Write for The Books That Made Us!
So, you’re interested in writing a guest post on The Books That Made Us? Excellent news!
Every post is penned by a guest writer so we need plenty of submissions!
Read on for guidance on what and how to pitch.
Who can feature here?
Pretty much anyone!
The only criteria for being featured on The Books That Made Us is good writing.
There is no prioritisation for big followings or big names, so if you have something to say about a book that made you, please don’t let fears about your publication size get in the way of pitching!
Although this is primarily designed with Substack writers in mind, if you don’t have your own publication you are still welcome to submit a pitch too.
If your pitch and resulting submission are good, you will feature.
What are we looking for?
The central idea is to explore a book that played a pivotal role in your life. A book that made you.
This isn’t necessarily your favourite read — in fact, you may not have even liked it first time round.
A foundational book is one which has shaped who you’ve become. It’s influenced how you think about the world and your place in it to such an extent, you feel you may not have become the same person without it. A book that you read and reread and have thought about for years afterwards.
With this in mind, the piece should include a lot of you in it. It’s not a straight book review, although it will include some elements of this. It’s not a straight memoir either, as the piece should be intimately tied to the book you’re discussing.
You’ll know you’ve succeeded if you’re able to evoke two things:
Booklust - the reader wants to read the book after reading your words.
Emotional resonance - your story makes the reader feel deeply! Whether they laugh, cry, empathise or sympathise is entirely up to you.
This genre of writing is called Creative Criticism. For a great introduction to this form, see this explainer from.
What sort of thing should I include in my piece?
There are no fixed criteria for a submission, but there are a few things you may want to consider:
What was going on in your life when you read the book for the first time?
What was the immediate impact of the book?
Has the way you thought about the book changed over time?
How has it shaped who you are? How has it made you?
Having said all that, none of this is mandatory - you’re free to explore as you wish! As I said above, the only criteria for appearing on The Books That Made Us is high quality writing!
Is there a set format?
No! Variety makes for good reading!
You’re welcome to explore your foundational book however you think best. You could consider an essay-like post; a Q&A format (especially if you’re short on time); maybe even a dialogue with the book itself (?!) - you’re free to experiment!
My intention is to get out of the way and let great writers do their thing!
What are the rules?
While there is no set format or mandatory approach, there are a couple of ground rules.
Each piece should focus on one foundational book only.
It can’t be a book you wrote yourself.
You can’t choose a book already covered by someone else on The Books That Made Us. (Unless perhaps a long time has elapsed since and your piece is quite different!)
The word count is set at a hard maximum of 1500 words - though you may find a shorter piece performs better!
Try not to spoil the plot of the book you’re discussing — the hope should be for the readers to want to pick up the book after they’ve read your piece.
That’s it! Format / angle / style is up to you!
Can I plug my own Substack?
My hope is that this will become a way for great writers on Substack to find new readers and subscribers.
With that in mind, I will introduce each guest post with a short blurb, tagging both the writer and their Substack (if they have one). Then I’ll link their Substack again at the end of the piece.
That way your submission can focus on the book without having to worry about squeezing in a plug somewhere too!
You are also free to cross-post the piece to your own Substack, although I’d ask you wait until after it’s been published here first.
Will you edit the posts?
I will give the posts a once over read for you, to check for any typos or errors. Where I think it may be helpful, I may make a few suggestions based on what I think may resonate best with the audience.
However, my general philosophy is to let writers do their thing!
What does success look like?
My hope is that your piece will expose your writing to more readers and result in some new subscribers for you.
However, it’s best not to write with that mind. The primary goal of these pieces should be to celebrate the transformative power of literature. Aim to inspire readers to reflect on their own influences, and to connect with your story.
The highest compliment to your writing will be if your words persuade readers to pick a new book that, in time, they’ll say played a part in defining who they are!
Will you definitely post my submission?
If you send in a pitch, and I like it, I’ll invite you to write the full submission.
However, that’s not a guarantee that it’ll definitely be posted once complete.
As above, the only criteria for featuring here is good writing.
However, that means that if I don’t think your submission is good enough, I reserve the right to not publish it.
I’ll try my best to explain why and, if possible, I’ll suggest revisions (politely!) in order to get it to a publishable standard. However, I can’t promise anything.
Any last advice?
If you’re stuck, you may find framing the piece as a turning point in your life works well.
Focus on communicating a single idea. Trying to hit too many points may end up diluting the impact of your message.
Brevity is the soul of wit!
You don’t have to use the maximum word count. You may find a shorter piece resonates better as more people will read it.
Beware of long sentences.
Don’t try to fit your whole life story into a single piece - you’re too complex and varied a person for that to be possible!
How do I pitch?
Fill in this form.
If I like your pitch, I’ll let you know and you can get writing.