You know the feeling: you’ve just hit the send button on a pitch to a super-amazing blog and it’s like you have a lottery ticket in your pocket…and the jackpot is astronomical! Your whole body is charged with electric possibility. And then (at a varying percentage rate) comes the let down: rejection. And it hurts. Hell, it downright sucks.
So you buy books full of sample queries of what works and what doesn’t and you sign up for webinars that promise to show you how to fix your shitty pitches and if you’ve done your research before crafting your proposal, great! Obviously something else is wrong.
But what if you didn’t? The number one complaint of editors listed in Writer’s Market is that submissions are not suited to their publication. That means there’s a serious lack of research not going on. But that’s not going to happen to you because you’re going to follow a checklist for researching each and every blog before you pitch them your article and here’s what you’re going to look for:
Style and Layout
Every blog has an atmosphere and noting the differences can save you from metaphorically yelling in a library or cussing in church. Also, the tone of your pitch and guest post should match the tone of the blog because it shows the submissions editor that your guest post will fit their readers expectations.
- Is the blog formal or casual?
- Is the tone professional or are there a couple cuss words here and there?
- What tone of voice do the blogger and guest bloggers use?
- Do guest posts include technical jargon?
- Do posts include lots of sources, research or quotes from interviews?
- Are posts short with bulleted lists or are they long and text-heavy?
- Are there lots of links? Are they outside links or internal links that navigate around the blog?
Most Popular Posts
These are usually found in a sidebar or footer and they highlight what readers of that blog get excited about. If you can’t find them, type the name of the blog into your search engine and it should show you the blog’s most popular pages.
- Are there common topics or themes?
- Is there a common format? (a lot of round-ups or bullet-point lists)
Themes And Departments
Also most often found in the sidebar or navigation bar (look over at ‘What Do You Want To Do?’ here at BAFB) this tells you the subjects covered by the blog. You want your pitch to fit seamlessly into one of these categories without repeating something that’s already been done. And some blogs only accept guest posts for specific categories so check the guidelines. But you were going to do that anyway, right?
Series Topics And Related Posts
Some bloggers break large topics into smaller posts and publish them as a series. Search for your blog post topic within the site and see what’s already been posted on your subject. This will also give you a heads-up if your original idea isn’t so original after all.
- Are there any current series?
- Is there an older but popular series you could write a related post for?
- Is there a new angle or sub-topic that hasn’t been covered?
- Are there any outdated posts that could use an updated edition?
Who Writes What
Keep an eye on those by-lines. Focus on categories already written primarily by guest bloggers. You are not going to break into a column written exclusively by the blog owner. Also, make sure to check the about page so you know who’s a staff writer and who is a guest blogger. Then look through the blog for:
- Are there recent guest posts?
- Do the bios include links? (you’ll want at least one in your own bio)
- Is there a category with all guest posts?
- What percentage of posts are written by guest bloggers?
In addition to publishing a series of posts, lots of blogs use an editorial calendar to schedule future topics and themes for their site. Granted, these are not commonly posted where you can easily find them but shooting a quick email to the blogger may help you hit your topic target. If you find an editorial calendar, study it! Pitch a topic that will fit a few months down the pipeline when the blog may still need articles and mention how well your post will fit the theme in your pitch.
Headlines And Headings
While chances are good that your editor will change or tweak your headline, you should still pitch with one that fits the blog’s style. The same goes for headings. Look at multiple guest posts and ask yourself:
- What common hooks are used on the site to get attention?
- Do the headlines include numbers like ’50 Ways To Make A Ton Of Money In Your Pajamas?’
- Are they long or short?
- Do they include: colons that break them into two parts?
Round-Ups And Resources
These are usually among the most popular posts because readers come back to them repeatedly for information. Their value also makes them super-sharable. Check your potential blog for:
- Round-ups from guest bloggers?
- Resources from guest bloggers?
- Could you pitch a report, spreadsheet, infographic or checklist for readers?
You knew I’d bring it up eventually. These are not suggestions; they are instructions. They are written specifically for you and ignoring them is unprofessional and a waste of time, not to mention the submissions editor you’ll irritate. Don’t be that irritating asshole!
Follow all guidelines and make at least one reference in your pitch that shows you read and studied the publication and guidelines. Send your pitch in the appropriate form (on-spec article, outline, summary) to the correct person at the correct email address or in the appropriate contact form.
Into The Further
On top of all this research, there are still a few more things you can do to improve your chances at getting your guest post accepted at YourDreamGig.com, especially if you want a repeat performance:
- Read The Blog: keep yourself updated on what’s new and happening and your follow-up research for subsequent pitches will be a cinch.
- Subscribe To The Newsletter: this step is critical to getting inside information about the blog and the blogger behind it.
- Be Helpful In The Comments: blogs are designed to help readers and if you answer questions and share your knowledge in the comments, you demonstrate your dedication to doing just that.
- Connect With Social Media: not only will following a blog and its founder keep you current about goings-ons but commenting, sharing, retweeting and posting also keeps your name fresh in that blogger’s mind…not a bad idea if you hope to write for them more than once.
So how did your pre-pitch research stack up? If you realized that glazing over the home page and shooting off an email weren’t enough to land a gig, you’re right! They’re not! But it also means you’ve identified the problem and can move forward with well prepared queries that will knock off some socks! And even if only a few of these elements are new to you, there’s always room for improvement…and an opportunity to lower that rejection ratio.