Guest Post Tips: 9 Top Online Editors Vent About Writers

Guest Post Tips from Top Online Editors. Makealivingwriting.com

Are your guest post pitches getting ignored?

If so, there may be some concrete things you can do to fix that. And it’s worth taking the time to figure out how to make your guest post ideas better.

Why?

Plenty of writers I know get all their freelance clients from the exposure they get guest posting on popular blogs. You can slog away posting on your own little blog named “blog” that’s living under a tab on your writer website, but few prospects ever see that.

On the other hand, they’re usually impressed as heck that you’ve appeared on that big blog, and dying to hire you, in my experience.

To improve your guest-post pitches and get more posts approved, you’ve got to know how to please editors. So I asked a bunch of editors at popular sites what writers are getting wrong in their pitches.

Listen in as nine editors tell us their pet peeves — and offer tips on how to get a ‘yes’ on your guest-post idea:

Andy Nathan guest post tipsAndy Nathan, owner/editor at Smart at the Start

Andy is a digital marketing specialist who’s currently creating lead-generation funnels and in charge of social-media marketing for littelfuse.

Learn blog formatting. I ended up creating a format for my freelance writers, because most of them don’t know how to space content on a blog post.

Emory-Rowlands guest post tipsEmory Rowland, editor for the Leverable blogs

(Leverable SEO, Clickfire, Testimony Share) and also on occasion for The Home Security Superstore, Ted Turner Expeditions, and ClickHOST.

Don’t skimp on research. Doing good research is not just Googling your topic and finding articles that reference your anchor text. Why not cite stats, examples, and opinions in the article that support the point you’re trying to make? It’s kind of funny to watch, but almost every writer who contributes posts for my SEO blog links to one of these three: Moz, Search Engine Land, or one of Neil Patel’s blogs.

Don’t ignore the power of images. Using any old image doesn’t cut it. Why not get rid of that pixilated clip-art and find–or better yet, create–an image that reinforces the message in your post in a clever subtle way?

The less back and forth time editors have to have with writers, the more the editor likes the writer and wants to publish her work.

Gail Gardner guest post tipsGail Gardner, owner/editor at GrowMap

Learn to use header tags. When you write online, header tags tell search engines like Google what words are most important. It’s essential that bloggers always use header tags instead of just bold text for their subtitles. Search engines do consider bold text more important than plain text, but not as important as the header tags. There should be only one Header 1 <h1>, which by default in WordPress is the title. Major sub-sections are most important and should be header 2 <h2>. Less important sub-sections should be header 3 <h3>.

Remember to size your images. Look at the site where you’re submitting and resize your images to the appropriate width. If a site uses square images on their page, use a square image for that (unless the site provides images). And if file size is an issue, compress images before submitting using http://compresspng.com.

Write good headlines. It’s a skill that can be learned. Take the time to write a good headline for your guest post. Then test the title using the Coschedule headline analyzer.

Glen Long-Smart Blogger-guest post tips

Glen Long, managing editor, Smart Blogger

I receive a good number of guest post pitches and teach students how to pitch big blogs within our Guest Blogging Certification Program. My personal pet peeves include:

Don’t send pitch emails addressed to “Dear blog owner.” Too lazy to find out the name of the blog owner or editor? I’ll assume you’re too lazy to write a good post, too.

Stop sending post ideas that are off-topic. If your topics miss the mark by a mile, it’s a good bet you haven’t bothered to read the blog you’re pitching. So I probably won’t bother to reply.

Don’t send poorly written emails explaining how good your post will be. If you can’t write an email without typos, I’ll have to assume you can’t write a decent post, either.

Don’t send your inquiry email with the finished post already attached. This tells me you’re not interested in feedback on your topic (and I just know you’re sending the same post to multiple blogs at the same time).

Jane Flanagan - guest post tipsJane Flanagan, Content Director, FreshBooks

Don’t send mass-mail. I’d say the “wide blast” approach to pitching is the worst. So many people fire off indiscriminate copy-and-paste pitches to multiple outlets. An editor can really tell when something is pitched with their publication in mind and whether time was spent researching existing site content. When it comes to pitching, go for precision shots rather than wide blasts.

