores. The goal of such an undertaking is twofold. First, to get the word out that your new book exists (remember what Lynne Cantwell told us about effective frequency), selling some books while setting other readers up for future sales and second, to get a jump on the number of reviews on Amazon and other retailers. Some blog tours are review only, which helps with the second goal, but limits the number of bloggers willing to participate. Others offer different kinds of content for bloggers who are not willing to commit to a review. What these different kinds of content are will vary depending on who organizes the tour and the willingness of the author to create additional content. Interviews with the author, character interviews, and guest posts are examples of content frequently offered.
Let’s imagine you’ve hired a company to put together a blog tour for your new book. When you’re asked about the types of content you’re willing to provide, you respond with, “Yeah, yeah, I’m willing to do any of that. I just want as many people as possible to know my book is out.” The tour operator has done a great job, getting several sites to agree to review your book, a few asking to do interviews, and a bunch more requesting guest posts. Now it’s time for you to do your thing.
Reviews, no problem. You’ve already written the book. Other than hoping they don’t hate your masterpiece, your work is done. Interviews? Answer a few questions. Not an issue. But what the heck are you going to write for guest posts? The short answer is whatever will do the best job of attracting the right readers to buy your book. Coincidentally, I’ve got some thoughts on what that might be.
The best, most successful guests posts are created when the author follows three rules. Don’t visit the sausage factory, consider this an audition, and sell, but sell softly.
Don’t Visit the Sausage Factory
Too often an author’s first thoughts when brainstorming for guest post topics is to put too much emphasis on “write what you know” (which is presumably about writing) and not enough on “consider your audience.” Are you trying to interest other authors in buying your book or readers? Even if you know the audience of a particular blog has a lot of authors, remember that authors are readers too. It’s their reader side you want to engage. Don’t make your guest post about the writing process. The typical non-reader doesn’t care and for many reading about the how of creating your book is akin to a visit to the sausage factory: a good way to turn a carnivore into a vegetarian.
Consider This an Audition
A guest post isn’t typically fiction, but that doesn’t mean it can’t tell a story. It should. Ideally tell that story using the same style as you do in your book. If you’ve written a book with lots of humor, this isn’t the time to get serious. Whatever the subject of your guest post, make sure your author voice shines through. As much as you can, give the reader a sample of what they might experience reading your book.
Sell, but Sell Softly
This last item has two parts.
Sell. That’s one of the goals, right? The best way to do that is by writing about a subject that will pique a potential reader’s interest in your book. That’s accomplished by choosing a topic that ties in some way. If it’s personal, so the reader comes away feeling they know a little about you, that’s a positive as well.
But don’t sell too hard. You can mention your book, but no more than once or twice. It’s acceptable at the start of the post if it helps set up what you’re going to talk about and at the end of post to tie it in to your book and as a subtle reminder to the reader that you’re there because you have a new book. Any more than that and your post starts to read like ad copy which isn’t what you’re aiming for.
Stop Telling Me. Show Me.
If you’re like me, generic discussion only goes so far. Concrete examples help vague generic concepts gel in my mind. If you’re willing to read some more, I have a few links to some good examples.
In this guest post, horror author Edward Lorn talks about his dad. It very personal and has a unique, unexpected perspective, not unlike Lorn’s books. In this instance he thanks his father for being lazy and emotionally abusive. Then he subtly ties it in to his book at the end.
In her guest post, Brenda Vicars talks about her experience teaching English classes in a prison. She doesn’t mention her book at all. But by the final sentence of her post, if you’re the right reader for her book, you’ll be hooked.
My last example is different. I’ll sometimes suggest that there is a story about the inspiration for a book, or at least some aspect of it, that would make a good guest post. The first two examples do that, but this one by VM Gauthier takes that concept to another level with a history and art lesson thrown in for good measure.
What are your thoughts? What makes a good guest post and, even more important, what has worked for you?
19 thoughts on “When Is a Guest Post Like a Sausage Factory?”
“Sausage factory?” lol The title alone made me want to read this post.
I particularly liked the “show me” part. That’s something I haven’t given a lot of thought to – and need to. It would likely help me find a bigger audience.
This post applies to author interviews as well.
