Guest posts can be a fabulous way to build community as a new–and seasoned–blogger. But it’s easy for newbie bloggers to get taken advantage of if they don’t know the right questions to ask before they submit a guest post. Once you’ve followed a site for awhile and carefully read all their guidelines, consider an introductory letter with a few questions before you take the final step and submit that guest post.
My friend Rachel is joining me here today with her own questions about submitting a guest post to my contributor site, Kindred Grace. Hopefully our dialogue will help you not only craft your own letter of introduction to site owners, but will arm you with knowledge about some of the issues to consider before you guest post.
A Q&A Between a Potential Guest Contributor and Blog Owner
My name is Rachel Zupke and I blog over at Mason Jar Values. I’m just starting out as a blogger and have been writing at my own space for awhile but am wanting to branch out. I’ve been following along with the different posts over at Kindred Grace (loved the Blue Bike book series!) and I saw that you are open for guest posts. I feel like my passions would fit in well with the topics addressed and I share the faith background y’all have in common. I love the writing voice of the current contributors as well as the community there but had a few technical questions I was hoping you could answer before I submit a post for submission. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my email!
P.S. Since I value your time – and don’t expect you to read through everything I’ve written in order to get to know me! – please feel free to respond with any questions you would need answered before accepting my guest post for review.
P.P.S. I’m nervous but excited for your response! Kinda feels like a first date, yes? 🙂
(The questions are Rachel’s–summarized in bold and then expanded upon below.
Answers in italics are Gretchen’s.)
1. How do you introduce guest writers to your community?
I’ve seen some contributor blogs that say “guest” as the author and others that have the person’s actual name. Do we stay anonymous until you decide to keep me on as a regular contributor? (I promise I’m just confident, not cocky. 😉 ) When and how do I move from “guest author” to “contributing author”?
Gretchen: I define a “guest author” as someone who submits one or more posts to my site for publication. This is a dating sort of relationship, and either the guest author or the contributor blog owner can “ask the other out” as it were. I may solicit the guest post if I think they would be the perfect person to write on that topic, or it may come to me unsolicited because they found the page about how to submit a guest post.
A blog contributor, on the other hand, is someone who has committed to contribute to my blog regularly. This is an engagement/marriage sort of relationship. And most contributor blogs prefer to do the asking. If someone emails me and says they would like to be a regular contributor to Kindred Grace, I kindly return the email pointing them to our guest post page. To me, regular contributor status (like any commitment) is a right to be earned not a favor to bestow on strangers.
“Well, when the right woman comes along, how would you feel if she pops the question? Ya’see, Mr. Abrahams, like the bridegroom, it’s the coach who should do the asking.”
-Sam Mussabini in “Chariots of Fire”
That being said, guest posts appear on our site just like regular contributor posts do. However, when a contributor commits to joining our team, they are then featured on our contributors page and introduced in our monthly newsletter.
2. How do you share who the author of each post is?
Will I get a byline right under the title or will I have to add my own link within my writing?
Gretchen: Your byline is always yours. From your first post at Kindred Grace, “by Rachel Zupke” would be the first line that would appear in your post, right below the post title and the designation “Guest Author”. Your name in your byline will be linked to your blog URL or to your G+ profile.
3. Does your site get credit for my writing or will I?
G+ is everywhere right now! We’ve been talking about it in my mastermind group (really smart gals I’m blessed to work with!) and Google+ Authorship came up so I thought I’d ask about it. If I give you my G+ profile URL is that enough for you to set it up?
Gretchen: The gals in your mastermind group are savvy! You can most definitely have Google+ authorship for your guest posts at Kindred Grace–all you have to do is ask, and then be sure to add a link to http://kindredgrace.com in the “Contributor to” section of your G+ profile. Google may automatically recognize your byline on our site and associate it with the fact that you’ve listed our site in your profile. But to be extra sure, just send me the link to your G+ profile and ask me to link your name to your G+ profile (with the rel=author designation) to ensure G+ authorship. (For example, your authorship link would look like https://plus.google.com/102512352003163760444?rel=author or <a rel=”nofollow” href=”https://plus.google.com/102512352003163760444″ rel=”author”>Rachel Zupke</a>.)
Just so you know, you can always test your authorship for any of your posts (on my site or anywhere else) by entering the post URL in the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. For troubleshooting, check out my post Google Authorship in 4 Easy Steps.
4. Do I get a profile box (small pic, bio, and links) at the bottom of the post?
Should I give you my Gravatar info, should I write a separate one tailored to your audience, or do I even get one since I’m not yet a regular contributor?
