Why, No, You Can’t Write a Guest Post Here

Yet another “post now, refer people to later” post:

Recently my e-mail had been inundated with people who I don’t know and have never heard of before (or organizations, which is even worse), asking me if they can write a guest post on some highly obscure but generally commercially-related subject, because they are sure that my audience will just love it, etc. I don’t know whether this is a new spammy practice or if some SEO-mad consultant has advised his clients that “guest posts” are the new black, or whatever, but I do know this sudden wave of solicitations is highly annoying.

So, to those deeply annoying random strangers asking to borrow my readership:

NO, you may not have a guest post on my site. Please fuck right off and never bother me again. Now shoo.

Everyone else:

Generally speaking I have two types of guest posts: Big Ideas, for which there is already a well-established intake process, and the posts that happen when I ask people to be guest bloggers here when I take a break from the site — in which case I ask specific people. In almost no cases ever do I take unsolicited guest posts that aren’t Big Ideas (I think there may have been just one time in the last entire decade, in fact) and when I have, they are from people I know personally and consider friends, not just random people. Even if you are someone I know, the incidence of unsolicited guest posts on this site is .00012%. Those are not good odds.

So, yeah, if you’re not already in my close personal circle of real-world friends, don’t bother asking. If you are in my close personal circle of real-world friends, you probably shouldn’t ask unless in the most exceptional of circumstances (as was the case in the one last time).

Even shorter version: If I want a guest post, I’ll ask for it. Thanks.

91 thoughts on “Why, No, You Can’t Write a Guest Post Here

  1. May be relevant but I have also had some of these requests on my blog so it is not just giants like you being targetted. I am edging towards spam or very aggressive marketing for some of them because at least one told me that they would provide an initial guest post ‘for free’ which immediately got my Spidey Sense tingling. Drug dealers were trying that trick back in the 80s…

    I posted about this on the AW forum and the consensus there was certainly ‘it’s a spam/scam/trap’ so I left well alone. What you have posted above adds confirmation that I did the right thing.

    I could write a guest post about it if you wanted… [kidding...] :)

  2. It’s a trendy way to spur indie books sales now. The idea is to post a bunch of articles on popular blogs which obviously gets you new eyeballs for your book. There are many sites that welcome guest posts, so it’s getting some traction, but it’s clearly bad form to solicit a blog that doesn’t have a policy for taking guest content. Methinks it’s a symptom of indie marketing run amok.

  3. Guest posting as promotion echos in the chambers of Internet marketing and blogging blogs. Sometimes it spills out into the real world. Some prominent bloggers in that world are happy to perpetuate the notion for free content.

    I have gmail trained to toss them into the spam folder.

  4. One of my “day jobs” involves curating a large, topic-based resource website. (What do you mean, you only have one day job? NO day job? You jammy barstid….)

    When wearing THAT hat, there is nothing that brightens my day more thoroughly than a well-written, thoughtful, topic-appropriate guest post. I LOVE those. They are jam, they are delightful, I am endlessly, humbly appreciative of the good folks who take the time and effort to submit them. They make my job easier. They put a spring in my step and a song on my lips.

    But.

    Of all the submissions of “guest posts” that I receive, only one in (roughly) eight or nine actually fulfills those criteria. The remaining bulk range from well-intentioned but poorly written or topic-inappropriate material (these make me sad and cost a lot of time and heart burning as I have yet to discover tactful ways of saying “Seriously, take a basic writing class. Or at least buy a copy of Strunk & White and READ it. Please.”) to bizarre machine-constructed spamaramas full of URLs and creepy stuff that can be trashed without another thought.

    So… on a certain level, you’re making me envious here, John. I would love to be able to handle things with such clarity and simplicity.

    But a topic-resource site is a very different critter.

  5. So, I just read that one post ever, and can I say, way to go. I am a physician, and I yelled, quietly, because I work for the state. But my republican orthopedic surgeon neighbor yelled loudly. Good post.

  6. This really needed to be said? I mean, there are people out there who think it’s a good idea to bug John with this crap? Wow.

    For the record I have no problem with guest posts, on Whatever or wherever, and in fact have provided a couple myself for a couple outlets. There was one major difference however; all the times I was invited. The very first time worked was serendipitous because I had something I wanted to write about that really didn’t fit on my blog but worked on a friends.

    But for bugging people to let me post, let me just quote Austen Powers: “Seriously, who throws a shoe?”

  7. From my other day job, marketing research analysis — The guest-post routine has been all over small biz/entrepreneurial/launch your own scam sites for about four years, and that world has a back door into the You Too Can Make Big Money And Meet Girls By Writing and Publishing Your Very Own Book scam sites. So my guess is that writing/publishing is just the latest area for them to show up and slime about in.

