November 4, 2014

Do You Have a “Must Read” List of Blogs?

Blue apple with text: Can Guest Posts Hurt Our Blog?

As writers, most of us are insanely busy. *raises hand* Many of us have day jobs and families that need us, so our time is already limited. Add in the need for networking, social media, promoting, researching, blogging, etc., and it can be difficult to find time to dedicate to writing.

Heck, half the reason I love doing NaNoWriMo is so I can force myself to find the time to write. This year, it’s been far too long since I’ve drafted (rather than focused on editing or any of the other writing-related activities), and I love how I can use NaNo as a “No, this is what I’m supposed to be doing now” justification for my writing time.

So I’m picky about the number and quality of blogs on my “must visit” list. There aren’t many blogs where I go out of my way to make sure I don’t miss a post, simply because I don’t have the time to dedicate to that goal.

That’s not to say I don’t visit many blogs—far from it. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I tweet a lot of blog links I think others would find interesting, and I tweet only about a tenth of the number I read. (Again, I’m picky about what I share too.)

But the vast majority of blogs are ones I stumble across on social media rather than signing up for notifications. (To be honest, my email is such a disaster, notifications tend to get lost there just as much as links do in my Twitter stream. *sigh*)

In other words, there are very few blogs where I make sure I see every post. The blogs on my “must read” list have to earn their spot—and keep earning their spot.

Just like with our “must read” or “auto buy” author list, where we’ll forgive an occasional misfire or book premise that doesn’t appeal to us, our blog reading list can be the same way. I don’t expect a blog to be perfect every post, but if a blog has too many misfires in a row, my estimation of their value will decrease.

I’m probably not alone. None of us wants to waste time reading a book or a blog we don’t get value from.

With that in mind, ever since I started blogging, I’ve tried to provide value with my posts. Yet you might have seen my call for guest bloggers last week as part of my preparation for NaNo. What gives? Why would I turn over control of my blog to others for most of a month?

Our Blog Is Part of Our Brand

Our brand is whatever impression others have of us, so we create our brand with everything from the colors and images of our website to the way we interact with others online. Our blog contributes to our brand too.

The topics we choose to write about, the voice we use, the attitude we take—those elements all add up to an impression. When people visit our blog, they’re partly coming because they’ve learned that our topics, voice, or personality appeal to them.

That means there’s a measure of risk when we invite a guest blogger to take over. A guest blogger won’t have our same voice or attitude, and their topic might be completely different from what readers expect from our blog. So we might disappoint our readers when they come to hear from us and they instead find another voice doing the talking.

I know I’ve felt that disappointment when visiting some of my favorite blogs and found a guest poster I was less than enthused about. So I’ve always been very careful about turning my blog over to guest posters.

My NaNo Guest Post Compromise

With my long posts, my blog takes up a lot of my time—time I could be writing fiction. (My blog posts are often longer than the daily NaNo word count.) And for NaNo, I wanted to see if I could reduce that time requirement by coordinating with guest posters. Yet I wanted to keep up the quality of strong, interesting topics and not just throw up a “filler” post.

So I decided to put out a public call for guest posts. My thinking was that by opening up my blog for this opportunity for the first time ever, competition would ensure that only the best topics would earn a spot.

It worked. *smile* I received many proposals and had to turn several down. (Sorry to those of you who didn’t make the cut! But maybe these tips below will help you create better proposals for future opportunities with guest spots at any blog.)

3 Tips to Make a Guest Post Good for Readers

I’m going to share my criteria for how I chose and developed proposals with the guest posters. Hopefully these tips will help us all figure out how we can include guest posts on our blog without creating disappointment.

The proposals I chose needed to:

  • Add Value Beyond My Ability

I looked for posts I couldn’t write. I don’t claim to know everything or to have had every experience, and as I mentioned years ago about why I do accept guest posts, the opportunity to expand the knowledge base here with topics beyond my awareness is one of the best (if not the best) reason to allow guest posts.

  • Appeal to Many of My Readers

I tweaked some of the proposals so the topic would be more applicable to a broader range of readers. For example, rather than a post targeting just a certain genre, I asked the guest poster to expand their tips to be inclusive of many genres.

