How to Use Guest Articles to Build Your Author Brand
Developing your author brand can feel like a long and confusing process. It’s difficult to know where to begin or what to focus on. After all, there are so many options—countless avenues to explore! It may help to start with something you, as an author, are already familiar with: writing.
What are guest articles, anyway?
You may have experience blogging regularly on your website or sending out email newsletters to your subscribers. While these are important and worthwhile strategies, this isn’t quite what we’re referring to when talking about guest articles. A guest article (or guest post) is usually any piece of writing an author produces that is published on a third-party hosting site—a medium (website, newsletter, magazine, etc.) that does not belong to the author.
Most hosting sites will want first-publication rights for an article, meaning they want content that was written exclusively for them. So, unless they specifically approve a reprint or an excerpt, any article you submit should not have appeared anywhere else before, in print or online.
In addition to first-publication rights, most sites are looking for the following in an article:
- Originality. What are you saying that hasn’t already been said?
- Expertise. Why should you be the person who says it?
- Timeliness. Why does this matter now?
You may feel limited by this at first—especially if you’re used to blogging on your own terms—but there’s actually a lot of flexibility here! The term guest article is really an umbrella category that encompasses a wide array of content, from casual blog posts to formal op-eds.
How do I find the right media outlet to share my article?
Researching the right outlet to approach will take a bit of time. While there’s no one-size-fits-all method for finding a perfect match, you can narrow your focus by considering a few key elements, each of which relates to your author brand:
- Style. Do you prefer a more casual or formal style? What adjectives would you use to describe your writing?Newspapers usually feature academic, journalistic, opinionated, and of-the-moment pieces. Blogs, digital magazines, and niche newsletters often share more laid-back, relatable, humorous, or specialized articles from guest authors.
- Audience. Who do you want to reach? Who could benefit from hearing your message?If your article offers writing advice, it would be wise to contact magazines and websites that cater to fellow writers. If your topic is highly specialized, try pitching specific publications that reach readers in your field of expertise.
- Message. What topics do you feel passionate about? What conversations are you always having with friends, colleagues, and fans?You don’t need me to tell you that your message is a huge part of your brand. You likely have a few main themes that come up in your writing, or several talking points you lean on during interviews. That being said, while it’s important to have cohesive messaging, it’s also OK to branch out into new territory every now and then. Follow your passion and your interests!
How do I pitch a guest article?
First, double check to make sure the media outlets you want to approach publish articles from guest authors. Read a few pieces and take time to explore the outlet. Confirm it’s a good fit for you in terms of style, audience, and message.
Second—and I cannot emphasize this enough—check for submission instructions! Newspapers, magazines, and blogs often have their instructions clearly listed on their website. Submission requirements vary from outlet to outlet. Some may want to see a full article already written, whereas others may prefer to see a list of potential topics you can write on. It’s important that you adhere to these guidelines in order to have the best chance at success.
Third, follow up. Unless their guidelines say otherwise, it should be OK for you to check in if you don’t hear back within a week or two.
How do guest articles benefit me as an author?
Ah, the million-dollar question. Guest articles do require some heavy lifting from you as a writer, but you’ll certainly reap the benefits! These articles are designed to help you:
- Reflect your expertise. You’re an author, and that means you’re an expert, both in terms of writing craft and the topic you write on. Publishing articles can help you secure your place as an authority in your field.
- Reach a new audience. Getting your writing published with a new media outlet exposes your work to a new audience, connecting your message directly with readers who may not have heard of you or your book yet!
- Get your name in front of readers. This is obvious, right? Publishing guest articles is especially helpful for authors who are between book releases and want to keep their name on readers’ radars in the interim.
- Improve your SEO. If you’re able to link to your website or social media accounts at the end of your article, that can help improve your search engine optimization! Once your article is published, you can also link back to it on your website. This way, you’ll be driving traffic in both directions.
- Help others. One of the many goals of writing is to help others. So, share your expertise and wisdom—make the world a better place!
- Become better acquainted with your message, passions, and talking points. While you’re helping others, you’re also helping yourself. As you dive deeper into your favorite topics and begin to crystallize your message, you may find it easier to do various other authorial tasks, such as answering interview questions or writing social media posts.
At the end of the day, guest articles shouldn’t feel like a dark cloud looming over you. They are a fun opportunity to play to your strengths, explore your interests, connect with new readers, and solidify your branding. And, since they don’t necessarily need to be published around your publication date, you can start writing articles and pitching them anytime. Why not now?
Jackie Karneth is a publicist with Books Forward is an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.