Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Posting Tips for Writers

This year, I've broken into guest posting as both a guest poster and as a host of guest posts (over at my Poetic Asides blog). So far, I'm pretty pleased with both sides of the guest posting process. As a writer, it gives me access to an engaged audience I may not usually reach. As a blogger, it provides me with fresh and valuable content I don't have to create. Guest blogging is a rare win-win scenario.

That said, writers could benefit from a few tips on the process of guest posting:
  1. Pitch guest posts like one would pitch articles to a magazine. Include what your hook is for the post, what you plan to cover, and a little about who you are. (Click here to read the newly created My Name Is Not Bob guest post guidelines.)
  2. Offer promotional copy of book (or other giveaways) as part of your guest post. Having a random giveaway for people who comment on a blog post can help spur conversation and interest in your guest post, which is a great way to get the most mileage out of your guest appearance.
  3. Cater posts to audience. As the editor of Writer's Market and Poet's Market, I have great range in the topics I can cover. However, if I'm writing a guest post for a fiction blog, I'll write about things of interest to a novelist--not a poet.
  4. Make personal, but provide nugget. Guest posts are a great opportunity for you to really show your stuff to a new audience. You could write a very helpful and impersonal post, but that won't connect with readers the same way as if you write a very helpful post and personal post that makes them want to learn more about you (and your blog, your book, your Twitter account, etc.). Speaking of which...
  5. Share links to your website, blog, social networks, etc. After all, you need to make it easy for readers who enjoyed your guest post to learn more about you and your projects. Start the conversation in your guest post and keep it going on your own sites, profiles, etc. And related to that...
  6. Promote your guest post through your normal channels once the post goes live. (If you're not used to the whole blogging thing, check out these blogging tips.) Your normal audience will want to know where you've been and what you've been doing. Plus, guest posts lend a little extra street cred to your projects. But don't stop there...
  7. Check for comments on your guest post and respond in a timely manner. Sometimes the comments are the most interesting part of a guest post (no offense). This is where readers can ask more in-depth or related questions, and it's also where you can show your expertise on the subject by being as helpful as possible. And guiding all seven of these tips is this one:
  8. Put some effort into your guest post. Part of the benefit to guest posting is the opportunity to connect with a new audience. Make sure you bring your A-game, because you need to make a good impression if you want this exposure to actually help grow your audience. Don't stress yourself out, but put a little thought into what you submit.
One additional tip: Have fun with it. Passion is what really drives the popularity of blogs. Share your passion and enthusiasm, and readers are sure to be impressed.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


By the way, I'm serious about accepting guest post pitches for this blog. I figure if my name's not Bob, there's a good chance yours isn't either. And if it is, maybe you can pitch me on a guest post from an actual Bob. Anyway, click here to read the guest post guidelines.


If you want to learn more about connecting with readers online (and in person), check out these resources:

Guest Post Guidelines

Guest posts are a great way to share your voice with a new audience while promoting your blog, book, and/or whatever else you have going on. If you're interested in sharing a little bit of yourself with the My Name Is Not Bob crowd, then read these guidelines to figure out how to get the ball rolling.

Here's what you need to do:
  • Send an e-mail to with the subject line: MNINB Guest Post
  • Include who you are and anything about you that might make you interesting to the readers of My Name Is Not Bob.
  • Include an idea (or three) that you're interested in covering in a guest post
Some possible guest post ideas could include:
  • Top 5 or 10 or 20 list of something related to writing, parenting, self-promotion, etc.
  • Personal experience story that fits with other posts on My Name Is Not Bob. Just remember: Your experience should have some form of takeaway value for readers.
  • Tips or advice on how to accomplish something.
But these are just a few ideas. I'm open to creativity. Just shoot me an e-mail with your idea(s). And if you have a blog or website, include that.

If I like your idea, I'll probably want the following from you:
  • Guest post of 500-1,000 words
  • Digital image of you (and any other images you feel are appropriate to the post)
  • Preferred bio of 50 words-ish (including any links to your blog, website, Twitter profile, etc.)
I'd like this to be a pretty easy and laid back process. So have fun with it and don't be afraid to bounce around some ideas with me. Good luck!

Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Click here to check out a few helpful posts on successful blogging:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Life as a Den Leader: Supertrip 2011

Way back in August, I somehow ended up volunteering to be the den leader of Reese's Tiger Cub den. I'll admit that during the first few months I alternated between feeling overwhelmed and half-way competent (though never totally on top of my game). Lately, I've been feeling half-way competent more and more often.

Basically, I've come to the realization that Tiger Cub parents are supposed to learn as much as the Tiger Cubs themselves during this first year of scouting.

Reese and I in the hangar on the Yorktown

Patriots Point, South Carolina
Pack 420 went on our annual "supertrip" this past weekend to Patriots Point, which is located right across the river from Charleston's French Quarter. It was a great opportunity for Reese and I to spend a weekend together with a bunch of other scouts and scout-parents sleeping on the USS Yorktown.

On the way down, Reese was excited to be going to South Carolina. Then, he was excited to see and touch some Spanish moss. Then, he was excited to see and touch actual palm trees. And when we got into the marshy areas, he was on a vigilant lookout for alligators. For the most part, he kept this excitement up throughout the whole trip.

A few things about the Navy
These ships are not made for 6-foot tall guys who like to walk on the balls of their feet. Even on the Yorktown, I had to constantly remind myself to walk flat-footed, or I would've left the ship with multiple concussions. But even flat-footed, I still had to duck every so often. Then, there's the USS Clamagore, a submarine at Patriots Point, that gave me a nice quad-muscle workout going through it, which Reese wanted to do multiple times.

Beyond feeling too tall on the ships, there were also the bunks, which were stacked four beds high and two across (about 3 inches or so separating me from the guy on the other side of me). The bunk on top of mine had about a foot or so between my face and the bottom of the cot. We brought our own sleeping bags and pillows to lay on the beds.

The view from my bunk (yes, those are my feet)

And the showers changed temperatures with each flush of the toilet. Our sailors have it rough, especially if they are taller than 6 feet.

Going to sleep at night
Imagine two boys keeping themselves up by giggling and grabbing at each other. Then, multiply that by another 30 or 40 pairs of boys. Then, imagine the first father who can ignore the giggling enough to get to sleep, and imagine this father has a distinctive snore. And if you can, imagine that this makes the boys all laugh each and every time the father snores. And, well...let's just say I was glad to get back home to Tammy on Sunday.

Final thoughts on Patriots Point
The trip really was excellent. There's nothing that makes a parent feel better than to watch one of his kids grow, and I witnessed Reese making new friends, braving new challenges, and even volunteering to leading a group of 200+ people in the pledge of allegiance. Together, we walked up and down more than 100 flights of stairs (not an exaggeration), saw several cool exhibits, learned new things about our history and marine biology, and even watched Tora! Tora! Tora! on the big screen.

In fact, Reese gave the ultimate compliment by claiming that he wants to move to South Carolina. Wow!

Duluth Police Department
For the time being, we're not moving anywhere (not even South Carolina), but I did line up another tour for all the Tiger Cub dens (there are two others besides my own). We went there last night, and it was a fun experience. I think several of the boys (including Reese) started the tour a little afraid they'd somehow get "locked up" while they were there, but all of them seemed to have a lot of fun.

This tour was most significant for me as a den leader, because it completed the Tiger Cub requirements for three of my five scouts. (Two of them still need to make up an earlier requirement they missed.) I couldn't be any happier or feel any more half-way competent.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Does this post get your camping juices flowing?
Then, check out these cool camping-related products and remember that you don't have to be an expert to have fun, you just have to "Do Your Best."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Negotiating Tips for Writers