Gretchen: Our guest post guidelines ask that along with your post you submit a headshot, brief bio, and select social media links. This will appear at the bottom of your guest post. (And I love reading bios, so I’m always thrilled when bloggers create a unique one for each site at which they write or guest post!) If you become a frequent guest poster or a full time contributor, we’ll set up a WordPress profile for you so your Gravatar and biographical information will appear automatically at the bottom of each post in an author box (we’re currently using the plugin Fanciest Author Box because we love how it promotes our authors’ social media accounts).
5. Can I watermark my image(s) with my own name/blog name along with the name of the contributor site?
Assuming you want at least one image (everything’s gotta be “pinnable”, right? 😉 )…I’ll use my own photos or those available in the Creative Commons with proper attribution, of course.
Gretchen: I always appreciate it when a guest post comes with an image, especially when the author clarifies to me in the email exactly how they came upon the image (so I don’t have to double check or make sure attribution was made properly). However, I also work hard to ensure that there is a cohesive visual experience on our site. If you’ve been reading our site for awhile, you’ll likely be able to create a pinnable image that fits the bill. If you don’t feel comfortable creating pinnable images, please feel free to submit an image without text and I’ll be glad to turn it into a “pinnable”. If for some reason I felt that your image choice didn’t fit, if your image was smaller than 1200px, or I needed to change the name of your post to be more SEO friendly, I may ask you to resubmit the original image or let you know I was using a different one.
But yes, you are more than welcome to watermark your image with something like “by Rachel Zupke for KindredGrace.com”. We like to make sure “KindredGrace.com” (with initial caps) appears on all our images. And while we don’t always have room to include the author’s name on the image (whether it’s a regular contributor or a guest author), you are quite welcome to do so. When we use images from our in-house photographers, we always make sure to watermark their images whenever they so request.
6. Do I email you my post or do I get a log in to the site?
Hoping you’d want me back as a contributor in the future, would I get a log in to the site or continue to submit posts via email (correctly formatted HTML, of course, versus a Word doc)?
Gretchen: Kudos to you for knowing that you can submit a post in correctly formatted HTML. It’s rare I get a post submitted in that manner, though it’s always welcome! As stated in our guest post guidelines, we request that all guest posts be emailed to us, either in the body of an email message or as an attachment (HTML, Word or Text–no PDF, please).
For the sake of simplicity, I don’t usually create a WordPress login for a guest author until they’ve contributed several posts to our site. But I publish all guest posts as a separate user so there’s no confusion about who is the author. The top byline on guest posts will be “by Guest Author”, immediately followed by the byline “by Rachel Zupke” with a link to your site or your G+ profile. (This gives guest authors even more direct linkage than our regular contributors, as contributor bylines links to their author archives containing the rest of their posts on our site.)
7. Do you attribute individual authorship in social media/email promotion?
When promoting posts on social media, in email campaigns, etc., do individual articles receive attribution to each writer i.e. “Gretchen on Kindred Grace” or is it all “new on Kindred Grace”? For my own MailChimp email campaigns, I send out a weekly newsletter of the posts from the week. I obviously don’t need a byline under each heading in my own newsletter but when Kindred Grace sends out 3 posts in an email, would you differentiate authors there or once readers got to the site?
Gretchen: Great question! I use the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast, and use the RSS Header/Footer settings to have the author byline appear at the beginning of each post. That way, whether the post is being read through an RSS feed or via email, there is clear attribution to the author. Again, even if you do not yet have a WordPress login for our site, your byline will appear immediately below “by Guest Author”.
Our social media promotion ebbs and flows depending on the availability of our (volunteer) team. I do my best to mention your Twitter username whenever your post gets Tweeted, as well as tagging your Facebook page when your post is shared on Facebook. However, depending on who is doing the social media promotion that day, your name may not always get mentioned in the status. But you can be sure that readers will find your site and social media links when they read your post (as long as you’ve included them in your bio).
8. Is the post still mine once I submit it to you or do I have to turn over all control?
I guess I’m thinking of some big aggregation site that might approach you for my content should it get a lot of pins…would you have to ask me to turn it over to them or would you do it without my permission?
I also just wanted to ask if you’d do any editing to my writing (beyond a spelling error I may have missed or something like that!).
Gretchen: Our policies page states that you retain the copyright to your work. However, we ask that you do not republish your work anywhere else–even your own blog. Google frowns on duplicate content. Before your post is published, we do our best to ensure that you are submitting an original piece, and not something that has been published before on your blog or anywhere else. When you submit a post to Kindred Grace, we’re asking for exclusive rights to the online publication of your post.
I’m not a fan of aggregation sites because of the gray areas when it comes to duplicate content. If it was truly a reliable aggregation site that rewrites a post summary and then links to the original post, I might view it as a valid enough request to consider. But whether it was a request for republication in summary form for aggregation or in quote form on another blog, I would definitely contact you with the request and would ensure that your name would be credited.
