Writing for other people’s web sites

I do quite a lot of writing for other people’s blogs and web sites. This is partly so that I can write articles that aren’t suitable for my own blog and try to have them published. It is also partly to get myself known further afield than just on my blog.

Writing a wider range of material is good for me. It keeps me from becoming too narrowly focused on one area and thus becoming bogged down in my thinking. It goes without saying that whatever you submit must suit the blog. You can get the best idea of what sort of articles they post by reading some that have already been posted.

Sometimes you can get information about submissions from the owner. Some post their requirements on the blog itself. Have a good look, and if the information you want isn’t there, send an email to the owner, suggesting the type of posting you would like to submit, and ask whether or not he will consider it. I have found that most bloggers who accept guest postings don’t mind answering this sort of question. After all they want your submissions, and they appreciate you showing enough interest in their blog to want to submit postings to it. Of course, some will not be so helpful. I’d just forget about them.

In my experience there are two basic kinds of blogs or web sites that accept guest postings, those  that are run by amateurs and those that are professionally run, and they need to be dealt with differently. They also have different requirements and standards.

I do not discard a blog just because someone runs it as a hobby rather than as a job. I’ve had some good stuff posted on amateur blogs, but they do vary a lot. Some are run very well, but others leave much to be desired The best way to gauge the value of an amateur blog is to read some of the postings. If it looks like it has been written by a five year old, with lots of spelling and grammatical errors, then I would hesitate to send anything ‘grown up’ to them. They probably wouldn’t want it anyway, being too serious for them. 

I have found that amateur sites respond in one of two ways. Either you get a quick reply and the article, if accepted, is posted quickly, maybe straight away. This might happen within a day or two. Or you might not hear anything for two or three weeks. Sometimes this only means that the blogger has a life outside his blog, but it might also mean that he has put your submission aside and forgotten about it. 

If you email the blogger asking what’s happened to your submission, I have found that you might get an apology, but you are more likely to get a rejection. This will make you wonder: Did he reject it because I upset him asking what’s happened  to it and he can’t remember or can’t be bothered? Or did he reject it previously but didn’t get around to telling me? If the former, then I’m probably better off not dealing with him. If the latter, why didn’t he let me know? It would have been polite and would only take a few minutes, and it would have left me feeling kindly about the site and ready to submit more of my work. Perhaps he’s too busy to bother about material he’s not going to use. When this happens to me I write that blog off as not worth dealing with, and they don’t get any more of my material.

Professionally run sites are an entirely different proposition. Since these are often associated with a magazine or professional body, their standards are usually higher, and may even be of the level of academic or professional publications. The big advantage is that you will, if your article is published, go some way to establishing yourself as an academic or professional writer, if that is what you want. I consider it a plus, although I suspect that that comes mostly from my academic background. The people running this type of site often use material off their web site in their magazine, if they publish one, which means that your work might be selected for publication in a proper magazine: Always worth thinking about. 

Usually, professional sites have a submission page rather than an email address for submissions. This is not a problem: They are, nearly always, easy to navigate and have instructions to help you to be successful in your submission. They do want your submission, even if they end up rejecting it, so they will make it easy for you to get it to them. Make sure that you have registered on the site or include a covering letter so that they know where to contact you. Not only does a covering letter look more professional, particularly if they have asked for one, but it allows you to address the editor with any particular conditions you would like to apply to the posting of your article or queries about publication. However, it doesn’t pay to be too dogmatic about licensing and copyright matters: You do want to get your article published don’t you, so you might have to compromise sometimes.
Professional sites tend to be better at replying and keeping you up-to-date on the progress of your article, too. Once you have submitted the article you will probably receive an auto-reply telling you that they have received it and that it will be considered in turn. The message might also tell you something further. Perhaps they get a lot of submissions and have a backlog that will delay any response. Perhaps the editor is on leave and won’t be back for a week. Anyway, you will surely get a response of some sort, even if it is only from their computer.

After a few days or a week, you may get an update, saying that they don’t want your submission, usually with a reason, such as not suiting their site, or perhaps that they already have some similar material at hand and don’t need any more. At least you know, and can try submitting the article elsewhere. On the other hand, it might be an acceptance. Possibly, they will want some minor changes, but I find that this rarely happens. They usually accept the article as is. The message will also probably tell you of a proposed publication date or that the article is already posted on the web site and give you the address where to find it. If the article is to be published later, you will surely receive a notification when publication happens and where to find your article.

It must be said that a lot of sites ask for submissions and then don’t bother using them. Many of them don’t respond in any way to a submission: They just leave you hanging, not knowing what’s happening. They don’t bother replying if you send an email asking what’s happening. There’s not much that you can do about these sites except to write them off and not bother sending them anything else. It would seem that some of these sites have been effectively abandoned. Others are either out-of-date or the owners just can’t be bothered keeping them going. It’s a pity that they are like they are, after you have put a lot of work into writing an article for them. They obviously don’t care about hurting people’s feelings. Best to just forget them and find a site that does the right thing by you.
I make all my submissions freely available for posting and thus, do not have to negotiate payment. Whether you can or will get paid depends on the web site as well as many other factors, with which I can’t be bothered. I leave that experience up to you! Seeing my material published, and thus made available to anyone on the internet, is enough satisfaction for me.

It is generally better to write an article or posting specifically for a site, rather than writing the article and then trying to find someone to accept it. Since many sites have their own requirements as to formatting, length, topic, and so on you need to investigate thoroughly before deciding on a topic and place to submit it.

Posting on other people’s blogs or web sites can be very rewarding. It also helps the site owner. Many bloggers need and use contributions from others to keep their site interesting and to keep new material posted. Professional sites need submission to keep them up-to-date with their field of endeavour as they often don’t have writers on their staff. 

However, you must be prepared for some rejections. No-one can have everything they write published: It just can’t happen, there is always something that doesn’t work for anyone. But the more you do the better you will get and your success rate will increase. It all starts with your first submission. Go ahead, pick a suitable site, pick a suitable topic and write!

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