Rise and Shine

An Open Letter to Indie Writers: Cross Promotion Works

Photo of RS GuthrieAs independent writers, it sometimes feels as if we are lost in the jungle, far beneath the canopy where the light makes ordinary folk like us visible. We carry with us our backpack full of books, as it were—our canon—yet have no readers with whom to share our words. And no matter how extraordinary those words might be, if we (ergo they) cannot be found, who will judge their greatness? We are isolated.


Or are we?


If we are so isolated, how then can there even be a we? Indie writers are not alone in the forest because there are other indie writers! Yes, some are a thousand miles from civilized readers. The new authors; those poor souls who have isolated themselves, having unknowingly parachuted into the loneliest core of the deepest, darkest pits of the earth. By publishing that terrifying (yet exhilaratingly monumental) first book, they have become no one. Unheard of. Lost in the jungle.


But there are other indies out there with them. And some of those writers have been milling about, seeing how far they can get each night. Some have moved their camps miles and miles closer to the outside world.


Others are several hundred closer.


A thousand.


And some—yes a select few—have found their way out, most by using a machete, over time, to hack away the tangled challenges of obscurity and a compass—one well-earned and recalibrated again and again in order to zero in on their intended audience.


The point is if we, the isolated ones, begin to depend on each other, and we work as a network of not just writers but readers and communicators—then there is a chance for us all. If we read each other’s work, if we help edit and proofread and suggest, then the word slowly begins to spread. If we socialize our efforts—if we Tweet and we Facebook and we Link IN and Blog OUT—then the word spreads even faster.


Like the old bucket brigades, used to put out fires one pail of water at a time, we can act as a human (author) chain and word of our work can move, albeit slowly, from the middle of nowhere out to the fringes where the masses of readers live—out into the glorious light of the book market.


It is called cross promotion—authors helping authors; writers touting writers. We all need the same thing: readers. And trust me, there are plenty of readers for everyone, because readers—like the tanks in our cars and trucks and motorcycles—need frequent refueling. The individual reader needs new books faster than any individual writer can possibly produce them. We cannot write as fast as they read.


So there are enough readers for us all. We just have to get to them. And the only way we are going to accomplish that is to befriend each other. If instead we choose to turn our backs on our fellow indie writers, we will be no closer to the realm of the readership than we were before. In fact, we will be more distant, for it helps our own writing more to join and to be part of the team and it poisons our pen when we sulk off to the dark caves and empty tunnels and write to ourselves.


Share the workload. When one writer tires, pick up the slack. Raise a barn with the hammers of a hundred instead of just one.


CROSS PROMOTE. It works. It works because through camaraderie and amplification and economies of scale, we are stronger, louder, faster, and so very much more formidable.


And our works will be read.

Latest posts by R.S. Guthrie (see all)


  1. Alexandralanc /

    A great post, and very good advice. I completely agree that we should all ban together. Not only will we get more books sold, but we may gain some inspiration along the road as well! 🙂


  2. When facing a giant such as the publishing mogul, banding together is the only way to work. And I would hope we’d be genuinely happy for each indie who makes it; for each success makes the path that little bit easier for the rest of us. I’ve only been using social networking for a couple of months; any advice you can give will be gratefully received.

  3. The idea of sharing and supporting is not one that comes naturally to the vast majority of people who are venturing into the role of entrepreneur (for that is truly what we are when we venture to publishing a book) but it is true that networking skills such as those that RS Guthrie is suggesting are actually the only things that help a business (or a book) gain exposure. If you ask any small business where most of their work comes from they will say ‘word of mouth’ … the same is as you say .. we can only tell people about our books by sharing word of mouth and what better way to start that with our author community. Thanks 🙂

    • There truly is enough readers to go around, and the same can be said for almost any line of work. If you can’t adopt a share and share alike mindset, you won’t be able to effectively market through social media unless you have lucked into a fan base somehow.

  4. I could not agree more. That is why I have started a blog reviewing middle grade e-books. I have begun to network with authors. Some even ask me for advice! Little old me. Anyway, the authors seem to be a lot easier to find than the audience. My goal is to have every author I befriend on line spread the word about each other’s books. And mine, when I get ready to launch them.

    • Awesome project Laurie!I’m a realist, so we can both look at something and call it what it is , like a “middle grade E-Book”. Most people will have an inflated sense of success however, and perception is a key aspect of promotion. When you launch yours, would you consider them “low grade E-Books” or “middle grade E-Books”? What makes something a “high grade E-Book”? Important questions to ask yourself, but better left out of your promotion.

      • At first I couldn’t understand what you were saying. “Middle grade” refers to an age category–ages 8-12. I think maybe you interpreted it to mean something else?

      • Were you, perhaps, thinking of “mid-list authors” and not “middle-grade ebooks,” Adam? 

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. I joined groups of Indie authors on Facebook and we support and tweet each other as well as share book blogger websites. By working together we grow the pie so there is more than enough for all.

  6. R S I agree with you. However I’m hesitant to join some of the automated groups, it feels off.   P.S. I’m reading Lost and will order the paperback of Black Beast (perfer paper on my tired eyes)

  7. Digital Book Today /

    R.S. A great summary and you speak the truth. There is power in numbers. Good luck to all indie authors.

  8. Julie Momyer /

    I enjoyed your post. Great information!

  9. Susannah Morgan /

    Hi!  I have absolutely NO IDEA how to participate in cross-promotion. I keep reading about it and so far, I only have the Independent Author’s Network in play. I see these blog tours and simply can not figure out how to join one. Working on my third novel leaves little time to decipher promo blurbs. Ideas please?

    • Look up World Literary Cafe. It is a network of authors, book bloggers, and readers with actual activities that everyone can participate in from free to nominally priced.

    • Louise Sorensen /

      Someone who understands cross promotion should write a guideline.
      Im not self pubbed yet, but Im working on a piece and have a body of short stories on my blog.
      I RT on twitter, read indie books(I’ve read pretty well all the popular print authors so am now reading indie) and review them, and RT especially the authors I’ve read and liked.
      I agree it’s important for writers and ‘authors’ to stick together and help each other.
      The better indie books are, the more readers will buy them.

  10. Andyholloman /

    hi5 rob, well-stated ,  as always

  11. Thanks for this helpful info.

  12. M T McGuire /

    This is absolutely true and I would endorse what you say wholeheartedly but with a caveat. Like Caroline, I don’t like to recommend something unless I think it will be good. As an author you are the brand so it’s important to protect your brand integrity.

    So I tend to be very choosy about who I promote but when I find someone good I tell the world.



  13. Bo Bray /

    Right on Rob! You speak sooth.

  14. This is the way, Rob.

  15. Excellent article. Excellent ideas.

  16. Fantastic post. I couldn’t agree more. It’s because of other indies that I joined the ranks of published writers instead of “aspiring authors” who do no more than talk about their dreams of publication. 

    My friends on social networking sites for writers encouraged me, praised the excerpts I leaked onto my blog when I finally worked up the nerve to share them, and started asking where people could buy my book. That last question/nudge is what ultimately got me going forward. When a writer friend wanted to interview me for her blog and asked for the link to my novel, I realized it was time to stop dreaming and start doing. I had a finished manuscript; it just needed a little more editing and a last proofread before it could release. 

    And it’s because of membership in online groups that most of my e-book sales (and a few paperback sales) have happened. If it weren’t for me talking about my book and other people’s books online, Chantal’s Call would still be buried in the literary jungle. So yes, cross-promotion works on many levels. My new life as a novelist proves that.

  17. Julie Dubicz /

    Sounds my life, emotionally and even geographically!

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