As an indie author, book marketing and promotion is entirely up to you. If you want to succeed, it's your responsibility to get the word out there about your books.
Along with ARCs and book subscription boxes, guest blogging is another great marketing tool. Indie authors can gain much from building solid relationships with book bloggers and other online influencers.
Let's take a look at what guest blogging actually is, why it's useful for indie authors, and what you should remember throughout the guest blogging process.
What is guest blogging?
Guest blogging involves writing a dedicated article or post to be published on another blogger's site. The basic process is usually as follows:
- Identifying relevant bloggers you want to write posts for.
- Contacting bloggers with a pitch for a relevant guest post.
- Writing the post and including a link to your website and/or book purchase point.
Note: Sometimes, bloggers and websites may contact you with an invitation to write a guest blog, rather than the other way around. However, most bloggers are too busy to do this, so don't wait around to be invited – you need to take the initiative.
For indie authors, guest blogging usually means working with book bloggers. However, there's also opportunity to work with other blogs in the literary sphere, such as writing advice platforms and other book industry-related sites.
'But wait a minute,' you might be thinking. 'Isn't this just me providing free content for other people's websites?'
Technically, yes, it is – but there are multiple benefits that will make guest blogging well worth your time and effort.
Let's delve into some of those benefits for indie authors.
There are several reasons why guest blogging is a useful tool indie authors can use to market and promote their books. Here are the five main benefits...
1. It gets your name out there
The first and most obvious reason to guest blog is to get your name (and your book) out there in front of people.
The number of sites on the internet is overwhelming – the number of authors and books out there perhaps even more so. It's no simple task to expand your reach, gain quality exposure, establish yourself as an author and get people reading your books.
Guest blogging, however, can greatly increase your chances of being discovered by new readers.
First and foremost, you'll be reaching specific, targeted audiences. Guest posting on blogs that are specific to your genre or target audience gives you access to an expanded community of readers, who are already inclined towards interest in your book.
As well as getting yourself in front of people, guest blog posts can link back to your author website, social media platforms and, most importantly, places where people can purchase your books.
Having your books just one click away for anyone who reads your guest post is a great way to increase book sales.
2. It's a great alternative to review-based content
Most indie authors who team up with book bloggers primarily utilise review-based content. This means the author will send a copy of their book to the blogger, who then reads and posts a review of it on their blog.
Now, don't get us wrong – reviews are an excellent way to drum up interest and promote your book. We highly recommend seeking them out if you're an indie author. However, don't forget that reviews aren't the only way you can partner with book bloggers to gain exposure.
Guest blogging is an alternative way to connect with influencers in the online literary community. It offers the blogger a chance to post some refreshing, different content, and might help you stand out in the dozens of emails they most likely receive every day from indie authors.
Speaking of that...
Guest blogging can come in especially handy if you find a blogger you'd like to work with who isn't currently open to reviews. Many book bloggers become inundated with books for review, and so may close their review requests for a time. If this is the case, try pitching a guest post instead.
3. It establishes you as an expert in your field
Readers are much more likely to buy a book from someone who knows their craft. This doesn't just mean writing itself; it also means knowing your genre and your target audience.
Guest blogging is a great way to demonstrate that you do know your stuff. Firstly, you can demonstrate your writing skills by contributing a creative, thoughtful and well-written post. If people find your guest post entertaining or engaging, there's a good chance they'll think the same of your books as well.
Guest posts are also a chance to demonstrate a fresh take on topics relevant to your genre, your audience or publishing in general. Again, if you've got something interesting and innovative to say in a guest blog post, readers are likely to assume your books will be interesting and innovative, too!
With the above in mind, make sure the topics you're pitching for guest blog posts are well-considered and original. Don't recycle old pieces from your own blog, and don't resort to thinly veiled promotion where you simply talk about your own book throughout the entire post.
Put some effort in and contribute a high-quality post that makes people want to read more of your writing. Trust us – it will be worth it!
4. It's good for your website
As we mentioned above, guest blogging allows you to embed links to your own site/s within your posts. Not only is this a good way to direct people to your online platforms and book sale pages, it's also great for improving your website's search engine rankings.
The main way guest blogging improves your website is through backlinks. Basically, the more backlinks you have pointing to your site, the better it performs in search engine rankings.
However, Google's not fooled by hundreds of backlinks from any random site. It's not as easy as guest posting on any and every site you can get your hands on to increase your backlinks.
Backlinks to your site should be two things:
- Contextual – that is, they appear on sites relevant to your own (more on this below).
- Authoritative – meaning they appear on quality sites. Check how many followers or how much engagement a site has; you can also check its domain authority to help you get an idea of how well it performs in terms of search engines etc.
