Guest Post Submission Guidelines

So you want to write a post, record a podcast, or shoot a video to be featured on Value of Simple (VoS)? Cool! I’m honored you want to share your work with this community.

And guess what? I’m currently accepting guest posts (known from here on out as “GPs”). Right now I mostly need GPs to publish in the near future, but there’s always room in the queue if you have patience.

But before you get all excited and contact me, there are some things you need to know. These extensive GP submission guidelines are the only way I can guarantee to get the appropriate number and quality worth publishing. I’m pretty picky and there’s a reason why I wrote a guest post for ProBlogger about, yep…creating guest post guidelines. By reading all the guidelines and doing a little extra work up front, you’ll increase the chance of getting a response saying, “Let’s do this!”

By the way, I’m not “big-time” enough to bother with for some people’s standards. If you only pitch guest posts to people with X number of RSS subscribers or with Y amount of monthly unique visitors, check out my latest Pulse Check to see if I’m worth your time.

If you want to jump to different parts of this page use the links below.

General Tips for Submissions

Here are some general “do”s, “don’t”s, and pointers on who should submit ideas.

DO:

  • Run all GP ideas by me before creating the full version. The last thing I want is to turn down your hard work because you didn’t run it by me first.
  • Inspire, entertain, educate, and motivate. Make people feel like they can and must take action today.
  • Be seriously useful but not necessarily serious. You have my permission to have some laughs, get creative, make fun of me (or yourself) and generally make it enjoyable.
  • Tell an honest story. Successful content often tells a good story and I encourage you to as well. But it needs to be real. So talk about the highs and the lows. We all know life isn’t just sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
  • Get specific and practical. Even the most philosophical GP should be specific and practical enough to be useful.
  • Consider how your GP idea(s) will help this community. Will we learn a new skill or concept? Will it inspire us to take action on something difficult or entertain us with your charm and humor?
  • Avoid the top two reasons I reject GP submissions. Those come from people who clearly haven’t read anything on this website before or because the idea is inappropriate to the mission here.
  • Create something that’s a good fit for this community. I don’t cater to a specific demographic so your GP should be relevant to an audience broader than just 32-year-old work-at-home Minnesotan men with mild chaos obsessions (for example).
  • Expect to make some revisions. I might go through several versions of a GP before it’s ready to publish. My standards are high and my criteria is, shall we say, precise. If going back and forth about revisions sounds crappy I’m probably not the guy to deal with.

DON’T:

  • Try to butter me up or be overly concise. We’re all peers and we’re all human. I don’t need my ego stroked just like you don’t need yours stroked. Yes, my time is valuable, but I always make time to consider quality GPs, even if they’re long-winded.
  • Pitch something you can’t produce. It doesn’t matter how amazing a headline or topic sounds if you’ll struggle to actually deliver the value it promises.
  • Use this site as your soapbox. I love a good story as long as it doesn’t frame one person as superior to another. Information about yourself should be about how your experiences can help people in this community. Using appropriate examples, analogies, or case studies are always nice.
  • Expect me to pay money for GPs. Your “payment” comes in the form of links to your website, a genuine interest in helping people outside your own domain, and the joy of helping people improves their lives.
  • Try to pay me to publish your GP. No exceptions.

Who Should Submit:

  • You don’t need to be a blogger to GP. If you rock at creating useful stuff that fits in great here, I’ll consider publishing it – even if you’ve never done anything online before.
  • You don’t need to be “big-time,” “important,” or “popular”. I don’t care how many fans/followers/subscribers you have. If you create awesome stuff, you’re welcome here, regardless of your credentials (or lack thereof).
  • I only accept GPs from individual people. If you’re a “member of a team who writes quality articles” or “could crank up the link juice via SEO for this site,” don’t bother.
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GP Topics and “Normal” VoS Content

Two of the biggest factors I consider with a GP are the topic(s) you want to cover and how you approach them. Most of the stuff around here is related to simplicity, personal finance, organization, and finding that big reason why you want to make changes in your life. But I intentionally don’t cover everything related to these topics. You won’t find an article here about tax planning for billionaires or organizing your shoe closet.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance in showing you have a firm grasp on what this community wants and expects. You have at least read My Story, the About page, and a few posts to get a feel for what we’re all about, right?

I amopen to ideas about GPs outside of my bread and butter, especially if it’s something I write about in my Personal User Guide. However, the odds of success are always greatest if you stay within the overall theme of this place.

Here are some example approaches to get your brain juices flowing. Like I said before, get creative.