    They hit marketing research about 3 years ago, for about half a year, and then vanished.

    They’re a bit like Heinlein’s stobor, in TUNNEL IN THE SKY. Usually they hang around looking like moronic vermin and you hardly know they’re there, then one day they try to eat everything in their path, then back to moronic vermin. Nothing you need worry about as long as you don’t leave holes open for them to come in through.

  8. In a related vein, I’ve been a little annoyed by the one-line “I’ve reblogged this on my own blog!” comments I’ve been seeing lately. AKA Puleeeeeze come to my blog and pump up my stats!

    I don’t mind when people start writing a long comment that they realize is better off as a blog post of its own and then refer to it in a shortened version of their thoughts, but the “Reblogged this!” + link is annoying.

  9. Well now . . . this seems a highly unfair policy. (the word highly is an unneeded modifier – maybe I could do a post about modifiers)

    You should recognize that just by virtue of having gotten into the game early, you had tremendous advantages. Advantages which are now not available to us aspiring writers. You might not acknowledge it, but you played the game on the “easy setting” just by virtue of when you were born.

    Add to that the fact the publishing industry seems to work based on who you know, and that by virtue of the privileged opportunities you had, you have an in, and it does seem to me this policy is designed primarily to widen the separation between the published and unpublished.

    In fact, every year the ratio of published to unpublished writer gets smaller. The elites are obviously closing their ranks in keeping them who they consider “unworthy hacks” from even having a chance to make it, no matter the hard work.

    Would it really hurt you that much to share part of your wealth of readers, to throw a few crumbs to people who are struggling to catch a break, and fail no matter how many sentences they sling together?

    Yes, I understand you worked hard (supposedly) for your success, but by your own admission, part of you making it was due to “breaking the rules”, and now you would deny others the same opportunities.

    Really, I am very disappointed in you one-percenters . . . your selfishness and callousness toward those who would be happy to get a fraction of what you have just turns my stomach.

    Why, I have a good mind to park my ass here until I get what I feel entitled to!

  10. I got on NPR’s tumblr once by asking a question. Sent me 20 or so followers. +500 circlings on G+ from a share to a prominent G+ figure’s followers. I found myself in front of millions of people when I asked a pointed question to one person.

    Being invited into the readership of another is something best earned by contributing through the paths they provide. Like comments on a blog, or retweets by saying something useful and interesting.

  11. Hmmm, there are other Popehat readers here! Sorry, I didn’t hit refresh before posting my reply, which is why I didn’t see the other references. Mea maxima culpa…

  12. I’m guessing that people who try to solicit “guest posts” from you for the typical going rate of Nothing Whatsoever But We’ll Link To Your Blog will get the same response.

  13. My eyes always skip over anything attached to the “sponspred content” label over at The Awl, but at least they’re actual sponsors.

  14. Hmm, nothing like people operating on the theory that if they badger you enough, your shields will fail and you’ll just have to say yes. blargh.

  15. To All Unwanted Solicitors and/or Flimflam Men and Women:

    You have just received the DC (Darke County) Backhand.

    SLAP! THUD!

    You’re a dick, Scalzi! Kidding.

  16. Someone spammed my contact e-mail on my blog with an offer to guest post…on career transitions and skill sets.

    I’m a writer. Everybody knows we have no other appreciable skills. ;)

  17. @disperser – you forgot to mention that John is pulling the ladder up behind him. Other than that, I think you managed to hit most of the clichés. Well done.

  18. disperser…
    Yes, it would hurt. We come here for high-quality content, not random posts from unknown people. If we started getting a pile of “guest posts” it would almost certainly decrease the value of reading Whatever. Besides, who would police comments on the guest posts? The guest poster probably wouldn’t bother, and it is wouldn’t be fair to expect our host Mr Scalzi to handle comments based on something he didn’t say. So the quality of comments would also decrease.

    Anyone can start a blog. That is proven simply by the huge number of them. If they are any good, the word spreads and the number of readers increases. If they are not good, readers won’t increase and the blogger will probably blame “the established bloggers” from deliberatedly freezing him out to cut down on competition.

    There is another way to get a post here. If you leave a comment that our host considers to be worthwhile enough, he will promote it to a post. That has happened at least once, but probably not often or he would have remembered. You might try that instead of whining.

  19. I get these requests daily as well and it’s just part of running a blog these days. They don’t even look at the blogs they’re contacting anymore so you get the most irrelevant requests from people (I run an Anglophile website so it’s strange to get requests to publish something about plumbing). It’s a pain but it’s easy to just hit delete.

