I've been lucky enough to be published for over five years now, with multiple books available. It hasn't always been easy, juggling family, friends, work, and writing can be trying at the best of times but when you throw in the biggest chunk of time...well it can be trying.
I'm not talking research or signings, or readings, or writing...no I'm talking about something else. Something many of us cringe at the thought of doing. Promoting ourselves. To be successful, we can't sit on our laurels and wait for readers to find us. The internet is a massive place, full of twists, turns, and black holes. To be recognized one must do whatever they can to be noticed.
Many new authors hear about the latest thing in social networking - and jump on the bandwagon. I'd be the first to admit that I count myself in that club. Try it all and see what works. However, by the time you've joined, created a place for yourself, and become noticed...your readers are sitting there wondering when your next book is coming.
Moderation is key to success, at least in my opinion. What's the point of having a twitter if you're never on it? Or a blog you never update? You need to make yourself accountable for how you reach out to your readers. This can be as simple as picking two or three places, being active there and allowing your readers to understand these are your places. Many times these are freebies - blog, website, facebook, pintrest, yahoo and google loops - which I strongly recommend. Which you choose is up to you, but keep it fresh and active so readers want to come back to see what's new with you.
There are also the pay for marketing options. The variety availabe to authors is intense and varied, there are marketing companies, ads, and more for all genres and lengths. This doesn't necessarily mean you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually to market ourselves. Many of the marketing I've tried that has garnered sales is free or very cost effective. Or even pays me to be there and talk about my books. Yes, I did say it pays me to visit.
Two things I firmly believe every author needs to have in hand. One a portfolio. Yes, you do need it. If you're doing book signings, readings, or guest appearances you should have something you can hand out for the owner/booking agent to go through and see how well you fit into their location. It doesn't have to be a book length document, a couple of pics, a list of your work, samples from your work, contact information all tied up in a neat, professional package is key.
A rate sheet. Keep in mind if you're invited to speak at an event such as writers club meeting you need to market it as a paid for event. Your time IS VALUABLE, and if those who are going to attend want to get the best out of it - that old addage you pay for what you get is true. Free is good, but if they feel their paying for your expertise you may or may not get a better turn out. Sometimes it can also weed out those who expect you to do their work for them.
Promoting yourself is a bit of a pill to swallow. Writing the book is the easiest thing you're going to do because once you're in, you have to make sure you're aware and capable of promoting not only that book but your entire brand...but that's a topic for another day.