Guest Blogger Guidelines

last updated 11 April 2019


Thanks for your interest in guest blogging for Off the Beaten Shelf! Please read this page in full before submitting. It’s here to help you!

Note the different guidelines for freelance writers and brands/PR people.

For Freelance Writers

  • Posts related to reading, bookish culture, writing, publishing, book genres, etc., are welcome. While all genres are covered on this site, the posts themselves are nonfiction about these genres. Fiction and poetry are not accepted for publication.

  • I prefer personal over academic.

  • Posts should run between 350-950 words. Make it however long it needs to be and no longer.

  • The only links that should appear in the piece are to reputable news sites, academic journals, or your site in your bio. If your goal in contributing to this site is to establish backlinks, proceed to the For Brands/PR People section.

  • Please only send complete submissions. If I deem the piece isn’t a good fit for this site, I’ll happily suggest other outlets you might send it to.

  • If your submission is timely, please mention that immediately in your submission, preferably in the subject line. Posts are often scheduled 1-3 months in advance and it can take up to a month to hear back from me, though I try to respond sooner.

  • All submissions are subject to being edited.

  • Nothing racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist, etc. will be accepted.

  • I believe in paying writers for their work, so if your piece is accepted for publication, I’ll pay you via PayPal. Pay rate depends on the topic and length of the final piece. (Note that padding an essay with unnecessary info won’t get a higher rate.)

For Brands/PR People

I’m happy to work with you as long as the content/product/service you offer is a fit for this website and the collaboration mutually beneficial to you, me, and my readers.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • I’m open to publishing guest content, doing product reviews, doing a giveaway for my readers, etc., as long as what you’re offering has to do with books, reading, publishing, writing, etc.

  • That said, what you’re offering cannot be in direct competition to what I’m offering. If, for example, you’ve created an infographic about the world’s oldest libraries because you’re representing a site that advocates for libraries, great! On the other hand, if you’re a writer-for-hire and you want to promote your writing services, it’s not going to work because I’m a writer-for-hire myself and I’m not going to send my readers from my site to that of the competition. It’s just not smart.

  • If you send me guest content for publication and I accept it, you agree to waive the payment I would normally pay contributors who aren’t contributing for promotional purposes.

  • If your goal in submitting guest content is to establish backlinks, this needs to be disclosed to me ahead of time so I can check out the website you plan to link back to.

  • Regarding backlinks, because embedding a link in a post is designed to send my readers away from my post and to your site, I charge $25 per backlink, payable via PayPal.

  • Any backlinks not consented to beforehand and paid for will be removed in the editing process and your piece may be held up until the links can be reviewed and payment is received. If I find the link objectionable and/or payment is not received before the scheduled publication date, the post will not be published.

  • The rule on backlinks cannot be skirted by pretending to be a freelance writer and putting a backlink in your bio. If you want to link to a site in your bio, it must be your site––one where you are the primary writer and where information about you, not a business, is easily found and identified.

  • If you’re interested in placing an ad, click here. Note that ads need to be related to reading, writing, publishing, etc. and that I’m unable to create ad graphics. You’ll need to provide me with the ad graphic and copy you’d like to run.

For Everyone

I've put together a few notes about how to make the most of your guest blogging experience that will help you here, as well as anywhere else you're considering contributing content. All these tips are based on my six years experience as a freelance writer, and my hope is that you'll put these tips to use here and in all your freelance writing adventures.

Read the blog before submitting

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people don't have a good grasp of what a publication covers before pitching a story. Despite how thoroughly I've branded this site as a book blog, I still get pitches for wedding dresses and sporting equipment. Read through a couple of posts to see what topics the publication covers, as well as the tone in which it's written. If you have a piece in mind, use the search bar to see if it's been done already. If you're pitching something that doesn't align in an obvious way with what the site covers, look for ways you can make it relevant. If someone pitched me a post on literary-themed weddings or books about sports, I'd be much more likely to accept that than a regular old post on wedding dresses and baseball bats. 

Note the publication schedule

If you're pitching a time-sensitive post, you'll want to check the publication schedule of the website. For example, I publish posts every Monday, so if there's a holiday on Tuesday and you want to submit a holiday-themed post, in order to edit and schedule the post, I'd need it by Friday before at latest. 

Play to your strengths

If you're pitching to a publication that's mostly text-based (such as this one) but you're more talented in the visual department, do what is going to make you look best. I doubt anyone would turn down a post that's really well done just because it doesn't look or sound like the site owner created it. (I know I wouldn't.) People want guest bloggers because they're looking for new voices and different perspectives, so show off your strengths. You want to make sure your content fits within the overall picture of the publication while still highlighting what you have to offer. 

Be the kind of guest that gets invited back

Contributing a guest post is a lot like being a guest at someone else's house--you want to make sure you're invited back. Turn in clean copy that's been proofread beforehand. Share your post on social media, preferably multiple times. Respond to readers' comments on the post. If you can drive traffic to the post, you're more likely to be asked to contribute again and more likely to be paid well for your work. 

Be amenable to editorial direction

Editing turns good writing into great writing, so if the site owner changes something or requests that a part be rewritten, it's not because they don't like what you submitted. It's because they believe in you and want to make it even better. Trust me, it's a compliment and they're doing you a favor. Every writer needs an editor. 


Guest blogging at OTBS

A few quick notes:

  • New posts are published every Monday. You're welcome to turn in a post any time, and if it's accepted it'll be published at a time that makes sense for the editorial calendar.

  • Send guest post topic ideas via the Contact page along with some links to your previously published work, preferably on the topic of books and reading. If you don't have previously published work, no worries! I'm totally open to new writers. After you've contacted me, I'll get in touch with you shortly to let you know if I'm interested in what you’ve sent. From there we can discuss details via email.

  • Note that I need to see the post in its entirety before I decide to publish it so I can determine if it's a good fit for my audience. If I decide it's not a good fit, I absolutely encourage you to submit elsewhere.

  • I'm open to nearly any kind of book-related post, but I particularly love moving personal essays about books and reading. That can be how a book changed your life, how you met your favorite author, how you learned to love reading, etc.

  • If a topic has been overdone, I likely won't accept it unless you offer an extremely unique perspective. Stories on that old book smell, ebooks vs. paper books, and "think" pieces exhibiting book snobbery just aren't that interesting.

  • Listicles are fine, though make sure that your list isn’t all white or all male.

  • Writers retain all the rights to their posts, though I do request that a post isn't published elsewhere, including your blog, for 72 hours after it's published here. Sharing links to your post here is, of course, welcome and encouraged.

  • If you have any questions about guest posting that I haven't addressed here, drop me a line via the Contact page. I'd love to hear from you!