Pitching Blog Posts

Guest blogs can be a great way to get your name out there as a writer. Most blog hosts will allow you to have links to your various online accounts and are happy to include a brief bio and profile picture. Let’s face it, for the time and effort that it takes to write that blog post, you get free advertising. However, there are some rules that you should follow when it comes to pitching guest blog posts.

1) Do your research!

Just like in pitching a manuscript to an agent or publisher, you need to do your research. You have one question that you’re seeking answers to: is the blog somewhere you would be happy to have your work posted? Your name is going to be attached to an article on that blog, possibly for all time (at least until the blog host either takes your page down or the entire site down). As such, you need to ensure that you would be happy to have your name associated with that site. You might have other questions, such as site traffic, marketing, etc., however, it really comes down to the site and the blog itself.

Look at the site layout. Is it easy to find things? If your article was listed there, would readers be able to easily find it, or would it become quickly buried, never to see the light of day? Can you navigate the site? Is the site riddled with broken links? When was the last time any of the pages were actually updated? (Yes, you can get that information just from looking at a site.)

What about the site theme? Is it something that someone just slapped together with no thought of the reader experience, or has some time and effort been put into the site pages? Believe it or not, I’ve actually turned down a guest blog opportunity because the site used such a hideous theme and was poorly laid out — a sea of pink was staring back at me. I didn’t want my name anywhere near that site.

With sites such as WordPress.com and Weebly.com, there really isn’t any excuse for a website to have a horrid theme, however, I have encountered cases where the chosen theme was inappropriate and/or not customized to suit the blogger. This results in posts that are never seen and links to other online platforms that disappear. A little time and effort is all it takes, and it shows within the final result.

2) Read the blog first.

Say that you’re happy with the site itself, but what about the blog? Read through a few of the entries. You don’t need to read through the entire archive, but after reading a few posts, you should be able to determine the underlying theme. You’ll want to do this for multiple reasons:

  1. Is the content of the blog something that you would be happy to be associated with?
  2. Do you actually have something of value to contribute to the blog?
  3. Does the tone of the blog posts suit your writing style?
  4. Would readers of the blog actually be interested in your other work?

Look at it critically. Guest blogging is actually a marketing tool for your other writing. You need to ensure that every post you have out there will eventually drive the right type of reader to your other stuff.

3) Be mindful of any submission guidelines.

Let’s say that you’ve found the perfect blog and you know exactly what you could contribute. Now what?

Some sites openly advertise for submissions for guest blog posts — pay attention to ALL of the submission guidelines, just like you would for submission to an agent or publisher. However, submissions to blogs are not as tightly regulated and the process is much faster and often more laid-back. Some sites will offer money for guest posts, however, if they do, they will specify this on the site along with the submission guidelines. If no mention is made of financial remuneration, then it’s safe to assume that there isn’t any.

If the site you’re interested in doesn’t have submission guidelines listed, then you will need to contact the web administrator directly. Keep the initial contact professional. Give them a brief (1–2 sentence) description of the proposed post. DO NOT send a copy of the post until invited to.

4) Ensure that what you pitch is actually what you send.

You’ve done your research. You’ve found the perfect blog. You’ve pitched a blog idea to them and they’ve invited you to send them the full post for review. What you send them better be what you pitched.

It looks bad on you, and can be damaging to your reputation, if you had pitched a post about how to deal with rejection but sent a recipe for a chocolate cake instead (unless of course you’re making an analogy between that chocolate cake recipe and rejection). It doesn’t matter how well written that chocolate cake recipe is… They were expecting insights on how to deal with rejections. And guess what… You are now faced with having to deal with rejection yourself.

Guest blogging can lead to other opportunities.

I have written a few guest blog post myself for various websites. In some cases, I was approached by the blog host for the article and I happily wrote one for them. (My post about holograms on Dan Koboldt’s site was one of these, and an article that I loved writing.) My interactions on social media have led to invitations from various direction, including regular guest appearances on internet radio and now my own radio show. I have been asked to write about science, writing and editing, and the opportunities are endless.

Guest blogging is not something to be afraid of. You never know where it could lead.

Guest blogging opportunities on Black Wolf…

All of this being said, if you have an article on writing, editing, publishing or the trials that you have faced during your writing journey, I would love to hear from you. We do not pay for articles, but as mentioned above, you never know what opportunities will come from it. You can find out more about guest blogging for Black Wolf here.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

The Value of a Synopsis

Many of my followers on Twitter will know that I have recently completed my manuscript and am now on the path of querying for agents and publishers. It’s a hard road, one that many turn away from.