  20. @Bearpaw . . . on second thought, I’m fine with either interpretation. Cast a wide-enough net, and one is bound to catch some fish.

    Truthfully, I can do either with equal ease.

  21. @JJS . . . Ah, a common argument, but the fact remains that someone who started blogging (or podcasting) at the time when blogs were relatively new had a distinct advantage over someone starting one today (WordPress alone has 62+ million blogs, and adding something like 100K a day!)

    Or is the argument that there is currently no one as talented as JS out there?

    Note also the casual dismissal of anyone reaching out. And the fact is, he does not have answer to everyone, just a few. But no! Unless you are “his friend”, he won’t even glance at you. And how do you get to be his “friend”? Hanging around conventions, or this blog, hoping for a scrap of JS-goodness to fall from the gravy train? Sounds creepy to me.

    Like all one-percenters, he obviously has an exaggerated sense of his own awesomeness, denying the possibility he was just lucky, and denying he made it because someone was willing to take a chance on him. As with all who grow to believe they are the sole masters of their own fate, he puts too much importance on his own meager talents.

    No; I’ll stick to my guns; many young writers . . . scratch that . . . many new writers are as deserving as established writers. They deserve the same chances. Think about how many brilliant writers wallow in obscurity because people like JS hog the spotlight.

    Addendum: If you made it this far, you should know my original piece was written as satire. However, the more I write, the more I’m buying into this argument. Or is this also satire? As I don’t do smilies, one has to carefully consider the possibility this is written from an honest and serious perspective, while at the same time acknowledging it has the sound of someone having fun. Whatever you decide, and I’ll roll with it.

    Addendum 2: wow . . . this is almost better than a guest post . . . unless I get the hammer!

  22. @disperser

    I’ll be honest, it took me until the last line to realize it was satire. Well played.

  23. @Bess . . . thanks.

    I’m sure someone who only skims the comments will engage me in a “discussion” . . . I should probably stop before I receive death threats from fan-boys with little imagination, and no sense of humor.

  24. Disperser, I’m falling on the side of thinking you’re doing satire. But I have to say the only way one gets history is by grinding out the years. You can’t borrow it.

  25. @pyredynasty . . . could be it’s satire . . . nonetheless, it’s easy to make history when there’s so little of it. Washington is remembered because he was the first president. Does anyone even remember who the 16th president was? Whoever he was, it’s precisely because he came later that no one remembers him or takes note of his accomplishments.

    Oh, hell . . . I mean, heck . . . I better stop before I start believing this stuff.

  26. @disperser

    It wouldn’t be effective satire if it didn’t parody exactly a fair number of commentors who show up in these hallowed halls. So obviously, people do believe this stuff.

  27. Yeah, I’ve seen “be a guest poster on a more popular writer’s blog” as one of the bits of advice given to self-published authors. Usually it’s tempered by the caveat that you have to have some kind of relationship with the other writer first, but sometimes it’s just “go ahead and ask–the worst they can say is no!”

    The problem is the false intimacy of the internet–someone figures, “I comment on his blog–he must know me.” Yeah, right.

    Also, Sea Monkeys? Not really monkeys. They’re brine shrimp.

  28. What if I do a bit about mail being sent by dead people? Do you allow ghost posts?

  29. You should recognize that just by virtue of having gotten into the game early, you had tremendous advantages. Advantages which are now not available to us aspiring writers. You might not acknowledge it, but you played the game on the “easy setting” just by virtue of when you were born.

    According to Technorati, the most popular blog is… the Huffington Post.

    Which was founded in 2005, long after many other blogs.

    Nice try.

  30. This is so embarrassing. I was thinking of asking you to have a guest post about the Norton Award. I was thinking you might even have a series of guest posts, maybe asking a bunch of authors what they think makes good gateway fiction to entice kids into a lifetime of reading science fiction and fantasy. See? I wasn’t even going to offer to *write* the post. I wanted someone else to do that work, too. I was just holding off until you weren’t president of SFWA anymore.

    *hangs head in shame*

  31. @ Phoenician in a time of Romans . . .

    Yeah, but the Huffington Post caters to the brain-addled. Given the sheer number of them, if you go after that crowd, sure you’ll get a huge circulation.

    But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge? A couple of posts about orbs, ghosts, or celebrities lacking underwear, and you got yourself a few million readers . . . of course, you would have to use small words, and write . . . . really . . . . slow.

  32. @disperser I’m confident you know something about the 16th President of the United States, as his name was Abraham Lincoln.