Don’t forget the basics. I would also add the things that should go without saying, but unfortunately don’t: Grammar, spelling,  the company name, and finding contact information. Just be a pro about these things!

Lexi Rodrigo-Mirasee guest post tips

Lexi Rodrigo, editor, Mirasee

Learn to follow guidelines. The world would be a better place if only guest writers would read and follow our submission guidelines, check their drafts for typos and grammatical errors, and write about fresh, not tired, topics. You’d be surprised how many times I have to point people to our Write for Us page–and then they still don’t follow the procedures we ask for!

Please follow instructions. Once, a guest blogger even wrote to me, “I’ve read and re-read your guidelines and I still don’t know what I’m doing wrong!” I had to point it out. So she already lost points with me for not being able to follow simple instructions.

Megan Krause guest post tipsMegan Krause, managing editor – ClearVoice

Please read over your work before you submit.

Then, strike the cliches.

Your editors will love you for it (and send more work your way).

Ronell Smith guest post tips

Ronell Smith, associate, MOZ.com

Understand the blog first. Most writers don’t, so they pitch ideas that are a poor fit.

Begin by building rapport. Most writers fail to build rapport with the editor, to better discern her/his needs and what role they can play in meeting them.

Use editors’ advice. Most writers don’t use the advice given with regard to their ideas, and content.

Sherry Gray guest post tipsSherry Gray, freelance writer and editor

I edit a group of paid content writers for one of my clients. My tip:

Learn to be concise. My top gripe is wordily-worded sentences that utilize (argh!) an extensive plethora of words and phrases to over-explain a concept that, in all honesty, could be written just: Writers use too many words.

Build a better guest post

And there you have it, folks — a ton of tips on what you’re doing wrong, and exactly how you can improve your guest posts and get more gigs. Now, get out there and connect with some great blogs!

Do you guest post? Share your experience in the comments.

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74 comments on “Guest Post Tips: 9 Top Online Editors Vent About Writers
  1. Susie Rosse says:

    Do magazines accept queries for guest posts, as in unpaid work?

    • Carol Tice says:

      There are no ‘guest posts’ in magazines, Susie. And as a reporter, you don’t want to be angling for unpaid work, from publications that should pay you.

      They do sometimes take contributed stories without pay, but usually from CEOs or other thought-leader types, not from writers. These are called placed articles — and writers often get paid well by the companies to ghost them (I’ve got a Freelance Writers Den bootcamp all about this, Earn Big $$$ in PR).

      It sounds to me like you’re looking for ways to break into writing for publications — you might check out my Step by Step Guide ebook here, which outlines how to do that:

      http://www.makealivingwriting.com/ebooks

      What you CAN do is volunteer for charities — they have publications. An example: When I moved up here to Seattle 20+ years ago and wanted some local clips to start getting known around here, I did a couple volunteer stories for the newspaper my regional library system puts out.

      You can write for publications that DON’T pay, to get started and get a few bylines. Hope that makes sense!

  2. Great post, Carol. Can I add one? As editor of a regional lifestyle magazine I received a query that read:
    “Hey Carol,
    Dear Kurt,
    …”
    The writer obviously cut and pasted from a rejected query he sent another publication. That didn’t make me feel very special.

    • Carol Tice says:

      LOL, I get that all the time, too! Wrong name or just ‘Dear Editor,’ as Glen notes. Come on! You’re going to have to do better than that to get published anywhere prominent, writers.

  3. Sparkles says:

    Also, which editor is best to cold email? Like when I look at magazine/newspaper contact pages, they have multiple editors. Usually like an associate editor, a senior editor, assistant editor, media editor, or even managing editor. Or, they also will have multiples of the same type of editor…so who would be best to email, do you think?

    • Carol Tice says:

      It depends on what you’re pitching, but my default is either managing editor or if they have it an articles or features editor. Or if you have a particular topic like health and there’s a health editor, then that’s it.

      • Susie Rosse says:

        Thanks, but by managing editor what do you mean? I have seen that term, but mostly I’ve seen these 3: Editor, Senior Editor, and Assistant Editor…So Senior Editor would be best to email? Just want to clarify.