Writing the manuscript was hard. Editing it into something worth reading was harder. Writing a query letter was harder still. And the synopsis was a nightmare. Let’s face it: compressing a full-length novel into one page is a frightening task. Not all agents want a synopsis, but most publishers do. So if you are fortunate enough to snag an agent without needing to write a synopsis, you will eventually need to write one.

During my preparation of my submission materials of my own manuscript, I struggled to bring my synopsis to under one page, like so many other writers, but I did it. Everything is now ready to go, it’s just a matter of working out where.

The day after I finished my final editorial read-through of my manuscript and preparing my generic submission packet, a message came across my social media feeds about Tor/Forge submissions (my dream publisher). So of course, I had to look. Tor/Forge require for their submissions the first three chapters, a cover letter (a query letter, but by another name), and a synopsis. However, the synopsis requirements were actually three to ten pages.

Here is one of the leading publishers in Fantasy and Science Fiction wanting a synopsis that is three to ten pages, yet agents are wanting synopses of only one page. It seems like a little discrepancy, and contradictory. But it started me thinking…

What is the purpose behind a synopsis?

Anyone who has bothered to write a synopsis will know that they contain everything about your story, all plot points that are important, following the main thread from start to finish. Everything is revealed, including the ending. To put it blunt, a synopsis is a spoiler alert.

Agents and publishers ask for synopses because they want to know that, as a writer, you have the ability to tell a full story, developing the characters and plot toward a conclusion. However, a synopsis is really for the benefit of the editor.

In the past, for every 40 pages of manuscript, it was expected that you write one page of synopsis. If your manuscript was 400 pages, then your synopsis would have been 10 pages long. (For those of you that work on word-counts, this was 10 pages for a 100,000-word manuscript.) While it was a lot of effort to write, the synopsis would include everything about your character development and your subplots. By reading that synopsis, the editor was able to determine exactly what aspects of the story you felt were important. They’re line-editing was performed with this in mind. But that was before this electronic era. That was also in the days when some publishers accepted manuscripts based on the query and synopsis alone.

Today, agents and publishers don’t have the time to read through 10 pages of synopsis with every query. They want the information about your manuscript in as short a space as possible, hence the desire to have synopses only one page in length.

In truth, I have three different lengths of my synopsis: the one page for the agent; the two page, single-spaced, for the publisher; and the three-page document that I wrote when I was trying to determine how my manuscript needed to finish. (Only the first two forms will likely ever been seen by anyone other than myself. The third one will probably find the sacrificial fires of the publishing gods.)

However, in this process of preparing my submission packet, and as a freelance editor, I asked myself another important question…

Should all writers write a synopsis, even those who are self-publishing?

Simple answer: yes.

While not all writers need to write a query or cover letter, there are elements of those letters that are necessary: the blurb (back cover blurb and promotional material for the book) and an author’s bio (but modified, depending on where it is to be posted).

The synopsis is never going to be seen by the public. So if you are self-publishing, why have a synopsis?

As I said above, the synopsis was originally for the benefit of the editor. That is still the case. It’s a reference sheet for what is meant to be happening in the story, and in what order, used during the editing phase. However, a synopsis can have an added benefit: it can help a writer shape their story while writing.

Yes, folks, the synopsis is a plotting tool. The level of detail in the synopsis will depend on the type of writer you are. If you are full-out plotter, then you will likely write that 10-page synopsis for that 100,000 words. If you’re a pantser/hybrid writer, then you will likely have two or three pages for your synopsis (maybe even one page).

Then comes the next question…

When should a writer write the synopsis?

If you’re a plotter, you will have that synopsis written before you start writing your manuscript. If you’re a pantser, you’ll start thinking about your synopsis during your editing phases. If you’re a hybrid plotter/pantser, you’ll have a very rough outline before you start writing, but you’ll flesh that synopsis when editing.

If you are self-publishing, that synopsis will never see the light of day beyond your editor. If you’re going down the traditional road, you’ll rework your synopsis several times during your editing process, perhaps even rewrite it a few times getting your submission packet ready.

Synopses are powerful editorial tools. Agents and publishers are not asking us to write these to be mean. They have a use. If you remember their purpose, it will help you to hone your synopsis writing skills.

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P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016