So much of my ability to do what I'm doing right now--self-publishing a polished and professionally designed novel with characters, plot, and branding all entire under my control--is possible only because of the platform for sales provided by Amazon and the platforms for networking provided by Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I have deliberately held back on a major marketing push until I have the sequel ready for release. I don't think it makes sense to invest much in marketing until I have more content to offer, just like it may not make sense to a reader to take a chance with their entertainment dollars on a new author who just has the one book so far.
Nevertheless, I do need to start to learn my way around the various sites now, so that I'm prepared when the time comes to really go for it. I've been on a forced hiatus from writing while the kids were out of school, and I tried to use some of the time to learn about social media and social networking. The rules and advice from the experts is what you would guess as good rules to live by generally: participate; find people who share your interests and values; take time to notice what other people are talking about; contribute to the conversation; don't show up just to promote yourself. I'm sure it's not coincidence that after spending time yesterday on Twitter going through the profiles of people who are following me to find interesting bits of theirs to promote and retweet--that I sold my first book in over two weeks.
I learn so much from the readers out there, and from the crowd generally. Do you remember when we used to call the Internet the "information superhighway"? I saw Douglas Adams give a talk here in Austin at the University of Texas, and he said that the popular name was incorrect; it was more of an "information soup". Of course, being Douglas Adams, he was completely right. I remember his words now, as I feast on all of the thoughts and ideas and inspiration available at my fingertips--more so now that my days are my own again. And I am grateful for every person out there adding their own spice to the soup.