I remember selling my first book and thinking...what now? Once I'd gotten past the thrill of it all, I knew it was time to think about promoting myself. But how? Nobody knew who the hell I was! No name recognition. No book out there in the cyber world. I was a big fat NOBODY. At the time I wasn't involved in any loops, I knew next to nothing about blogs, and I had no clue where new authors should advertise an upcoming release. I wasn't tech savvy (unless I counted my ability to punch the 'power' button on my computer). Really, it was pathetic how little I knew about things. Over the years, I've gotten plenty of advice...good and bad about promotion. I don't see myself as any kind of expert on the subject but here goes. The single most important thing you can do is to get yourself a nice website.
You've just sold your first book. What is the very first thing you need to do in the way of getting your name out there? A good website is a MUST HAVE investment. I know of many authors who weren't necessarily tech savvy who managed to figure out how to get a nice website up and running. Join some writers loops and ask around. Normally it's not too hard to get advice about this stuff and writers are the most generous people in the world. The main thing to keep in mind is...it must look clean, professional, and capture the imagination. You are a writer aren't you? You are creative. Your website should reflect not only your books but say something about YOU and leave visitors with an impression that will hopefully stick in their minds.
Right away I realized I wasn't savvy enough to achieve the classy look I wanted for my site on my own. Rather than botch it up BIG TIME, I hired someone to do my site. I didn't ask around. I just leaped. Biiiiig mistake. Please, please talk to other writers about websites and do your research. Look at the sites of friends or authors you admire and see what they've done. Make notes about things you've seen that you want included on your new site. My first website ever was NOT what I wanted. I depended on people who didn't know much about the writing world or about how to sell both an author and her books. I spent a fortune on it before my first book ever released. Stick with website builders who understand what an author needs.
Want to hear a sad tale? I have one and it's a typical newbie mistake. I never, ever made enough money from the sales of my first book to come close to paying what I spent on this bad website. Sad, I know. The book is now placed elsewhere but that's a whole 'nother story. What I learned from this big 'money blowing experience' was to NOT overspend in the beginning. Ask around. Look at sites. Find someone to build your site who has know how about putting together something geared toward books and authors.
It took a bit of trial and error before I finally got the website I truly wanted and that reflected both me and my stories. It didn't cost a fortune either. I wanted something that was easy to navigate and that I could manage myself. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I haven't totally gotten the hang of my wordpress site but I can blog on it, I can add and take away things. I'm not completely at the mercy of a webmistress who may or may not have time to make the changes I need. Webmistresses charge a monthly fee. Keep that in mind. If you have monthly releases, lots and lots of additions on a regular basis, it is just sometimes better if you can do it yourself. You might be one of those busy authors who is simply more comfortable paying someone but your income from the sales of books should justify that expense. Others may find it more comfortable being 'captain of her own ship' and maintaining complete control of her website.
You don't want to spend yourself into the poorhouse with a website but you must also keep in mind that this is the place where fans, potential new readers, and industry professionals will look when they want to know more about you. A shoddy website is a turn off but you don't have to break the bank to have one that reflects your professional face. Keep it clean. Keep it classy. Keep it affordable.