How to Get a Guest Post on Simple Programmer
Earlier this year, John asked me to run some stats on the acceptance rates of guest post submissions on Simple Programmer.
The results were no surprise. With an official submission approval at 33% and a general approval at 16% (learn more about what the difference is below), we are a tough blog to land a pitch on.
As anyone who follows the site, and especially John's YouTube channel knows, this is because we have a pretty high standard for content and a pretty low tolerance for bullshit.
The thing is, we've noticed a steady (and I'm talking steady…bridging on makes Elisa stabby every time she opens her inbox) decline in the quality of pitches and articles coming in over the past 6 months or so. Which is unfortunate, because the submissions that do get accepted and the regular contributors we have here on the site are pretty darn fantastic – we're proud every time we hit publish on something they've written.
This is also no surprise, as Simple Programmer continues to grow and become a coveted link back for guest posters and brands. Daily I'm sending canned responses to just read the frickin' directions on our submissions page or rejections explaining that no, we have no interest in your guest post about a hair serum that is totally a perfect fit for programmers.
But with great power comes great responsibility – and my responsibility is to be the vicious gate-keeper that tries to keep the quality and content here on the Simple Programmer blog at a level that brings readers back (and brings new readers in!)
There was a time when I would feel badly about being such an elitist. As a writer myself, I know how scary it is to put yourself and your thoughts out there for someone else to judge. Rejection isn't a fun feeling for anyone, whether it's personal or professional.
Which is why I wanted to put together a quick little Do's and Don'ts Guide for getting your submission or pitch accepted here at Simple Programmer.
Top 3 Things You Should Absolutely Do To Get a Guest Post Accepted
Do Read the Directions
I cannot emphasize this one enough. If there were a way to put it in flashing red sparkling text, a la 1999 Geocities fonts, without distracting from the rest of the piece, I would.
We have a fairly in-depth Write for Us page that outlines the specifics of the types of articles we are looking for.
It also explains the submission process – which is to fill out the form at the bottom of the submissions page when you are ready to send something to us.
I know, this seems like a jerk move to some, like we are making you leap through rings to get your piece to us.
But the truth is that I'm always looking for a reason to approve a submission. I don't want to reject something that someone has put time and effort into, I want to accept it.
The information on this form, when it is filled out thoroughly, will sometimes give me enough of a reason to push a piece that is on the edge over to be published, after working with our editorial team on revisions.
But if you just send me a 2-3 line email with a pitch for a subject line and expect me to know that you are a fantastic writer with years of programming experience and a desire to give back to the Simple Programmer community, you are sorely mistaken my friend.
That brings me to Do #2…
Do Send a Solid Article or Pitch
Look, I get that writing an article can take a few minutes. Likely a few hours, and that's on a good day.
So you want some confirmation that the article has a fighting chance for publishing before you put all that time and effort into it.
While I personally prefer getting completed first drafts of articles to review and see if they are going to be a good fit for the site, I will always have a discussion with guest posters who submit a serious pitch.
What makes a serious pitch? I'm glad you asked:
- At least a few sentences about the topic and message of the article
- Possible header titles, or at least a rough outline of the different things you will be discussing
- A summation of what you want our audience to learn from the piece
I have never (that I can recall) gotten a pitch that had all this information that I didn't reply to positively. This doesn't necessarily mean that we will absolutely be publishing your submission (I still need to see the finished first draft!), but it does mean that you've given me enough of a reason to say yes for now.
The great thing about publishing with Simple Programmer is that you don't have to be the most brilliant writer that has ever written.
We have a full team of editors and coaches that will work with you to get your piece ready for publishing on the site. In fact, it is the most consistent piece of feedback we get from contributors, that they had no idea they would get such solid direction on revisions and improving their own writing.
As long as we can tell you care, we'll work with you – and let me tell you, it is really easy to tell when you don't.
Speaking of…here's Do #3
Do Show That You Know Our Audience
There are a lot of articles on Simple Programmer about tech stuff.
When you run a site devoted to making the complex simple for programmers, reviewing and breaking down various tech products or software languages kinda comes naturally.
It is because of these keywords, I'm sure, that we tend to attract random tech bloggers and backlink seekers.
Further, I'm sure this is why I send out at least 10 emails a day saying:
You can find the details on submitting a guest post for Simple Programmer here: http://simpleprogrammer.com/write-for-us/
But anyone who reads the site regularly, or listens to John's videos and podcasts, knows that we are much more than a tech blog.