  • Could you write a follow-up to a recent post from an unexpected viewpoint?
  • Did you have a notable experience with a service professional others can learn from?
  • Do you have a wild story that would inspire the rest of us?
  • Is there something in the world you just need to change and want to tell people how to help you do it?
  • Are you desperate to dispel a myth, challenge the status quo, or talk about the awesome movement you’re in? Be different and controversial if you like.
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Submission Process

So you read the general tips and know exactly what topic and angle you want to cover in your GP? Super!

Time to crank up an email to guestposts (at) valueofsimple (dot) com with the following information.

  • Subject Line: Use this format please: Guest Post Idea(s) – Insert Idea(s) Here
  • Introduction: Tell me a little bit about yourself, something you saw here that made an impact on you, something we share in common, or otherwise prove there’s a human being behind the text. Don’t jump right into, “Here’s my GP idea for you dude”.

Note: Include the following three things for each GP idea you’re submitting. If you’re pitching multiple ideas – which is great – include a separate section for each. You can even tell me which idea you prefer but I may have different preferences than you.

  • Proposed GP Headline: The headline is perhaps the most critical part of your whole GP. It’s the difference between getting something seen and not getting any clicks. Spend some time thinking about a compelling headline before writing this up. I can tell a lot about how successful a GP might be by the proposed headline.
  • Outline of Your Angle and Content: Give me three or more bullet points outlining your approach, possible sub-headings, and the overall flavor of your GP.
  • How the VoS Community Gets Value from This: Show you know and care about the community here by explaining what kind of value they’ll get from spending their precious time reading/listening/watching this.

After including the previous three sections for each idea move on to these items:

  • Sample GPs or Other Stellar Published Content: I want to get a feel for your style, tone, clarity, and content. Give me 2-4 links and/or attachments to the email with the best stuff you’ve previously published on another website, your own website, or some offline source. I prefer content from a website other than your own.
  • Link to Your Own Website(s) (if you have one): Drop me a link to any websites you have.   
  • “Outtro”: Wrap up the email like you would with a friend. Show some personality, give me any additional context I didn’t prompt you for, or otherwise informally say “take ‘er easy”.
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What to Expect in a Response and When

I generally get back to people within five days about GPs – sometimes much less – but even if it’s been longer than that, all is not lost. If you followed the submission guidelines you’ll be a high priority to respond to.

You took time to brainstorm an idea and contact me so I’ll always give you a “yes”, “no”, or “let’s talk about this some more.” Exceptions are made for people who are disrespectful in their emails or clearly didn’t follow the guidelines. Proposals like those just might get ignored or marked as spam.

If I say no I’ll generally tell you why. Depending on how much time I have my explanation may be brief. I don’t usually offer long justifications for my decisions or explain my thought process for evaluating GP ideas.

But Wait…There’s More!

You’ve clicked “Send” and know what to expect in a reply, but you’re not done yet! From post length to style to republishing guidelines, you’ll want to know all this stuff too. Whether you’re working on an approved GP idea or getting a feel for how I do things on this site, read on.

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Post Specifications

These guidelines exist for a reason, so please don’t break them – at least, not without asking me first. I’m not out to stifle creativity, so if you want to do something crazy or unique, let’s talk about it ahead of time.

Some general points:

  • Post Length: More than 250 words and fewer than 4,000. Basically, take as long as you need to communicate your message, inspiration, or call to action and not a word more. Just because I get long-winded doesn’t mean you need to.
  • Post Format: Most blogs only take GPs in written form. But if you have an awesome idea for an audio, video, picture-based or infographic GP I’m wide open to considering it.
  • Languages: Must be in English (unless you do a video with sub-titles)

For the actual post itself you need:

  • Author Name: Is your name Joey Joe Joe Jr. Shabadoo but you prefer to be published under your pen name “JJJJS”? Unless you tell me a specific author name I’ll go with your first and last name.
  • Headline: I can’t stress enough how important a great headline is. If you want my help revising your proposed one (or would strongly object if I unilaterally revised it) let me know.
  • Intro: Jump right into the meat of it or build drama with your intro. Just make sure you have one and that it explains what the reader is getting into and how it will benefit them.
  • Main Content: You have free reign here. Do what you feel is best. Bonus points are awarded for using hard data, stats (with a credited source), pictures, quotes, and facts.
  • Wrap Up: Have a strong wrap-up that brings things full circle. The conclusion often gets neglected but you won’t let that happen, right? Include your call to action and then prompt readers to comment. You can do that with bold text and bold questions or by saying something to provoke a response.
  • By-line: See the by-line specific section for details.
  • Excerpt (Optional): If you want me to use a specific excerpt when I publish this in WordPress let me know. Otherwise I’ll create something appropriate.

