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.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. These are some good points.

    TO me, Id just handle it the same way I’d handle money… because I take time to craft my posts and word smith that shit to perfection. My kind of perfection. Which means the effort behind it is worth its value in money.

    So if I’m sending that off, I’m almost sending away cash, if they choose to accept… great. Free cash! But ever so often I think it’s A-OK to prod a little if the cash’s value isn’t being respected. A small email like “Hey do you have a final date yet?” is a good way to remind them and get an answer.

    Getting angry and firing off nasty emails during a guest post exchange is for retards.

    But on the flip side, I also run my own blog and for blog owners who use WordPress, it really doesn’t get easier than pressing Ctrl+C, setting a schedule date and then forgetting about it till the day arrives. I mean c’mon. There ain’t no excuse. Free content!

    Heh reminds me of the first time I hit up James…

    “I wanan write for you..”
    “But WHY!? You’re a fitness guy”
    “Because, its awesome, just read it!”
    “But WHY?!”

    … Good times.

    God Bless Blogging. And maybe the leafs next year, they need a damn blessing too.
    .-= FitJerks Fitness Blog´s last blog ..6 Reasons Why You Should Eat 6 Meals A Day =-.

  2. A common problem I think. The best thing to do while you bide time to see if and when they’re going to use it is write another post for someone else. Some big blogs have held onto my posts for three months before suddenly emailing me one day with a thanks, it’s live!
    .-= Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot´s last blog ..Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon 1 and Get In the Hot Spot News =-.

  3. When I write a piece, I just accept that it’s gone. I’d never take it back for re-use or to send somewhere else because to me, that’s part of the game.

    However, having written a lot of guest posts, I can definitely agree with most everything else. Be patient, don’t be an ass, and follow up kindly. Some people appreciate follow up, as long as you’ve waited and don’t pester them.
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..Can Introverts find Internet Success? =-.

  4. As if you read my mind James. I have a two-day-old submission without a reply
    so it wasn’t really hijacked yet (in your opinion).
    If a submission site read your email but didn’t at least send a receipt confirmation,
    I think that’s unethical because autoresponder apps could easily do that, right?
    The question is how do we know if our mail was read yet?

  5. I haven’t written a guest post yet… good tips though. I’d agree with Nathan though, once you’ve written and submitted your post, it’s gone. If you submit it somewhere else or add it to your own site the chances of them wanting you to write another guest post I think would dwindle.
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..12 Simple Lessons in Leadership for Those Who Want to Make a Difference =-.

  6. As someone who holds the blog editor position for a medium sized blog as well as a personal blog owner, I tend to disagree.

    My goal as an editor is to schedule posts at least a week in advance. Posts that can’t be used right away are put in a queue, none are ever lost.

    As an example, 8 of my own posts are in that same queue right now. The oldest one was written at the beginning of March and it still hasn’t been published.

    It’s tough creating a balanced schedule. Often guest posts are just submitted blindly to a blog without the author even asking whether their topic is one we need at the time. Another author may have just covered the topic or a similar topic may already be scheduled. In that case, the guest poster will have to wait. For my personal blog, people send me guest posts nearly every month and I reject almost all of them because they really have absolutely nothing to do with what my blog is about.

    Also, I get many of these “guest post” emails, but I can’t just drop my paying client work to review unexpected materials immediately. I think it’s important to view guest posting as a sort symbiotic relationship. Yes, you are providing free material–but, if you’ve submitted to a blog that normally sells advertising your are getting your name out there on the blog without paying the normal advertising rates.

    I’d say be patient. Don’t ever assume that your post is lost. Believe the editor if they say that they are going to use your material. A polite inquiry after four weeks is certainly acceptable. However, the last thing I would recommend is sending your original guest post elsewhere to be published AFTER an editor told you that they would use it. If someone submitted a guest post to me and I said I would use it (eventually), and they did this I would never accept another guest post from them.