While being an editor pays the bills around here, I always see a writer when I look in the mirror. And just to show you how much I care about my fellow writers, I'm going to make my life as an editor potentially more difficult by sharing my negotiating tips for writers. Different editors surely approach negotiation in their own unique ways, but these are my tips for handling editors like myself.
  1. Always try to negotiate. I loathe negotiating. Judging by the lack of negotiation from most of my freelancers, I've concluded that most of them loathe negotiating too. But I think it's important for writers to at least try to negotiate from the beginning, because I take those writers a little more seriously, especially if they...
  2. Deliver the goods on your first assignment. Write an amazing article with great sources and examples, and I'm more likely to offer you a better contract the next time around. If I don't, I may be trying to maintain the status quo, but you should try to nudge me again. And I emphasize nudging.
  3. Don't make your demands a "my way or the highway" situation. That is, don't make it that kind of situation unless you're willing to take the highway. There have been situations, especially when I'm working with a new freelancer, in which I'm not able or willing to go over my initial offer. There have been very good pitches that I let walk, because I couldn't (or wouldn't) go higher. Believe me, I always wish I could offer more, but I have to fill my pages with great content (not squander it all on a handful of articles). That said...
  4. Pitch me with an idea that is unique and truly helpful for my audience. If you pitch me on an interview or list of query tips, I'm less likely to get excited than if you pitch me on an article that tells writers how to make a living off Twitter in 30 days (and actually have the track record to back up that claim). For instance, the freelancer who puts together our "How Much Should I Charge?" piece in the Writer's Market book is far and away my top paid freelancer, because she has to survey professionals in several different fields of writing. It's a unique piece that is truly helpful for my audience. As such, she has greater negotiating power. Still...
  5. Choose your battles. I advise negotiating each time you get a new assignment. Maybe I'll give a little, maybe I won't. But please pick your battles about what you want to negotiate. Don't pick apart every single clause in your contract. That gets annoying on my end, and I'm just too busy to enjoy being annoyed. Related to that...
  6. Don't be a pest. I'm more willing to negotiate with writers who complete their assignments on time and don't contact me every couple days with a revision of an already turned in piece or who try to re-negotiate the fee on an article after we've already assigned the piece. I like it when writers ask questions and want to make sure they understand an assignment, but I don't like to have to constantly haggle over things after we've come to an agreement. That's a good way to not receive any more assignments in the future.
  7. Think of creative ways to negotiate. Offer to write a sidebar for an extra fee--or a series of blog posts. If the editor is unable to offer more money, ask for more complimentary copies. Or some other related comp that the editor may be able to send your way. Editors like to make writers happy (especially if they do a great job), so help them help you get more out of your relationship.
By the way, if you haven't checked it out yet, you may be interested in my post on How to Deal With Problem Editors. Also, after my initial post, I found some great tips from the writer's perspective by Carol Tice in her post 10 Negotiation Tips for Writers.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Here are some great resources for more negotiation strategies and tactics:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blog Design Tips for Writers

Design is an important element to any blog's success. But how can you improve your blog's design if you're not a designer? (Note: If you are a designer, you probably don't need to read this post.)

I'm just an editor with an English Lit degree and no formal training in design. However, I've worked in media for more than a decade now and can share some very fundamental and easy tricks to improve the design of your blog.

Here are my 7 blog design tips for writers:
  1. Use lists. Whether they're numbered or bullet points, use lists when possible. Lists break up the text and make it easy for readers to follow what you're blogging.
  2. Bold main points in lists. Again, this helps break up the text while also highlighting the important points of your post.
  3. Use headings. If your posts are longer than 300 words and you don't use lists, then please break up the text with a heading. (Check out this post to see just how basic headings can be.)
  4. Use a readable font. Avoid using fonts that are too large or too small. Avoid using cursive or weird fonts. Times New Roman or Arial works, but if you want to get "creative," use something similar to those.
  5. Left align. English-speaking readers are trained to read left to right. If you want to make your blog easier to read, avoid centering or right aligning your text (unless you're purposefully calling out the text).
  6. Use small paragraphs. A good rule of thumb is to try and avoid paragraphs that drone on longer than five sentences. I usually try to keep paragraphs to around three sentences myself.
  7. Add relevant images. If you've read my blog for any period of time, you've probably noticed that I shy away from using too many images. My reason is that I only like to use them if they're relevant. Images are very powerful on blogs, so please use them--just make sure they're relevant to your blog post.
If you're already doing everything on my list, keep it up! If you're not, then you might want to re-think your design strategy on your blog. Simply adding a header here and a list there can easily improve the design of a blog post.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Here are a few other posts related to blogging:

Want to take your blogging to the next level?
Check out ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett. Put together by one of the bloggers on my best blogs list, this book may or may not help you get to a six-figure income, but it will provide several ideas to try monetizing your own blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best Blogs for Writers to Follow

It seems that everyone and their moms has a blog nowadays. (Note: My mother does not have a blog yet, but there's always hope.) This is both a great and horrible thing. It's great, because we've never had it so good when it comes to expressing ourselves. It's horrible, because it's never been easier to feel overwhelmed by the tsunami of people expressing themselves.