As for Tags, Categories and SEO: I’ll take care of this stuff. Don’t worry about it.

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By-line Requirements

Your byline should look natural and not like an SEO expert helped you write it. It goes at the very end of the post, before any media credits, in italics.

  • Length: 1-2 sentences.
  • Number and Type of Links Allowed: Assuming you’re following the general link guidelines, you have a lot of discretion here. Link to a product you’re selling, your RSS feed, your homepage, your email newsletter sign up, a social media profile, or other things. Just use common sense and don’t be deceptive about the words for the hyperlink and the page it leads to. Anywhere between 1-5 links is OK but you’ll probably get the best results if you limit it to 1-2. Like with everything else, I have discretion over what’s appropriate.
  • Headshot: I don’t publish headshots next to the by-line. In the rare chance I want one, I’ll specifically ask for it.
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Use of Links

  • No Affiliate Links. Yes, that needed to be bolded, italicized, and underlined.
  • You can link to products and services but I might limit or remove them if I wouldn’t personally endorse or recommend them.
  • Links to posts and pages at Value of Simple are highly encouraged. It’s by far one of the best ways you show you care about the community and will increase your chances of a smooth revision process.
  • Only link to your own website pages and posts if it’s relevant to the GP. I’ll be checking hyperlinks to your website to see if they’re appropriate if you use them.
  • I may add links to internal posts and pages when relevant or to an outside resource if appropriate.
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Use of Images, Videos and Other Media

I appreciate links to media you think would work great, but they are not technically required. If you do provide media, let me know where each would go (e.g., initial image at the top, video about a voice recognition elevator for the body). Also, be aware I may decide to use different stuff or nothing at all. What can I say? I get picky about these things.

I can’t embed media that’s wider than 500px, so keep yours below that threshold. As for headshots, see the previous section.

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Editing and Revisions

Want to know how much and what I edit in the revision process? Here’s a non-exhaustive list.

  • Edits for Quality or Clarity: Don’t be offended if I make changes that I feel improve your GP. I try to limit these to allow your voice and style to shine through but I’ve had trouble with this in the past.
  • Be Ready to Make Revisions: Once I’ve seen an approved GP draft I’ll most likely request revisions from you. This doesn’t mean I don’t like it or that it’s not awesome. I’m just super particular about certain things so humor me please. I want to work with you to make this GP as amazing as it can be.
  • Proofreading, Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation: I expect you to respect us both enough that even the first draft of a GP has been proofread, spell-checked, and reviewed for grammar and punctuation. Don’t make me be the editing police.
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Timing and Notification on Publishing

Every once in a while I plan my posts months into the future. If you catch me during one of those times it may be a while before your GP is published, even if I’m super excited about it. Here are some things to know about the timing and notification of actually having something published.

  • You can request a day/time combination for publication, right down to the exact second of the exact day of the exact month. I’ll do my best to accommodate you, but my schedule takes priority in the event of a conflict. Remember, you’re doing this for the benefit of the VoS community, not yourself
  • If you don’t request a specific day/time combination for publication, I will try to notify you at least 24 hours in advance of publishing. I know how bad it sucks to not know when your stuff will go live, so I work really hard to let you know.
  • I don’t have a typical day of the week/month or time of the day when I publish GPs.
  • Any last minute revisions – initiated by you or me – may cause the publication timing to slip.
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Promotion and Post-Publication

Here are some important notes about the promotion and publication of a GP.

  • I’ll be promoting my butt off for you through a combination of social media, my email newsletter, and by calling my aunt to tell her how excited I am to publish this. I expect you do to the same given appropriate notice.
  • Enlist your friends and peers to promote your GP if you want. Just make sure the promotion is tasteful and shares something valuable with people who need it, not just drive traffic to it.
  • Plan on responding to comments the community leaves on your GP for the first couple of days it’s live. You know, the type of responses that show thoughtfulness, add something to the conversation, and that you would want someone to leave for you.
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Republishing Terms

  • Content must be unique, free of copyright law infringement, and never published – now or in the future – anywhere else (e.g., your own blog or any other publication, including offline content).
  • You retain the copyright to any GPs published here for your work or “likeness”. However, you consent to the full article, extracts, samples or examples appearing in other Value of Simple content, products and/or services. Fear not, you’ll always get credit as the creator.
  • If you want to call attention to the GP somewhere other than this website (e.g., your own blog or a newsletter) that’s groovy. The best way is to create an excerpt and a link to the original post. The article in its entirety should only appear on Value of Simple and nowhere else.
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Style Guide

I don’t want to get too Zen Habits here, but I believe a GP should be consistent with the style of the blog it’s on. Therefore, I’ve come up with the Value of Simple Style Guide to help you write your GP. Prepare for a revision request if you don’t follow these guidelines.

