Today I have the pleasure of continuing Pen & Prosper's popular "Ask the Expert" series with Susan Maccarelli, founder and editor over at Beyond Your Blog.
Here she provides us with success strategies to increase the odds for publication at other sites, as well as the 4-1-1 on her own personal blogging journey.
I hope you'll make her feel welcome with your comments and questions here.
First, a little intro:
Susan Maccarelli is the Founder of BeyondYourBlog.com, and a recognized expert on transitioning from personal blogger to published writer. Beyond Your Blog offers tips for getting published, directories of writing opportunities, interviews with editors, the Submission Savvy e-course and more. Susan’s interviews include editors from the New York Times, Chicken Soup For The Soul, The Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. She has been published on many websites and anthologies, and spoken at conferences including BlogHer, ASJA, and Bloggers at Midlife.Now, on with the interview...
Hi, Susan. Thanks for joining us today.
Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your background in writing?
Sure! I started a personal blog in 2013 and after figuring out (slowly) that other sites would publish my work, I found that I loved that method for building my audience and getting eyes on my writing. I started BeyondYourBlog.com in 2014 to help other bloggers with the process of getting published outside of their personal blogs. Before ‘retiring’ to raise 2 kids in 2010, I worked in the corporate world in account management, training, and customer service. My writing background is slim to none! I hated writing assignments in high school and college and only started my blog to appease my husband, who thought it would be cool. I like to write now when I have inspiration or great info to share with my readers, but I don’t consider myself someone who has to write in order to be fulfilled.
What was the inspiration and motivation behind starting BYB in 2014?
As I mentioned, I wanted to help other bloggers who were confused about the process of getting published and were asking questions like Will anyone publish me since I am not a professional writer?, Where do you find opportunities to submit your writing?, and How do I get paid to do this? I decided to interview editors at various publications who would share what they were looking for, how to submit to them, how much/if they paid etc. I also include articles on the site that share tips and tricks for bloggers and freelancers submitting their articles and posts for consideration, inspiration for writers, and directories of places to submit writing.
Describe your brand.
Good question! Do I get deductions for having to think about this? I’d say that Beyond Your Blog is a helpful place that aims to give bloggers and other writers information that will help them reach their publishing goals. I want visitors to the site, the Facebook Group, my course, and my newsletter to come away with something practical that they can go and use to get a little closer to their publication goals.
As an editor, what’s the most common mistake you observe with guest post submissions received at BYB?
Easy! I get TONS of submissions that are clearly from people who have not read the site and are not a good fit. I’ve gotten posts about unclogging toilets, divorce, hair plugs and more. Every day I get at least 5 emails that start out telling me how much they love my site and proceed to pitch me an idea that has nothing to do with writing, blogging, or publishing. I delete most of these. If you send me something even remotely related to what I publish, I don’t care how good it is, I will read it and respond, and I am flattered that you sent it.
How many monthly submissions do you receive?
Usually around 20 serious submissions that relate to our topic. More if I promote the opportunity to submit (and the payment) heavily. We select about 2 each month to publish, so it is pretty competitive even though we don’t get hundreds of submissions.
What advice can you offer to writers seeking to increase their odds of publication in top-tier sites like Huffington Post or Write to Done?
With Huffington Post, it is a persistence game. If you keep submitting, you’ll get in eventually. Try smaller sections, pitching editors or section emails directly (vs. the blog pitch form) and make sure your submissions are Huff-y – catchy titles, not too long, timely etc. With any site, studying the formula of other successful posts can be very helpful in helping you craft something your editor will love. Do they have a typical format (length, but also list/personal essay/reported or some combination of things)? Do their pieces tend to have a timely angle referencing current trends or news? Have you followed all of their submission guidelines? Sometimes it is a matter of taking what you have written and molding it just a little for a target site.
Tell us a little about your class “Submission Savvy”. Why should writers take the class?
I am planning to re-open Submission Savvy in the fall. It is for writers who are new to having their work published online and want to understand how to go about it. I basically thought about all the things I had to stumble around and figure out for myself (making mistakes along the way) and packaged it into a course for other bloggers. The course is self-paced and covers everything from the benefits of being published online to how to find the right fit publication for your work, what you need to know about re-publishing something that has already been on your blog or another website, interpreting submission guidelines, paying opportunities, rejection and lots more. If someone is interested, they can go here to sign up and be notified when I re-open it for new registrants.
If memory serves me correctly, you shut your blog down awhile back ago and then decided to re-launch it. What did that experience teach you?
I took a hiatus last summer after experiencing some major burn out. After a couple of months, I realized that there were a lot of things I could cut out or scale back on and still accomplish what I wanted. I came back with a much more focused agenda, and I have found it to be much more enjoyable! The most interesting thing I learned is that your fans and readers won’t desert you if you leave for 3 months. My page views stayed about the same, my Facebook Group was still active, and when I came back, I still had an audience. I convinced myself that if I didn’t work hours each day, everything would grind to a hault, and that was not the case at all.
Congrats on BYB being chosen as a “Top 101 Websites for Writers” for 2017 with Writer’s Digest. How has that changed your blogging career?
I shared the call for nomination with my readers months ago and didn’t think anything else of it until one of my readers tagged me on a post where there was a photo of the print magazine with BYB listed. I am so flattered to be in there among some of my favorite sites like ProBlogger, The Creative Penn, and Brain Pickings! I definitely saw traffic pick up considerably when the issue came out!
If you could offer one piece of advice to bloggers who are new to the scene, or those seeking to build a more “solid” platform, what would it be?
I’d actually tell them what NOT to do. Don’t try to do it all. You can spend all day reading articles about what you SHOULD do as a new blogger. You can burn out pretty quickly if you try to do it all. You have plenty of time! Pick one (maybe 2) social platforms to focus on and focus on your writing. Go from there adding and trying things you come across for promotion, monetizing, publishing etc. Do one thing well and then decide if it is even working before you decide whether or not to keep doing it. Slowly add on and try not to measure yourself against every other blogger. If you are making strides (even baby steps), then you are doing the right thing.
Thanks, Susan. Wishing you much continued success!
Image credit: Red pen