To try and help writers find great blogs to follow, I've compiled this list of best blogs for writers to follow. I expect this list to be different a year from now than it is today, but I think this is a good starting spot.

WD Blogs
Let me start by getting my Writer's Digest peeps out of the way. Some of these may appear in other sections of this list with their other blogs.
Poetry Blogs
I'm a poet. So let's get poetic next.
Fiction Blogs
I love fiction too. That's where I concentrated my creative efforts in college at the University of Cincinnati.
Other forms of writing (including nonfiction)
Technical and professional writing, copywriting, etc., it all falls under here until I can break out into its own category.
Okay, so that'll work for getting started. And like I said, I'm ready to add more if I think they're truly helpful. So, please chime in with your recommendations starting now. Either comment below, send me an e-mail at, or let me know on Twitter.


You can follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


If you're interested in the best blogs for writers, you may also be interested in these posts:

You may also be interested in what I think was maybe the best book ever created for writers: Writer's Digest University, by the Writer's Digest staff. I don't just say that because I work for the company. The book itself is thick and packed with information, but it also includes a one-year subscription to and a DVD with 4 webinars (that usually cost like $50-100 a piece). Talk about getting your money's worth!

Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's a girl!

Yesterday, I lit up Twitter and Facebook with the good news that Tammy and I are expecting a girl. Will came with us to the ultrasound, and he was so well-behaved. He held onto the ultrasound prints and repeated, "Sister! Sister," as we drove Tammy to her work afterward.

Will with sister (ultrasound print).

Since both sides of our families are a little girl-deficient, everyone has been super excited to finally be getting a girl.

During the ultrasound and check-up, we also saw that our girl-to-be is very active and heard her strong heartbeat. I can't wait to see her in June and then learn over time whether she'll be a girly girl or a tomboy--or some kind of mix of both.

I'm sure I'll have deeper analysis of having a daughter later on, but right now, I'm just happy that she's doing well.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Poetry, love, and everyday matters

Tomorrow morning, Tammy and I should learn if we're going to have a boy or a girl during Tammy's scheduled ultrasound. I'll, of course, update everyone tomorrow at some point.

For now, I want to share a few links that've been circulating online that are related to me.

Miriam Sagan conducted a short three-question interview with me on her Miriam's Well blog. She asks me questions like: "Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?"

Click here to see how I answer that question as well as two others.

Amanda Hoving recently had me on her Amanda's Wrinkled Pages as a guest blogger. I wrote a post on writing and love titled "Share Your Writing and Who Knows What Will Happen," in which I describe the event that got me hooked on poetry and how poetry got me hooked on my wife, Tammy.

Click here to read the guest post.

Everyday Matters
Amanda Oaks published my poem "I think the world is a pin cushion" back in October, 2009, on her Kind Over Matter blog (with a really cool image included), but earlier today, she shared the link again on Facebook, which inspired this post. So even though the poem has been on that blog for more than a year now, I feel like I should go ahead and link to it one more time.

Click here to read the poem.


But there's more...
I'm working on a guest post that deals with social media for Erin Reel's blog, The Lit Coach's Guide to the Writer's Life. I believe that post will run on or around February 14, which is Valentine's Day! What better day to learn a little more about getting social, right?

Click here to check out Erin's blog.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Wait a second! Is Valentine's Day right around the corner? Here are some possible gifts to get those you love:
  • iTunes gift card. That way your sweetie can download a lot of Marvin Gaye and Barry White for, umm, you know, listening to.
  • Vase. For those flowers you're going to get that that special someone.
  • Kindle. If your sweetheart loves reading, then this is a no-brainer.
  • Love Actually. Instead of going out to a movie, stay in and cook a romantic dinner for two. This movie works almost as well as the Marvin Gaye and Barry White for, umm, well, listening to.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another AWP Bites the Dust

Another year, another AWP Annual Conference that I don't attend (but wish I had). As usual, several great writers I know will be both attending and presenting. As usual, I'm invited to several events that I won't be able to attend. As usual, I'm already looking forward to next year!

Yes, like Charlie Brown thinking he'll eventually kick that football, I convince myself every year that next year I'm going to attend the AWP Annual Conference.

