I just got an e-mail from a stranger offering to write a guest post for me. Okay, I'm open to the idea. Except in this case, the pitch letter was very badly written. (A couple of sentences had no period, and one sentence had two periods; maybe he thought they averaged out? plus the plural intro to a singular example, and the fragment that just wandered off into the ether.) Also, the one topic suggested had nothing whatsoever to do with writing or publishing or e-books, my usual topics, nor even about social justice issues, which I also blog about sometimes. It sounded like this person had already written a post on tips for "medical health insurance" (redundant, anyone?) and was sending a generic (badly written) letter to as many blog owners as he could find and hoping someone bit. He said he'd read "http://angiesdesk.blogspot.com" -- yes, the full URL rather than the blog's name -- but looking at the topic he suggested, I frankly don't believe him.
I have to say, I wasn't at all impressed. I wrote up a critique of the pitch letter and sent it back, because I'm a writer and this guy presenting himself as a writer sort of ticked me off.
A couple of years ago, I got another offer from a stranger for a guest post. This one actually sent me a custom letter, or possibly a generic letter that was well enough written to look custom, which is close enough. We went back and forth in e-mail a couple of times, and I told him that I usually post about writing, publishing, e-books, that sort of thing, and that I'd look at anything he came up with on those topics. I should've been more specific.
Again, I got the impression the guy -- despite his apparently personal approach and his discussions with me -- had never actually read my blog. What I got back a few days later was a post on "E-Books 101," a sort of, "Electronic books, or e-books, are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the publishing world. An e-book is an electronic media file..." blah-blah-blah, basically explaining what an e-book was and how it worked and cetera, as though writing for an audience who'd never heard of them before.
Umm, no. Anyone who reads my blog knows what an e-book is [cough] and probably knows more about them than this guy did, even after he did his research and wrote the piece. It sounded like he hit Wikipedia or something, then summarized the basics.
After these experiences, the primary advice I'd give anyone who wants to go around pitching random guest posts is to READ THE BLOG YOU'RE PITCHING TO. That should be pretty basic, right? Apparently not.
Know your audience, which is the audience of the blog you're pitching. Just because a topic is new to you doesn't mean it's new to the readers of that blog. Read the blog, see what's been discussed in the last dozen posts at least, and note the level of discussion. A blog by an electronically published writer, addressing other writers, isn't going to need an "E-Books 101" type post; that's ridiculously elementary for a professional audience. That's like going to a blog for foodies and pitching an article on the difference between stirring and folding, or a post explaining what truffles are. :/
Write to the level of your target audience. If that's going to require significant research on your part, then it will; consider that before sending off your pitch.
And if you plan to pitch your writing skills, learn to write first -- bad grammar and punctuation in your pitch letter aren't going to win you any gigs. [eyeroll]
I'm open to guest posts, but I'm not going to loan my soapbox for just anything. As anyone who looks at my calendar list can tell, I'm not exactly desperate to keep up a steady stream of material here. I post when I have something to talk about, and if I don't then I don't. I'm okay with that, and I'm not going to post something I don't think folks who read here will be interested in just to get something up that day or that week. Particularly if I've never heard of the writer, I'm going to be pretty choosy about guest material; random pitches, even if well written (which the first one from a couple of years ago was) aren't going to make the cut.
[ETA: comments closed because idiot spammers Will Not Give Up despite the fact that blogger doesn't let any of them through. :/ ]