Thanks for the comment, Yvonne. Yes, a lot of this could pertain to interviews. My advice on interviews is (almost) never answer yes or no. One word, even one or two sentence answers are passing up an opportunity. Even if a yes or no answer could suffice, expand on it. What you’re aiming for (to interest potential readers in your book without them feeling like they’re getting a hard sell) is the same.
I think you mentioned something about a visit to the sausage factory with regard to my author’s note for Rock ‘n Roll Heaven, Al. 🙂
These are great ideas and tips. I will remember them, thank you.
I might have, Shawn. 🙂
However, that situation isn’t as bad. Readers can (and often do) skip those sections in a book. And that’s okay. Skipping your guest post because it “is boring writing stuff, probably just as boring as his book” isn’t an okay result.
Someone who has read the book is also more likely to be curious about the history of it and how it came to be. I’ll often suggest guest posts be based on the inspiration for the book or something from the blurb that stands out as unique and the story behind that. IIRC, the section you’re talking about was as much inspiration and history (a story) as it was writing process.
I just copy/paste all my guest posts. Same as I do with my comments.
I just copy/paste all my guest posts. Same as I do with my comments.
LOL. Like I said, Stephen, if you use humor in your books, do the same in your commen … uh, I mean guest posts. 🙂
Mr. Kozeniewski, you crack me up! 😀
I think this is a real conundrum for most fiction writers. I have a hard enough time coming up with reasonable topics for my own weekly blog without adding guest posts on top of it, which may be why I’ve only done a few of those. The mindset that I have when writing fiction is very different from the mindset I have writing nonfiction. I’d NEVER just write something and post it if it’s fiction, but people seem to think you should be able to just sit down and generate a great blog post in an hour or two. That hasn’t been my experience. I have seriously considered dropping the blog so I can focus on the fiction, and definitely stepped back from it for a while. On the other hand, keeping it going regularly as I have done for the last few months has led to higher traffic. Whether that traffic translates into sales is another issue, but having a “platform” also matters in this business. Frankly, this is a question that tortures me, especially on a Friday night if I haven’t written the next post yet and I’d really rather be able to write the next scene in the novel.
No body told me these were supposed to take longer than an hour or two. 🙂
I think you’ve hit on several of the downsides of blog tours in your comment, Sandra. Guest posts are a lot of work for the author and to do them well (actually, even to do them not so well) takes time and creative energy. One option is to not include guest posts as one of the options on the tour. but that has a downside too.
I already had this post ready to go before Karen Wojcik Berner’s post the other day about blog tours. After reading her post I wrote a post about the pros and cons of a blog tour from the bloggers side which will be running in two or three weeks. I won’t give too many details now other than to say that I was surprised when I finished it how negative it was. 🙂 The subject of guest posts will be touched on then, but I’ll say they are one of the positives.
🙂 I’ll be waiting to hear the surprisingly negative stuff. I think part of what I find exhausting about blogging is that sense of striving to present a better version of myself. My characters can be as flawed as the general populace, but blogger Sandra generally tries to be positive, helpful, and kind at all times, even if she can’t quite help letting some snarkiness slip out from time to time. (I can only hope I’ll still be safely obscure if I ever get tired and careless and say something I really shouldn’t.)
I know what you mean, Sandra. Despite all the snark that does manage to escape from me, I hold most of it in. 🙂
He really does… IJS *snort*
Al, this is excellent. I have posted on my own blog about writers wasting opportunities by turning in mediocre guest posts or interviews. We should capitalize on any opportunity to entertain and amaze our readers, and you’ve put it all very succinctly. Good job!
Thanks for the comment, Melissa. I agree. And if it is too mediocre it could work against them rather than just not helping.
Thank you for the post, BigAl! When I evaluated my 2014 marketing/promo efforts, highest on my list of “probably will never try agains” was the blog tour. I felt like I was the sausage! But from talking to a few book bloggers (and seeing which guest posts had the greatest engagement), I learned that a few “story behind the story” posts were popular…as long as they weren’t too promo-ish and weren’t actually about the writing process.
That’s exactly it, Laurie. Give them something they won’t get from reading your blurb, but might still gently nudge them to be more interested.
Mmm…sausage. Of course I’ve never visited a sausage factory. I’d rather enjoy the delectable treat without witnessing Wilbur being gutted on the hook. Wow! Is writing really that unbearable of a process? I rather enjoy it…
I think it kills the mystery, Lance. 🙂
Thanks for the comment.
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