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The last couple of weeks I have focused on the downside of some social media tools, because it’s just as important to to understand the risks of your marketing efforts as it is the benefits. But the truth is that none of it works unless you are prepared to explore all your options and then commit time, and patience.

One of the biggest frustrations most folks have with marketing is their need to be able to connect their efforts to identifiable and measurable results (i.e. book sales). This seems to be especially true of authors who are self-publishing. Because these folks have often invested significant amounts of money in the publication of their book, they have tied their definition of success to sales. This makes perfect sense in a balance-sheet logic sort of way. The problem is that folks often misunderstand the subtle distinction between author marketing / book promotion and advertising – which then tends to create a set of expectations that are never quite satisfied. Success, as an author, is just as much about you as it is about your book.

I used to teach day-long workshops on this concept – but here’s the short version. Marketing is a very generic umbrella term that covers a multitude of concepts and tasks – including Promotion, and Advertising. Generally speaking, Authors promote and Publishers advertise. In the best case scenario everyone does a little bit of everything. If you are self-published, it’s all on you. all of the time. Which is tough, no doubt. But the important point to take away is this – no matter how you are published or who does what, you need both author promotion and book advertising.

If you are traditionally published, like me, you have little or no control over pricing and have very little to leverage in the way of the kind of offer that stimulates sales through advertising. Your efforts and time are best spent (building up to, and then after the release date) on author promotion. Author promotion (aka author marketing, aka author branding) consists of defined, sustained tasks which are designed to build and maintain awareness and visibility in The Long Run. These sustained tasks include blogging, tweeting, pinning, guest posting, newsletters and more – implemented and maintained consistently over time.

It is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you are a career author, there is no finish line. Even more, you may never be able to match your efforts to real dollar numbers. But, you should be able to measure your success in the short term by blog hits, FB fans, or Twitter / Pinterest followers. All of this contributes to sales, sooner or later. Truly.

Of course none of us can do it all, but we can all do some. It takes time, and persistence, and a willingness to give everything a try. Be creative and have fun, but most of all, be consistent. It’s important to maintain a presence of some kind everywhere you can, but I recommend targeting the bulk of your efforts on a few (say, three) favorite places. Here are some of mine:

Pinterest – This is just plain fun for everyone. I love Pinterest because it is so visual. It also gives me a way to creatively express my author identity and promote my book. By linking images I post on Pinterest back to my blog or website, I can create a larger community for myself and build interest in who I am and what I do without pimping my book all the time.

Shelfari  – This is a reader community powered by Amazon that is similar to (but better than,  in my opinion) GoodReads. It is definitely a more controlled place to play, and has lots of fun features for interacting with readers. It is worth checking out, if you haven’t already been there. I also recommend Library Thing as an alternative to GR, and finding at least one genre-specific site where you can interact with readers.

My Blog –  Next to my website, this blog is the only static presence I can realistically maintain. The keys to building a blog following are regularity and consistency, and providing meaningful content. This takes planning time in addition to writing time, but it really does pay off over time. Using post tags liberally but wisely also helps.