  4. Sparkles says:

    I have a question about sending query letters. I read so many of your posts about pitching correctly but…Why would any editor accept a pitch from a new or unknown writer? Like even if I contact local magazines/newspapers, I’m sure they get at least several dozen pitches a day…why would they pick mine? I’m not established, as in I don’t have a site with lots of visits or a well known name…why pick me when they pay so much more?

    • Minuca Elena says:

      Hey Sparkles, 🙂

      You should give it a try. Send a personalized email and link to a couple posts you wrote, even if they are on your blog and not a guest post. It doesn’t matter so much if you are an established writer or not, as long as you can create great, in-depth content that provides value and bring something unique.

      Trust more in yourself and do an awesome job. 🙂
      Minuca

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sparkles, I’m allowing the set of comments you’ve already made, but you should know my normal comment policy is you need a real first and last name to comment on my blog. Please provide them in future!

      Why would an editor accept a pitch from a new writer? Because it’s a story they NEED in their publication. The strength of your idea sells you and gets you the assignment. You don’t have to be a big name, though a writer website would really help. If you need help with that, check out my Freelance Writers Den community, where we have some resources, or head over to Useful Writing Courses and check out Pitch Clinic (though there’s no immediate plan to teach Pitch Clinic again in the next few months, could be a longer wait to get in the door).

      • Susie Rosse says:

        Had no idea about your policy! Fixed it now…

        So, about pitching for an article…I guess what bothers me is that I don’t understand why publications would trust a random person. Like how do they know I wouldn’t be inexperienced and accidentally give the wrong facts from not enough research on whatever topic? Obviously editors would help with that, but…if I don’t have any credibility or liability from my reputation yet, then why would they pay me so willingly?

        Have your forum members had a lot of success even if they were new writers, and getting their pitches/queries accepted?

        • Susie,
          I am the editor of a regional lifestyle publication and I read all pitches that come my way and consider them based on our readership and tone of the publication. I welcome new writers because they often lend a fresh voice to the publication.

          • Susie Rosse says:

            Great! Do you have other editors? Like are you the Senior Editor, or just Editor? Or if I emailed an Assistant Editor, they’d read my pitches/queries too?

            • At our publication, I’m the only editor. But if you see multiple editors in the masthead, I’d first look for the one over the department you want to pitch. For instance, if you are pitching a home decorating story, send it to the home department editor. If the magazine isn’t that large, I’d start at the top, except for managing editor. That would be more of a management position, I think. And the biggest mistake is letting the decision paralyze you. Just send it. If you send it to the wrong person, they would most likely forward it to the right one.

              • Susie Rosse says:

                Alright then, thanks! They probably would forward it…

                • Carol Tice says:

                  Exactly. I end each query with, “If you’re not the right editor for this, appreciate your forwarding it to the right person.” In this age of email, it’s an instant for them to send it along. No biggie. I say stop worrying about getting the exact right editor, and learn to write queries that sell.

        • Carol Tice says:

          If you know how to construct a query, you are not some ‘random person’ — you prove to them, in the query, that you understand how to execute the story.

          If you need to know more you might check out my Pitch Clinic course over here: http://usefulwritingcourses.com. We also have a forum inside Freelance Writers Den for reviewing queries where you get editor feedback and learn how to make them better. Most queries that go out are nonsalable, in my experience working with hundreds of Pitch Clinic students.

  5. Minuca Elena says:

    Hi Carol,

    Great topic. I especially like Glen’s answer. People that pitch for a guest post should make an effort to try to know the site’s owner and the topic before sending the outreach email. The first couple times when I received a pitch for a guest post on my site, I was excited. I was thrilled to have someone taking an interest in my site, and writing free content for me.

    Later, I noticed that the post, he wrote was nice, but average. It didn’t provide mind blowing info, the literary style wasn’t compelling, and the post didn’t get a lot of traffic or engagement. Now, I am receiving pitches from bloggers that don’t even bother to find out my name or what do I blog about.

    If you are pitching to huge bloggers, I suggest you comment and share their posts on social media, for a couple weeks before pitching them. If you want to get a guest post on a smaller site, then at least take 5 minutes, to check the about page and the last posts. Refer to the person you are writing by name and also mention a couple posts that you liked.

