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Book Review: So You Want to Write a Guest Post

Writing the guest post

So You Want to Write a Guest Post: An Author’s Guide to Promoting with Guest Blogging (Smashwords 2011) is Jaime McDougall’s first book in her fascinating series on self-marketing for busy writers. I do a lot of blogging as well as guest posts, and was interested in how McDougall’s advice compared to my experiences.

First, a bit of background. I’m webmaster for six blogs, everything from science to writing to technology. I also write monthly columns for four ezines/blogs. McDougall is an Australian writer–though her bio calls her a ‘citizen of the world’–who runs an online book marketing company and has herself written for a variety of journalistic outlets.

Writing for someone else is a different experience than your own blogs and websites. Think about going to dinner at a friend’s house. Maybe they serve salad with dinner instead of before. Maybe there’s no salt shaker there–or ash tray. Maybe they play hip-hop artist where you have none, preferring the music of voices. Whatever the differences, you accept them and make them part of the experience. Guest blogging is similar. Between the intro from the webmaster to the presence of ads (a perennial problem with my Examiner articles), you have no say over the layout and delivery of your post.

You’re a guest.

Here are my thoughts on McDougall’s 24-page book:

  • Table of Contents provides a thorough overview of the book’s contents. I always read these to see if I want to go further. In this case, I did
  • Find guest post opportunities among friends, blogger directories, book tours, even a simple Google research on ‘blogs’ in your genre. I usually stick to ‘friends’, but when building creds, McDougall offers many more options
  • There’s overlap between this ebook and McDougall’s ebook on book tours. No problem with that–just mentioning.
  • The ‘average’ length for a guest blog is 250-500 words. Many people break that rule, so don’t worry about it.
  • Self-promote judiciously:

Just as there are three parts to any good post – a beginning, middle and end – the most you will want to mention your book by title is three times (not including your biography)

  • I’m so glad she discusses the blog  title. This may be the single most important part of the post
  • I like that she reminds bloggers to gear a post to the theme of the host’s blog.
  • Don’t reuse a post–except on your own blog.
  • Nice inclusion of sample great guest posts.

Overall, this is a good overview, but all opinion. No statistics to back up statements. No discussion of the value of guest posts (beyond the perceived value). Are they worth the time for writers? Do they accomplish what writers think they do–increase visibility? Sure, the author’s words are in one more location, but does that make a difference?

I was disappointed in the list of guest post ideas. They were primarily personal–‘5 Things I can’t write about’, ‘Research that went into writing my book’.  These are human interest, but a lot of topics that draw an audience are more substantive. How about the future of publishing, how to publish in Smashwords, how to make money as a writer? And, McDougall’s topics assume the guest poster writes fiction. While non-fiction writers can also address personal topics–especially if they’re a famous musician or artist–unknown authors are better served to address pithy topics related to their book’s content that share their expertise. For example, I write technology books for elementary school and solicit guest post topics like how teachers use keyboarding in the classroom.

My conclusion: This is a good first effort for McDougall. She intimates that this book will be more appealing to writers who 1) have made up their mind that guest posting is part of their marketing toolkit, and 2), have no experience guest blogging than those looking to improve their craft. I think this is true.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and four ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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