Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Indie Life: Reaching Beyond the Indie Authors' Echo Chamber

Today I'm participating in the Indelibles Indie Life blog hop. On the second Wednesday of every month we talk about various aspects of being an indie author. So let's get to it!

As every author knows, marketing a book is as hard as writing one. One trap many people fall into is to communicate only with other writers, a trend one author whose name I now forget called "the indie authors' echo chamber".

It's understandable. These were the people in the chatrooms and newsgroups who supported you as you wrote your book. These are the folks who followed your blog and you followed theirs. They feel your pain and share your joys. There's only one problem:

There are too few of them.

Sure, some indie authors will buy your book. Some may even review it. But they constitute a tiny fraction of your potential readership. You need to make your voice carry beyond the indie authors' echo chamber and reach the world at large.

There are many ways to do this and I'm still learning. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated. My main marketing platform right now is blogging. I'm a professional travel blogger for Gadling so it comes easily to me. On my own blog I try to make my posts have a wide appeal to my target readership. You'll see few posts about writing. There are plenty of other bloggers who do that well, like Cynthia Hope Clark and Dean Wesley Smith. I want to reach readers as well as writers.

I also do lots of guest posts on non-writing blogs. One of my favorites is that run by Osprey Publishing, which publishes my military history books. Since my Civil War novel has a military theme, this is a good audience, and of course I always mention my novel in the "about the author" section! I even focused on the book for a post on Weaving Military History into Fiction. Yeah, my traditional publisher let me push my indie book. They're cool.

Genre magazines often have blogs and they're a good place to pitch since they have readers who already like your genre. One of my faves is Black Gate. I've done a few posts for them, including one on Spiritualism during the American Civil War. Smaller blogs with a wide appeal such a Guerrilla Explorer are also good bets. They published my post on Did Jesse James Fake His Own Death?

All my guest posts include a links to my novel and personal blog. I also tweet about each guest post, using appropriate hashtags to reach beyond my followers.

So. . .how do YOU reach beyond the indie authors' echo chamber?


  1. Don't know yet. I've mainly been focusing on my writing blog (since that's what I know) but I set up another blog that has story excerps and such. We'll see how it works, but I'm getting hits from the ether so it must be doing something.


  2. I think some of this comes down to the fundamentals of how you're packaging your book: the title, the cover, the perceived genre, the product description, the tags and keywords.

    Building a network of interested readers is next to impossible unless you are very very lucky, or have some other tangential network you can draw from (i.e., a veteran writing military fiction, a historical re-inactor writing historical fiction, etc.). However, if you build your book's presence on Amazon etc. so that it attracts the right eyes, you have a chance.

    I didn't think my Commando novel would do better than my vigilante revenge thriller, but it outsells it almost 4 to 1. Likewise, I didn't consider the UK to be a market for me, but the Commando novel outsells the US in the UK by almost 4 to 1 as well. Both of these events were due to the fact that there has been, in the last few years, a big resurgence in the UK of WW2 "men's adventure" style fiction.

    Now, I know no one wants to think of themselves as writing for the market - we all want to write the sorts of books we love and hope others will love them and read them as well. But knowing how your work will fit into the market and how you can "hitch a ride" at least in the beginning is important. There's definitely an art to it, and you won't always get lucky, but I think it is possible to sell outside your echo chamber if you find the right sales angle to work with.

  3. I'm square in the echo chamber! But I chat there with authors about author-things, I'm not there to sell books. The main way I reach out to people outside the indie-author-realm is through Book Bloggers. Plus Amazon does a tidy job of finding readers for me, as long as I keep feeding sales into their algorithms. But that's the way of fiction, I think, which is different than non-fiction - there you can blog/interact with your target audience much more effectively, because they self-identify by subject interest.

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. I agree. It's hard. You can reach out to book bloggers and paid ads, but they're not always successful. Right now I'm focused on the knowledge that the next book is the best marketing. :)

  5. Those are all great suggestions. I think many of us are still struggling with this.

    I've done a lot of author-centric on my blog lately, but have already decided to start swinging that the other way and go after my audience more.

  6. Smart advice, Sean! When I first started blogging, my publisher advised me not to follow a bunch of writer and author blogs. Follow a mixture. Follow potential readers.
    And while I am snowed under as far as reading material, I do own all of your books and WILL read them soon!

  7. Susan made a great point about the Amazon algorithms. I think a lot of people pooh-pooh Amazon Select's free promotion ability because free books don't really affect your sales rank, but what they DO do is give those algorithms a lot more meat to chew on. Not every promotion day will do it, and not every promotion day will be as successful as the next, but they all do the most important thing, which is get eyes on your book, often by seeding people's "also bought"s and "also viewed"s.

  8. I've been blogging for seven years now, but I've never really made a concerted effort to "get my name out there." Maybe that was a mistake, now that I'm wanting to sell books.

    As Laura says above, "The next book is the best marketing," and that's what I'm pushing on now. I have two novellas ready to launch this month, and the sequel/concluding novel for my first novel is planned for late April. Then it's back to writing, writing, writing. ;-)

    One of the novellas will be free. The idea is that I'll entice a lot of readers to at least download the freebie, and maybe some of them will check out what's for sale. I'll share results in an Indie Life post down the road, once I know what actually happens.

  9. Ha! The echo chamber--that's a good way to describe it! I'm still a work in progress, but I've had the best experience connecting with readers on Facebook first, Goodreads second. While my stats show readers are visiting my blog, it's really other authors who comment, and for that I'm still grateful!

  10. Sounds like you've got a good thing going by connecting what you write about with blogs on the same subjects--that automatically broadens your reach. :)

  11. This is going to be one of my goals in 2013. I never heard of the indie echo chamber term but I've realized I'm in it.

  12. 100% correct. I've said many times that my blog followers are not my audience in terms of my writing. That's why I blog very little about my published work. They're mostly writers, so that's what I try to talk about writing.

    I do the shotgun approach to try and reach readers (Goodreads, Twitter, etc.), but again, it's mostly other writers who connect with me. Readers are elusive, but I'm going to make an effort to find them in 2013. :-)

  13. Looks like you got a good plan. I don't know. I'm still fumbling with what I got to think about it yet. But I'm learning.


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