For the pros:
Once you sell a book, your role changes from writer to ambassador. Like a dignitary visiting foreign countries, you must make good impressions on them so they become allies. And like that dignitary, you'll do so through meetings, promises, favors, gifts, and just being a nice person.
These are the countries you must recruit:
1. Your Publisher
Why: If they like you, what you're writing, and what you're doing, they'll do more for you. Generating in-house enthusiasm is important. The sales team will spend more time selling you. The marketing team will work harder and spend more money. The editing team will be more excited to have you as an author.
How: Visit them. An in-person meeting is crucial. Always be upbeat, gracious, and thankful. Correspond with them regularly, through phone and email. Keep them in the loop and let them know what you're doing to promote yourself. Schmooze them.
Example: On my own I've gotten blurbs from over thirty big name authors, appeared in many magazines and newspapers, signed at hundreds of bookstores, gone to dozens of conferences and conventions, handsold several thousand books, always meet my deadlines, always listen to editing suggestions, pitched ideas to them, written my own catalog and back jacket copy, written press releases, won awards, and kept them up to date on everything I'm doing.
Why: Your publisher can get your books on the shelves, but booksellers are the ones who get people to buy them. There are over 15,000 bookstores in the USA. If one person at each store sold one of your books every week, you'd be a huge bestseller.
How: Schedule signings at their stores. Do drop-ins. Go to writing conventions and work the book room. Send out personal letters. Email them. Place ads in publications that they read. Buddy up with your publisher to get invited to bookseller conferences and schmooze. Buy them drinks or food.
Example: I've visited over 400 bookstores, and this year will visit 500. I've partied with booksellers, done signings that have lasted for 8 hours, mailed them gifts, named characters after bookstore employees, thanked dozens of booksellers in my acknowledgements, advertised in publications they read, mailed out thousands of letters with signed coasters and bookplates, and kiss their asses when I see them.
Why: Books are a product, and no product succeeds without branding and name recognition. Libraries are the hub of many communities. They're places to meet, learn, and be entertained. There are over 15,000 libraries in the USA, and if each bought several copies of all of your books, you'd reach millions of readers--readers who will recognize you, talk about you, and buy future books.
How: Schedule talks and events. Send out personal letters. Email them. Place ads in publications that they read. Buddy up with your publisher to get invited to library conferences and schmooze.
Example: Along with Julia Spencer-Fleming, I FINALLY finished sending out 7000 letters to libraries in the USA which include brochures, and interview, and signed coasters. I've attended library conventions, done dozens of speeches and events, and taught classes at libraries.
Why: They buy the books, and like all consumers, they buy what is familiar, what has worked for them before, what they like or think they'll like, and what comforts them. An avid readership of only 100,000 people will buy millions of your books as your career continues.
How: Make yourself accessible. Do signings. Speak at libraries. Attend conventions. Have a decent website, message board, and blog. Return emails. Give out freebies. Hold contests. Send out newsletters. Schmooze them.
Example: I mail out dozens of freebies a month, hold several contests a year, named characters after fans, always answer emails, consistently update my blog and website, have 10,000+ people on my newsletter list, offer advice, attend many signings and conventions, and have partied with many, many fans.
Conclusion: Be prepared to spend a lot of time and money to do all of the traveling, mailing, and schmoozing. Writing a good book is important, but that book must get into the hands of readers, and you're the best person to get that job done.