  • Meet Expectations of My Readers

I enjoy sharing tips and advice that we all can apply to our work or writing career. (I’ve mentioned before that many of my posts grow out of my personal notes of a “remember this!” moment.) To that end, I gave suggestions for how the guest posters could make the post meet my readers’ expectations, such as how to focus on tangible and applicable tips.

So as you see several guest posts this November, know that I’m not permanently changing the structure of my blog (I’ll return to just the occasional guest post in December) and know that I hope you find these topics as interesting and insightful as I did when I approved the proposals. If everything goes well, you’ll understand why we can benefit from opening ourselves to ideas beyond our own head. *smile*

Do you want to share your list of “must read” blogs? What makes them a “must read”—how did they earn a spot on your list? Have you ever been disappointed when a favorite blog ran a guest post? What makes a “good” guest post? Do you have other suggestions for how can we prevent that disappointment on our blogs?

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Yours is definitely one of my “must read” blogs! 🙂

I have a few friends who blog and I follow them regularly. I often don’t read the guest posts though. I hadn’t even thought about the problem with having guests before.

Some of the big-name historical fictions authors who I admire write blogs about history and I follow them. I also have a few must reads among historical blogs. They usually have a corral of authors who write about various aspects of medieval society, and I like the different subjects and takes from the different writers. But, if the topic isn’t something relevant to me, I don’t read it.

Hyperbole and a Half used to be a must must read for me. I loved her stuff so much! Unfortunately, she doesn’t blog anymore.

Davonne Burns

Actually your blog is the only blog on my must read list. You are very consistent with high value posts. Nearly everytime I link you on Tumblr the post will be my top post for a couple of days. People recognise you offer great advice and that’s what keeps me coming back as well. I’ve learned so much and grown so much as a writer by applying your advice. I’m still looking forward to these guest posts to see what new things they bring as well.

Ava Louise

Hi Jami. Another great post! I have several must-read blogs, yours included. There is Marcy Kennedy’s, Janice Hardy, Pub Crawl, Simple Reminders, and Happiness in Your Life…to name a few.

I’m probably still trying to find my own niche in the blogging world (over on The Road to a Dream). I cover a lot of topics, but try to stay upbeat. Perhaps because I am a Gemini?

Thanks for another great post. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Jill W

Great post, Jami. This past summer I did a little experiment with my blog. I have a wide range of regular commenters. I felt like I knew a little about each person, but I wanted to know more. I also wanted to help get more traffic to their blogs. I hosted a Summer Spotlight Series where each week I turned my blog over to a regular commenter to do a guest post to spotlight their book, music, photography or their blog. I had them write their own introduction and talk about themselves. Then I had them pick five questions, out of ten to answer, all of this was done in advance. The interaction was awesome. I saw them visiting each others blogs to check them out and now many have connected and are regular followers.

Laurie Evans

Your blog is one of my must reads. I’ve really pared down the list. I’m a blogger so I understand all the pressure to come up with new posts frequently. I do enjoy guest posts if they are chosen well and stick to the usual topics of the blog, and add new information. Thanks for choosing your guest posts so carefully.

Julie Musil

Jami, your blog is one of the few I subscribe to via email. Same with Elizabeth Craig, Janice Hardy, Anne Allen and Sundays at The Kill Zone (James Scott Bell’s day). I like it when blogs mix it up with guest posts. It offers different experiences and perspectives.

Good luck with your NaNo project!

Joanna Aislinn

I do what I can to read the blogs to which I subscribe, and to comment too. There is so much wonderful info out there, sometimes I feel sad knowing it is humanly impossible to attend to it all. I agree that content should always be chosen with caution, but it’s easier to employ a guest when the blog isn’t necessarily a dedicated/niche type.

I often wonder how you do all you do–these posts alone could be grouped into one awesome textbook for writers. Thnx, Jami!


there are very few blogs where I make sure I see every post. The blogs on my “must read” list have to earn their spot—and keep earning their spot.


I’m on a new computer, where I’m still having to put together the notifications and all again. (I’m that rare thing that uses an RSS reader.) Yours is the only blog I’ve managed to keep up with, more or less, through my computer issues that led to this new computer + getting settled on the new computer. 🙂


[…] when I know my schedule will be too crazy to keep up with my epic-length blog posts. Last year, I put out my first call to help me out during NaNoWriMo November, and this past summer, I needed help during a […]

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