where the writers are
Reflections on Blogging

At the start of the year, I opened my blog, Terry's Place, to once-a-week guests, and, looking back, as we are wont to do at this time of year, I've learned a few things I think are worth sharing, and things I'll try to do better in 2010.

Suggestions for being a good guest

1. Know what you're getting into. Spend a little time reading the blog where you've requested a guest slot so you know if it's going to serve whatever purpose you have in mind.

2. Does the host provide guidelines? Read them! Follow them! Are there things you shouldn't say? Don't say them. Are there questions to answer? Answer them. Is there a minimum or maximum length? Stick within it.

3. Make a note of the date you're going to be a guest. Set up your own reminders; don't rely on the host. Get your post in early if possible to allow your host time to format in advance.

4. Communicate with the host. Problems arise, especially if you're scheduled months in advance. Give as much warning as possible if there will be problems.

5. Be around on your guest day. Commenters like to be acknowledged. If you can't, for whatever reason—maybe you work full time and can't access the blog during work hours—let everyone know. That way, your host can 'cover' if necessary.

6. Don't recycle posts you've done elsewhere unless your host requests it.

7. Do your own promotion. Part of the idea of guest blogging is to introduce both the guest and the host to new audiences.

8. Does your host want pictures? Head shots? Book covers? Send them. Don't make the host grab them from your site. Other illustrations? Indicate where they should go.

9. Find out how your host likes posts formatted. Word doc? Text file? Preferred font? Provide URL links. The tiny details make getting your words onto whatever blog platform the host uses easier.

10. Proofread your post!

And for hosts

1. Keep track of who's up when. I happen to use an Excel spreadsheet and Google Calendar.

2. Send guidelines before you book a guest so they understand what you're looking for. Make them clear, but don't expect people to read or follow them.

3. Send reminders well in advance of the posting date. Request acknowledgement of receipt of emails.

4. Have 'backup' plans in case things go wrong.

5. If at all possible, be in control of your own blog postings and blog site. Guests are expecting their posts to be up, and relying on a third party can create another layer of potential problems.

6. Read the posts before you publish them; fix minor typos, etc. It's better for both parties. Verify that all links the guest provided actually work.

7. Promote the guest wherever possible. Include a 'heads up' on your blog before the guest's day.

8. Alert the guest when the post is live, with the URL for linking.

9. Check in from time to time, thanking commenters even though it's not 'your' own day. It's still your blog.

10. Thank the guest. Follow up if there are contest winners to announce, etc.

And if you're just a blog visitor, a few 'hints' as well.

Leaving comments makes the poster feel good. It shows you took a few extra moments. It can also draw traffic to your own site, so make sure you say something relevant. On that note, don't turn your comments into self-promotion. Making it "all about me" is an immediate turn-off, so you're doing more harm than good.

If you enjoy a blog post, share it. Many blogs have convenient links so it's one-stop shopping.

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year's Eve