    A few tips for guest posters:

    1. Actually read the blog you are submitting to.
    2. Ask yourself if your topic has anything to do with what the blog is about.
    3. Consider asking the blog owner or editor up front what topics they need to have covered. (You might be surprised at how effective this step is.)
    4. When you write the guest post, try to follow the style of the other posts on the blog. Be sure to submit your best work.
    5. Realize that your post may be edited to meet the blog’s standards.
    6. Be patient and considerate of the blog editor when submitting, remember, they may receive many other submissions.

    I think there’s a temptation for the guest post writer to expect to see their post the very next day, or at least the next week. For larger blogs, that is just not realistic. Assume that the owner or editor receives a lot of mail and a lot of unsolicited submissions. Reviewing them is a lot of extra work.

    Good luck to everyone who wants to guest post. I hope this perspective from the other side has helped. 🙂
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should You Write Your Own Copy? =-.

  7. I recently submitted a guest post to a much larger blog. The blogger had solicited guest posts – and received quite a few. Understandably, it took a looong time to cycle to my post or even get feedback.

    My approach: I sent a humorous email to check in. I think the blogger in question appreciated the email and my tone – and ended up posting my piece sooner than planned. And the wait was definitely worth it – traffic on my site went way, way up (as did subscriptions) as a result.
    .-= Ami´s last blog ..Don’t over-romanticize your calling. Do what you love – at whatever level you can =-.

  8. @Fitjerks you’d be surprised at how long it takes to edit a guest post to meet a blog’s standards.

    Very few guest writers follow the site’s standards or send in a formatted post. By the time I’ve reviewed the post, decided to use it, edited it to meet standards, and added in formatting it is at least a half hour. If there’s no image included or if the image submitted can’t be used, that is can be another hour. Add in another half hour to write to the guest blogger and let them know when their post is scheduled, and you can see why it isn’t always done instantly.
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should You Write Your Own Copy? =-.

  9. This is a great list for the finer nuances of scooting that guest post along. It is critical to be diplomatic, but never necessary to be walked all over.

    I think that any blog owner would understand that you would offer your piece to another blog after a certain time limit has passed, especially after you gave them first crack at it.

    …it’s just like a news story. The first reporter to bite gets it, but there is no reason to dilly-dally with someone that isn’t going to publish it.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..How Euthanizing a Puppy Can Save Your Sales =-.

  10. @Laura: Thanks for your excellent comments and perspective. I agree with most everything, especially your thoughts about consistency as it relates to style and voice. I’ve never been on your side of the equation, in either the print or blogging worlds, and I appreciate your insight.

    Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that writers surreptitiously shop their posts willy-nilly. But if I get the green light on a guest post and then fail to hear back from a site editor regarding tentative publication — or just that they’re even still alive — I’m definitely shopping the piece elsewhere after a few weeks. I’m advocating open and honest communication and symbiotic patience on both sides.

    It’s beyond bad form to shop a piece once you have a firm commitment to publish. But just as you wouldn’t publish a writer who did so, I would never re-submit to a site editor who couldn’t just keep me in the loop.

  11. @Laura

    I’ve guest posted and hosted guest posts plenty of times and trust me, if it’s taking that long… you are doing wayyyyy too much work. As a writer I do all the necessary work and email the posts (when asked or preferred) in the WP html formatting. It’s a simple copy paste jobs even if there ARE images. If there are problems, “I” fix them. Formatting or otherwise.

    So if all those formatting situations need to be fixed, you need to tell the writer to do so… its their damn job.

    And its taking you ANOTHER hour to write to them saying “it’s scheduled?!” HOLY SHIT BATMAN woman… should take no more than like 3 minutes. These are huge time chunks you speak of, and you definitely need to shave off like 3 hours from the entire process.
    .-= FitJerks Fitness Blog´s last blog ..6 Reasons Why You Should Eat 6 Meals A Day =-.

  12. @Fitjerk, It was another half hour to write to them, because I try to take the time to do a nice personalized letter (at least the first time).

    I left out the time that it takes to set up their profile if they are a new poster, which includes their bio and gravatar picture. (This is the exposure most guest bloggers want–so, very important step.) 🙂

    Also I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten formatted posts, and usually the writer does it wrong because they don’t know what the standards are. One writer actually sent me the guest post in the body of the email.