  33. But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge? A couple of posts about orbs, ghosts, or celebrities lacking underwear, and you got yourself a few million readers . . . of course, you would have to use small words, and write . . . . really . . . . slow.

    “I’m really very spiritual as well as sexual”, giggles our lovely Page 3 Model, Mandy. “As my old grandmother used to say ‘Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn’, which is Welsh for ‘Live a long life by loving life'”. And as we can see, Mandy certainly seems built for a lot of loving…

  34. @disperser: thank you, you have brightened my day. :-)

    I’ve recently had offers of $100 from someone to accept a guest post from their client about a subject that they’re sure would fit in with my blog. The interesting thing here is that a) it’s not actually wildly off-topic, b) er, I have about a hundred readers, and it’s not exactly difficult to check the likely size of the regular readership for a LiveJournal account. Methinks that someone out there is offering a service placing targeted advertorials for a modest fee, and is actually doing some targeting re: context but is not bothering to check other aspects of value for money.

  35. I don’t know whether this is a new spammy practice or if some SEO-mad consultant has advised his clients that “guest posts” are the new black, or whatever, but I do know this sudden wave of solicitations is highly annoying.

    I’ve been getting them for years, usually from the military or computer industries. Some of them have been downright hilarious, it has been quite obvious that they didn’t bother to do any research on me, or my opinions.

    I used to reply to every one of them, telling them why it didn’t make sense. Then I realized that they were doing this using bots, and just started ignoring them.

    Wayne

  36. @Jules Jones . . . thanks, and glad to hear it.

    @Phoenician in a time of Romans . . . yes, good example.

    And now I must stop, lest JS gets the idea I’m trying to monopolize his readership. I hear he can be quite mean when threatened.

  37. @disperser
    Mean? I hear he clubs baby seals on the mean streets of Bradford. Just what I’ve heard.

  38. John, it’s not just you. I’ve been contacted about “guest posts” from spammers and my blog gets 50 hits on a good day.

    You know, you could have a lot of fun by agreeing with the caveat that you (as blog owner) can “edit” their copy to fit your standards. Then change it to say whatever damned thing you like.

    That would be wrong, of course. But a lot of fun. Lots and lots of fun. But wrong. But fun . . .

  39. I get it. Don’t disagree with it. But it’s a one-percenter problem so mostly find it amusing.

  40. What do seals wear when they go clubbing?

    “Bartender, Canadian Club on the rocks all round!”

  41. Damn. I don’t leave things I think, I clean up after them. That’s all they’re good for!

    [deleted]

  42. Back to the evil drawing board

    What does it do, change your dimensions when you look away?

    Come to think of it, the only people who have drawing boards these days are people whose plans aren’t working out and a fair fraction of those are coyotes. Perhaps if they changed their process they would have better luck.

  43. In retrospect, plenty of artists have drawing boards. I was thinking of mechanical drawings. So far as I know, most of those have been replaced by CAD, though I’m sure counter-examples exist.

  44. Drat, and here my cat wanted to guest post about the age-old bacon versus tuna debate… Ah well.

  45. I get this a lot, even with my meager traffic. Too bad it’s not musicians. I’d at least be willing to post a YouTube video if they’re any good.

  46. Is it really necessary to curse? Or is that meant to convey the seriousness? I assume not a typical word used around the dinner table ;-)

  47. You should take the Bloggess approach and just send them a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper in reply. :D

  48. I get these too, and my blog has approximately three subscribers. The best part is that, judging by the wording of these requests, the people asking to write guest posts don’t seem to be capable of constructing syntactically valid English sentences.

  49. @dispenser. Not obvious enough? Again, I fail as a writer.

    It was either epic satire or an epic troll. Either way, it was well done.

  50. Surely, John, you will make an exception for ME and my very special purpose. I mean, I understand your not wanting to put up with those people bugging you all the time but I know if I ask you will be honored to have been asked and thrilled to turn over your valuable real estate.

    I’ll bet there are days you’d like to go all Salinger on us!

  51. I expect to see a blog post entitled ‘Random Strangers asking to be my Close personal friend so they can post on my site’.

  52. The first time I received one of these solicitations, there was an actual person behind it and the topic of the suggested guest post was actually related to my blog subject. I unwarily responded but said that I would like to read the guest post before I would agree to publish it. The person sent a content-free bunch of words that were tangentially related to my subject, saying nothing new or interesting, and it was clear that the whole point of it was to link to a site for renting cars in Europe (which is not even tangentially related to my blog subject). I then Googled the author’s name and the same sort of thing was already posted on a few blogs on all kinds of subjects, all linking to the car renting site. So, yes, new kind of spam and SEO juice as well (because a lot of links to a webpage move it up in the Google index–and a link from Whatever would be especially full of sweet SEO juice). I suspect that much of it is the result of a work-at-home-writing-for-the-web instructional kit of some kind. Recently they don’t even bother to try to make it related to my blog. I wonder if anyone falls for it? I guess if they’re running a clickbait farm themselves, they might be okay with no-cost but content-free material as long as there is lots of it.