So where is the 2012 AWP Annual Conference?
For me, it's actually in a great location for possibly attending: Chicago! I have family in both Ohio and Indiana, so it's an easy drive--barring any catastrophic winter storms. Not that it snows in the north in February.

I've been to Chicago a few times previously, and I think it's a fun city. It's a little like Manhattan, but also a little like Southwest Ohio, which feels a little like home to me.

What does AWP mean anyway?
AWP is short for The Association of Writers & Writing Programs. A lot of non-academic writers look down on the organization as academic, but I just see another great opportunity to hang with a bunch of like-minded writers from a variety of backgrounds. Besides, there's nothing wrong with wanting to further your knowledge of writing if you want to be a writer.

So when is the 2012 AWP Annual Conference?
It starts on February 29 (which I think is a fun day to start an annual conference) and runs until March 3.

Are you going to go this time?
It's funny that I'm asking myself this question as if someone else is asking me this question, right? Okay, maybe it's a little confusing and/or disturbing, but I'll pretend that someone named Bob is asking the questions, and that I, a person who is not named Bob, am answering these very Bob-ish questions.

Well, Bob, I'm definitely going to give it my best shot, which is something I know you've heard before. But this time I have a signed document, and I just know I have to go with a signed document.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

Btw, you can follow the 2011 AWP on Twitter by using the following hashtag: #awp11


Maybe it's appropriate that I'm not going to AWP once again when the conference starts on Groundhog Day. By the way, I watched that movie with Tammy and the boys tonight. And as usual, it rocked. If you haven't seen Groundhog Day, you should check it out. I'm a big Bill Murray fan, and this is one of his best.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Golden Rule to Everything

On our way home from our pack meeting last night, my 7-year-old stepson Reese and I stopped to pick up our mail. As I went through all of it in the car, Reese asked, "Is there anything for me?" There was not.

From the back seat, Reese said, "Nobody ever writes me letters."

I called back to him, "Well, do you ever write anyone else letters?"

"No," he said. "Because nobody writes me any letters."

I could see the cyclical logic machine firing up, so I said, "Let me tell you about the most important rule of living there is. If you live your life by this rule, you'll be much happier. It's called the golden rule, which is: 'Treat other people as you would like to be treated.' Don't wait for other people to write you letters. Write letters for other people, and they'll return the favor."

By the time we left for school this morning, Reese had already finished writing four letters. And knowing Reese, he'll probably compile a list of other people to write today. Instead of focusing on what he doesn't have, Reese now has a plan for making himself and other people happy.


It's easy to forget (or dismiss) this rule as we age. Sometimes the things we want seem so complicated that we think the golden rule is no longer applicable--or that we need more complicated ways of handling our problems. However, I've found again and again throughout my life that simplifying things always makes me happier, and that using the golden rule makes me happier too. Plus, it tends to make others around me feel better.

Do you want those around you to be nicer to you? Then be nice to them. Say "please" and "thank you." Throw in a "you rock" from time to time. Don't wait for someone else to make the first move, because that could get both of you locked into a pattern of focusing on how the other person is not being nice or polite.

And what do you do if your use of the golden rule doesn't change some people around you? Keep applying the golden rule. After all, the golden rule is not to "treat others as you'd like to be treated--unless they don't treat you the same in return." No, keep practicing the golden rule. Everyone has different levels of defense layers (and yes, some people will just never change), so some people will respond immediately to your good attitude. Others will take time. But it's not just about the people around you. Applying the golden rule makes you feel better.

Just look at Reese who went from disappointed to filled with purpose. That's how we can all be.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Do you want to receive something in the mail? Why not subscribe to a magazine? Here are some of my favorites:
  • National Geographic. This magazine is always loaded with interesting, well-researched stories. Plus, the images are always great!
  • Writer's Digest. Yes, I'm a senior content editor in the Writer's Digest Writing Community, but beyond that, this magazine is wonderful because of Jessica Strawser's vision and commitment to the title. Believe me, there was a time when I worked here that I never recommended it to others.
  • Runner's World. I'm (sometimes) a runner, and this magazine is always filled with inspiring articles and great advice for form, diet, and gear.
  • Poets & Writers. Yes, another writing magazine. After all, I'm a writer and a poet.
  • Parents. With four boys (and a fifth child on the way), you better believe this is an important magazine in the Brewer household.