    This way, you will increase your chances of getting a reply. Also, your goal shouldn’t be a backlink. You should write the best content you can, so it can become viral and get you a lot of traffic back to your blog.

    Thanks to all the bloggers that shared their valuable experience here!

    Best,
    Minuca

  6. Desiree Dow says:

    Thanks so much for this post! Carol, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I found you accidently on twitter several months ago. Your advice and tips help so much. I feel that I am a better “pitcher” and writer because of you. Please keep them coming!

  7. I notice that only a small minority of the Pet Peeves (25% at most) relate to purely technical, blog-specific matters: the rest (not following instructions, shooting blindly, addressing pitches to “Dear Editor,” etc.) have been plaguing editors in all genres for decades if not for the past couple of centuries. I worked for over a decade as a contributing editor for a writer’s trade newsletter, mostly writing “roundup” articles, and on virtually every project, at least one interviewee would mention the pet peeve of queries that didn’t follow instructions. Or, worse, made it clear that the writer thought himself ABOVE instruction: “I know you don’t normally publish fiction, but I’m sure you’ll see this is worth making an exception for.” And the worst bane of religious publishers: “God told me to send this to you.”

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Katherine – such a keen observation. For the most part, good writing still trumps tech-know how. If you’ve got decent writing skills and patience to study submission guidelines and a client’s style, you can write for blogs, magazines, businesses, you name it. Love your religious-zealot example of clueless writers. LOL. Keep going.

  8. This is definitely the most informative post I’ve seen in a long time regarding guest posting! The points raised by the editors themselves are a treasure for us bloggers. Couldn’t thank you more Carol!

  9. Cheryl Ireland says:

    Thank you for this very informative post, Carol. And thank you to the editors for sharing your advice. A lot of the information is valid for traditional publishing, as well, but I had never heard of using header tags. Time to set-up and practice on my own blog – after I finish reading Carol’s “Small Blog, Big Income” books, of course!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Header tags are a blog-format thing — you can see how the subheads look different, not just bigger from the text around it. Those tags alert search engines that text is more important — and it’s a pain for editors to have to put them all in. To me it’s a minor thing, but a great way you can show an editor you’re a bit more blog-savvy than perhaps the average person who pitches them.

      • Gail Gardner says:

        Yes, knowing how to use header tags “makes life easier for the editor” and shows you understand what they do. If you want to be really good at it, go to some existing content, right click, and use “view source”.

        Some sites only use and never . I keep notes on the sites I contribute on to remind me of any preferences they have shared with me and the optimum width for images and videos.

        Header tags are available by default in WordPress and other blog CRMs, but they are also used in all other CRMS (ecommerce sites – any site online that uses html, really).

        Another thing to understand is that the appearance of header tags is controlled by the theme and can be modified by having CSS code added or changed. The font, font color, text size, bold or italics – these are all attributes that can be changed.

        [NOTE: I don’t recommend touching ANY code yourself unless you definitely know what everything does. One space or comma in the wrong place can take your site down.]

        I always have mine edited to make all header tags bold. In WordPress, one of the most commonly used is often NOT bold and I don’t like it that way so I have it modified.

        • Carol Tice says:

          I think my comments are editing out your code tags, Gail — think she’s trying to say some use H2, some use H3 — so if you right-click you can see what they’re doing. Great idea, too!

          I know what you mean about the bolding, too! It’s sort of annoying how they aren’t bold unless you go code them. My other pet peeve is how if you want to put a link in a header tag, they don’t show the link attribute — the underline and blue or accent color. In my theme, I think H3 is the first one that will show a link, which is a hair annoying.

          • Gail Gardner says:

            Ah, now we know not to use the code for headers in comments. 🙂

            Yes, I was saying that some sites I contribute on never use header 2 – they only use header 3 because they feel their header 2 is too large and looks funny.

            They could have their CSS edited to change the sizes downward. A lot can be done using CSS to assign styles instead of allowing the theme you’re using to make those choices. But you have to know how or pay someone to edit it for you. It may only take 5-10 minutes so it doesn’t cost very much.

    • Jon Penland says:

      How Cheryl

      If you really want to make editors happy, learn how to write HTML! It’ll take some doing, but you’ll have a much better idea of what’s happening behind the scenes on every webpage AND be able to take on writing gigs that require HTML fluency!