    I know these times may seem like an exaggeration, but really they are not. If anything, they are understated. Of course, YMMV. Every single blog is different. I think my experience is somewhat typical on medium-sized blogs or larger blogs where posts are edited (but, not all blogs have an editor).

    I’m sure on a personal blog these times could be trimmed considerably. However, if you are editing and scheduling for a client, you need to follow their rules. Yeah, I probably spend as much time on some guest posts as the author spent writing it.

    It’s been fun chatting, but I need to go back to my regular client work. Maybe if I get that done I can review a guest post, or two. 😉
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should You Write Your Own Copy? =-.

  13. Hi James,

    It’s like any writing, send it in and keep going. Have so many guest posts or self-posts in the fire that you don’t have time to lament over the one that got a way. Kinda like dating!

    I’ve got a guest post coming up and it’s taken quite awhile on both ends. The end result is terrific, so I’m really happy we didn’t rush it.

    Sometimes we fall so in love with our writing that we don’t see that it could use some tweaks: minor or major.

    Great post!

    Thx. Giulietta
    .-= Giulietta Nardone´s last blog ..What makes you get up in the morning? =-.

  14. Thanks for this useful post. I have one question. Isn’t it better to ask for the publication date upfront (as soon as your post gets approved)?

  15. all blogs start somewhere and a lot of blogs at one point need guest bloggers to help ad content to their site. I would not do business with anyone that delayed my post for a week or more. If I were taking guest blog posts and they were not written well then I would send them back to the owner. I understand both sides but it seems as though some blogs view the guest blogger as a beggar type and that is simply not the case, good content is worth way more than a traffic boost from someone elses blog.

  16. Fantastic comments! I’m really enjoying reading other people’s perspectives and experiences. And, being known as a prolific guest poster, time for me to chime in 🙂

    @ Guiletta – That ‘fall in love with our own writing’ is key to being a great guest poster and writing the perfect guest post. When we love it so much it hurts to give it away, we know it’s right to do so… and we should all remember that edits are just part of the game.

    @ Laura and FitJerk – I’ll side with Laura here. A guest post often takes an hour or more to prep, edit, find a picture for, etc etc… there’s a lot of back end work involved that most people don’t see, especially on a quality blog. It’s not so simple as slap it up and let ‘er rip!

    Laura does a fantastic job at Freelance Folder, and considering the number of posts she has to work with on a regular basis (and personally knowing her speedy ability), I’d say she has a pretty objective opinion 🙂

    @ Chris – I never shop elsewhere without checking in with editors. These are often pretty busy people, and they’re overworked and underpaid. Always send a check in, after waiting a reasonable period of time, and always be nice. A quick, “Hey, I know you’re busy… any news on this one?” goes a long, long way.

    @ Joshua – Exactly so. One thing I’ve noticed, too, is that many guest posts are just fine… but not a good fit for the blog, and the editors often don’t feel comfortable saying, “It’s great! Just… not for here.” (Hey, they’re nice people, y’know!) So sometimes the delay just comes from that; people trying to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. And they’ll always understand if you offer it elsewhere instead.

    @ Ami – Someone being nice, funny and friendly? That’s a total win right there.

    @ Laura again – Anytime you want to put those suggestions into a guest post, we’d love to have yours!

    @ Chris/Nathan – Exactly so. It’s like giving a gift. You don’t waltz into your Aunt’s home and say, “Hey, that sweater I gave you? I want it BACK, lady!”

    @FitJerk – Uh, so… habs next season, eh? 😉

  17. @Karol K: I think you’re well within your rights to inquire, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect an answer — and not because the editor is a jerk. Rather, there might be a full publication schedule, a backlog of posts still needing to be slated or a host of other factors that make it difficult for the editor to pin down an immediate run date.

    I would certainly circle back after a few days, or ask the editor to keep you posted.

  18. @Chris: You’re right, that makes sense.
    .-= Karol K.´s last blog ..carlosinho: RT @danielscocco What Do You Think About Personal Blogs? http://bit.ly/bWU0at =-.