I will often reply to vaguely interesting pitches with the questions: “How will this help our readers? Is it written specifically for programmers, to improve their lives and careers?”
If you cannot answer those questions quickly and easily, without laying it on so thick that I need wading boots to make my through your explanation, then your piece is simply getting an rejection.
And those rejections? They come succinctly and fast. So make sure you aren't doing these things, that will immediately get you a “Thanks but no thanks” message.
Top 3 Things You Should Absolutely Not Do To Get a Guest Post Accepted
Don't Send Spam Emails
I do not know what course or template program has advised people submitting guest posts to use the same exact wording when pitching pieces, but do the math people.
If you got this language from someone to send pitches, how many other people do you think are sending these emails.
I can tell you, off the top of my head, what some of the most frequent phrases are, because I see them on a daily (if not hourly) basis:
- “I'm a big fan of ALLCAPSURL.COM”
- “I read your recent article XYZ and I think this (often unrelated) piece would be a good fit”
- (and my personal favorite (aka the one I loathe the most)) “I'm sure you get lots of spammy submissions so let me get straight to the point…”
Maybe you are just starting out and trying to get your name and byline published. We've all been there. (Might I suggest John's free blogging course if you are struggling to get yourself established in this space?)
I'm more understanding that many other site editors, in that I actually take the time to reply to these emails. It is one quick email, the one I shared above, with a link to our Write for Us page. The difference between people who actually send us a submission through the form, as we ask, and those who just spam my inbox with often unrelated and/or useless pitches is the difference between our 33% and 16% submission approvals.
The people who are serious about writing for us will click through, read the directions, and send a submission accordingly.
The people who aren't? Well, they are on a fast track to me marking their email as spam and never speaking to them again.
Don't Fight With Us. Or Lie
You'd be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't be) how many people try to fight with me over email when we reject their piece.
It's a delicate conversation to have, and I recognize that not everyone is used to having to defend their work in this era of “the internet allows me to say whatever I want so you must listen” publishing.
Just because you can publish your work anytime you want on your channels does not mean that we are going to give you a soapbox on one of ours.
If you get a rejection from me, a simple email back asking for more information and if there is anything you can improve will be met with at least a few sentences more explanation. Then you know what can be changed, and decide if you'd like to revise the piece and send it over again, or take the piece as is to another site.
There are lots of places on the internet to publish articles. If it isn't a good fit for us, it doesn't mean that it is a bad piece. Just not a good fit for us.
Oh, and about the lying thing.
I chat with John daily on Slack, email, and calls. So if you are going to tell me that you've spoken with John and he asked you to write a piece for us, you better hope that is true. If we find out you are trying to manipulate us, playing one person off the other, it isn't going to end well for you. Guaranteed.
Don't Flake Out on the Revision Process
As I mentioned above, we have a pretty extensive editing process on Simple Programmer. With a couple dozen regular contributors and a ton more guest posters, it takes a fair amount of work to make sure that we are keeping the quality and writing consistent on the site.
That doesn't mean that we are going in to strip you out from the article.
We love that the Simple Programmer blog is a collection of different opinions and voices It's exactly what John wanted when he started publishing new writers; to have a place where everyone who wanted to help programmers would have a place to do that.
To a degree.
We still have a style guide that we adhere to for each piece that gets published. We still work with writers to make sure that the article they've submitted is the absolutely best version of their ideas and knowledge.
Most writers understand this process, and find that end up enjoying the chance to learn a bit more about their own voice and style.
Occasionally, though, people get quite upset at the changes.
Which is totally fine. Really, just be a mature human capable of communicating your frustrations and feelings, and message me if you have an issue with revisions. If we can find a compromise, we're more than happy to do that.
You are free to keep the piece exactly as you want it, without any revisions.
But understand, we are free to not publish it if it isn't a good fit for our site.
The Real Take Away – Take Your Time
If you get nothing else from this post, understand this…
It is painfully (PAINFULLY!) obvious when we receive submissions and pitches that have no thought or effort behind them.
They get rejected, and I never think about them again.
But if you are going to take the time to send in a real submission or pitch, because you love this site as much as we do, and would be honored to have your name on an article or six, then I can almost guarantee we will work with you to make it happen.
You might not be the strongest writer. You might not even write in English as your first language. You might have a great idea and good start to a piece, but need some help getting it to a place that we can all be proud to hit “Publish” and send it out to the world.
Make an effort, and we'll do the same.
Interested in writing for Simple Programmer? Check out our Write for Us page for more information – looking forward to reading your submission!