  10. Good tips. I think it boils down to not being lazy. I still use too many words in a first draft, so editing is important. Research is vitally important, especially since different sites can contradict each other. I never go with the first information I read. I try to find three sources that have elements they agree on. I never use Wikipedia as a source.

    • Carol Tice says:

      So true — I’m looking over headlines this week as part of the Business Blogging Mastery bootcamp we just finished in the Den, and the vast majority are familiar, recycled ideas that clearly show the writer has done no research and turned up no new facts.

      The Internet does not need yet another version of the same thing! Sites pay for fresh ideas — focus on cultivating them.

    • Jon Penland says:

      You know, Wikipedia is surprisingly quite accurate! Just google “reliability of wikipedia” to see what I mean.

      However, you’re right not to use it as a source. Go to Wikipedia to learn, but then use the referenced original sources (at the bottom of each article you’ll find a section title “References” linking to original source documents).

      • Carol Tice says:

        That’s exactly what I do with Wikipedia — those reference note links can be a goldmine. I actually researched a lot of the chapters for my print book, How They Started, that way.

  11. This is excellent info – I’m going to save this article for future reference. I do try to take the time to make sure I am doing all these things, but I am always stuck on #4. From my experience, many blog owners or editors are reluctant to share their contact info, and it usually takes hours to find an email address. I know there are a number of ‘tricks of the trade’ to find emails, but I haven’t figured them out. That’s my latest challenge.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Judith, I’m really surprised to hear it’s taking so long. I feel like you’re a Den member — have you used our ‘7 Ways to Get Editors’ Emails’ handout? Or seen this post: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/better-freelance-writing-gigs-with-7-sneaky-tools/

      I rarely need more than 10 minutes to find a contact email. I think the main thing is to take the attitude that you CAN find it…then it’s easy to find it. 😉

      Also, most sites that accept guest posts have either a form on their site or an email posted for you to contact, or it’s not tough to sleuth them up on LinkedIn, on Twitter…there’s SOMEWHERE you can connect.

      • Gail Gardner says:

        While I agree that email addresses are often hidden, most sites would have a contact tab with a form you can use. I also get requests on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Skype (All of which I personally prefer to email – but I’m just weird that way.)

        Another way to get connection information is to ask other writers. We keep extensive notes about who editors are, what they want, and how they prefer to be contacted.

        • Carol Tice says:

          There’s also the WhoPaysWriters site…there are soooo many resources now! I can remember when the only way to get a contact was to trot down to my library and get out the Gale’s Guide, buy the Writer’s Market, or call the company.

  12. Keri Vandongen says:

    My pen is burning- How to capture & hold these insights hostage in my brain….
    Andy – Improve blog formatting to reduce text mush.
    Emory – Include more, novel research. Google alerts has an App for that.
    Gail – Headers aren’t just for looks – Add tags or wander aimlessly through blogosphere
    Glen – Be interested in receiving feedback. #learningcurve
    Jane – Personalize pitches. Social espionage is for blog research.
    Lexi – Carefully follow directions. Double check accuracy.
    Megan – Strike cliches and quit boring the editors.
    Ronell – Understand the blog. Hint: immersive research. Editors appreciate human connections.
    Sherry – Use more humour and less “wordily-worded” content.
    Gail – To be continued…

  13. Helen Brown says:

    Awesome read!

    One of my goals for 2016 is to guest post on another established blog, but fear of the unknown has stopped me.

    Thanks for putting this together! 🙂 Now, I’m more confident to smash it!

  14. Evan Jensen says:

    Great round-up of advice here. Love this nugget of wisdom from Ronell Smith:

    “Rule No. 1 of being a published writer: Make your editor’s life easier.”

    I think writers sometimes underestimate how much of an impact it makes on an editor when you follow guidelines, write clean copy, meet deadlines, keep communication going, and are easy to work with.

    Carol, thanks for giving us a peek into the minds of online editors.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Speaking as someone who recently received a 6,000-word draft when I asked for 1000 words, I couldn’t agree more! Editors are the most time-pressed people you’ll ever meet. My first staff-job editors had sleeping bags with them for crashing when they had to pull all-nighters! They literally slept under their desks. Don’t make them do extra work!

