Have you ever thought about being on the other side of the submissions fence? That’s just what Mom Babble Founder, Mary Katherine Backstrom did when she turned her personal blog into a submissions-based website. She and her Editor-In-Chief, Jennifer Oradat, are sharing some of the lessons they have learned in their first few months, for those of you who might be considering your own similar move.
When I first started Mom Babble, I always intended it to have a community feel. I assumed that would be developed through my audience; I never considered diversifying our voice with outside writers.
I didn’t even know submitting was a thing until I stumbled upon Beyond Your Blog. Then, my first post on another site went viral, and I was instantly addicted. I became a submissions junkie.
My traffic increased with that viral post and as a result, my goals for Mom Babble became more ambitious. It was a natural evolution to transform a personal blog to a submissions-based website. With planning and a lot of luck, this transition was an exciting and smooth process.
Based on what I’ve learned so far, I’ve put together a list of Do’s and Don’t’s for a submissions-based site.
DO know your audience. What types of posts are a success with your readers, and which tend to fizzle or (God forbid!) lose followers? Your site has a personality; know it well so that you can publish what works for your fans.
DO create an informative submissions landing page. This page should have a clear description of posts you are currently accepting–down to your desired word count, theme, etc. By clearly defining this information, you give writers the opportunity to shape their work to your specifications. That increases the chances of an acceptance (for the writer) and a popular post (for everyone).
DO be picky. Rejections are equally as important as acceptances. Quality of content drives traffic and keeps the process alive. Nobody benefits from a flop publication.
DO streamline the process. Before you request a single submission, make sure you can handle the work. Line up support (an editor, web support, etc) in advance. Create an acceptance and rejection letter that can be personalized. If possible, respond to everyone. There is nothing worse for a writer than a submission that’s lost in space.
DO offer value. A submission has innate value. It is free content! So what do you offer in return? Schedule publication dates in advance. Promote your guest writers on every social media platform you have. Share their posts during peak traffic hours. And never underestimate the power of a good, old-fashioned “thank you”.
DON’T be sloppy. Nothing kills your guest’s publication buzz like a misspelled name or broken link-back. Everyone makes mistakes, but these types of errors will quickly dry up the submission well. Not to mention it indicates a lack of gratitude.
DON’T be rude. Your site is your business, and your reputation can either attract or repel customers. You need writers to come back, again and again. The best way to do that is to treat them with professionalism and respect. Their writing may not be your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean the flavor is bad.
DON’T be afraid to put in some elbow grease. Not every submission will arrive polished and perfect in every way, especially in the beginning. Take the time to find a diamond in the rough and help turn it into a dazzling gem for your page.
DON’T be afraid to ask for help. Yes, your site is your baby. It is your brainchild and the product of hours upon hours of hard work and tears. Find someone who understands this— someone who wants to be a part of it—and start divvying up the work. Accepting submissions is not a one-person job, especially if want to continue writing. You need a support system that you can trust.
DON’T be afraid to go for it. Opening up your page to outside writers will increase your fan base, bring variety to your posts, and improve overall traffic. It’s a lot of work, but the benefits are amazing.
Mom Babble is relatively small in the big scheme of things, but our little blog has taken on a life and voice of its own. Watching our community develop has been the most rewarding part of the process.
That…and the traffic. 😉
**UPDATE – Since this article was published, Mom Babble has transitioned back to being primarily a personal blog Check the submissions link below for the latest on whether or not they are accepting any outside submissions**