As to edits, I’ll definitely contact you if I or our post editor make any significant changes to the text. If it’s just an edit for clarity’s sake or a reorganization of a few sentences to make things read more smoothly, I probably won’t bother you about it. But if the post needs a major overhaul, I won’t publish it without letting you see the final draft.
9. Would you ever remove my post from your blog without my knowledge?
Or if, for some unbeknownst reason, I wanted my post back or taken down, would you be willing to remove it from your blog?
Gretchen: I am assuming that you aren’t planning on asking to reclaim a post that goes viral, and would not request the removal of your post without a valid reason. But if for some unforeseen reason you needed your post edited or removed from the interwebs, I would definitely comply with your request, even though I would be sorry to see it go.
I do think every blog should sift their archives from time to time to make sure the posts still fit with the purpose and values of the site. However, if your post was evergreen and grace-filled, I see no reason why I would want to remove it from our site. If for some reason I did, I would do my best to provide you with a copy of your post and the associated comments. However, I can not be held liable for posts lost through technical error or otherwise. A smart guest poster archives their posts in Evernote and subscribes to comments via email because you never know when a server will crash or malware will destroy.
10. If you decide to publish my post, will you contact me?
Will you send me an email or should I watch Kindred Grace like a hawk? 🙂 What’s your typical turnaround time? To get the permalink, should I just copy and paste the post’s URL? Do you have guidelines/requirements for how I promote my guest post?
Gretchen: I’ll be the first to admit that my email inboxes can get overwhelming. That means that it may take awhile for me to respond to guest post queries. So if you haven’t heard back from me in a few weeks, feel free to check back. The answer may be no. But it just may be that I have not have gotten a chance to read your post yet, or I want to run it by another team member to make sure it’s a good fit for our site.
Once I accept a post, I’ll do my best to give you a heads up on when it will be published. But there are those times where I need a last-minute fill-in and it may get published sooner than I anticipated. I can certainly provide you with a permalink and an anticipated publish date/time if you would like.
When your post goes live on our site, we’d love it if you’d promote it to your own readership and community. One really great way to do this is to create a post on your own site (with a different title) introducing your post in some way and linking to your post on our site. You can simply include a brief quote or rewrite a short summary of what you talked about and then point readers to our site to read the rest. Or, you can go all out and write an entirely separate unique post for your site (or take all those cuts you made to bring your post under 800 words and create another post out of the mix….not that I’ve ever done that!). This is a great way to create great unique content for your own blog as well as get guest post exposure. (Emily C. Gardner is a regular contributor who does a great job of creating coordinating posts on her own site to link to her posts on Kindred Grace. Check out her archives!)
P.S. from Rachel: When I submitted my first guest post to another site last year, I didn’t ask any of these questions nor did the site have a page of FAQs for guest bloggers. I was definitely as green (and trusting) as they come! After a few months of seeing some things change on that post (my byline was removed, etc.), I became curious about other bloggers’ experiences with guest posting. Gretchen and I got to talking about it and realized that bloggers, especially new ones, could benefit from a resource like this one. I hope that my learning experience can be helpful to you, especially with all of Gretchen’s great advice!
P.S. from Gretchen: As you can see, there’s a lot to consider before submitting your own work to someone else’s site! Before you send an email, be sure to check the contributor guidelines carefully to see if some of your questions are already answered. But if for any reason you don’t feel the site owner’s answers are satisfactory, proceed with caution. Consider personally contacting some of the site’s other contributors through their own sites or social media to ask for their honest input about being a guest author or contributor at the site.
P.P.S. from Gretchen: Once you are a full time contributor or the site has created a WordPress login for you, you’ll have your own personalized author RSS feed that will show all the posts you’ve published at the site (i.e. https://gretchenlouise.com/author/rachelzupke/feed/). This is a great way for you to showcase your guest/contributor posts either in your sidebar (as an RSS widget using your author RSS feed) or on a special portfolio style page (using the WP RSS Aggregator Plugin).
Resources for Guest Authors:
- How to Write a Guest Post Readers Will Read
- Guest Post Best Practices
- How to Guest Post: 8 Must-Have Strategies for Success
- How to Get Your Guest Post Accepted
- 10 Proven Steps to Snag a Guest Post on an A-List Blog
- Seven Steps to Writing a Successful Guest Post
- How to Be a Polite (and Successful) Guest Blogger
- How Guest Posting Can Help Grow Your Blog
- Seven Tips for Getting Your Guest Posts Published
- The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging
- Rachel’s Guest Posting Pinterest Board
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