Formatting and HTML

  • General Formatting: Wondering whether I left-align pictures in a post? Or if I use alt text in my links? Use the Google Chrome Developer Tool “Inspect Element” or Firefox Firebug plug in to see what’s going on with the HTML and CSS of a normal post here.
  • HTML: If you write a post in Word, Google Docs or a non-plain text editor, the HTML is going to be terrible when pasted into WordPress. Give me the GP in a .txt or .rtf file with the HTML in it so that I don’t have to clean it up. Providing a Word or Google Docs format is useful for me to see the visual layout of the GP but not necessary.
  • Heading Tags: The page title should be the only H1 tag. Use H2 tags for major sub-headings and H3 tags to visually differentiate sub-sections between H2 tags. Use the H6 tag for any credits to media (images, videos, etc.).
  • Citing Media Credits: Any pictures used in the post should be cited with an H6 tag at the very end of the post. The format is: “Photo Credit: <insert first one here with a hyperlink>, <insert second one here with a hyperlink>, etc.
  • Crediting of Sources: Always credit your sources for media, a fact, a stat, a quote (if possible) or anything that originated in someone else’s brain. There are many acceptable ways to credit a source and I’m not particular to one over the other (e.g., listing the credit in parenthesis vs. a hyperlink to the source).

Style and Structure

  • Bold, Italics, Underlining and ALL CAPS: I use bold font all the time and you can too. It’s easy to get excessive with it so be mindful when bolding something. I use italics sparingly and very rarely underline anything. Once in a blue moon I’ll use ALL CAPS but you shouldn’t. I may add or remove any of these style items in the revision process.
  • Voice: Who’s voice do I use?The short answer is whomever the heck you feel like. Create in my voice, in your voice, in someone else’s voice, or a combination of voices. Just be clear whose perspective you’re creating from.
  • Lists: Lists are good. Whether bulleted or numbered, I strongly encourage their use. They can help break up a section and make it easier for readers to scan the post for relevant information.
  • Sentence and Paragraph Length: My sentences can get long (I’m working on it), but my paragraphs stay short. Your sentences should be short, if possible, with sufficient punch. Write like you talk. In bursts. Or in one giant breath before gasping for air. Do not use paragraphs with more than 3 or 4 sentences.
  • Structure and Focus: Make sure your GP has a tight structure and limit side notes or tangents. Make it coherent.

Grammar, Punctuation, and Language

  • Ending Sentences in Prepositions: It’s OK to do it. Thanks for having my back Merriam-Webster
  • Proof-Reading, Grammar, and Punctuation Errors: I reserve the right to do sub-standard proof-reading or grammar/punctuation checks on my own content. You’re better than that though so make sure you do all three before sending me your first draft. When in doubt, read it out loud. If a sentence or paragraph doesn’t make sense when you say it then revise it.
  • Single Space After Periods: Just please do it, even if you normally don’t.
  • Exclamation Points: Use sparingly. Something should be really exciting or anger inducing to warrant an exclamation.
  • Swear Words: Once in a while an f-bomb is necessary to drive a point home. I’m no prude but I prefer to see content on my site without swear words.point.research journal.
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Increasing Your Chances of Getting a “Yes”

You’re almost through this epic set of guidelines. Do you want to increase your chances of me saying, “Let’s do this thing baby”? If so, I hope you started engaging me long before sending me your GP idea. If you can say yes to at least some of these questions, you’re definitely helping yourself out.

  • Have we interacted before in person, on social media, via email or through some other medium?
  • Have you left comments on this blog that go beyond “Nice post Joel”? The kind that are genuinely thoughtful or helpful to others?
  • Are you a Twitter follower, Facebook fan, in a G+ Circle or subscribed to the email newsletter?
  • Will someone I know and respect vouch for your awesomeness?
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Still Interested?

Go back up to the Submission Process section and send your email to guestposts (at) valueofsimple (dot) com. And thanks again for your interest in creating something cool for this community!

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