    A related but slightly different take is when I get an email to a very very old blog post saying, “A link in this post is broken. Why don’t you replace it with a link to this page on my website that is sort of related to your subject but not really.” Looking for SEO juice, of course.

    Recently I’ve been getting “Are you the person to contact to work with for this blog?” with no context or any idea why they want to “work with” me. I just ignore as it is obvious spambait. Anyone who actually wants to work with me would explain why in their first email and we can proceed from there.

  53. Are these guys the same guys who follow me on Twitter in hopes that I will buy their book. The last time I checked, I had several more fake Twitter followers than real ones, and they all seem to have books. Is this a particular thing with authors, or is it because I mentioned @scalzi a couple of times and published a couple of tweets about SF novels?

  54. There’s actually a moderately-well socially-engineered version of this crap: you get an email from someone claiming to be an elementary school teacher:

    Hello [ResearchedTargetNames] and greetings from Delaware and Ms. Ward's classroom!

    I hope you don't mind that I'm reaching out to you both like this! I'm currently working with my class to help revamp our class website with lots of new sections and information for students, parents, educators, etc. (in desperate need of an update). One of my students, [Name], came across your page, [YourPage] while searching for resource pages for our "[SomethingRelatedToYourPage]" section and found some great information there that we will most likely be adding my site.

    As part of the project, the kids are required to find and share a resource with the people that we have borrowed information from for "using their stuff," as one student put it haha. This is something that [StudentName] thought would go well on your site:

    "[InnocuousTitle]"
    [SpammyCommercialLink]

    My hope is that if you find it useful at all, you might consider posting this along with the other link resources on your site. When I am able to show the kids that someone posted their suggestion, it really acts as a mini-motivator and keeps them excited and engaged in the project (which is obviously fantastic...).

    Anyway, if you are able to post it just shoot me an email and let me know so I can show her and her group, and thanks ahead of time for playing a small role in this project :)

    Ms. Deborah Ward (and [StudentName])

    Go to “Ms Ward’s” class blog site, and it feels… off. Not obviously bad, but it smells a little. Do a WHOIS query on the domain, and you see that it was registered about 4 months *after* the first of “her” blog posts. So, yeah. Nice try, spammer.

  55. I expect to see a blog post entitled ‘Random Strangers asking to be my Close personal friend so they can post on my site’.

    I’m sorta wondering if someone’s going to try the whole NLP PUA schtick on John, you know, negging and the like.

    I could write a post on that, but of course it’s not suitable for an ugly site like this…

  56. But I want to write a guest post about rent-to-own nasal hair trimmers! Give me your audience and nobody gets tickled by the rotating spindle of the highest-quality nostril-hedging implement that money can lease!

  57. @Mike, engineering/architectural drawing boards still exist, however, they mostly all have CAD integration. There are two main types: digitizers (normal board with a mouse with a clear window for tracing hand-drawn lines) and lightboards (digital boards that you ‘draw on’ with a solid stylist).

  58. @Mike, engineering/architectural drawing boards still exist, however, they mostly all have CAD integration. There are two main types: digitizers (normal board with a mouse with a clear window for tracing hand-drawn lines) and lightboards (digital boards that you ‘draw on’ with a solid stylist).

    Ah a quick search indicates that there seems to be a fair number of products on offer called CAD drawing tables that are computer desks with a big inclined surface on which to park a tablet device like the ones you describe. I guess it makes sense that if an inclined table is the ergonomic way to use a pencil then it makes sense that an electronic stylus should be used the same way.

    I suppose it is reasonable to refer to the thing as a drawing board. It’s a less weird usage than dialing a phone number using a keypad or a virtual keypad.

    I generally don’t mention typos. I make plenty myself, but I did get a grin trying to figure out what the solid stylist contributes to the design process. :-)

  59. Tim Wilson-Brown: It’s good of you to want to help, but that springfield movers guy wasn’t a person at all; it’s linkspam. And I see it’s now been removed.

  60. I’m glad I’ve learned better from the “greats” of blogging. Guest posts are important to both the hosting blog and the guest writer.

    Of course, spam guest posts just looking for a link or two back to their own irrelevant blog are an SEO no-no (I get them all the time too) but genuine posts from other like-minded bloggers are a wonderful thing.

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