As an author, you are encouraged to participate in social media in order to get the word out. However, it’s easy to get into the trap of spamming your followers with nothing but “Buy my book!” messages, which can quickly annoy your audience. You have to be more subtle in encouraging people to check out your work.
One of the best ways to do this is by blogging on other people’s websites–especially on book review websites! There’s nothing wrong with contacting book reviewers, by the way, as long as you follow the directions given in their contact or review policy instructions. And book reviewers like mixing up their content as much as anyone else: you can always suggest that you’re willing to provide a blog post or other material when you ask if they want to review your book.
Let’s say you have an invitation to do a guest post. Here are some basic rules to follow to a) bring potential customers back to your site and b) delight your host and make them want to work with you further:
- Write an original post that you do not use elsewhere. You can always write multiple posts on the same topic, but do not copy old material into a guest post, and do not post your guest post on your home site–it’s an exclusive! From a host’s perspective, the idea of holding guest posts is to drive new traffic to the host’s website. If your content can be found elsewhere on the web, there’s no reason for your followers to go to the host’s website. Of course, you want the hosts’s followers to go to your website, too, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
- Be entertaining. If you are not entertaining, people will not expect to be entertained by your books. The reason that you are being invited to guest post is to be entertaining–Aha, says the host, I will invite someone to guest post that will entertain my readers and increase my traffic. No matter what you are technically supposed to be writing about, you must be entertaining. (Unlike at your own website, where you are allowed to be as dry and technical as you like.)
- Keep it under 1000 words (I’d say 500 is better); longer than that, and people may not read the whole way through–and because the links to your website will be at the bottom of the post, they must read the whole way through if you’re going to increase your own traffic. Leave them wanting more–at your website.
- Always include links at the bottom of your post to a) the book you’re promoting and b) your website, whether you’re prompted to or not.
- Write a brief summary (100 words or less) at your website about what you wrote about on the other website, and link to the other website.
- Announce your guest posting over whatever social networking that you normally use.
- If you are doing an interview, only answer the questions with amusing stories. Even if the questions read like a personality questionnaire or you’ve heard them a thousand times already, you must a) tell a story and b) be entertaining. The readers want to meet the author; you have to be your most charming. You’re the writer; it’s your job to convince people to care–not your interviewer’s.
If you want to be even more professional about it, here are additional tips:
- Read a selection of posts on the host’s website, both posts on what they write about usually and a few guest posts.
- Try to figure out who their audience is and what they want–readers, people who want to know about a certain subject, people who are amused by the host’s attitude toward life, etc.
- Consider where your book meets their audience and write about that. If you wrote a foodie romance and you’re on a cooking website, talk more about the food; if you’re on a romance website, talk more about the people who inspired you.
- Use search terms/keywords. If you want to be really over-the-top helpful about it and know anything about keywords, figure out the intersection of search terms you think people would use to find you and to find your host’s site…and include those in your post. But try to be subtle about it; you’re a writer–think of it as a writing challenge.
Remember, too: even if you don’t see an immediate increase in your sales after guest posting on a website, that doesn’t mean the blog wasn’t a success. People often need to see something several times before they make up their minds whether they want it or not–and they often don’t get around to reading or buying books right away. Be patient. The more you’re out there, the more people will be familiar with you, and the more likely they are to read your books.