    • I think writers forget that writing is a service profession. It is our job to serve our editors. Immature and unprofessional writers act like being published is akin to knighthood, or higher. Yes, make your editor’s life easier!

    • Jon Penland says:

      Howdy Evan,

      You are 100% correct. I’m both a writer and editor, and I can tell you that bad writing is expensive! A clean 1000 word post I can edit in about 30-45 minutes. However, turn in a clunker and I’ll log several hours whipping it into shape. Since I am paid hourly when I edit, you can be that my clients will stick to writers who turn in work I can edit quickly!

  15. Jerry Nelson says:

    Great post. I’d like to see one about what writers venting about editors.

  16. Drew Drake says:

    My interpretation of the advice.

    1. Be concise. Ditch the jardy jarr.

    2. Read the God Dam guidelines…fool.

    3. Dunt rite a proposle lik ths, it maks u luk sily.

    4. Dear I don’t have a clue, is a big no no!

    5. Say Hi on the comments sections. Hi 😀

    6. Put in some effort. Get to know the blog and it’s audience. Well, here we are.

    7. Make the editors life as easy as possible. Didn’t I already mention, FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!!!

    • Carol Tice says:

      You wouldn’t believe how many pitches I get that look like #3. It’s like people are texting and can’t wait until the bus stops moving or to get home or to a library with a computer to write the pitch! I wish writers knew how unprofessional that comes off.

      • Believe it or not, I wrote my entire entry to the last BeAFreelanceBlogger.com Pitchfest on a smartphone on a city bus–and the response was 100% favorable and it won an honorable mention.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Well, some of us know how to compose on phones so that it’s still good writing — others seem to see it as a chance to use texting conventions to pitch. Which is ALWAYS a mistake!

          • I’m a proud obsessive-compulsive when it comes to proofreading and editing. I double-check my e-mails and my online comments before sending–and I wrote my texts in full, grammatically correct sentences before phones got smart enough to give you one key to tap per character!

  17. Emory Rowland says:

    Thanks for the inclusion Carol. Love these tips!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share a peek behind the curtain on what editors deal with, Emory — I think it’s especially valuable to hear from editors like you, who are overseeing more than one blog. You have a broader view and see the patterns of problems out there in what writers submit. 😉

  18. Aba says:

    Great tips!Thank you,Carol.

  19. Felix Abur says:

    The one point that my blogging coach hammered into me and his other mentees is to always learn about the blog before you pitch your post. I see the editors featured here value that and I’m glad you reiterated it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      ALL of us with popular blogs are getting multiple pitches daily on topics that have NOTHING to do with our blog. They’re clearly mass mails, and it’s super-annoying. So definitely know your site and stand out with a pitch that’s relevant!

  20. Brian J. says:

    Thank you for the suggestions. I am still in the planning stage of Blogging, but heavy into research writing for school.
    Thanks Carol. B

  21. The information about header tags was new to me. It probably shouldn’t have been, but it was, and it makes sense! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I can attest that it’s definitely butt-pain to go through submissions and have to tag all their heads and subheads. Also, sometimes if it’s only bold, your subhead gets lost in translation, and doesn’t end up in big text. It’s a real timesaver and reflects some blog savvy to see the tags already in.

  22. I never thought about guest blogging until I subscribed to your page. I’m not good at self introduction though so I’ll try the longer route of building a rapport.

  23. Pete Koufos says:

    This was the most information packed, relevant post I’ve read all day. Nothing worse than spending time reading another “You need to write good” post that gives no insight whatsoever. Just one small example: Saying ‘Cut what’s redundant or does not add value to your copy. Make every word count!’ is way more meaningful than saying “Make every word count!’―of course I want to make every word count, but now I’m prompted toward mindful editing. See. Good stuff.

  24. Amy Hardison says:

    Awesome post! Gail, thank you for sharing the headline tool. What fantastic find!

  25. Great tips. Thank you for posting them!

  26. Jessica Jacob says:

    I’m interested in blogging for other sites but I’ve never did it once so I’m aloof to the process. But as is always said: Google is your friend. I’ll do my research.Thank you for this post and list to help new bloggers like me.