I read this wonderful piece on promotion by a 14 book veteran. She has simple marketing techniques down pat and as I'm reading her outline I realise that promotion is more than getting your signature line out. It goes beyond SEO (Search engine optimization), bookmarks and contests. It is about having a solid understanding of who and what you are as an author and grows organically from there.
From my experience these are the simple life cycles of a writing career:
Stage one: For me- and most writers- we write our first book to "see" if we can even do it. We are in love with the idea of writing an entire book. We work on our story idea or fan fic and we work on our craft. There is no real thought past can I do it? Will I let someone read it?
Stage two: For me it was book two-but for some this may still be book one. Give the book to someone to read. Take critiques. Polish book. Look for and send out queries to editors and agents.
Stage three: Sell a book. Woot! (I had written 17 manuscripts by this stage.* Some people sell their first manuscript.) Marketing begins. All thought is on how to sell this book so that you can begin to develop an audience and create a readership. Usually we rush to have bookmarks, postcards, pens, website, contests, etc. without real thought past having good sell through on this one book and perhaps it's option.
Stage four: The blush of the first book or two has worn off. You look around and start to really think about the publishing market-beyond trends, beyond a single publisher. The goal is to build a career. As the author of the piece I read stated-now marketing begins with the selection of story. You have to know your personal brand beyond your first book. Then select the next story that fits in this brand and let all others fall by the wayside. You choose your work based on long term viability and the umbrella of the brand you have developed. Everything you do from your website with "value added" content, to your blog must reflect this brand. (Hint: not a good idea at this time to be "neurotic, negative, and cynical" in your on-line blogs, e-mails and loops.)
At this point you may discover that a lot of the things you did to promote your first book no longer fit into the overall viewpoint of your career. These things must go to the wayside. You now promote based on career view and market not simply individual book.
Some people understand these stages quickly and naturally. To me they are strategic thinkers. They are usually the ones who sell their first manuscripts. Why? They have consciously or unconsciously studied the market, have a solid understanding of the differences between genres and classifications of genres and they write a book-not based on a cool idea- but based on a cool idea that works in the overall market. These same people are also the ones savvy enough to start schmoozing on-line reviewers and bloggers. They are already getting to know people who are "in-the-know" and developing friendships so that when their book sells, they can garner quotes from best selling authors and good reviews from important sites who are sympathetic to a long time fan.
*Truth is I am not strategic at all. I flit from one fun idea to another. (Oh, look, shiny. *wink*) It never occurred to me to build a relationship with Dear Author or Smart Bitches (influential on-line reviewers.) So, I find myself in stage four wondering what my personal brand really is and how to convey it. Studying the market has taken years of practice and still...not my strong point. If this is you, it might be a good idea to attach yourself to someone who is a strategic thinker such as a publicist or PR guru and work out your personal brand. (My advice here is to stay within your budget. These people can be very pricey.) Or join a group like Novelist, Inc. and listen and learn from other multi-published authors.
Because the truth is you can be successful at any stage whether you are a strategic promoter or not. The secret to marketing goes far beyond book marks and newsletters. It is understanding who you are and what you are trying to say. (Which is about as easy as boiling your book down to a 15 word pitch.) Good luck!