Craig here again, and we’re back to blogging once more. I’m comfortable with blogging, and it’s always a decent place for me to land when I need a post.
Today the topic is Guesting and Hosting. As an author, you’re constantly trying to increase your footprint online. This applies to blogging along with all the other forms of social media. Being a guest is one way to increase that footprint.
In previous posts we discussed the difference between regulars and empty followers. To revisit for a moment, regulars are likely readers or fellow authors. Regulars talk online all the time, share tips, successes, and failures. (I’ve been talking behind the scenes with mine about home improvement projects, they become close friends.) Empty followers are Anderson Windows, Joe’s Plumbing, and Bobbie Sue’s Avon business. Obviously, we’re trying to expand the number of regulars.
Small caveat: Plumber Joe, could be a super-fan. Because he never interacts, you have no idea. It’s hard to focus on guys like Joe, so you have to focus on building up your regulars. In most cases, the empty followers are just what they sound like.
When bloggers visit other blogs, we have the opportunity to reach the host’s regulars. The dream is to convert some of them into our regulars. Let’s talk about being a guest first.
As an author, most bloggers are going to be a guest before they become a host. Your mileage may vary, but this is how I’m approaching it today. You’ve been invited to post something elsewhere, or you’ve spotted a blogger that’s looking for guests.
I’ve learned more about being a guest by being a host. I’m going to share some tips. Blogging has the advantage of not being like live television. You have time to edit and rethink what you’re putting out there. I admit it isn’t as tight as something you might charge money for, and even the occasional typo is pretty forgivable. Still, give it the once over before you send it to the host.
At this point, your job is to not alienate anyone. You’re an author, and we write some outrageous things in our fiction. One story might feature a vegetarian animal lover, but a future story might have one that buys vintage fur coats on eBay. Look it over and see if you can cast a wide net.
Your host is going to want some things from you. Try to give the host what they ask for. I’ve had guests send me all kinds of things I never asked for, and expect me to interpolate what I needed from that. Make life easy for your host – maybe they’ll ask you back because you were so popular. If they want your graphics in individual jpg files, send them that way. They aren’t a contractor, and you aren’t paying them.
On the day of your post, show up. This is kind of my biggest pet peeve with guests. My spots are a bit different, because they amount to creation of some co-authored new fiction. In most cases, I have hours into them. When the post goes up, I share across no less than seven social media outlets. I monitor the comments for days, and participate in them. It’s kind of disheartening to not even have the guest make an appearance.
Bonus points to Vashti Q. Vega. She was a recent guest who did everything right. My stats from her post confirm this. I recently had one who never even managed to like his own post, not a single comment. A lot of effort went into that post to flush the goodwill away.
You’ll get comments, even if they’re from the host’s inner circle. Thank them, respond to them, visit their blog. Never fail to visit a blog if one of them reblogs your post. It may not be a site to add to your Reader, but at least thank them on their site. It shows you appreciate the effort they put into you. I have a personal rule you may want to adopt: I return and check comments for three days. You can also follow the comments if that’s more your style.
I also try to share any tweets I find about my posts.
Never engage in fights in the host’s comments. You’re trying to look like the good guy here. If someone says something off-color, let other readers figure that out for themselves. It’s usually best to say, “Thanks for your comments,” and move on.
I’ve been doing this for a while, and I have four guest posts I need to get to right now. This is the kind of action you’re trying to build up to. It spreads the word about my books.
(Okay, when you search Pixabay for images about “Host,” apparently it also searches for “Hostess.” This is the picture it suggested. I’m using it because it amuses me.)
After a few guest posts, you may want to try hosting other authors on your site. One of the things that surprised me is how many of my regulars will follow me to another site. By hosting, you want to take advantage of your guest’s regulars visiting your site.
I have a few tips for this too. First, give yourself more time than you think you need. Some guests need time to get the post just right. Asking for something “tomorrow” isn’t a good idea. Telling someone Thursday, fifteen days out, should work well. Then it’s your job to stick to your guns.
Assemble the post and schedule it ahead of time. That way, you can preview it and fix any formatting errors and other things that will occur. For example, I like to have my posts go live shortly after midnight. WordPress doesn’t seem to understand Daylight Savings Time, so in some cases, it gets off by a day. I have to go in and edit after I schedule the posts. First the date, then 00:10 o’clock.
I also grab the advance link and email it to my guest, along with a confirmation of exactly when it will post. I mention Mountain Daylight time, it’s their job to figure it out from there.
Try to pick good categories and tags for your guest. If you aren’t certain, ask the guest for some suggestions. They have a dog in this fight, and should be willing to help. Helping the search engines find the post ultimately helps the host too. It’s your site they will be visiting.
I suggest making sure all links open a new page. This is self serving, but I’d kind of like visitors to check out my site while they can. If my window closes, they probably won’t return.
Don’t make this post all about you. Be a gracious host. People will sense something wrong if your introduction includes a blurb and purchase link for your most recent book before the guest even steps into the spotlight.
As a host, you need to walk the walk. If you promised something, deliver it. You said it would go to Facebook, make sure it does. If you don’t let WordPress auto feed it, make sure you do it manually. That kind of thing.
There is tremendous value in hosting and guesting. An exchange of regulars happens, and those are your highest quality of followers. Maybe your footprint will be larger when your next book drops. Maybe you’ll have invitations that help you spread your word.