  19. I’ve never written a guest post but it’s an interesting topic. It’s a bit of a hard one if you’re not getting a response from an editor. I’d exercise a little patience and wait two or three months & if you haven’t heard from them, I’d drop them a polite note and say that as you haven’t heard from them, you assume they are not interested in publishing the post and will offer it to another publication. But you know what they say about assumptions …

  20. Spyros says:

    Excellent advice. I think that these situations have happened to each one of us. At that point it’s better to think with your brain and not your emotions. I prefer to go slow and calm, because i understand that people can be really busy. I think that the best practice in not to bother blog owners at all and only do so after some really long period of time has elapsed (like a month).
    .-= Spyros´s last blog ..Are You a Non Native English Speaker ? Here Are 6 Tips to Write Better Blog Posts =-.

  21. Well I found this post incredibly annoying: a couple of people have sent me articles for publishing in my newsletter and on my website, and I have been so busy that I sent them holding replies and nothing more for about 3 weeks. Your post made me feel so guilty I had to drop everything and send them the responses they deserved! Thanks for jolting me into doing the right thing 🙂
    .-= Terry Freedman´s last blog ..The Role of Technology in Campaigning =-.

  22. My page rank is 4. I submitted to PR 1 site and after a week, I still have no reply.
    Some gurus teach that you should submit posts to higher ranking sites. It seems now
    that we shouldn’t follow that is that right?

  23. Excellent post and just on time!

    I am actually running a multi-authors blog and it’s accepting guest posts, I receive an average of 1 to 4 posts everyday, this means I am stucked sometimes because I do most of the editing work and SEO, plus promoting posts by submitting it to several social bookmarking sites!

    I decided recently to publish more than one post daily, let’s say from 2 up to 3 posts,and this actually doesn’t give enough time for our blog community to read all posts and interact with the authors in comments like before as blog visitors and bloggers will not spend the whole day reading our blog only, they want also to visit other blogs, so… it’s not giving enough exposure for all authors as if we published one post daily, it’s kind of too much extra work for one person to handle 2 or 3 articles daily with all it’s requirements!

    Now I have posts for the coming 2 weeks that I don’t know what to do with it, and of course I don’t want to annoy any of our bloggers, and keep them waiting for this long while problems could happen, for example one of our bloggers submitted an article to kind of popular site, and the post remains more than one month, then she decided to submit it for us, we have published the post after 3 days or something, the problem happened when the other blog published the same exact post again, then I had to talk with the bloggers about that, and we reached the point of doing nothing about it because the post got good respond on both blogs, comments, retweet, etc! so… I decided to let Google deal with it the way it wants, but I of course I was linking internally to that post more often to give is some power!

    I don’t blame anyone but the blogger who submitted this post should contact the other blog first and tell them that he/she don’t want publishing the post anymore before submitting it to another blog, but it was a mistake and I personally learned from it how to deal with such thing, and I always try to make our bloggers aware about what they are doing not to affect our community!

    Thank you James for the very informative and useful post you have put here!
    .-= Hesham @ FamousBloggers´s last blog ..How Many Times I have to Repeat This? =-.

  24. Having just completed about a half-dozen guest posts, I can say I feel fortunate that I have not had this experience. However, it is like a lot of things in life – you spend time waiting on others.

    It helps to keep your cool if you think about your own busy schedule and how hard it is to coordinate things. Then you can have empathy for the other guy who’s really in the same boat as you.
    .-= David Leonhardt @ seo-writer.com´s last blog ..Four unique social bookmarking gems =-.

  25. Typo: “It’s not like you can all the police” should be “It’s not like you can call the police”

    Other than that, good post.


  1. Friday PR File – April 30, 2010 « Jill. PR. says:

    […] What to do when they hold your guest post hostage – Men with Pens […]

  2. […] Good for you. Guest posting can be an effective way to reach your target audience. Guest poster Chris Birk did a good job recently of describing how a writer feels when a guest post is accepted but has not yet been published. […]

  3. […] you don’t hear back within two or three weeks, follow up with a brief email or telephone call reminding editors of the query and asking them to respond within two weeks’ […]

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