5. It can help you build up your subscriber base
Direct email marketing is one of the most effective tools an indie author can use. (If you don't already have an email newsletter set up, we recommend you do so ASAP!)
One of the trickiest things about direct marketing is building up your subscriber base. It can be harder than you think to get people to take the step of actually entering their email address and signing up to your list!
Guest blogging gives you an extra opportunity to reach a whole new audience of people. It can be as simple as including a 'subscribe to my email newsletter' link in the bio that goes at the end of your guest post.
Hint: If you offer something in return for people signing up to your list, you're far more likely to increase your numbers. Try offering subscribers some quality downloadable content, such as an exclusive prequel story, a writing tips/advice sheet, or a high-quality graphic (such as a map or image related to your book). Everybody loves a freebie!
Things to remember when guest blogging
There are a few caveats to keep in mind when it comes to guest blogging. Yes, it's a great marketing and relationship-building tool, but there's a right and a wrong way to go about it.
1. Don't try to guest blog with just anyone
When it comes to sending out guest blogging pitches, you might be tempted to think 'the more, the better'. But we disagree. In fact, we'd strongly advise against sending out pitches to any and every blog you come across.
Instead, take a careful and considered approach and only contact bloggers whose platform is relevant to you and your book. Do you write YA fantasy novels? Don't approach the adult literary fiction blogger. Are you a hardcore crime/thriller author? Don't pitch to someone whose blog mostly features light-hearted 'cosy' mysteries.
Take the time to research each blogger you're thinking of approaching. Look through their past posts; have a look at the things they share on social media. Read their guest pitch guidelines, if they've specified any on their site. In short: do your homework.
As Kissmetrics points out...
You are looking for blogs that fit the following criteria:
- The content is focused on your niche / industry.
- The audience of the blog will be interested in your industry.
- The blog has engaged readership (posts have been shared socially and commented upon).
- The blog owner is active on social media (so you know that they will be promoting your work on their site)."
Once you've found bloggers that meet the above criteria, take the time to craft tailored blog pitches for each one.
Bloggers will be able to see through a generic send-to-all pitch and will most likely ignore it entirely. But if they can clearly see that you, your books and the topic you're pitching are all relevant to their blog, they're much more likely to partner with you for a guest feature.
Note: As we mentioned earlier, sometimes you may be contacted with an invitation to contribute a guest post, rather than the other way around. The same rules apply in reverse here.
If the blogger who's contacted you seems genuinely interested and their platform is relevant to you, go for it. If it seems like a generic request sent out in the hopes of gaining free content, don't waste your time.
2. Focus on building real relationships
Building on the above point: keep in mind that guest blogging should be treated as an opportunity to build relationships with bloggers, not just an avenue for some free self-promotion.
Guest blogging really is a two-way street. Both you and the blogger will be helping one another out by engaging with and cross-promoting each other. It can be hard for both bloggers and authors to gain visibility online, so remember to treat this as a venture from which you'll both benefit.
Here are a few quick tips for building strong relationships with bloggers...
- Promote and share their work. Obviously, you'll be sharing the link to your own guest post on their blog, but it's nice to make the effort to share some of their other content or just promote their platform in general, too.
- Offer to return the favour. Have your own blog on your author website? Perhaps the bloggers you're working with might like to write a guest post for you as well.
- Be respectful and patient. This seems to go without saying, but we felt it was worth a reminder anyway! Keep in mind that most bloggers have a full schedule with a lot more going on than just your guest post. Be patient and remember that it might take them a while to respond to you or to slot your post into their content schedule. Keep things respectful and be sure to thank them for the time they dedicate to your guest post.
3. Keep engaging after your guest blog is posted
A word of advice: don't just contribute a guest post then disappear in a puff of smoke. Keep engaging with the blogger and their blog after your post goes live.
In terms of your guest post, keep an eye on it and be sure to respond to any comments people might leave. (Your blogger might even be able to notify you of any comments the post receives, but if not, keep checking back yourself.)
Share the post on social media (that's a given); you may also like to include a link to it in your email newsletter.
Keep engaging with the blogger's other content, too. Liking, commenting and sharing on social media is such a big help in extending reach and audience. And if you've partnered with blogs that are relevant to you and your interests, it'll hardly be a chore to stay engaged with their content!
You may also like to keep the relationship going by offering to contribute further guest blog posts in future.
Indie book promotion can be tough sometimes, but guest blogging is a great way to start!
Have you written a guest blog post before? Perhaps you've had one on your own blog? Let us know about your guest blogging experiences in the comments!