What to Do When They Hold Your Guest Post Hostage

Photo credit Antonov Roman

A polite intro, a list of my choice of topics and a really well-written email got my attention, and Chris swooshed right through the hoops (not that I have any) to be today’s guest poster. His advice is perfect for those who write and submit guest posts around the web – use it wisely, young Jedis, and always for the power of good.

It’s an awful, mind-numbing, frustrating feeling.

You’ve successfully completed a stellar guest post. You’ve pitched it just as successfully. The site editor raves about your work and welcomes you into the authors fold. You take a fleeting moment to revel in self-satisfaction before heading off to the next assignment.

And then nothing happens.

Days elapse, but there’s no sign of your published piece. No emails from the site editor. No indication whatsoever that your work will ever see the light of day.

Your guest post is being held hostage.

It’s not like you can all the police. But God knows you want to.

Why Does This Happen?

There are dozens of reasons why writers wind up in this content limbo. Bloggers and site editors, especially at top-tier outlets, are generally busy people. Dozens of content requests and guest post submissions pour in each week. Editors are often multitasking for their site and can easily get sidetracked.

But some tilt a little too far toward instant gratification and lose sight of a contributor’s work as soon as an agreement is in place. Mutual respect and empathy are two keys to cultivating a worthwhile writer-editor relationship, and an imbalance can contribute to a guest post being held hostage.

So what should you do?

It probably depends (at least in part) on who you’re writing for. If it’s a big-name site, you’ll probably want to take a different tack than you might with a smaller outlet with less traffic and credibility.

But silence from you only services to tacitly condone the practice of a hostage guest post, which only means more headaches down the road at other sites.

Definitely stop to remember that whole mutual respect thing. Writing posts and creating relevant content is part of a symbiotic relationship between authors and site owners. Getting a reputation as a snarky, demanding writer probably won’t boost your industry rep or your bottom line.

Here are five steps writers can consider when their work has suddenly disappeared into the ether:

Calm Down

It’s tough but true. Firing off a biting email demanding answers and an apology probably won’t win you repeat business. Write the email and then trash it. Or just take a breath and stop to remember that other people have lives. Give the editor at least a week if there’s been no discussion about a timeframe for posting your piece. Get back to pitching and writing.

Determine Intentions

It’s probably time to circle back to the editor after a week to 10 days. Check in to inquire about the pending publication of the piece and make sure there are no lingering questions or concerns. It’s always a good idea to ask about headlines or artwork (and it’s an even better idea to include them as part of your initial submission).

Get a Firm Commitment

By this point, that nasty email is starting to feel like a missed opportunity. If you’re closing in on the two-week mark, it’s probably time to respectfully seek a firm commitment from the site editor. Ask for a specific run date and remind the editor why your piece was timely and a solid fit for their site in the first place. Especially note any time-sensitive elements of your work as a way to spur action.

Shop Elsewhere

Site owners and the search engines alike abhor duplicate content. But writers with a piece in limbo should consider pitching the idea to other sites. If the original piece finally comes through, then you can always conduct a substantial rewrite and push the piece along to other interested venues. This is also a way to gain some leverage when the time comes to have one last email exchange with the original site editor.


This is the end of the line, somewhere around the four-week mark. Your work has been hostage long enough. Firmly yet respectfully give the site editor an ultimatum — publish the piece by this date or you rescind the right to publication. Or, better yet, that you’ve changed your mind and will be submitting the guest post to a competing site that will publish your work instead.

No matter your method, remember that professionalism and mutual respect should still win the day — if for no other reason than it’s a small world, especially among people who create and share information for a living.

Chris Birk works with GrowthPartner, a unique firm that provides angel investment and online marketing expertise to emerging companies. A former newspaper and magazine writer, he teaches journalism and media writing at a private Midwestern university. He blogs at Write Short Live Long.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.